An Interview with Adam Taylor: the composer for the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Adam Taylor is a successful composer who's worked on the soundtrack for the dystopian TV series The Handmaid's Tale, the drama Before I Fall, and most recently known for the new Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Here at Mandy News Adam talks about his experiences working on Sabrina and how it varies with his previous work.
How did you get involved with Sabrina?
My involvement with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was sparked from the show-runner Roberto liking what I was doing for The Handmaid's Tale - so his team reached out and set up a phone call. We got along right away and I found his enthusiasm and aesthetic for Sabrina to be infectious; I knew I wanted to work with him.
What was the process like working on the series, instrumentation choices, etc...
I was first sent a few scenes and sequences to work on so I could develop main themes and land on instrumentation: a tense chase scene, a Sabrina and Harvey moment, and a terrifying scene with satan ripping out through a tree to grab Sabrina. I would send the initial sketches along, I would then discuss with Roberto and make adjustments until we were both happy.
You also work on another amazing series, The Handmaid's Tale, how do the approaches to working on these two shows change?
They are quite different. The score for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is more in line with Sabrina's youth and energy, with any quirkiness coming from her Aunties or friends being more light-hearted. Any intense moments are right out front, with no veil or coyness - they sound evil or malevolent. The scale is also much larger - using choirs, larger groups in the orchestra including woodwinds and brass, percussion and bells.
Whereas The Handmaid's Tale is much more internalised, cerebral, with quirkiness coming often as a juxtaposition. The music has to be minimalist, longer notes with dissonance, layering low-fi vintage synthesisers on top of the orchestra to further dampen any 'life'... aiming for less timbre or lushness to mirror how stifling life in Gilead is. Of course there are times when the score gets to unleash and really take off with those infrequent moments of victory.
What are you working on next?
I'm about one third through season two of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and season three of The Handmaid's Tale follows immediately after.
What advice do you have for up and coming composers?
Honestly, my experience has been so unusual and somewhat un-replicable. I look back and still can't quite connect the dots... I didn't study music in school (actually dropped out of school), and I never planned this as a career. I can say that if it wasn't for so many kind people like Eliot, Stephen, Reed, etc giving me an opportunity, I'd be a manager at a restaurant right now. People will come along and believe in you, give you a shot. Make sure you've been diligently working and writing, ready to meet that chance with a great fucking library. Also, starting on ads was helpful as they're like mini-movies with an aggressive revision process and deadline.