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Four Albums Influencing the Breaking Bad Score

If the Breaking Bad credits get you pumped, it’s not just because you love a floating periodic table and the color green; it’s because of the music (which we would phonetically hum for you if it weren’t so difficult). The show’s composer, Dave Porter, teases us with just enough twisted and ominous sounds to remind us that we’re in for a glorious 40-something minutes of television. With season five around the corner (it premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. Eastern on AMC), Vulture spoke to Porter about the music he’s been listening to for inspiration and how it’s influenced his work this season. Check out his answers, below. (And bonus points if you can confirm his element. Polonium?)

Silversun Pickups, Neck of the Woods
I love their use of distortion and guitar. Distortion in general is one of my biggest tools in the score for Breaking Bad, and obviously there’s a lot of guitar work. I usually use very spare guitar for Jesse, especially early on when he was more innocent. Up until last year, I used some aggressive synthesizers and processed guitars for Gus. And Walt’s evolved over the years from being very naïve and out of his depths to being much more confident. Whether he should be so confident is an open debate, but he is confident and so the music reflects that.

Alexander Scriabin, 24 Preludes/Sonatas 4 and 10
Scriabin’s always been a favorite of mine. What I like about his stuff is he takes a Romantic and Russian classical music center, which is actually the basis of probably 90 percent of film scores, and he moves it toward more atonal music. But he never actually gets there. He sort of flirts with it. When I’m writing music in Breaking Bad, I do that a lot. It’s about making little shifts of dissonance that make you uncomfortable; a lot of what I try to do is to keep people uncomfortable.

Skinny Puppy, handOver
They’ve always been pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in terms of creating nontraditional sounds; they’re masters of it. And I’m also inspired by how they blend the world between what is music and what is sound design. I spend a lot of time interfacing with the folks who do the natural sound design for the show in the hopes of creating transitions that are seamless and organic.

John Adams, The Dharma at Big Sur
While I do include some aspects of the Southwest in my score — there’s that resonator guitar in the theme for the show, and I use some Native American percussion at times — I also use, on purpose, music that’s totally unrelated; again, in an effort to make Walt in particular feel out of sorts and out of his element. So I use a lot of Asian instruments for Walt, and this piece, with that electric violin, definitely has an Eastern feel to it.

Four Albums Influencing the Breaking Bad Score