Cliff Martinez

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Posted on Sun, 10/12/2014 - 8:51pm
by John MacMillan

Member since: Tue, 01/07/2014

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Cliff Martinez (born February 5, 1954) is an American film score composer and former drummer known for his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Captain Beefheart. Martinez's film scores include Drive, Only God Forgives, Contagion, Solaris and Traffic.

On April 14, 2012, Martinez was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.


Cliff Martinez was born in the Bronx, New York. Raised in Columbus, Ohio, his first job composing was for the popular television show Pee Wee's Playhouse. At the time, however, he was more interested in rock bands, and played drums in a variety of them, mostly in a temporary capacity.

Red Hot Chili Peppers (1983-1986)

After several years drumming for such acts as Captain Beefheart, The Dickies, Lydia Lunch and The Weirdos, in late 1983, he and Jack Sherman were drafted in to join the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the recording of their eponymous first album after Jack Irons and Hillel Slovak left the band to concentrate on their other project at the time, What Is This? Martinez again played on the recording of the band's second album Freaky Styley and its subsequent tour.

In 2012 Martinez was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Martinez performed with the band for the first time in 26 years when he joined them along with former drummer Jack Irons on their song, "Give it Away" during the ceremony.

Film composing

Eventually, Martinez' interests shifted and he focused his attention toward film scoring. A tape Martinez had put together using new technologies made its rounds, leading him to score an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. The same recording also ended up in Steven Soderbergh’s hands and Martinez was hired to score the famed director’s first theatrical release, 1989’s sex, lies, and videotape. Martinez’s longstanding relationship with Soderbergh has continued through the years and they have worked together on ten theatrical releases including Kafka, The Limey, Traffic, Solaris, and 2011’s Contagion.

Perhaps it is because of his time in the punk scene that Martinez’s approach to scoring is nontraditional. His scores tend towards being stark and sparse, utilizing a modern tonal palette to paint the backdrop for films that are often dark, psychological stories like Pump Up the Volume (1990), The Limey (1999) Wonderland (2003), Wicker Park (2004), and Drive (2011). Martinez has been nominated for a Grammy Award (Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic), a Cesar Award (Xavier Giannoli’s A L’origine), and a Broadcast Film Critics Award (Drive). He earned a Robert Award (Danish Academy Award) for his work on Only God Forgives.

Martinez’s use of audio manipulations, particularly for percussive sounds, has been evolving through the years and is evident by the hammered dulcimer of Kafka (1991), the gray-areas between sound design and score for Traffic (2000), the steel drums and textures of Solaris (2002), what Martinez called ‘rhythmi-tizing pitched, ambient textures’ of Narc (2002), and ‘using percussion performances to trigger and shape the rhythmic and tonal characteristics of those ambient textures,’ as he described his score for 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer.

Martinez served as a juror for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and served on the International Feature nominating committee for 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Martinez recent films include Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep, Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (co-composed with Skrillex), and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives.

Video game composing

Martinez composed the main menu Galaxy theme track for the Spore video game released in 2008. Being more than 16 minutes long it might be Martinez's longest released composition. “Solar System” (13 mins.), Timeline (6 mins.) and a few other tracks on Spore—perhaps Late Anthropocene (7 mins.), Religious Vehicle Editor (7.30 mins.), and Sporepedia (10.40 mins.)—might also be the work of Martinez rather than of Brian Eno.

Composer discography

  • Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)
  • Pump Up the Volume (1990)
  • Kafka (1991)
  • Black Magic (1992)
  • King of the Hill (1993)
  • Underneath (1995)
  • Gray's Anatomy (1996)
  • Schizopolis (1996)(Uncredited)
  • Wicked (1998)
  • The Limey (1999)
  • Traffic (2000)
  • Narc (2002)
  • Solaris (2002)
  • Wonderland (2003)
  • Wicker Park (2004)
  • Havoc (2005)
  • First Snow (2006)
  • Espion(s) (2009)
  • In the Beginning (2009)
  • The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
  • Drive (2011)
  • Contagion (2011)
  • Arbitrage (2012)
  • The Company You Keep (2012)
  • Only God Forgives (2013)
  • Spring Breakers (2013)
  • Mea Culpa (2014)
  • The Normal Heart (2014) (TV)
  • The Knick (2014) (TV)


The Weirdos

  • Weird World (compilation)

Lydia Lunch

  • 13.13 (1982)
  • Stinkfist (1986)

Captain Beefheart

  • Ice Cream for Crow (1982)

Red Hot Chili Peppers

  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers (1984)
  • Freaky Styley (1985)
  • The Abbey Road E.P. - (1988)
  • What Hits!? - (1992)
  • Out in L.A. - (1994)
  • Under the Covers: Essential Red Hot Chili Peppers - (1998)

The Dickies

  • Killer Clowns From Outer Space (1988)
  • The Second Coming (1989)
  • Locked N' Loaded Live in London (1991)
  • Idjit Savant (1994)

Birth Name

Cliff Martinez


Drums, percussion, cristal baschet, keyboards


United States

Years active



Date Born

Friday, February 5, 1954

City Born

The Bronx, New York City, New York, USA



Associated with



Cliff Martinez - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : taken from -