Cillian Murphy on ‘Peaky Blinders’ awesome soundtrack: ‘You just know if a song’s Peaky or not’

The show's star, alongside Antony Genn, talk outlaw music, Savages and Laura Marling

We don’t need to point out again how great the Peaky Blinders soundtrack is – the whole thing speaks for itself. From the dramatic peaks of the original score, to the appropriation of tracks by the likes of The White Stripes, Johnny Cash and Royal Blood, it does a flawless job at eking out maximum emotion and feeling from each scene. Yesterday (November 19), star Cillian Murphy and composer Antony Genn (formerly of Pulp) stopped by BBC 6Music to discuss outlaws and pure “peakiness”.

The soundtrack is all about outlaws

It makes sense. Tommy Shelby is an outlaw, so why wouldn’t the musicians soundtracking his exploits have that same quality? As Genn points out, “Nick Cave is an outlaw. PJ Harvey is an outlaw. Our friend Flood, who was involved doing season two, is very much an outlaw.”

Some songs just have a “Peakiness” to them

“Every year, it’s had a tone to it,” says Murphy of the show’s score over four seasons. “Season two, we had PJ Harvey, which was a more feminine approach to it, and season three was sadder. There was quite a lot of tragedy in that. This series it feels like we’re going back to the energy of series one.”

Despite that shift in moods with each new batch of episodes, the soundtrack always feels very coherent, very Peaky. That’s something that’s not lost on the crew, it turns out. “It’s weird now,” admits Murphy. “The sound has this “peakiness” to it. You just know if it’s Peaky or not.”

Cillian Murphy wanted Savages on the soundtrack

Murphy leaves choosing the music to the professionals – Genn and fellow composer Martin Slattery – because “they’re such legends to be able to find the tracks that are needed or to create them”. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t chat to them about “who we love, who we admire, and who we think would be a Peaky artist”. One band that fits the latter category is Savages. “Right from the beginning, I thought Savages would be brilliant,” he says. “And they’re used [in season four].” Hurrah!

Genn is also a huge fan of the band, describing them as “pure outlaw, man”. “Have you seen them play?” They are alive, and vibrant, and in touch with something so visceral. They are so Peaky.

Laura Marling is featured pretty heavily in the new series

You might not expect a show whose watchword is “outlaw” to go heavy on the folk, but, after featuring in season two, Laura Marling has three songs featured in the fourth season – a cover of Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’, another mystery cover and one of her own originals. “Being an outlaw is not about being loud,” explains Genn. “Being an outlaw is about being powerful. When Laura Marling opens her mouth and sings… it’s like when people say, ‘This person is the real deal.'” We couldn’t agree more.

There’s also a lot of Nick Cave in there too

Obviously, ‘Red Right Hand’ is the show’s gloomy theme song, and in the past, the show has ordered covers of it to use, like PJ Harvey’s series two contribution. This series, you’ll be able to hear a few more different versions of the track. As well as getting Laura Marling to cover it, Genn and Slattery also got Iggy Pop and Jarvis Cocker to do a version together. One “incredibly powerful moment” in the new episodes will also be soundtracked by a live version of Cave’s ‘The Mercy Seat’.

“I wanted to find another Nick Cave song, and this is a radio version they did live on KCRW,” explains Genn. “‘The Mercy Seat’ is a weird thing – the original recording is a pretty weird, reverb-y thing, and then, when you see it live, it’s one of the greatest things you’ll ever see. This version is so emotional and beautiful. It’s just piano and the amazing Warren Ellis on viola, and it’s mind-blowing.”