Midlands Movies Editor Mike Sales take a visit to the studio of Damon Baxter (aka Deadly Avenger) as the Leicester musician continues to put his skills to use on trailers for a range of Hollywood blockbusters.
It;s a sunny Sunday afternoon when I meet with Damon Baxter at Leicester’s Meatcure restaurant (great burgers by the way) to have a chat about movies, music and more with the talented trailer composer.
Previously working as a DJ at London nightclubs such as Fabric, Damon now splits his time between Los Angeles and Leicester, creating electronic soundtracks for movie trailers. No small feat coming from his small studio on a trading estate in the Midlands.
With the food going down a treat and a quick chat about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I ask him about his career so far.
“Well, I first got into the dance scene around 2000", says Damon, "and with the likes of Fatboy Slim, Propellerheads and Jon Carter, I helped push forward the ‘Big Beat’sound”.
I asked him if that helped open up many doors? “I got to tour the world but then eventually settled nicely into a Fabric Residency alongside Unkle and The Wiseguys”.
Did that give you the breakthrough you were looking for? “Yes and no. My Deadly Avenger sound emerged when I remixed bands like Manic Street Preachers, Elbow and The Charlatans”.
And how did that leap to movies? “My ‘Deep Red’ album had a track that captured a cinematic vibe and eventually that sound was soon being used regularly for adverts, TV spots and movie trailers”
From orchestral to synthesisers via dance, Damon utilises a wide variety of sounds to create compositions that have been used on huge tent-pole move releases such as Age of Ultron, Men in Black 3 and Transformers 4. From his record label Destroy All Planets, Damon says his compositions use enigmatic and sparse arrangements to capture audiences’ imaginations.
Now finished, we both get up and head to Damon’s rusty pickup truck - which he claims belongs to a friend - and one that he’s nicknamed the “Millennium Falcon”. The second Star Wars reference of the day that I had noticed, I then realise how that franchise was a window into Damon’s world.
We headed around Leicester’s awful ring-road (luckily the city’s successful football team were playing so the roads were clearer than most days) and arrived at an industrial estate just outside the city – one that I quickly recognise from having a band residential rehearsal room for 3 years at the same location.
After acknowledging the weird coincidence we enter Damon’s studio where I am greeted with a range of movie posters. Covering the hallway and adorning the walls of the studio space itself, I witness Damon’s love of movies from framed retro posters of Close Encounters and They Live to modern blockbusters like Transformers and a ginormous 6 foot poster of Kill Bill: Vol 1.
A studio that Damon built himself, this sanctuary is a neat arena to create inspirational music. And proud of place in the corner is a full-sized Star Wars Stormtrooper costume on a mannequin set amongst his key instruments of computer, keyboard and mixing tools.
Damon went on to explain his style. “I love to use weird sounds. One of the effects on the Transformers TV spot was me hitting a metal bar outside which I mixed and put through the computer to become one of the main trademark motifs of the music”.
Using a combination of styles, Damon is also having a clear out of his DVDs on this of all days with the majority of his huge collection of 500 movies about to be given to charity in a spring clean that is not only clearing his studio for an imminent move, but also clearing his mind for Summer trailer work. Just a few of his previous summer work has included Antman, Furious 7, Chappie and The Last Witch Hunter too.
“One of the things people may not know is that I’m not always told the movie I am working on so have some free range to create something new from my own imagination whilst providing the film company with something that matches their vision”.
“I also try to combine all kinds of music into a new format. Recently I saw the trailer for Midnight Special which was brilliant as it gave the music room to ‘breathe’ rather than a traditional multiplex feel. That’s where I see my style heading towards along with my love for both the past, present and future".
Damon will next be seen at the Alfresco Festival on 27th – 30th May in Tunbridge Wells and we chat about our joint love for movies and music. Laughing at various films in his collection – Steven Seagal appears to have been a big part of his life – we then move to music and I suggest he check out both Inside Llewyn Davis (with Poe Dameron & Kylo Ren for the Star Wars fan) as well A Mighty Wind, the mockumentary from the Spinal Tap guys.
I ask him what the next stages are for Deadly Avenger. “Well, I have reworked my own tracks for use in TV shows like CSI but would love to attempt a full movie soundtrack at some point”. A great goal for an immense local talent, Damon has also kindly submitted soundtrack remixes for our own Midlands Movies events using scores and songs from films and adding his own twist to help create a brilliant atmosphere at our theme nights.
Damon says how pleased he is when his music gets used in a big production but hasn’t forgotten the local with a further keenness to offer his services to local filmmakers free of charge.
“I think I can offer some technical advice and practical pieces of music to local filmmakers to help give their soundtracks and trailers a professional quality which can sometimes be very costly on low budget films”. And this can only be a great thing for Midlands filmmakers.
With that, and the DVDs finally ready for the charity shop, we head off to enjoy the rest of the weekend with both of us humming the great “Please Mr. Kennedy” by Oscar Issac, Justin Timberlake and Adam “Kylo” Driver in a weird but satisfying duet for us both.
Midlands Movies Mike
More about Deadly Avenger :