If you’re watching a James Gunn project, you can expect a few things going in: An arch, darkly comic tone, characters as acerbic as they are morally questionable, and lots and lots (and lots and lots) of needle-drops. For Peacemaker, Gunn’s spinoff of last year’s endearing revamp of The Suicide Squad, his musically-literate mind zeroed in on one very specific genre: ’80s Scandinavian hair metal.
After all, it’s pretty much the only type of music Christopher Smith, aka Peacemaker (John Cena) will listen to, the kind of thrashing, ballad-heavy stuff that fuels his flag-waving antihero. It’s suffused into every aspect of the show’s fabric, from Cena (in his thighty-whities) singing along to the Quireboys’ “I Don’t Love You Anymore” in Episode 1 to the stone-faced opening sequence, where the entire cast gets jiggy to Wig Wam’s “Do Ya Wanna Taste It.” (Consequence even spoke to Peacemaker cast member Steve Agee about what that process was like.)
But when an established crate-pull couldn’t do the trick, that’s where original score came in. And for Peacemaker, that meant bringing in established DC TV composers Clint Mansell and Kevin Kiner, who also score Titans and Doom Patrol for HBO Max.
Mansell is a prolific composer most known for his work with Darren Aronofsky, while Kiner is a journeyman composer who’s worked for decades building out the musical landscape of established franchises from Star Trek to Star Wars and everything in between.
“At the end of the day, I’m a writer, and I have my own ideas,” says Kiner, who recently won a second Annie Award for his music for the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “A lot of what I’ve written is canon now, and I’m proud of the fact that it just came out of my head.”
In this one-on-one Zoom interview for Consequence, transcribed and edited for clarity, Kiner talks to us about his developing collaboration with Mansell, his own history as a rock guitarist, and finding the right sound to marry Gunn’s hair-metal sensibilities with the show’s narrative needs.