In recent weeks, the public has been treated to DC Peacemaker, the first live-action television series to tie into the DC Films universe. The series, which stems from the events of The Suicide Squad, follows the ongoing adventures of Christopher Smith/Peacemaker (John Cena), as he and a motley crew of characters uncover a new plot. There are so many elements of the HBO Max series that have been praised by fans, including its approach to music. In addition to a soundtrack packed with hair metal tunes, the series’ listening experience is also influenced by its score, composed by Clint Mansell and Kevin Kiner.
Kiner is no stranger to writing for beloved franchises, as he might be best known for his musical contributions to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars: The Bad Batch. He and Mansell have also collaborated on two DC series which now reside on HBO Max – Titans and Doom Patrol. With Peacemaker, Kiner and Mansell’s work is taken into decidedly unique, yet emotionally impactful new territory. To celebrate Peacemaker’s debut, ComicBook.com chatted with Kiner about his and Mansell’s work on the series, how it differs from his other experience in the DC Universe, and more.
Dream DC Characters
You’ve worked in the DC space on so many of these different characters. Are there any other characters from the DC Universe that you would still like to compose for?
When I was a kid, I literally climbed the walls – we had a little corridor and I could, like mountain climbers, press myself against each side – and I climbed the walls of our house. I hung up on the ceiling until my mother walked by and yelled at me. I was really being Spider-Man. And then, my hobby is the ocean. I sail and I surf and I’m always in the water. I just got out of the water a few hours ago. So Aquaman would be pretty cool too.
New episodes of Peacemaker debuts Thursdays on HBO Max.
What was it like working on the show during the COVID-19 pandemic?
This is completely in the normal context. I mean, we film and television composers are hermits. We sit alone in our room, with the image that we are charged with noting down, and we rewind it 3000 times, and we play a part of French horn, and then we write it down like you do. I used to write it in pencil, with pencil and paper, but it’s much faster now using the computer and a keyboard. So really, COVID hasn’t changed anything for us.
How do you think your collaborative relationship with Clint has evolved over all the projects you’ve done together?
We worked on a few films together, even before Titans, so we’ve been working together for a while. I really love Clint as a person and I love him creatively. I love his personality and that he thinks outside the box and is so unusual. I’m really drawn to it. That’s what I want to do. I want to do things that haven’t been dwelt on and he has some very interesting ideas.
At the beginning of Peacemaker, we try to figure out what its theme would be and everything. And I came across this chord progression in the playlist that James sent us and I was like, ‘Wow, those hair metal bands, they always do that chord progression. It really has that sound. asks if we could…” And then I get an email – I forget if it was an email, or if Clint called me, or if I called him – but he says, ” Hey, there’s this chord progression I just thought of,” and he was exactly the same. He was listening to a different tune in a different key, but it was exactly the same. Same day, same idea. It was really scary.
The projects you and Clint have done in the DC Universe have covered some lesser-known aspects of DC lore. I’d say even the Teen Titans aren’t necessarily household names to some people. Do you think there’s more creative freedom there?
Yeah, absolutely. When we started Titans, Clint and I had a lot of back and forth, whether it was swapping sounds or licks or whatever, with really old vintage synthesizers from the 80s and even the 70s. We didn’t want to that’s what everyone does with superhero movies. Alan Silvestri did a fantastic job with Iron Man and avengers and all that, but it’s done now and we wanted to go somewhere else with that. We always have the orchestra, there are always the moments – whether it’s Nightwing or Robin or Batman or Superboy – in Titans, where they’re superheroes and we play that. But there’s a lot more going on.
Doom Patrol goes even further. There really is no orchestra at all in Doom Patrol. So to your question whether it gave us more freedom – it’s reflected in our music, because that’s not what you usually hear in a superhero[adaptation[adaptation[adaptation[adaptation
The series balances the extremes of male hair metal and also very vulnerable emotional moments at the same time, and it feels like the music really lets that shine through. How has this influenced your work?
It was something that was very close to our hearts from the beginning – and James is very proud of that too – is that the show could be hilarious, action-packed, quirky and weird and all of those things. But ultimately it’s Chris Smith’s emotional journey that he’s on – who he is as a person, his struggles over how he was raised, his issues with his father, his issues with women and fair with people instead of alienating them. I think for James, that’s what it’s all about. Everything else is just fun, but it’s really about the heart and soul of this guy and also other characters, like Adebayo and Harcourt and Economos. They are really fleshed out.
I always say that music is a reflection. If I make good music, it’s a reflection of what I’m working on. Ninety percent of the time, if you give me a good drama and a good emotional journey, I’m going to feel that way. I mean, I hear music when I look at pictures. When someone tells me a story, that’s when I hear tunes. So that’s just a reflection of the fantastic job that James has done.
ComicBook.com: What brought you and Clint to work on Peacemaker?
Kevin Kiner: I’m not really sure, but I believe James was aware of our work. Also, I know that Peter Safran, who is the executive producer, has worked with Clint before. I don’t know what the project was. I should find out, because people ask me all the time. But yeah, that’s what put us on their radar. And I also assume that our work on Doom Patrol and Titans.
Once you have an idea of what the story was about and how it fits into The Suicide Squadwhat prompted you to work on the series and tell this story?
Well, as you know, James Gunn is extremely encyclopedic in his knowledge of music – and especially source material and such. He really pays a lot of attention to the music. So, from the start, we had a lot of discussions with him. He’s a fantastic director, as everyone knows, and that translates into the music department as well, and the way he handles us and the way he handles the music, and describes how the music should sound and what ‘he thinks. Much of the conversation initially revolved around the fact that the type of source cues was going to be late 80s and early 90s hair metal. It was going to be bands like Hanoi Rocks and Cinderella and Wig Wam – which is actually not a band from the late 80s or early 90s. They used this song in the title track, which is perhaps one of the greatest title tracks ever. show business history. We talked about it a lot. Clint did something similar in The wrestler, while there was a source material and he incorporated some of that sound into his score. So there were a lot of real philosophical discussions and a lot of giant Spotify playlists that James sent us.
That said, we always knew that the score would – especially as the show progresses to hairier and fatter predicaments and gets bigger and bigger – there would also be an orchestral element. We always knew it would be a hybrid score with orchestra. While a lot of hybrid scores are electronica and percussion with orchestra, it was still based on rock metal, most of the time with orchestra.