When it came to creating the score for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Vince Gilligan was the one who knocked for composer Dave Porter, who has worked with the director and creator of Breaking Bad since its pilot episode.
“I always knew the show would be special – from the moment I saw the pilot,” begins composer Dave Porter on Breaking Bad.
“It just felt very filmic in a way that I hadn't seen before. It felt like a whole new level for television. I had a sense that it would be a special show but to be honest, in my heart, I thought at best it was going to be a critical darling show, and that it was going to be a show that only the critics and television aficionados loved. I never imagined it would have the broader audience that it did end up having!”
Talking to Headliner from his LA home after breaking his wrist in a bizarre gardening accident (we’ll come full circle on Michael McKean later), Porter has nothing but praise for his long-time collaborator, Vince Gilligan – the man behind the entire Breaking Bad universe, with whom Porter has worked with since the pilot episode of the show in 2008.
Porter has written the original music for all of Gilligan’s projects, scoring all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad, including creating its iconic opening theme. Since then, Porter has also been behind all of the original music for Breaking Bad’s equally acclaimed spin-off, Better Call Saul, which just wrapped its fifth season, then moving onto composing the original score to Gilligan’s feature film, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
“There's definitely a thread that connects them all,” he says. “There's a sonic universe that I've created, along with Vince that began with Breaking Bad that has some overarching elements to it. I hope that it has some sort of through line in it that feels connected.”
Porter hopes that when anyone watches any of the three projects, they’ll feel like they’re in that Breaking Bad world – helped along by his use of a southwest US orchestral palette. One can’t help but wonder if Porter made a conscious decision to tie the score – which can be sparse in places – into the wide-angled cinematography synonymous with the show – often lingering on Albuquerque, New Mexico’s unforgiving desert landscapes.
“The show is well known for this,” he agrees, “and one of the great things about being a composer on a project like these is that I get to be last creatively in the process. There’s so many creative decisions that get made before I even start thinking about the music, from its script, to how it is shot, the performances of all the actors involved, and how it's edited.
"Whether consciously or subconsciously in terms of its impact on me, when I get to sit down and watch it, I would think about how music can best serve the show. These American southwest vistas play so well into all three stories, so it would be a waste of a creative opportunity not to try to sweeten those big moments more.”