British soundtracks artist Paul Hartnoll – creator of scores for feature films, Peaky Blinders, BBC science documentaries and commercials for clients from Rolex to Volkswagen – brings a wealth of experience from wider, no less vital worlds to the screen. Born in 1968 and raised in suburban Sevenoaks in Kent, just south-east of London, Hartnoll grew up in exactly the right place and time to experience a run of priceless pop culture moments from London punk through early hip hop to the rave and electronic dance music revolution of the 90s.
With Orbital, his world-renowned electronic duo with brother Phil, Paul Hartnoll took the DIY world of bedroom synth music first to the global dancefloor (famously Orbital’s debut hit, the classic ‘Chime’, was made at home on cassette) and then to festivals worldwide in the 90s. Along the way, Orbital’s epic live shows created a new unmissable moment for events from Glastonbury to Coachella: the purely electronic headliner, with the energies of house, techno, electro and audience all driving one another ever higher.
But it was the more deeply felt and thoughtful side to Hartnoll’s work that really set his music apart, and which has enabled him to create uncommonly rich movie and TV soundtracks which both echo and create a scene’s emotional truth. Orbital tracks like the blissful early morning epiphany ‘Belfast’ or ‘The Box’, a sinister “soundtrack for an imaginary 60s spy movie”, have become sync staples over the years. But Hartnoll also draws together compelling themes from a lifetime spent at the intersection of alternative music, film culture and avant garde composition.
You can hear it in his earliest soundtrack work on the Paul Anderson sci-fi horror picture Event Horizon, where Hartnoll pitted abrasive electronics and post-industrial metallic noise against Michael Kamen’s orchestrations to create a uniquely tense vision of terror in space. It’s there in his latest release, a soundtrack for the 2021 movie Concrete Plans, where queasy synths and incongruous pastoral guitars frame a tale of murder and home improvement.
It was there in the second series of Peaky Blinders, where Hartnoll collaborated with producer Flood (Depeche Mode, U2, The Killers) to build a new sonic world, at the same time vintage and contemporary, on top of deconstructed tracks by the rock artist PJ Harvey. Hartnoll is interested in everything. His work is a true synthesis, on synthesisers – plus whatever else Paul can lay his hands on.
In May 2022 Netflix release the series The Pentaverate produced and stars Mike Myers scored by Paul and Orbital.