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‘Drive’: The Secrets to an Awesome Soundtrack


Drive, which opens today, stars Ryan Gosling as an unnamed stuntman/getaway driver who gets mixed up with mob, leaving him with no choice but to speed around Los Angeles trying to save his life and that of the woman he loves (Carey Mulligan). Obviously, no ride would be memorable without the perfect soundtrack and director Nicolas Winding Refn and composer/former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez created just that, choosing hypnotic, retro-sexy synth jams — most memorably the nu-disco theme “A Real Hero” by College featuring Electric Youth — and combining it with a chilling, vintage-sounding score. “Rock music didn’t suit the movie I was making,” says Refn. “I wanted to make a fairy tale, which is all about truth and purity, but the subtext is violence.”

The pair spoke to SPIN about their influences.

Drive trailer

“[Driver] is half man, half machine,” says Refn. “But the machinery, his car, is an antique. Late ’70s bands like Kraftwerk inspired my idea of making a movie where the score was electronic, but at an infant stage — crude in its technology, yet extremely poetic.”

Kraftwerk, “Autobahn”

Drive is like Pretty in Pink with a head smash,” says Refn. “When I was cutting the movie, people kept asking, ‘Why are you using the entire songs?’ I said, ‘Because John Hughes did.’ He never played just a clip. It almost becomes a musical in that sense.”

Pretty In Pink trailer

“Nicolas told me that this was his all time favorite film,” says Martinez. “There were times when I would play him something and he’d say, ‘That’s nice, but can you give me more of a Leatherface thing?’ The score to Texas was very minimal, but unremittingly dark and menacing. We wanted to put a horror tone into a film that isn’t horror.”

Texas Chain Saw Massacre trailer

“I didn’t tell anybody where the song ‘Oh My Love’ [by Riz Ortolani] came from until the final print because the great fun was that nobody knew the source material is probably the most offensive film ever made,” explains Refn of the graphic, 1971 faux-documentary depicting slavery and sexual violence. “I bought the soundtrack for a couple of hundred dollars on eBay last year. At one point, Driver becomes both the antagonist and the protagonist in his own life. He’s psychotic, and I felt this song would be a good introduction to that part of him.”

Goodbye Uncle Tom opening