Having previously collaborated on RAFIKI in 2009, this is my and director Christian Lo's second film together. Based on the novel De Tøffeste Gutta (2003) by Arne Svingen, it tells the story of 11 year old Modulf, who is being bullied by the toughest guys at school every day. They hang him in trees, throw him in mud pools and sink his head into the toilet regularly. And that's fine. Because if Modulf is the one being bullied, the other children won't be. In Modulf’s mind, he is some kind of superhero, saving all the other kids. But one day, a new girl moves in next door, Lise. Lise does not agree with Modulf's theories. She cares, and creates complete chaos in Modulf’s “perfect” world...
The first time I read the script - in addition to laughing a lot and at the same time becoming very moved by it - my initial thought was to take a “Tarantinian” approach to the music. A bit of an odd reference for a film composer. Tarantino, as you may know, rarely uses a film composer at all - but rather searches his record collection for cool stuff from the 60s and 70s, mashing it all up until it somehow makes perfect sense. I can't fully explain it, but something about this script made me feel that this movie needed a whole bunch of strange rock songs mashed together, and somehow making sense as a whole. So that's the way the work started. As the film went into production, I went on to create a bunch of (instrumental) songs, regarding heavily on twangy and crunchy guitars, banjo, mellotron etc. These songs were written and recorded as demos in a space of maybe two weeks, and shared with film editor Arild Tryggestad while he was working in the editing room - and the film was still being shot! I was just making a lot of weird stuff up and having a total blast. One of my personal favourites from this early stage is The Mafia, which I enjoyed classifying as "gangster electronica banjo punk", just because I could.
Seeing the first rough cut of some of the opening scenes - with the then-titled Banjo Ranger on it (the western-flavoured "A" part of the finished main theme) - made my jaw drop. This movie already felt like something quite special. The early songs soon evolved into more of a score, using the same instrumental palette. As the editing progressed however, it became apparent that the film needed more than guitars, drums and strange keyboards. After moving the score in a more orchestral direction than first expected (still keeping and evolving the rock elements), the “B" part of the main theme was born. This B theme works both as a symbol of Modulf’s superhero fantasies, as in SuperModulf, and finally as his conscience, in Showdown.
The really funny thing is, that when we first showed the finished movie, premiering (and winning two out of five awards) at the Kristiansand International Children's Film Festival in April 2013, the unison reaction was "wow, this is sort of a Tarantino movie for kids". Full circle.
I would receive two awards for my music for THE TOUGH GUYS – the NOPA Music Award 2013, and the Reel Music "Best Comedy Score" award for 2013.
The soundtrack album was released on Pling Kong Recordings in correlation with the film's release. Click here to listen to the album on your favourite digital music service, or use the embedded Spotify player below.