We talked to the guy that scored the Terminator films

Terminator 2 movie still

Terminator 2: Judgment Day has been given a special 3D re-release in cinemas across the UK. The iconic sequel is not only regarded as one of the greatest action films ever made, but also served up an Oscar-winning soundtrack that has influenced a generation of dystopia-peddling metal bands. In a UK exclusive, we got time with Brad Fiedel, composer of the T2 soundtrack, to talk about the process behind scoring an all-time great.

The Terminator 2 soundtrack is one of the most iconic ever. What’s the process behind scoring a film like that?

“You know, it’s an interesting process. Usually, I’d read a script, screen a rough cut of the movie without any music in it, and then the next morning, I’d get up, go in the studio and just start messing around. On T2, Jim [James Cameron, director] and I were discussing it very early on. I’d seen some drafts of the script and some early scenes, and the real conversation was: how do we translate the original, which was a low-budget action film, and support it with the much more luxurious effects of the new film?”

So how do you do that?

“That was just a lot of experimenting with textures. I wanted it to be sounding more orchestral, but wanted to keep it electronic. So, I played around with developing interesting, otherworldly string sounds, and all those weird sounds for the T1000 melting and morphing. No one had ever seen those kinds of effects before, so I tried to come up with some musical sounds that were as disorienting as the scenes were!”

T2 was a totally different animal, even to its predecessor. It pushed a lot of boundaries and arguably defined the whole franchise…

“Yeah, and I was always pushing the envelope for what was technically possible, and Jim and I were similar that way. He was doing it visually, and there was a big growth during that time period. His imagination was always there, but [for the first film] the technology hadn’t caught up to it. With T2, he was pursuing ideas in his head. He’s a wonderful illustrator of some of his ideas. He was pushing what his computers could do, and I was in the same place on the musical, technical front. Most of the T2 score would be seen as an electronic score, but the sound origins were almost all organic. There were string sections that I morphed into something different; there were the sounds of a brass group playing crazy notes that i’d turn upside down and backwards to create the T1000’s theme.”

The Terminator franchise has been hugely influential to the metal scene – Fear Factory famously sampled T2 on Demanufacture. Why do you think the themes behind the story resonate with our world?

“There’s a dystopian element. There’s an element where these films are using these sounds that are not super ‘human’, and I think that goes for a lot of heavy metal music. I think a lot of the rhythmic power and edge of some of the sounds that go into the Terminator scores connect.”

Yes, there’s certainly a lot of thematic crossover there.

“It’s funny, because I’ve never really been a part of metal, and the Terminator scores are a particular colour that I developed for a particular film, but I’ve been aware of the influence of those scores on a whole part of rock music. That’s fun for me, and I get the connection, because what I was expressing in those scores was underlying tension. Music can be a mirror for that.”

What are you up to these days?

“It’s been quite a while! I haven’t done anything in connection with Hollywood for quite a long time. I’ve been writing a musical for ten years, that is something very personal for me. I don’t know how much exposure it’s going to get, but I’m writing the book, the lyrics and the music, and it’s getting to the stage where I’m bringing singers in. But I’m definitely working on a more intimate level than I did in the old days, especially when I was working with Jim Cameron, haha!”

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D is in cinemas nationwide now

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Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.