Jeff Ament interview: ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ composer
When Jeff Ament started the process of scoring “Under the Banner of Heaven,” he actually received quite a bit of input from series creator Dustin Lance Black about how he wanted to communicate a constant sense of dread. “He wanted to have that shimmer of the celestial, but he wanted that to be juxtaposed with really dense earthly evil,” he tells Gold Derby during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above). In order to achieve the desired sound, Ament (along with co-composers Josh Klinghoffer and John Wicks) started messing around with what instruments to use to exaggerate those scenes. “We got a lot of the earthly stuff through the loops that we were playing and running keyboards through lots of effects, pedals and sub-harmonizers, low kind of guttural sounds.”
“Under the Banner of Heaven,” which can currently be streamed on FX on Hulu explores how Utah detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) begins to question his faith in the LDS (aka Mormon) Church after Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her 15-month-old baby are found brutally murdered at the hands of her own brothers-in-law, Ron (Sam Worthington) and Dan Lafferty (Wyatt Russell). As Pyre investigates the murder, he finds himself being exposed to the radical FLDS which practices polygamy and believes in the concept of “blood atonement” as well as a whole part of church history that he was never taught. It is based on the book by Jon Krakauer. Ament may be a familiar person to some as he is also the bass player for the iconic grunge band Pearl Jam.
Ament was very excited to come on board this project for several reasons, including being a fan of Krakauer’s book after becoming a regular reader of his work. “I remember being really excited about this book because I had my own sort of unraveling of Catholicism and I was really excited that he was doing this.” The book’s relation to other prominent events also made him incredibly invested in the project. “I knew the Elizabeth Smart story and I knew he was gonna go deep and it’s one of my favorite books, just because of the religious aspect.”
Putting the score together for the first several episodes did prove to be a bit tricky, but once the patterns became more clear by episode three, the task became a much easier one. “By the third episode, we were like, okay, in these montages that are going back and forth between these historical times we need to give people a sound or make the room sound a certain way to let them know that they’re going back in time or in Pyre’s mind.” Ament likens it a puzzle that he hade a really enjoyable time putting together. “Those parts of the puzzle were really super, super fun as we were getting episodes because we knew we had a little bit of a toolkit of performances and sounds that we could go into.”