BATTERED and bloodstained,
but determined to find his ex-
girlfriend’s killer, Brendan
walks down a dark corridor to
face the local drug dealer, to a
trumpet’s foreboding tones and the
cowboy clang of a cheap guitar.
The distorted instruments weave their
way through the showdown of words
in the gangster’s seedy basement,
climaxing in a screeching cacophony
when his henchman grabs the hero’s
The music and camera lurch in synch
with Brendan’s blurry vision as he
passes out on the floor.
For Rian Johnson, the director of Brick
– voted by Empire magazine as its
favourite film of the Sundance Film
Festival and due to hit our cinema
screens in the next year – music was
an integral part of creating the sleazy
dramatic tension in this teen film noir.
So who better to hire as its composer
than his cousin, Nathan Johnson, with
whom he has made movies since they
were kids playing with a video camera
during their school holidays.
Undeterred by the fact that Nathan
was living in Bournemouth, thousands
of miles away from Rian’s LA home,
the cousins worked together on the
movie via transatlantic video
conferences and Nathan recorded it in
his home in Alum Chine.
“It’s a very complex movie, and Rian
wanted the music to have a very
distinct, junkyard-orchestra type
sound,” says Nathan, 28, originally
from Denver, Colorado.
“It’s set in a high school, but definitely
not a plastic high school. It purposely
has no pop music in it because it’s so
important that it creates its own world.
“We decided to have a voice, an
instrument, for each character –
because of the nature of the mystery,
we can allude to different characters
even when they are not on screen, by
using the instrument that represents
“The music really responds to
everything that’s happening on the
To do this, Nathan and his co-
musicians frequently moved away
from conventional instruments.
While the gangster figure, The Pin, is
represented by a trumpet, the hero
Brendan’s instrument is the
winophone, made by playing wine
glasses pitched with wate