The Terminator’s score is not something that is overlooked in the slightest. Brad Fiedel’s themes convey the right cues needed for James Cameron’s masterpiece. The sound of industrialized horror in the sequence in which the T-800 confronts the gang of punks and the grimy mood of the T-800 sticking a scalpel into its eye in a hotel room in “Terminator Arrival”, the sound of urgency to escape certain death via Uzi 9mm in “Tunnel Chase” and the sound of fate being created in “Love Scene.” The theme which has been as important as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s casting in the film, though, is “The Terminator Theme.” The Terminator has many influential components which breathed life into the synthwave scene, though a few of these artists dared to rework the actual theme. Here are a few:
Mitch Murder - Terminator Theme
Mitch Murder regenerates the classic theme with state-of-the-art production, whilst adding new retro synth style elements that make the old theme feel new and at the same time new/retro. Murder shows respect to Fiedel by not adding too many unnecessary elements, like a dance beat, making this theme sound like it could have been used in one of the latest sequels.
Unbending Puppets - Terminator Theme
The theme gets a blast of energy with this Unbending Puppets variation. The track begins in what sounds like the middle of a chase scene – without a sliver of Fiedel’s theme in sight. At around the two-minute mark, the chase slows down and we hear the mechanical “dun dun dun dun dun” and finally the theme begins, and continues to build as that same chase scene beat rallies behind it. This one gets a descending thumbs up into the flames.
Pumping Body - Terminator (Synth Mix)
This one is all about the aesthetic. Pumping Body pumps some vapor into Fiedel’s theme, making it suitable for those neon night drives synthwave artists are so fond of. It fits in the perfect middle-ground for these theme remakes – not completely mimicking the original and not adding anything truly unnecessary. No problemo.
Tech - Noir
Tech – Noir – Science fiction mingling with film noir. Additionally, it’s the iconic club that the T-800 stalks and confronts Sarah Connor in during The Terminator. You can imagine the scene without watching any videos – it is basically programmed in us from the years of re-watches: the club itself glowing red and pink, Sarah Connor sitting meekly at a table, teased hair, leopard prints and big, teased hair on the dancefloor, a Coke is It! sign on the wall, spinning blue sirens, the Terminator crushing the bouncer’s hand when he walks in. All the while, “Burnin’ in the Third Degree” by Tahnee Cain And Tryanglz is playing, but slows down to slow motion when the cyborg sees Sarah, pulling out his laser sighted weapon – the light fixed on her head. Suddenly, sexy Kyle Reese, wearing a homeless man’s clothes, pulls out a shotgun and fires…
Cover charge at Tech-Noir was $4.50.
The phone number of the pay phone at the club was 555-9175.
The club’s name in the script was Stoker’s (perhaps a reference to Bram Stoker)
The film crew had to turn away interested customers who thought Tech-Noir was a real club
Perturbator feat. Noir Deco - Technoir
While the song is not a cover of “Burnin’ in the Third Degree” (which would have been interesting), this track, featuring a sample of Sarah Connor leaving a message on her now deceased friend’s answering machine that she is in a club called Tech-noir, does introduce it. The song opens ominously, setting the mood of something stalking in the city, before going into a mid-paced groove which wouldn’t sound out of place during some of the major chase scenes in Terminator – feeling urgent and anxious, much like Sarah Connor in the club right before the T-800 reveals itself. « You just touch the trigger, the beam comes on and you put the red dot where you want the bullet to go, you can’t miss. »
Gunship - Tech Noir
“A 300,000-degree baptism by nuclear fire. I’m not sorry, we had it coming” laments John Carpenter, who narrates the beginning of this Gunship track. The Terminator was in some ways influenced by Halloween and to some is considered more of a slasher film than a sci-fi film, so this loose connection with Carpenter on this track to Tech-Noir (the club) is intriguing. The song is a mid-paced cruiser accompanied by soothing vocals, while the Lee Hardcastle directed video depicts a post-apocalyptic, motorcycle driven, clay fantasy featuring Robocop, Pinhead, The Care Bears and Jason, being a love letter to not just The Terminator, but the ‘80s aesthetic in general.
Voyade - Burnin’ in the Third Degree
Tahnee Cain and the Tryanglz contributed three songs to The Terminator, « Photoplay, » « You Can’t Do That » and « Burnin’ In The Third Degree.” The Tech-Noir nightclub anthem, “Burnin’ in the Third Degree” is probably what most people think of when it comes to songs used in the film, besides Brad Fiedel’s score and “You Could be Mine” by Guns N’ Roses from Terminator 2. The song has been revisited in a few cover versions, this one being by Voyade, which doesn’t depart much from the original. Another song which is sure to bring back memories is Linn Van Hek’s “Intimacy” which is played during the T-800’s assault at Sarah’s home before it tracks her down at Tech-Noir. Still waiting on a remodeling for that one.
Megatronix - Burnin’ in the Third Degree
Megatronix pumps up “Burnin’ in the Third Degree” by adding some power metal influence, not unlike bands like Power Glove or Dance with the Dead. The vocals for the track have been changed to male, which give the track a new dimension, but otherwise it stays true to the theme of the original and wouldn’t sound out of place in any modern-day club having an ‘80s night.
Until You Are Dead
“Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” The Kyle Reese quote depicts the horrific simplicity of the T-800 sent back in time to terminate Sarah Connor in a few choice words. What it means for the characters is that because it doesn’t stop, neither can they, in their attempt to destroy it. Put in the factor that the entire future of mankind is at stake, and you get a recipe for tense, unrelenting music, with a few artists using this direct quote as inspiration for songs.
Perturbator - Humans Are Such Easy Prey
Leave it to The Terminator to inspire Perturbator’s hardest track. Sounding as if it were produced and programmed by Skynet itself, “Humans Are Such Easy Prey” opens with the iconic Reese quote before slamming down much like the compressor that squished the metallic skeleton at the climax of the film. It continues in this initial relentless beginning, not needing to eat or sleep until its mission is accomplished – when the listener is terminated.
Nanoverse - Until You Are Dead
Nanoverse take the same idea Perturbator had with “Humans Are Such Easy Prey” and run it through their own database, creating a track that goes as good with the visuals of The Terminator as Robert Patrick does in a police uniform. While synthwave has been evolving, with goth undertones being added to longstanding acts like GosT and Perturbator, artists like Nanoverse, being the third wave of artists, are much like the T-X – still a threat, and still employing the same themes as the initial cyborgs sent back through time, but nothing we haven’t heard before.
W a v e o u t - Till You’re Dead
This W a v e o u t cheats a bit by adding some T2 dialogue in the mix, as well as the Reese quote the track is named after, making it something of a greatest lines song accompanied by a smooth, though menacing beat. The artwork for this one is an especially handsome two-faced piece of Arnold and the metal endoskeleton staring the listener in the face like it just rang your doorbell looking for a meek waitress with the last name of Connor.
“The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy, but these are new. They look human – sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero him.” Living tissue over metal endoskeleton. The assassin from the future wearing punk clothing and sunglasses infiltrates 1984 Los Angeles with the mission to terminate Sarah Connor, mother of John Connor, the leader of the human resistance against the machines post-Judgment Day. Kyle Reese knows firsthand what these terminators are capable of, and with the assistance of synthesizers, listeners everywhere will soon learn via these tracks.
Vapor VHS - T-800
VHS was the format most of us watched The Terminator on, and the amount of synthwave bands paying tribute to these tapes is endearing. “Come with me if you want to live” is the sample which opens this track, before “I’ll be back” hits it into a pulsating groove. More samples show up, though the music itself doesn’t have much to do with Terminator mythos. Still, Arnold quotes add interest to any run-of-the-mill synthwave song.
Androidica - Terminator Model 800
“They cannot make things like that yet.” “Not for about 40 years.” Perhaps the day has come not for Skynet to produce T-800s on a mass scale, but for musicians to mass produce Terminator related synthwave tracks. “Terminator Model 800” is another threatening track conveying a cyborg-stalker menace, and would not sound out place being blasted on the headphones of the machine while it’s firing up the police station after barging in with its car.
« On August 29, 1997 it’s gonna feel pretty fucking real to you too! Anybody not wearing two-million sunblock is gonna have a bad day. »
We Are Magonia (feat. Isidor) - August 29, 1997
Finally, the bomb goes off, the cities are levelled and the good people of the world are incinerated. What to do now? Dance. We Are Magonia sets the date for the party, delivering this high-octane track to set the scene for the incoming war against the machines. 2:14 AM, Eastern time, hit « play ».
A story combining Synthwave and The Terminator by Ryan Dyer
Layout by Space Master & Dixel Art
Artworks by Nikolai Karelin / Prem Lal / Dave Seeley / Jason de Loos