We’re pumped to announce that the soundtrack to Travis Pastrana’s Action Figures 2 dropped last week and is available everywhere now — click here to listen now. Put it on while you read this interview with Travis and Damien Starkey, the man behind the music, where they talk about what it takes to create the perfect soundtrack for an action sports film.
It probably comes as no surprise that with all the videos Nitro Circus creates, there’s a question we get a lot: What song is that? Music is such an important part of action sports, setting the mood in real life as well as in the video edits. The process behind deciding on the perfect song for a given moment varies widely from project to project, but where it really gets interesting is in the original music for our films. We talked with Damien, the producer, songwriter, and performer behind the Action Figures 2 soundtrack, about what goes into a project like this. Damien’s credits are way too long to list here, but he was the bassist for Puddle of Mudd and has been a writer, producer, and vocalist for many other bands. He also started Give 2 Get Music Group, which produces music for a ton of well known film and TV projects.
Damien and Travis first worked together on the Nitro Circus 3D movie. “I was a big Puddle of Mudd fan, and in typical Godfrey fashion, we were well over budget for the 3D movie,” Travis says. “Thankfully, the stars aligned. We are extremely lucky that Damien stepped up for pennies on the dollar for what he should have charged and delivered gold for us. We never forgot and try to bring him in whenever possible to this day.”
As the force behind the Action Figures movies, Travis of course has strong opinions about every detail, and collaborating with Damien on the music for Action Figures 2 helped him realize his vision for an important aspect of the production. “Music videos have driven action sports since the early ’90s,” Travis says. “As a rider, it’s always important to me that the action content is superior to anything out there. But to the general public and the success of the film, it’s easy to argue that a good soundtrack is the driving force.”
Damien turned out to be the perfect artist for the type of music that pairs well with the shenanigans that Travis and his friends get up to. “For a project like this I write to picture. Which means I have a scene of the film running and I figure out what kind of emotion is going to drive it where it needs to go,” Damien says. “The music really tells the audience how they are supposed to feel about what they are watching. So I just make sure to heighten that emotion as much as possible and guide the scene where it needs to go.”
Travis had a lot of input in the collaboration, as you’d expect. “I basically pulled my favorite existing song for every segment I had in mind and gave him a time frame that the segment would be, then let him run,” Travis recalls. “A lot of the songs he came up with were nothing like the songs I had in mind, but Starkey has a very good understanding of action sports and what we needed. After all the songs were complete, I flew to Florida for two days and we worked on the final lyrics together.”
Damien wears a lot of hats in the music world, from producing and writing to instruments and vocals at the highest levels, but those collaborative moments where he’s producing music that complements and enhances the visuals are some of his favorites. “My biggest passion is songwriting,” he says. “Being able to create a song that evokes a strong emotion is one of the most gratifying things in the world to me. Creating tension and building music into something explosive on screen is so much fun, which is one of the reasons I love working on action sports projects.” For a movie like Action Figures 2, those moments are what the entire film revolves around, and the combination of Damien’s experience and artistry in music and Travis’ vision and drive in action sports progression, as well as his deep history in action sports media, all work in perfect harmony.
“While punk rock was the ’90s go-to for action sports, the truly defining segments have to feel more integrated to the music,” Travis says. “A good mix of chaos with some moments to bring the gravity of consequence and the elements of danger must all be present throughout the film.” In particular, he says, lyrics were very important for this project, and that’s one of the things he trusts Damien with. “While most of the film can be led with a sound, lyrics have been the most difficult thing to relate to the actual scene. That’s why it has been so crucial for the success of Nitro Circus to work closely with Starkey over the years.”
As some examples of songs from the soundtrack where the lyrics stand out, Travis says: “‘Best That There Is’ was super funny and had a lot of inside jokes with 50/60 Compound and Harry Bink. My final segment ‘NSTKMY’ was also very lyrically specific.”
That song, “NSTKMY (Nothing Seems to Kill Me Yet),” is also one of Damien’s favorite songs from the soundtrack. “I wrote that to really encompass Travis’ mentality and career,” he says. “He gave me a lot of input on what he wanted to be portrayed there and this feeling of him kind of walking away into the sunset after conquering so many things in action sports. Very cool and vibey track.”
When you hear these two talk about this project, it’s easy to get the sense that the visuals and stunts in the film and the music that accompanies are inexorably linked, each standing on its own as an achievement but becoming even greater when paired together. But don’t take our word for it — go check it out yourself. The Action Figures 2 soundtrack is available now right here.