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Who Is thenewno2? An All-Star Soundtracker

Taking its number from the rotating oppressor of Patrick McGoohan’s immortal ’60s psy-fi TV series The Prisoner, multimedia collective thenewno2 is busy fleshing out its film bonafides. Lately with a swamptronic soundtrack for Hollywood’s newest gothsoap Beautiful Creatures, based on the supernatural young-adult novel series from Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Thenewno2 hopes it’s what Bogart in Casablanca called “the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” perhaps leading to stranger sonic trips into cinema.

“I’m a big fan of the Marvel Universe, so I’m really intrigued by some of the films they’re planning,” said thenewno2′s architect Dhani Harrison, son of the late, great George, after being asked about his dream soundtracking gig. “Especially Doctor Strange, who was always one of my favorites. He’s something of a multidimensional, mystical yogi, so I could really see myself soundtracking something like that. Now that Beautiful Creatures is done, we’re going to look at our options. Paul wants to do a proper horror film.”

That would be engineering wiz Paul Hicks, son of The Hollies’ guitarist Tony and another gifted composer hiding behind thenewno2′s mask. The Grammy-winning Hicks’ logged over a decade at famed Abbey Road Studios, many spent on exhausting and remastering The Beatles’ vault. Abbey Road’s hallowed haunt is where Harrison, Hicks and thenewno2 keyboardist Jonathan Sadoff — composer for films like Good Old Fashion Orgy and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World — returned to exponentially expand the electroblues atmospheres they pounded out in thenewno2′s high-tech California hive.

(Check out the video below of Beautiful Creatures‘ single “Never Too Late,” featuring Harrison, The Duke Spirit’s Liela Moss and a 54-piece orchestra.)

“Jon wanted to do a traditional score, which quotes themes as characters appear onscreen, more traditionally along the lines of Bernard Hermann,” Harrison explained by phone. “Old-school!”

Harrison mashed in swampy guitar and his love of piano pieces from composer Thomas Newman (American Beauty), while Hicks punched up ambient programming and dark atmospherics. The soundtracking trip to Abbey Road was also a homecoming of sorts for Harrison, whose decorated family history is somewhat steeped in film.

In 1968, Apple Records released George Harrison’s (sadly out-of-print) soundtrack for Wonderwall — The Beatles’ first official solo album, geeks may note. Later, Harrison co-created HandMade Films to finance Monty Python’s peerless 1979 biblical satire Life of Brian.

“My dad’s soundtracks were always psychedelic,” Harrison told me by phone. “Time Bandits was a great soundtrack; I always liked that one. He always just did what he wanted, so I never really had any limitations.”

“But growing up, I spent a lot of time around composer Michael Kamen,” he added. Kamen is another late, great composer for everything from Die Hard and Lethal Weapon franchises to more mind-wiping films like Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Iron Giant. “He was a kind of my godfather, and a major influence. I always found what he did fascinating.”

What fascinates Harrison and thenewno2 going forward is a tour with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club starting in May, and a third full-length from thenewno2, whose sophomore trip-pop release thefearofmissingout dropped lat year. By then, the collective’s ranks may have swelled much further.

“People are starting to take it seriously, because there’s so many of us now,” said Harrison. “We had an interesting knock at the door the other day, and on the other end of it was Chaka Khan. She was like, “If you need any vocals…” and we were like, ‘OK!’”

But did anyone rap “I Feel For You” at her?

“No way!” Harrison laughed. “Of course, we all did it as soon as she left the room. But I wouldn’t dare rap to Chaka Khan’s face.”

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