Iron Fist Composer Trevor Morris
From costumes to set designs, from locations to comic book connections, every detail of Marvel’s Netflix shows are well planned and perfectly executed. The same goes for the music of Marvel’s Netflix shows. Daredevil’s action-pounding score goes hand-in-hand with Matt’s fighting style, Luke Cage’s sultry and bluesy sounds eloquently compliment the light and shade of New York’s Harlem. Jessica Jones’ noir score underpins the feel of Jessica’s dark and sleuthy detective world. Iron Fist’s score is a synthy combination of East meets West, a youthful, tech-inspired score written by TV composer Trevor Morris.
From scoring television to films to video games, Morris is an iron giant in the world of composing. His credits include Immortals, Olympus Has Fallen, Emerald City, Brick Mansions, The Tudors, The Admiral, Vikings, and Dragon Age. The Marvel Report got to chat with Morris about his work on Iron Fist, the transcript of which you can read below.
Working on Iron Fist
TMR: Marvel’s Netflix shows are known for their unique opening credits. What can you tell us about designing the music for Iron Fist’s opening credit sequence?
Trevor Morris: I love main title sequences. They aren’t as common as they used to be, unfortunately. Netflix tends to spend a minute, a minute and a half on the main titles, which is so great. I think it’s such an important thing to set the tone for the show, much in the same way that Jessica Jones did and the other ones too. For me, it’s a great musical opportunity to have a cool visual and no dialogue.
What came first, your score or the visual titles?
They had something in mind, which was rough, which inspired me. So I wrote what I wrote, which they put together. They tweaked theirs, I tweaked mine, it was truly a back and forth.
What was your reaction when you saw the whole visual and musical sequence come together?
It was just so cool, you know? The visuals are just really unique and different, which I loved. The whole project had an electronic feel, so it gave me the chance to do a little more of that EDM stuff, which I don’t really get to do that often, which was really fun.
Going into it, we weren’t sure what the sound palette was going to be — more traditional, more Eastern — but then the first episode opened with Outkast’s “So Fresh and So Clean” that surprised us. What influenced you the most on this score?
First of all, the character Danny Rand listens to music from the ’90s, so there’s already that influence built in there, which was really interesting. It’s a dialogue with the producers where we sit down and talk about what show are we trying to make here, what kind of audience are we trying to reach, what kind of character is Danny Rand? We decided we wanted something pretty modern sounding, which was exciting for me. I decided not to put a drop of orchestra in there. I’m a big believer in giving yourself rules because it leads to really interesting kind of constraints. That’s a big one to cut out of TV language.
Luke Cage and Jessica Jones both have very distinct scores. Besides going all electronic, what else did you include in Iron Fists’ score to set it apart from those other Netflix shows?
We had a big dialogue about how much Asian influence to put in there, if any, and we tried. I tried a lot in the DoJo scenes, where there’s a whole Kung Fu subtext to it, we decided to go against that, we tried to avoid the music that immediately spoke of the martial arts. There’s some cleverly hidden in there, but the takeaway was that we wanted it to be a very modern, kind of semi-dark, electronically driven score.
Would you say that each character in the series has a theme? Does Danny have a theme?
I love thematic writing. Danny’s theme is in the main title. The Hand has a theme. It’s not the old-fashioned approach where Darth Vader walks in and his theme starts playing. There is some of that going on, but a lot more of that is environmental, when you’re in Meachum’s presence or when The Hand is in the scene. Danny’s a complex character, he’s quite simple and he’s quite complex. There’s a lot of tender moments with Danny where he’s trying to figure out where he fits and where the world is trying to figure out if he is who he says he is. There’s a lot of tension and release between different characters, and you pull those levers back and forth.
For the Meachums, how did you differentiate their tones? Like when Wendell is around, what does his atmosphere sound like?
That was tough because we didn’t want to make him [Wendell], especially the first few episodes, when everyone’s trying to figure out what they’re looking at, we didn’t want to make him the bad guy, we didn’t want to make him too evil. It was more allowing the music to ask a question, rather than provide the audience with an answer. We tried really hard to balance that line between mystery and intrigue.
For characters who have been in other Netflix shows like Madame Gao, Claire Temple, and Jeri Hogarth, did you transfer any of their musical cues over?
We didn’t. What’s cool about those characters is that they all weave in and out. That’s what so cool about the Marvel universe, it’s all this web. Each show also has to stand on its own, so we did our own thing. If the audience knows, they know. We don’t need to help them with that.
Did you have any favorite scenes to score?
Oh so many. The fight scenes are fun to score, the finale up on the roof was such a cool moment, we were all waiting for that. It’s full of great moments to score. There’s a supernatural quality to it, it’s a cool palette to work with.
Are you working on any upcoming Marvel projects?
No, but I would love to. Working with Marvel is really refreshing because they really know what they want. A lot of TV projects are finding themselves as they go along and Marvel has really clear cut direction.
Iron Fist Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.