Hi Matt, how did you end up working on The Grand Tour in the first place?
I heard on the grapevine that they were looking for a music supervisor, so I tracked down the executive producer and got in contact. After a few meetings they gave me the gig.
Can you talk us through the epic first few minutes of the show (reportedly the most expensive ever), soundtracked by Hothouse Flowers’ ‘I Can See Clearly Now’? How did that song choice come about?
It was actually one of the presenters that came up with the idea to use the Hothouse Flowers track, it was a favourite of his and lyrically it was a perfect fit for the sequence. Big thanks to Warners and Imagem for letting us use it!
How would you describe the musical direction for the show? What were the showrunners looking for?
We all knew how it needed to sound, the tricky bit was finding the music that we could afford to achieve that sound. The production team were used to the luxury of broadcasters blanket agreements, so licensing music was a bit of a new concept to them – it was a bit of a logistical nightmare. I knew what the editors/directors liked but most of these tracks were out of our price range so I had to steer them towards music that wasn’t going to cost a fortune. If they had their way the music budget would’ve been ridiculous! They are all really into their music so it’s been very difficult. I’ve been very unpopular over the last few months in the edit suites, I’m seemingly always telling directors they can’t use the music they want!
So despite the ridiculous expense and budget of the show, the allowance for music wasn’t generous?
What would you say were your biggest challenges working on the show?
It was an unprecedented production, on a number of levels. I cant think of any ‘TV’ production out there that uses as much music per episode as The Grand Tour (other than its predecessor). The editors cut so much music into each episode, and every track needed to be individually licensed. There’s over 400 cues in Series 1, so that’s an awful lot of paperwork! As well as sourcing hundreds of suitable tracks for the series, ensuring everything was fully cleared for the media we needed, affordable and that nothing uncleared sneaked into the final cut was a huge challenge.
We had no idea how things would pan out when I first started 9 months ago, but I’ve worked closely with the editors and directors, as well as the music/legal dept at Amazon in the States, to really try and nail a system. It’s been very tough but we got there in the end!
Which labels and publishers did you license from for episode 1?
For the first episode I licensed tracks from Ninja Tune, Mute, Houndstooth, Manners McDade, Sentric, Blow Up, Cutting Edge, Imagem, Atlantic Screen, and Warners.
You also used tracks from the Sicario and Dredd soundtracks in episode 1. What made you decide to use film score? Will you be working with a composer on the show at all?
Film score just works so well. There’s a lot of action and drama in the series, so music written specifically for action feature films is just perfect. We’ve used a lot of high end existing film score but we do have the composer Paul Leonard-Morgan onboard too.
You also showcase some modern indie bands (The Heavy, Baltic Fleet) in the episode. Is this something you were consciously trying to do with the series?
We’ve tried to balance the sound design/film score sound with some cool contemporary tracks, so yes it definitely was a conscious effort.
Can you give us any insight on what’s to come in the rest of the show?
I’m pretty much sworn to secrecy, it does looks amazing and is highly entertaining, but you know, it’s basically 3 mates dicking around, driving very expensive, fancy cars around beautiful locations.
How can a label or publisher get their music considered for Series 2?
They can watch Series 1 (and the old incarnation of Top Gear) to get an idea of the sound of the show and send me relevant playlists! The series definitely has a specific sonic identity so no point sending ballads or pop stuff, for example.
What, in your opinion, is the ultimate driving song?
Tough question! ‘Love Is a Burning Thing’ by Fires of Rome, a fairly obscure rock track, sounds pretty good when I’m bombing down the motorway. I’ve actually pitched that loads for car ads over the years but it’s never got a bite! Fuck Buttons or Moderat very loud are also good accompaniments to a roadtrip.