Thursday, 16 December 2010

Inbred Teaser Trailer

Presenting a quick sneak peek at the long anticipated new British horror film from director Alex Chandon, Inbred. A demented horror film with nowt taken out, and featuring Jo Hartley (Dead Mans Shoes, This Is England) and Seamus O'Neill (This Is England '86, and Steven Spielberg's forthcoming WarHorse)

A disparate group of young urban offenders and their care workers embark on a community service weekend in the strange, remote Yorkshire village of Mortlake, which prides on keeping itself to itself, until a minor incident with some local inbred youths rapidly escalates into a blood-soaked, deliriously warped nightmare for all involved.

Inbred is coming in 2011!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Endless - A Completely Different Kind Of Film

The last few months have been super-busy, with the London FILM4 FrightFest soundtrack in August, and 4 different short films since then.
The first of which is a beautifully stylish contemporary vampire piece, called “Endless” - and is produced and directed by award winning TV director Matt Bloom.
Endless is a completely different kind of short film.

It was shot from start to finish on a Phantom Slow Motion camera, and the results are quite simply stunning.
Often shooting at speeds of 400, 500 or 800 frames per second, - the film plays like an involving and intricate Alfred Hitchcock set piece, with stunning levels of suspense and dramatic energy in just 8 short minutes which absolutely draws you into the film from the outset.
Matt originally described the idea to me as ‘a whole horror film in car-crash slow motion, with endless moments of terror’ – so I was really eager to see how he had managed to accomplish such an alternative idea.

I have always been a huge Brian De Palma fan, and I don’t think anybody has really come close to the levels of drama and energy in some of his beautiful signature slow motion set pieces from films like Dressed To Kill, Blow Out and Obsession, - so I was really excited when I saw the rough cut of the film, because it reminded me of some of those very special sequences from some of my favorite films.

There is no dialogue at all, so from a musical perspective, it was a completely unique challenge, and a fantastic learning experience too.

Visually, the film is very strong, – so it became evident early on that it would be so easy to overcook the score, and we didn’t want to resort to obvious cheap (modern) gags like having a huge, ear-splitting “bang” on every single cut.
One of the most difficult things from my perspective was to blend subtle emotional sections with high drama, tension and dread - in such a short space of time, and without any dialogue to misdirect the proceedings.

Before work had started on the score, we swapped a stack of eclectic music back and forth online, and Matt had some strong ideas and musical references up front, which really helped in establishing a tone.

However, it was really interesting to see Endless take on a musical personality all of it’s own throughout the process, and I think the final score was quite different than either of us expected.

Endless, directed by Matt Bloom, and staring Chris Geere (Band Of Brothers, Casualty, The Bill) is coming in Autumn 2010

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

FILM4 FrightFest 2010 Track Samples

Greetings folks!
It's almost that time again!

The clock is ticking, and on Thursday August 26th - FILM4 FrightFest 2010 will be here!
The UK's biggest and best horror festival is upon us once again - and for the fifth time, it's an honor and a pleasure to put together the music for the event.

So click on the MP3 player to hear some snippets and sample tracks from the CD for this year. The full album track list is also below!

Best wishes, and see you on Thursday!

Escape From New York: Cover Version

Some love it, some don't - but Escape From New York is one of my favorite films of all time - and probably the first time I was utterly spellbound by a film soundtrack.

As a ten or eleven year old kid, I was blown away, and completely hooked from the very first second - as the main theme began to swell ominously over a black screen, right up to the last repeated sequence as the credits play out.
An eerie, brooding minimalist theme to introduce John Carpenter's bleak dystopian vision of Manhattan Island as a futuristic prison, and foreboding sections of music to perfectly compliment the apocalyptic narrative.

I'd wanted to put together a cover of this for years, but didn't get around to it for some reason. After all - what's the point?
But recently, I thought 'what the hell' - and I'm glad I did, because it was fun figuring out the parts, although I admit that picking out some of the subtler layers was way more complicated than I originally thought it was going to be.
All the same - it's quite a minimalist piece of music, and it would be easy to clutter it with unnecessary bits and pieces.

I have tried very hard to remain as faithful and true as possible to the vibe, sounds and layers used in the John Carpenter/Alan Howarth original version - while also trying to get a bit more clout into the rhythm parts, some extra guitars - and there's an additional little solo run in there too towards the end.
Incidentally, the version used on the film credits has some additional reverb, which was presumably added during the mix. The version on the original soundtrack album is completely dry, and doesn't sound anywhere near as powerful. I've gone the reverb route on this cover version for reasons of authenticity.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Out Of Sight - Out Of Mind

Blimey – have you ever tried to capture a clean recording of something outdoors in Britain?
If you had, - you would probably notice a loud background rumbling after a while – which our ears seem to filter out, so we don’t realize it’s actually there.
I was recording a thunderstorm in the communal gardens, which we share with our neighbors, and I realized that there was a weird rumbling hiss, which was even louder than either the rain – or the infrequent thunderclaps I was trying to capture.

The microphones I were using were extremely good Rode stereo mics, so that wasn’t the problem – and I was recording in 24bit on an Olympus LS 10 – so there shouldn’t have been any quality issue at all.

There wasn’t any wind on the mic heads, so that wasn’t causing the issue – and then it occurred to me that the sound was actually car engines, and the sound of tyres on the surface of a road – I’d just never noticed it previously! It’s just there in the background – compartmentalized by our brains into a folder somewhere, named ‘Pay No Attention’ I had never noticed how loud or intrusive it actually was, - or how consistent.

So – I took my recording equipment, and set it up in the countryside to record some running water (or something like that) miles away from any major roads or motorways, - and of course – somewhere in the distance - a plane engine went by – then another, and then another. Deep, massive, rumbling engines that fill the air with sound for minutes - one after another, throughout the duration of the day.

Now I’ve realized that because I know it’s there, - I can hear it all the time – and it goes on consistently for about 20 hours a day.
A couple of months ago, when the Icelandic ash cloud caused flights to be cancelled for weeks across Britain – I realized that the noise pollution levels had dropped away a little bit, because there were no in or outbound passenger flights.
The skies were spookily silent. It was amazing!

On another occasion – I was standing at the very
end of Bournemouth pier, to capture some water sounds. The perfect place! I couldn’t have been any more out to sea unless I was in a boat. All was going well, until somebody on the beach cranked up a generator, and then another one started up a rickety van to move beach huts around! Unbelievable!

Motors, engines, fans and man made sound is everywhere, and we seem to have evolved in order to accommodate noise pollution, and literally refuse to realize that it’s even there – to the point where you can’t even record nature anymore.
The implications are ridiculous. It’s making me paranoid even writing about it!

Out of sight – out of mind!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Hammer Horror: Blood, Breasts & Giant Moths vs the new flesh!

Way before the days of DVD or even VCR - the TV channels in the UK would often screen lurid double bills of horror pictures.
From the obvious 1930's Universal successes; - like Dracula,
Frankenstein or Bride Of Frankenstein - through to the more obscure 1940's titles - like Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, House Of Dracula, Ghost Of Frankenstein etc - there was always something to look forward to throughout the week.
Although the black and white Universal horrors were fantastic and fun, Hammer horror films were always a lot more interesting to me as a child, because there was far more chance of seeing
bloodier, and more visceral carnage, and with any luck - some female nudity.

At the very least, there were sure to be the odd corset threatening to burst open if ever a Hammer scream queen either ran too fast, or screamed too loudly! Everything from Dracula AD.1972, Vampire Circus, The Blood Beast Terror and Twins Of Evil, to now rarer films like Crescendo and Scream Of Fear were shown fairly regularly.

Back then, there must have been some extremely cool people working for the television networks.
On Mondays, there was usually a Hammer double bill. On Wednesdays there was always a sci-fi duo - where movies like Mighty Joe Young would be paired with The Beast From 20 000 Fathoms, or This Island Earth would be screened alongside Forbidden planet.On Fridays - usually both Universal and Hammer aired on different channels - and midweek late-night screenings of eclectic 70s horror films were quite normal: Burnt Offerings, The Wicker Man, The Omen, Holocaust 2000, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Death Line - and so on . . .

Much like the British sex comedies that promised nudity, rudeness and titillation, and usually delivered it all in a
respectably naive - but definitely appealing way, - there was always something naughty about a Hammer horror feature. Although they weren't particularly graphic by European standards - there was something completely unique and enticing about the lurid titles, garish artwork and the promise of some lusty macabre mischief which made them absolutely essential viewing.

It's only natural than some purists would regard Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958) as the artistic pinnacle of Hammer's output, and seem to blankly disregard the later, more graphic and commercially exploitive films such as Vampire Lovers, Lust For A Vampire, Hands Of The Ripper . . and so on. Films which responded to the increasing demands for more blood, more sex and more excuses for female nudity. However, in my own biased way, I think that these later films perfectly captured the overall Hammer aesthetic - which at the time was all about providing the audience with exactly what they wanted: Glossy sexy horror mayhem in a loud and colourful package.

The days of video were still over a decade away - and the horror cycle had come full circle once again.Cinema audiences wanted to be entertained for 90 minutes, and Hammer were doing just that. Werewolves, dinosaurs, vampires, giant moths, Dr Jekyll becoming a semi-naked sister Hyde, ghouls, witchcraft and any myth or legend was fair game.
Unfortunately for studios like Amicus and Hammer, a film called Night Of The Living Dead (1968) came along soon enough - which fearlessly depicted scenes of graphic onscreen violence and cannibalism, racial and incestuous sub-text and the breakdown of society as a whole.
The Exorcist (1974) was right around the corner, which was to change the genre irrevocably with previously unheard-of use of bad language, and incredible scenes of blasphemy, crucifix masturbation, vomiting and the violent psychological breakdown of a 12 year old girl.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was also unleashed in 1974, which dragged the viewer further down into the traumatic horrors of necrophilia, cannibalism, torture, murder and screaming insanity.

Alan Gibson's Dracula AD.1972 was released in the same year as The Last House On The Left, - and the buxom gorgeousness of Stephanie Beacham or Caroline Munro was simply no match for the sexual violence and visceral affront of Wes Craven's assault on the senses.

Dracula AD.1972 and The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1974) were riding on a fresh new wave of British camp hipness and 70's fashion, which took Dracula away from the fantasy of gothic castle sets, paranoid village taverns and Romanian forests, and into present day swinging London. But it was too late. The public had seen too much - and wanted much more . . .

Perhaps by way of retaliation to the aggression of the new wave of American cinema, - or possibly an attempt to go with the modern flow of the market, Hammer responded in 1976 with To The Devil A Daughter, based on Dennis Wheatley's novel of the same name - in which an American writer falls into conflict with some very organized Satanists headed by Christopher Lee, - and battles to save the soul of a young Nastassja Kinski.
The film features an extremely alarming and protracted scene of violent birthing, in which a pregnant woman - without the use of any anesthetic, has her legs tied shut, so the unborn baby (devil) has to practically rip it's way out of her womb - all accompanied by agonized screams.
A deliberately loud, aggressive and very uncomfortable scene, which goes on and on and on! Additionally, the film features unashamed outright full-frontal nudity courtesy of Ms Kinski - who could have been as young as 15 or 16 at the time. (Kinski has often stated in interviews that she lied about her true age to get additional work, and uncertainty remains as to whether she was actually born in 1959, 1960 or 1961)
Heavy material from the Hammer camp, but ultimately betrayed by a low budget and televisual tone.

The latter half of the 1970's brought with it a new cinematic age of bigger budget graphic mayhem, where previous social taboos were ripped to shreds, and shotgun blasted heads, scalpings, razor slashings, torture, satanism and violent murder were mainstream, and on the indie / drive-in circuit, things were really getting down and very very dirty.
Low budget film makers were looking for new ways to violate and revolt audiences.

In 1977, The Last House On Dead End Street set a new precedent in cinematic sleaze, with a snuff-film premise, and
extensive scenes of torture, disembowelment, razor-attacks and humiliation which left nothing to the imagination.
I Spit On Your Grave (1978) features a rape sequence that lasts for almost 30 minutes, and a now-legendary (offscreen) castration, axing, hanging exploitation finale.

The gothic fantasy world of Hammer horror films seemed to be over. Usurped by the public hunger for more extreme, more realistic, more outrageous and violent cinematic fare.

However in 1980, a whole new chapter was about to unfold, and television would never be quite the same again.
For the time being though, one thing is for sure, - nostalgic evenings of early childhood remain precious, and recent tides of forgettable cinematic flotsam and jetsam will never wash away memories of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Ralph Bates Jenny Hanley or Linda Hayden.

So while 'torture porn' sub-genres burn themselves out in the most graphic depictions of brutality and human cruelty, - and while the modern horror film seems to be more like a test of endurance than an actual story . . . Hammer will always be king of the castle.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Oblivion - 2007

Oblivion was the direct follow up to Oscuro, and was composed & arranged from May to August, - completed for the FILM4 FrightFest at the end of August 2007.
With a further thirteen thematic compositions to tie in with the festival, - the pieces were initially more ambitious than the CD from the previous year, although things didn't necessarily work out in quite the way I had expected.

Oscuro was my first attempt at putting this kind of material together, - and it went down pretty well, so I thought I'd go all out on the weirder aspects of the material for the second CD.

I had been making notes and scribbling down ideas about possible pieces for the CD for about a month before writing and production took place, - and at the time, I was reading Vincent Bugliosi's book, Helter Skelter - which is about the events surrounding Charles Manson.

The first piece on the album was a very dark and paranoid tune. Harpsichords, pianos and bizarre strangeness, all of which was supposed to suggest somebody's descent into madness, - or possibly the protagonist's twisted enjoyment of the journey into psychosis, - which was the overall subject for the whole CD.

At some stage during the proceedings, the whole thing needed a bit of a charge to cut through the weirdness, so (probably because of the period and story of Helter Skelter) a piece came together called Bad Acid, which was basically an all-out 60's / 70's groove, with a big, fat, dirty bass-line, and some insane Goblin-esque keyboard solos to fire things up.

The concluding piece on the CD is called 'Pale Broken Cables', which features an operatic vocal performance by a friend of mine, Emma Brown - who has a beautifully emotive & rich cadence to her voice, and also a tangible vulnerability.
Emma features throughout the CD in various guises, as a miaowing cat, giggles, moans and groans etc, however her vocal on this piece was genuinely fantastic.

Typically, the tracks that took the shortest time to write were the ones that seemed to work best.
'Pale Broken Cables' netted a feature film, - and another piece - 'Fire In Zero Gravity' featured on two documentaries, which wasn't so bad after all.
As well as that, it did well on the internet, which was a surprise to me, considering the overall tone of the CD.

Recording and sequencing.
E-Magic Logic version 6 had since changed into Apple Logic Pro 7, and there were plenty of new features to confuse, annoy and bewilder - but also some pretty cool ones too.

Most of the earlier pieces had been written using pianos and keyboards, and then additional layers of samples and external sounds were included later on.
The later pieces were a lot more experimental, and were my first experiences using loops. Before that - I'd been completely against the idea of using a loop to create a track, which is ridiculous, because there's so much amazing and incredible stuff you can do with them.
All of the sample and loop libraries used on Oblivion were created by the amazing sound synthesist, Ian Boddy. I'd be totally lost without his libraries.