American composer Pat Irwin has one of the most varied and interesting careers in his field. Spanning decades in the entertainment industry, Irwin has gone from animation like Rocko’s Modern Life to Nurse Jackie and Feed the Beast.

Irwin recently took on the challenge of Dexter: New Blood, the limited series that picks up years after the original series.  Originally set in Miami and scored by the late Daniel Licht, Irwin finds Dexter in an isolated, snow-filled life that explores unfamiliar terrain for the character and the audience, allowing Irwin to build a whole new sound palette to highlight the new Dexter. 

When speaking to Awards Focus, Irwin discusses his creative process, giving a nod to Licht’s original work, and his long-running collaboration with showrunner Clyde Phillips. 

Awards Focus: Can you talk about your approach to composing Dexter: New Blood and the key strategies or approaches you used to preserve the desired tone?

Pat Irwin: I knew before I composed a note that I had to acknowledge that Dexter was a character with a history. There were eight seasons of this show, and that’s eight years of scores that were beautifully composed by Daniel Licht. 

For Dexter: New Blood, I needed to create a new theme with a unique sound that would somehow recall the old Dexter but make it clear that this was a new show and that we weren’t in Miami anymore. 

Dexter now goes by Jim Lindsay, and he’s creating a new life for himself in the small, cold, remote upstate New York town of Iron Lake. The score needed to put us in this new place and help establish Dexter’s new identity. 

AF: You’ve worked previously with showrunner Clyde Phillips. How was it collaborating and communicating with him again?

Irwin: I first worked with the showrunner, Clyde Phillips, on seasons five through seven of the Showtime series Nurse Jackie and Feed The Beast for AMC

Clyde came to my studio when we first started working together, and we talked about guitars, records, and favorite bands. He’s wonderfully passionate about music, and I appreciate his likes and dislikes, particularly that he’s open to all sorts of ideas and a generous collaborator.

Clyde and the three other Executive Producers, Marcos Siega, Scott Reynolds, and Michael C. Hall, compiled a playlist of songs they shared before I started composing the score. I responded by compiling a library of music cues that could possibly belong in the show. 

AF: Did the music feature more character motifs or emotional undertones? What was its role in the series?

Irwin: There are some character motifs, but the score for Dexter: New Blood is more about the atmosphere. It’s cold and austere in Iron Lake, and we wanted the score to reflect that and have an ambient sound. 

In some ways, we wanted the score to create some distance between the viewer and Dexter. Sure, he may be a nice guy and a good neighbor, but we didn’t want you to get too close. 

AF: Tell us a bit about your background. What inspired you in your early years to preserve this craft, and what was your first job in entertainment?

Irwin: I first came to New York City in the late 1970s with one thing on my mind, I wanted to be in a Rock and Roll band. All I wanted to do was play either Max’s Kansas City or CBGB’s, and I got to do both. My first band in NYC was 8-Eyed Spy, and shortly after that, I helped form The Raybeats. 

I’ve got some formal training, and I took courses at the Juilliard Extension school, but my real training is Rock and Roll. Around the time I started to play music, I discovered the James Bond soundtracks, and that music meant everything to me. So was the soundtrack to the Exorcist. I wore that record out. Later, it was Nino Rota and the soundtrack for Juliet of the Spirits. 

I joined the B-52s in 1989 and played in the band for 18 years. In the early days of the Cosmic Thing tour, when Love Shack was first released, we used to make our entrance to the Juliet of the Spirits soundtrack. It was thrilling to hear that music as we took the stage. 

My first job as a soundtrack composer was to score a handful of episodes of Tales From The Darkside. I later started to compose the scores for some fantastic cartoons, including Rocko’s Modern Life and Pepper Ann. 

AF: With Emmy voting starting just around the corner, what would awards recognition for Dexter: New Blood’s score mean to you?

Irwin: I’ve been following the Emmy Awards for soundtracks for as long as I can remember and to even be considered for an Emmy nomination is a thrill. It’s an honor to be able to create music for a show like Dexter: New Blood. The show had so many fans anxious to find out what happens next. To possibly be recognized for my work in composing music for film and TV takes it all to another level.

About The Author

Founder, Awards Editor

Byron Burton is the Awards Editor and Chief Critic at Awards Focus and a National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award winning journalist for his work at The Hollywood Reporter.

Byron is a proud member of the Television Academy, the Hollywood Critics Association (HCA), and the Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) for his work on Marvel's X-Men Apocalypse (2016). Working as a journalist and moderator, Byron hosts Emmy and Oscar panels for the major studios, featuring their Below The Line and Above The Line nominees (in partnership with their respective guilds).

Moderating highlights include Ingle Dodd's "Behind the Slate" Screening Series and their "Spotlight Live" event at the American Legion in Hollywood. Byron covered the six person panel for Universal's "NOPE" as well as panels for Hulu's "Pam & Tommy Lee" and "Welcome to Chippendales" and HBO Max's "Barry" and "Euphoria."

For songwriters and composers, Byron is a frequent moderator for panels with the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL) as well as The ArcLight's Hitting the High Note Oscar series.

Byron's panels range from FX's Fargo to Netflix's The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, The Witcher & Bridgerton; HBO Max's The Flight Attendant, Hacks, Succession, Insecure, & Lovecraft Country; Amazon Studios' The Legend of Vox Machina, Wild Cat, & Annette; and Apple TV+s Ted Lasso, Bad Sisters, and 5 Days at Memorial.

In February of 2020, Byron organized and hosted the Aiding Australia Initiative; launched to assist in the restoration and rehabilitation of Australia's wildlife (an estimated 3 billion animals killed or maimed and a landmass the size of Syria decimated).

Participating talent for Aiding Australia includes Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jeremy Renner, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Josh Brolin, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, JK Simmons, Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Tim Allen, Colin Hay, Drew Struzan, and Michael Rosenbaum.

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