Peacemaker is here and he’s got one hell of a soundtrack to prove it. James Gunn is well known for how intricately he incorporates songs into his work, including in the Guardians of the Galaxy films, and that continues with his new HBO Max series spinoff of The Suicide Squad, which debuted this past week.
The music that fuels Peacemaker is Hair Metal (AKA Glam Metal), the style popularized in the 1980s by groups like Mötley Crüe and Cinderella, with John Cena’s Christopher Smith / Peacemaker quickly making it clear he’s a huge fan of bands of that ilk.
Read on for what Gunn and other Executive Producers and cast from Peacemaker had to say about the songs in Peacemaker, how it reflects the main character, and why it was so fun incorporating those songs into the actual making of the series.
So why hair metal for Peacemaker? On one hand, Gunn told a group of journalists that it’s a simple matter of deciding that was Christopher Smith’s personal taste, explaining, “That is the music that is that speaks to Peacemaker’s spirit. He loves hair metal.” Executive Producer Peter Safran, told Fandom that when it came to Peacemaker’s true adoration for this music, “I think we see that in episode one, when he’s in his tighty whities and he dances for four minutes to a Quireboys song [“I Don’t Love You Anymore”]. The passion that he brings to that dance and that movement, this guy loves this music. And I actually think the music is going to have a huge resurgence as a result of this show.”
However, there is another layer to it beyond Chris simply being a fan. As made clear in the early episodes of the show, Peacemaker’s father, Auggie (Robert Patrick) is a truly vile person; a white supremacist with a ton of hate in his heart and Gunn noted that Peacemaker’s lifelong embrace of this type of music was also an act of rebellion.
Said Gunn, “I think it speaks to a lot of the things that his dad is not. It’s androgynous and I think of Peacemaker, bringing home a Hanoi Rocks album, with all the guys in the makeup and the fishnet stockings and everything else, or bringing home a Motley Crue album with a satanic symbol on the front… those are direct affronts to who his father is. So I feel like music is something that belongs to Peacemaker and as the series goes on, we see some of the reasons for why that’s the case.”
EP Matt Miller remarked, of the song choices in Peacemaker, “It creates a really playful, fun tone for the show, but it also speaks to Peacemaker’s character, who is this guy that’s in a little bit of arrested development. He’s this guy that’s sort of stuck in this time period and he’s a little bit of an antique. He comes from a different era, when you maybe said certain things and thought certain things that really aren’t part of today’s world and culture and I think that the music is a way to sort of tap into that.”
There are also some rather somber memories connected to Peacemaker’s history with this music that are explored as the series continues and which Miller described as, “In a lot of ways, the defining moment for him and his childhood that he’s never been able to overcome. So I think it makes sense that he still lives with that music and in that world.”
OLD MEETS NEW
Beyond how the music fits the show’s lead character, Gunn noted that he’d long wanted to use this hair metal in something beforehand and finally found the right place for it with Peacemaker. Said Gunn, “When I did the first Guardians, I think one of the fun things about it was we had all these 70s pop hits that were by bands people usually didn’t know, especially in the first movie, or [at least] names of the songs we may not have known… They were recognizable, but not well known, and to see them in this completely different, outer space setting was fresh and different. And I think that hair metal is something that has been completely forgotten or covered up, for the most part, in the United States. And it wasn’t even my music! I’m a punk rock kid.”
Still, Gunn added, “I believe that there are great musicians and great artists almost everywhere if you seek them out. I started doing that a few years ago with this music and became obsessed with it and, and not only the old bands and the stuff from the 80s, but also, there’s a lot of modern sleaze rock from Northern Europe that I think is far superior to the majority of the stuff from the 80s because they know exactly what they’re doing.”
Fitting this bill is the Norwegian band Wig Wam, who perform the song used in Peacemaker’s instantly adored, incredibly memorable dance-fueled opening credits, “Do You Wanna Taste It” – which is fairly recent, in the scheme of things for hair metal, having been released in 2010. This is the case for other songs on the show that are not ones chosen by Peacemaker himself, with Gunn saying, when it comes to modern hair metal, “It’s not pompous in any way. They don’t pretend to be serious… I wanted to use that type of music and I felt like it was fun being able to build it into the very fabric of the story itself.”
A SET THAT ROCKS
Robert Patrick was very impressed by Gunn so tightly connecting the story to the music, noting, “When we get the scripts, we get the sound, we get the song cues. We actually have a Spotify playlist of the actual cue as you’re reading the screenplay. It’s super exciting, as it sets the tone for the scene.”
So had the Peacemaker cast picked up the same affinity for this music as Christopher Smith while making the show? Frequent Gunn collaborator Steve Agee (“John Economos”) said rather than give him a newfound appreciation for hair metal, “It’s an appreciation I never lost. I’m 52, so I was peak teenager when this music was popular. And it was so great to hear, like, Hanoi Rocks again. James likes really pulling from random areas in his soundtracks.” Agee added that having those songs already in mind from the moment the cast read the script was “really, really incredible.”
Chukwudi Iwuji (“Clemson Murn”) said that Gunn’s song choices had gotten stuck in his head since he finished filming Peacemaker‘s first season, laughing that, “I keep continuously singing ‘Do You Want to Taste It’ in the shower. I would never sing and my wife, who is herself a professional singer, is threatening to leave.”
Gunn will often blast the song he’s going to use in a scene on set while it’s being filmed and Iwuji recalled, “There’s a great scene I love in episode three, where we come into the house, and he was playing the track,” referring to the moment where Murn and Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) enter the home of their target, Goff.
Like “Do You Wanna Taste It,” the song playing in the scene Iwuji mentioned is a more recent one, 2012’s “Six Feet Under ” by the German band Kissin’ Dynamite. Said Iwuji, “There’s something about coming in and kicking a door and guns drawn out, with music like that blasting… You’re just playing cops. It was just one of those highlights of my career doing that. It just felt so cool!”
Freddie Stroma (“Vigilante”) agreed Gunn’s method added to the immersion making the show, remarking, “Yeah, we had a few of those [moments on set]. There was a slow mo walk where we had music and I had the same when I go to a jail. As soon as I find who I’m looking for, there was a change in the music and he was all orchestrated perfectly to it.”
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