Better Call Saul Composer on What It’s Like to Score the Best Show on TV

Better Call Saul composer Dave Porter has a keen memory of how he got the opportunity to join the Breaking Bad universe — with a little help from his friends.

In 2007, both music editor Tom Villano and music supervisor Thomas Golubic got hired for a new AMC pilot, and, as Porter tells Consequence“They both were just astounded by it, and were just telling me about how excited they were, as we do when people in my world stumble upon something exciting.”

As fate would have it, Porter got the chance to watch the pilot at Golubic’s house. “I was just astounded as well,” he says. “And then I made it my mission to be a thorn in the side of everyone involved until they would let me do it.”

That sort of perseverance, Porter says, is “really the only way I think that someone new can break through [as a composer]especially someone like in my case — I wasn’t an understudy of someone else, so for me an open door like that was an opportunity I had to take, never mind whether it was gonna turn into Breaking Bad or not. Just to find the work was exciting. And then to be able to follow along the coattails of such a successful series launched my career. I’m very, very blessed for that.”

He does believe that “it would never have happened except that AMC was a very small unknown network. At the time, this thing flew totally under the radar — I’m sure most composers in LA would never have even known it was what it was or where it was coming from. So in that sense, I was very, very fortunate.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg of Consequence‘s extended conversation with Porter, which reveals the process by which the Better Call Saul post-production team breaks down when to use music, how Porter approaches each new episode, and how he feels about the looming end to the Breaking Bad story as we know it.

We also dig into the composing of one of the show’s most standout pieces of score, learn how he approaches each character on a musical level, and get the story behind why, in the early days, he was showing executive producer Vince Gilligan scenes in a broom closet

How has the working relationship with the producers evolved over the years? I’m sure at the beginning there was some amount of feeling each other out — at what point did it really feel like, you know, everyone was on the same page?

Well, I think we had all been on the same team all along, but I will say that, you know, our processes evolved somewhat. Most of this is in the earlier Breaking Bad years — once we got into a methodology that was working for all of us, it’s pretty much stayed consistent since then. But yeah, I remember, you know, in the early, early Breaking Bad years, there were meetings in broom closets with Vince and a DVD of some rough cut of something.

It was all very ad hoc and thrown together and just moving as fast as we can. And on the flip side of that, there was so little scrutiny — there was just not that much interest in the, in the show. There were not a lot of producers involved. It was just kind of, you know, pick it up and move the ball down the field and do your part.

Better Call Saul (AMC)

I think that all changed in Season 3 of Breaking Bad when suddenly you know, a lot of people were paying attention. So there were more demands, particularly on Vince’s time and later Peter, of course, on Better Call Saul. So we kinda had to streamline all this work, and it was a little less ad hoc in that sense. But the thing that hasn’t changed is that to their great credit all the producers on the show take the music and the sound very seriously, and we’ve always spent a lot of time talking before anything ever happens.

So we have these very long and exhaustive spotting sessions, and we always do them with sound and music together so that we can bounce ideas off each other and understand each person’s role in any given moment. And we talk at length about what music should be and what it should do, and whether there should be music or not music — who’s taking the lead between music or sound effects. All those questions are debated openly and honestly for however long it takes to get to an answer that satisfies everybody. It’s really the blueprint for us all then to go forward and do what we do.

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