Suspects Music Blog - Season 5 Episodes 5 and 6 - The Grand Finale!

Hey folks, I’ve been buried under a pile of vintage synthesizers in the studio for the last few weeks and have just managed to get out and share this blog with you :-)

If you’re interested in the composition process when working on a drama, then read on and ideally watch the episodes I’m discussing on the links below...

As the final 2 episodes of the season were shown back to back, I’ve tackled them both in this edition of my blog. These 2 episodes are my favourites of this season, some major bombshells are dropped, the story cleverly twists and turns and the tension is off the scale!

In episode 5, we establish two new key themes. After the discovery of the body of missing person Sarah Kramer, DS Jack Weston (Damien Moloney) goes to visit her father, Joseph Kramer (Paul Copley). This scene is scored with a slow piano melody - it pulls at our emotions but in a very understated way. To keep it simple and sparse and yet help carry the notes, there is a long slow moving reverb on the piano, as the scene progresses and Joseph’s distress grows, held notes are played on the cello and viola. When working on a scene like this, I prefer to adopt a ‘less is more’ approach. We want the music to support the visuals but if we overdo the emotion or sorrow with a busy melody or overly grand arrangement, it can end up seeming melodramatic and hindering the scene rather than helping. Never under estimate the power of one held note!

The other new theme is for DS Alisha Brooks (Lenora Crichlow) and her undercover operation investigating dastardly DCI Dan Drummond (James Murray), first revealed at the end of part 2, when she confides in Jack. The melody on the viola is an expression of intrigue - it’s asking the question on Jack’s lips; what the fuck is going on here?!  Underneath are some synths, that I’ve programmed with lots of air around them and some pulsing delay - again, it’s executed with subtlety but it represents the sort of nagging questions in your mind that keep you awake at night.

These themes are revisited throughout the episode, but I think we should continue on to episode 6 to witness it all coming together.

One of my favourite parts of the job when composing is when all the character or plot themes start to weave together - for the musician it’s fundamentally about understanding harmony and as a composer it’s about hitting the key visual moments and using the music as a vehicle to subconsciously help the viewer understand the story.

This comes in to play towards the end of part 3; at 29.50 Alisha asks Mo if Drummond helped cover up and bury Sarah Kramer’s body, we hear a theme I’ve been using for Drummond since that very first reveal at the end of episode 1 when we learned that he is connected to Mo Jones (Neil Stuke) and covering up for him, it’s a chord progression on Rhodes piano with a very spiky sounding synth under it. Here we just hear the briefest part of it as we transition into the next scene but my thinking behind it was thus; the chord progression sounds slightly melancholy but at the same time pedestrian, it’s as if Drummond is in so deep, he’s resigned to these things he has to do, whilst the spiky synth underneath is telling us, this is a bad man and all cannot end well!

This then morphs into Joseph’s theme as he confesses to Daniel, we hear the sad piano but then the strings and dark breathy synths subtly underline his disgust at the realisation that Daniel was involved in her burial. We move into Drummond’s serial theme, the rhythmic bass line and uncomfortable synths, and as he galvanizes his plan, the percussion builds, the pensive rhodes melody comes in and when his mind turns to murder, those high frequency noises add to the feeling of unease and impending horror, these build as he goes to Mo’s cell and resolve in a big reverby rattle. As I said before, this cannot end well!

You can listen to that cue here.

I really hope you enjoyed the series and that it was interesting to gain an insight into how I go about scoring it. Suspects is very dear to my heart and I have loved every minute working on it.

As always, I’d love to hear your comments.

Back soon,


Suspects Music Blog - Season 5 Episode 4.


I'm a little late this week because of the bank holiday weekend but I'm guessing you're all in the same boat so not to worry.

I'm here now to discuss Episode 4 which aired Wednesday 24th August.

During the season so far, we've been slowly discovering that DCI Dan Drummond (James Murray) is rather shady. Behind the tall, dark and handsome exterior is a senior police officer knee deep in corruption and there have been musical references to that throughout. They have been fairly subtle in episodes 1-3 but I have been building a theme that appears whenever we see Drummond up to no good or the consequences of his actions, and in Episode 4, this becomes more prominent. The biggest section musically in this episode is at the end of part 3, when Drummond is at the top story of the car park with local villain, Mo (Neil Stuke) and his scum bag brother Stan (Sam Stockman).

This is where lots of themes start to weave together. At the top of the sequence we begin with the Suspects theme as Jack races off responding to the call he's just received, when we get up to the car park, we bring back the dark threatening theme I've been using whenever Stan is on the scene - things are not looking good for him but he tells Jack where to find Lucy and when we see Jack reunited with her, Lucy's theme is reprised, musically breathing a huge sigh of relief. Cut back to Stan and Mo and Stan's theme builds to its awful conclusion as Mo throws him over the edge, and as he hits the ground, the drums tell us it's over. Drummond's theme coming in hard now as we see the fallout - this is intense!

You can listen to that cue here.

After witnessing Stan's demise, TDC Gary Roscoe (Perry Fitzpatrick) starts to be very suspicious of Drummond and as he sits at his desk in CID in shock, for the first time we hear echoes of the Drummond theme but with the introduction of a higher Rhodes piano line in there too. These pensive notes are telling us that the cogs are ticking in Gary's head- he's trying to figure out what the hell Drummond is up to.

When Gary sits in the pub and starts to explain his suspicions to Charlie (Clare Hope-Ashitey), we hear that melody again and now it's starting to build momentum.

You can listen to that cue here.

As we reach the gripping climax of this story we are going to hear more of these themes so do listen out!

I hope you enjoyed the episode and the music - I'd love to hear your thoughts or if you have any questions, please do leave a comment.

- Justine


Suspects Music Blog - Season 5 Episode 3.


Hey folks, I’m back to chat about the music for episode three which aired on Wednesday 17th August.

This week, I thought I’d focus more on the technical side of what’s involved as opposed to the composition. So here’s how I create the Suspects sound...

Screenshot from the Logic project for Episode Three.

Screenshot from the Logic project for Episode Three.

I work from my studio in London using Logic X. Over the years, I’ve been creating and developing my own signature sounds and storing them in my little black book of weird and wonderful noises. I also have a collection of excellent sample libraries from companies such as Spitfire, Native Instruments and Sonokinetic.

As I’ve mentioned before I also use the live recordings of Richard Curran on violin, viola and cello, specially recorded for each show, and there’s some live bass guitar in the mix too. All in all, I usually end up with 100 - 120 channels of audio - that's a lot of layers!

This use of modern, digital sounds and uncomfortable synths and noises, blended with the raw, real quality of the strings and piano are what make up the show's musical identity. It’s a reflection of the show itself; modern, edgy, pacey but with some real, uncomfortable grit and emotion in there too.

I hope you are enjoying the series so far - as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts or if you have any questions, please do leave a comment.

- Justine

Suspects Music Blog - Season 5 Episode 2.


Hello everyone, I’m back to discuss the music on episode two which aired on Wednesday 10th August.

Episode two introduces the use of some new character/ storyline music themes and I’m focussing here on how I approached one of the key character/ relationship strands when writing the score.

I created a theme to support the story of the connection between Jack (Damien Moloney) and Rose (Karen Hassan), which subsequently develops to cover the thread of daughter Lucy (Lucy Carless) too.

Early in the story, when Jack goes to question Rose at her home, we hear this theme for the first time as a simple string bed, it’s subtle but tinged with a kind of sorrowful intrigue - like Rose, at this point, the music is holding back.

In part two, when Jack returns to talk to Rose again, we learn that her life with Stan is ‘not a bed of roses’, in fact it’s become intolerable and she reveals bruises on her arm from where he’s been violently abusing her. There is a delicate sparse piano melody running under the scene, it’s very gently piquing our curiosity and showing her vulnerability. It resolves with the string bed we heard in part one, underlining the bruises.

You can listen to that cue here.

Versions of this theme appear whenever we visit this storyline, it gathers momentum with the addition of synth beds and percussive elements as we reach end of part three and discover that Rose, is not as innocent as she claims and is behind the sale of baby Katie.

It reaches it’s conclusion for this episode in the final arrangement in part four. Jack meets Lucy by the marina at Tower Bridge for the first time and initially the piano and strings theme underscore their introduction but once Rose screams out to Lucy, realising it’s a trap, the theme steps up- the piano melody is at double speed, drums and percussion push the tension and severity of the situation, but it’s not a adrenaline fueled chase and arrest theme; this is the sad song of Rose’s downfall and the devastating impact this will have on both her and her daughter. The somewhat mournful cello and viola lines really reflect that.

You can listen to that cue here.

I hope you enjoyed the episode and the music - I'd love to hear your thoughts or if you have any questions, please do leave a comment.

- Justine


Suspects Music Blog - Season 5 Episode 1.

SPOILER ALERT! - Episode details discussed here.

Home-grown British crime drama Suspects returned to Channel 5 for its fifth season this week featuring my original score and end credit theme. This innovative drama has received wide spread critical acclaim for its groundbreaking approach; with the dialogue improvised by the actors, Suspects is a fast paced, gripping detective drama. Read on to hear about the brand new score I’ve written for the show and a breakdown of how I approached the first episode and end credit theme.

When Executive Producer, Paul Marquess and Series Producer, Kara Manley talked to me about the return of Suspects for its fifth season, it was very clear that this was to be Suspects and then some! They wanted to keep everything we loved about the show but add some powerful new dimensions; not least the introduction of three great new lead characters DCI Dan Drummond (James Murray), DS Alisha Brooks (Lenora Crichlow) and TDC Gary Roscoe (Perry Fitzpatrick), more location scenes and for the first time, a strong serial element.

This was the perfect opportunity to bring something new to the Suspects music too and Paul and Kara gave me license to revise the score to reflect the shows progression. My approach mirrored that of the production, keep all the best elements but bring some exciting new changes.

An essential new component is the use of real strings, as they are pretty hard to beat when it comes to expressing emotion. They had to be done in just the right way to fit with the show’s identity; gritty and real, the viewer is kept right ‘in’ the drama, so soaring Hollywood strings that transport you to a world far away would never be right for Suspects. I wanted to keep them close, real and not grand sounding and bed them in with the digital and percussive parts of the soundtrack.
Time pressures were a genuine concern as I have just a week to write, record and mix each episode but I knew it was the right way to go and I was determined to make it work. The producers liked the idea and were highly supportive. The solution came in the form of the multi talented musician, Richard Curran. I’d worked with Richard on a previous project and he was the ideal fit. He plays cello, viola and violin on the Suspects score; I’d write the episodes with midi mock-ups for the producers review and once they’d signed off, send the parts to Richard to record remotely at his studio, he’d then get the parts back to me in time for my mix session. It was a pretty ambitious turnaround but we pulled it off and everyone is very pleased with the outcome. The strings add a raw human feeling to the score: fragile and vulnerable.

The main Suspects theme, reprised in the closing credit sequence has always been an important identifying mark in the music; its melodic signature features throughout the series when our heroes are called to action. At the beginning of episode one, Jack gets the phone call from Daisy and races round to Martha’s house. I used that theme here but with a completely new arrangement: loads more textural detail and density and of course the aforementioned strings.

When Jack discovers Martha’s body, what we’re focused on is not a whole lot of blood and gore but Jack’s reaction at the discovery of his boss’s brutal murder. I wanted to create sounds that emulate his horror at the scene, his mind racing, processing what’s happened. I used minimal synths here, which are gated so although there’s a very small sound palette, they have an agitated movement and that almost helicopter juddering rhythm gives a feeling of heady tension while the ringing blown air sounds add to the feeling of discomfort. This is all new musical territory for the show.

As Jack calls it in and we go through the title into the arrival of DCI Drummond and DS Brooks, it’s the first time we hear the real strings in isolation. I love the effect - all this action, tension and discomfort has brought us to the sad truth - a senior police officer has been murdered.

One of the real high points for me scoring this episode was the end sequence in part four, starting when Jack goes to meet Stan (Sam Stockman), there is a very stripped back version of the main Suspects theme as Jack drives off but once he gets to the meeting place, the mood changes; Jack is about to cross a line and the tension is palpable. For the theme under the exchange and disposal of the gun I used minimal over driven drums, a suspenseful raw bass line and a gorgeously sombre cello melody. As Jack tells Drummond ‘it’s done’ the drums hammer out the gravity of what’s just happened and then the music changes tone again. I used a Rhodes piano melody to switch the focus back to Drummond; his extremely difficult day, just one of many as a London Detective Chief Inspector, is drawing to a close and then as we discover he is talking to Mo (Neil Stuke) and all is not as it seems, the music simply supports the drama with a long held cello note - very understated, very lush!  That whole sequence was an absolute joy to work on - when I first mixed the real cello into the Stan gun scene, there was a lot of fist pumping going on in the studio - it was a total buzz!

You can listen to that cue here

The last thing to talk about in this blog post is the new arrangement of the end credit theme. I really like the theme as it stood in seasons 1-4 but the ‘Who killed Martha?’ aspect of this season made me want to add more depth and gravitas this time around. That was achieved by slowing the beats right down; the tempo of the melody is the same as it’s always been but the drums are playing at half speed while keeping the echoing percussion from the original arrangement. The melody is played once again, on the beautifully sobering cello with layered violins and violas playing the harmonic lines. Again, this was so enjoyable to work on and I’m really satisfied with the end result.

You can listen to the end credit music here

I hope you all enjoy this brilliant season of Suspects and my new score and check back each week for my insight into this wonderful musical journey. I'd love to hear your thoughts or if you have any questions, please do leave a comment.

- Justine