Director and producer David Fincher wanted a backing track that “didn’t sound like music” for his new Netflix series Mindhunter, which is exactly what he got in the 10-episode show’s original score by composer Jason Hill. Hill, a veteran of the early aughts indie rock scene with throwback style, invented a library of original sounds he processed into music. “I didn’t use any sound libraries,” said Hill, proprietor of the Department of Recording & Power. “I do use a computer, in terms of capture, but everything pretty much starts with a bunch of analog, weird stuff. I kind of get mad scientist brain when I press play.” Pitch perfect for a show about the genesis of the FBI’s elite Behavioral Sciences Unit, formed in 1978. An inspired touch — the sound of Hill running his fingers around water-filled wine glasses — has become something of an audio signature for the series, which also features a rigorously curated complement of 1970s tunes.
Fincher is known as a meticulous craftsman who not only chooses great material, but applies his exacting style to bring it to the screen in a way that is both visually and narratively compelling. While his talent as a musical tastemaker has certainly been acknowledged, it’s emphasized to a lesser extent against the dazzle of his other gifts. But Fincher’s record stands: best score Oscars for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for 2010’s The Social Network, and a best soundtrack Grammy for the duo’s 2012 The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo as well as a nom for their work on Gone Girl.
Fincher received his own Academy Award nominations for directing The Social Network and 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which also earned Oscar and Grammy nominations for composer Alexandre Desplat). And that’s before even getting to the part about how in the ’80s he helped invent the music video genre as a founder of Propaganda Films (including Don Henley’s cinematic “The End of the Innocence” and helming entries for Madonna and Nine Inch Nails (as well as Loverboy and Rick Springfield, among many others. He’s collected his own Grammys for directing the 1994 clip for The Rolling Stones‘ “Love is Strong” featuring the band and their friends as giants cavorting through Manhattan), and more recently, in 2014 for Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” (feat. Jay Z). Fincher spoke to MaxTheTrax editor in chief Paula Parisi about the music for Mindhunter, his music video roots and (small!) contribution to Trent Reznor’s career as a film composer.