My wife Coral has been all over the Cinemax show The Knick. A TV show about surgeons studying and practising medicine in the early 1900s New York City. (and starring one of my favourites Clive Owen)
I’ve been able to absorb a bunch of the show while she binge watches season one to catch up with season two currently on HBO. And it has pulled me in now.
One of my favourite parts of the show is the spooky electronic music they use to heighten tension. Though the show is a period drama set at the dawn of the 20th century, the music is synth based.
That is done on purpose by former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez and director Steven Soderberg.
This is from Rolling Stone last year; But one of the few things that was far too ghastly to replicate was the music. “Oh, it was horrible,” he says with a laugh. “Aesthetically, it’s a really cool period, but the music was absolutely boring and not interesting. Ragtime had just started – and there’s a tiny bit of that in the background of some scenes – but other than that, there was nothing good.”
I had some reservations about it at first,” (Cliff) Martinez says. “You’re trying so hard to place the viewer in this time and this place, and the music is really fighting something that everyone else in the show is trying to achieve. But as the episodes started coming in, and seeing that it had all this electronic stuff that was mine, I realized that it was working. So it gave me the confidence to do it.”
A complete anachronism, the composer constructed a postmodern and curious through-line for the series with droning, minimalistic synthesizer and guitar lines, warbling bass and chimes that seem to swoop down from nowhere. When accompanying images of hustling, bustling turn-of-the-century Manhattan, as well as the occasional blood-sopped aortic aneurysm operating-room scene, it makes for hyperrealism and a sense of urgency that the era’s hits, like “I Want to Be a Military Man” or “Ma Tiger Lily,” would ruin.
Martinez came in to drum for the Chili Peppers in 1983 to replace founding drummer Jack Irons.
He would be part of the band for their first two records, the self-titled debut and 1985’s Freaky Styley. Martinez reflects on that time in the same Rolling Stone article; “Somebody at a film festival in France last year asked me, ‘How did it feel to know that you’ve played on the worst Chili Peppers album ever.'”
The first single off of Freaky Styley is “Jungle Man.”