Behind Looper’s Score and Sound Design

Nathan Tyler Johnson is a film composer, songwriter and music producer.

He was born in Washington, DC in 1976 and grew up in Colorado. After living in England in the mid-2000s, Johnson relocated to the East coast of the U.S. where he launched a live touring project with his band, The Cinematic Underground. His work with the band opened up doors into film composing and his first musical score was for the award-winning film Brick.

Johnson is also a member of a small design workshop called The Made Shop. He designed the album cover for How to Save a Life by The Fray as well as their follow up album artwork which was a collaboration with brother and founder of The Made Shop, Marke Johnson.

Film score composing

In 2005, Johnson composed the score to the neo-noir film Brick, which was written and directed by his cousin Rian Johnson. The score features traditional instruments such as the piano, trumpet and violin, and also contains unique and invented instruments such as the wine-o-phone, metallophone, treated pianos, filing cabinets, and kitchen utensils. The entire score was recorded in Johnson’s Bournemouth apartment using a single microphone and a PowerBook computer.

Although the film was shot in California, Johnson composed the music from his home in England while using iChat to communicate with the director. The two later met in New York to mix the soundtrack.

The score was hailed by The Chicago Tribune as “perhaps the most arresting soundtrack of the year to date” and Johnson was nominated for the Satellite award for Best Original Score from the International Press Academy.

Johnson finished the score for Rian Johnson’s second film, The Brothers Bloom (2008), expanding the pallet used in Brick to include strings and woodwinds for the sound of a “back porch orchestra”.

Members of The Cinematic Underground have been involved with all of Johnson’s scores. As well as producing the music for Brick and The Brothers Bloom, Johnson has produced albums for The Cinematic Underground, Katie Chastain, and New Volunteer.

In 2012, Johnson composed the score for Rian Johnson’s critically acclaimed third film, Looper. Through his collaborations with Rian Johnson, Johnson then teamed up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who starred in Brick and Looper) to score Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon (2013).

The Cinematic Underground

Johnson is the founder of The Cinematic Underground, an art-pop collective that combines storytelling and graphic novel-style artwork with live performance. After relocating from England in 2005, Johnson brought together many of the original players to create a live touring production. In the Spring of 2006, The Cinematic Underground toured thirty-five cities in the U.S. with its stage production, Annasthesia.

Other projects

Johnson also directed the music video for Katie Chastain’s song “Snowshow”. Johnson and Chastain conceived the concept together and almost everything in the video was made by hand, including Katie’s dress. It was filmed in a single take in a barn on Martha’s Vineyard with the help of 16 friends and musicians. Five complete takes were shot and the final video was take number four.

Johnson recently announced a new studio collaboration with Chastain titled Faux Fix