The Movie Waffler Interview - CONCRETE PLANS Composer Paul Hartnoll | The Movie Waffler

Interview - CONCRETE PLANS Composer Paul Hartnoll

concrete plans
Orbital's Paul Hartnoll on his new score for the Welsh thriller.

To celebrate the release of the violent new “class war” Welsh thriller Concrete Plans on 23rd November, we spoke to legendary UK dance music composer Paul Hartnoll of Orbital, who scored the film. Orbital were pioneers in the dance music scene from the late '80s with many now classic albums and songs to their name and a huge amount of movie credits for songs and scores too. Some notable films/games/TV to feature Orbital/Paul’s music include: The Saint, Event Horizon, Spawn, Test Drive 4, Mortal Kombat, Mean Girls, Peaky Blinders, The Beach, Wipeout, Hackers, Teen Spirit, American Ultra and many more.

At the Glastonbury Festival 2010, to close their set, Matt Smith, who played the Eleventh Doctor, performed with Orbital their cover of the Doctor Who theme. The duo also performed "Where Is It Going?" live at the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Paralympic Games with Stephen Hawking speaking about the Large Hadron Collider.

In new film Concrete Plans, a manor house in disrepair and a landowner with a fierce temper and cash flow problem meets his match when confronted with a bill he can’t pay. Time is running out and the builders living on his land want their pound of flesh. The film boasts a fantastic British cast including; Amber Rose Revah (The Punisher), Goran Bogdan (Fargo,Otec/Father), Charlie Palmer Rothwell (Legend, Dunkirk), Chris Reilly (The Last Post), Steve Speirs (Upstart Crow), William Thomas (Mr Nice, Twin Towns), Kevin Guthrie (Sunshine on Leith, Fantastic Beasts) and James Lance (Ted Lasso). The tense thriller was written and directed by Will Jewell.

We spoke to Paul about his career, his love of culture, and his new score.

So you are known as fairly nerdy for your various science fiction references and many big film scores and track appearances, including playing the original Doctor Who theme live.

Absolutely, that is a cover version and we did that in the mid-90s when Doctor Who was incredibly unpopular. It was beginning to be forgotten about. That’s why we did it - let’s revive Doctor Who! We eventually released it on an album, but it had cult status as it was a thing you could only hear live - a rave version of Doctor Who. And in the wilderness years between Doctors, what more could you want

Another huge UK dance band, The KLF, had a hit with it too right?

Oh, they had a number one with their Gary Glitter Doctor Who mash-up that nobody talks about anymore!

Ah, and a Gary Glitter track was used in the new Joker film too.

It was. But not his vocal, just the music.

It did work well.

It did. And you have to understand the musicians involved in that record weren’t Gary Glitter. I know we all think of Gary Glitter, but it was the other guys that got the airing on the film. It would have been a bit mad if they had let Gary Glitter sing on it.

So you’re obviously nerdy, you guys?

Yeah, me especially.

And your music is featured in so many films. The end of Mortal Kombat springs to mind for some reason…

Yeah, ‘Halcyon’. It’s been at the end of three films; Teen Spirit, Mortal Kombat and Mean Girls. And it started Hackers. So possibly a gateway track for a lot of people. A lot of young people got into us by watching Mortal Kombat and hearing the track at the end and going “What is that?” and then discovering us through that. I think we were helped by the promotion of those four films.

And you’ve had various other tracks on big films too.

Yeah we had ‘Satan’ begin the film Spawn, which we did with Kirk Hammett of Metallica as well, which was brilliant. Didn't get to meet him but we passed things backwards and forwards. Back in the day it was pre-internet, so it was done with couriers. Which was brilliant as we had this crazy courier arrive to give us the tape with Kirk’s stuff on and he was this full on heavy metal guy. I can’t remember the name of the courier company, but it had gothic typeface and all that. I don’t know if that was deliberate, but it was “Yeah, this is how stuff from Metallica should arrive!” It was brilliant.

‘Satan’ was more of a live track, right?

Yeah, ‘Satan’ is one of those tracks we have released a few times but never on an album. Actually, we did on the Wonky album where we did a particularly diverse version of it. It’s a track that the first time we tried to record it we didn’t really know how to arrange it. We just did something quickly. And then throughout life it’s always taken on a different shape. It keeps shifting its shape and form. Currently it’s a Belgian New Beat kind of version that we play and soon to get back to Heavy Metal I reckon. Bring back Kirk!

And ‘Satan’ is so good live.

It started live. It was around the time of Ozzy Osbourne or Black Sabbath that were getting it in the neck by religious extremists saying if you play one of their albums or songs backwards it would say “Satan is King” or something. And they were trying to take them to court about it, which is ridiculous now to think that that could even happen. So we just thought OK, we’re with those people, we don’t agree with this, you shouldn’t be able to do that anyway, so why don’t we just do one where the record says Satan going forwards? Just put it out and about! So we decided to mix heavy rock and hip-hop and make it a tribute to Satan.

Where did the intro sample come from?

The Butthole Surfers, it’s a sample from them and we have their blessing.

Wow, and you kinda slowed it down I suppose.

Yeah, we just messed with it, the guitar sample is from the same track as well. ‘Sweet Loaf’ from the “Locust Abortion Technician” (1987) album. We ripped off the whole intro and everything, we were so cavalier about it at the time, as people were. It was great, the gay abandon of youth.

So it was after the fact that you probably got their permission?


So let’s talk about your latest score for the excellent new Welsh thriller Concrete Plans, and how you got on board that project.

I got on it through, it was so long ago, it was a music journalist who lives round the corner from me, he just said to me “Would you be interested, I’m working on a film that’s got something to do with the Welsh tourist board, are you interested in doing the score?” and I said sure and over time, director Will Jewell got in touch and said he’s trying to get the money together to do this film. We just spoke over the course of a year until it finally happened, and that was it. I just kept on in the background saying “Yeah, sure I’ll do it if it happens,” and lo and behold it did happen, it was great.

It’s good to support British independent cinema and it’s been getting really good reviews.

I know, it’s been great, hasn’t it? Reviews have been brilliant.

And generally, Orbital are still going and you’re doing other bits and bobs, other composing going on too?

Yeah, I keep my hand in. I love scoring anyway, it’s always been a big passion of mine and something that I’ve always wanted to get more into, so I’m always keeping my hand in with that. I’ve been doing stuff with a poet friend of mine, Murray Lachlan Young, who’s working on a fairy-tale kinda story, that he eventually wants to turn into a stage play. He’s got form doing that, so I reckon he’ll get there in the end. We’ve just done a series of six podcasts; ‘The Chronicles of Atom & Luna’ and that will be coming out soon. I’ve scored him telling stories, basically, in poetic form. We work well together. During the lockdown we did an album together, about a track a week, for Radio 6, which was a virus diary type of thing. He did a poem every week based on what was going on in the lockdown and I put it to music. We ended up getting really carried away. We’ve ended up making an album that sounds like the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band or something like that, it’s great fun.

Awesome. Would you fancy doing a full score for a massive comic book movie or sci-fi remake? A huge Hollywood project?

Oh yeah, I try my hand at anything. I’ve worked with orchestras. I would do something with an orchestra again if I could. It’s always great fun to wield that kind of power. But as much as I’d like to do a science fiction time twistery film - which lend themselves to my electronic palate - I’d also like to do period dramas and things like that. I like to do anything. I like big romantic music. I thoroughly enjoyed that kind of thing. I like getting out of my comfort zone. I like working in something that you wouldn’t expect me to work in. It’s like going to the gym and trying a different exercise; it flexes your muscles in a different way, and you build them up. I like the naivete as well, it’s a way of becoming naïve again, by trying something different. I’ve been doing music professionally for 30 years, and another 10 before that, so it’s nice to be stretched. It’s nice to do something fresh and different. But honestly, I would score anything as long as I like it. I’d possibly score stuff if I didn’t like it as well, because that’s also a challenge, but I prefer to like something. But I would score anything because life is full of all the different emotions. So, I’d have a go at it all, really.

Signature Entertainment Presents Concrete Plans on Digital HD 23rd November.