Thursday, February 1, 2018

SAW Anthology Vinyl release by Rachel Prin

It’s a great time to be a vinyl soundtrack collector, and an even better time to be a horror vinyl soundtrack collector.  With companies such as Death Waltz, Waxwork, Terror Vision and Mondo pumping out quality product, the marketplace is currently flooded with amazing pieces.  A lot of soundtracks that have never seen a physical release, let alone a vinyl release, are now getting the attention they deserve.  Lakeshore Records is one of these labels dedicated to soundtracks and paying special attention to the vinyl market.  One of the releases that’s been brewing for a while is the Saw Anthology Vol. 1 & 2.

This is the first time ever that any of the Saw soundtracks have been released on vinyl.  There have been digital and CD releases for some installments in the franchise, but none have ever been pressed to wax.  All 8 films in the series were composed by Charlie Clouser.  A member of NIN from 1994-2000 and a prolific composer, Clouser spoke with me on behalf of NOFS about this release back in December.  Here’s a bit of what he said:

Since it’s coming out on vinyl, each side of a vinyl record is about 20 minutes, so I sort of set up a set of mental rules for myself that each movie would get 1 vinyl side and within that 20 minutes I would try to put my favorite cues from each movie in chronological order so that it felt like a miniature journey through the films themselves. So that each 20 minute chunk from each movie would have a variety of stuff; the thematic melodic material and also some of the crazy action and trap scenes, and some of the weird floaty dark ambient stuff that fills up so much space in those movies.

The first images of the release were debuted by Bloody Disguisting.  This two volume anthology will be pressed on “Saw Blade Silver” with artwork by John Bergin.  Also included inside the release will be photos of Clouser, his incredible studio and his wide array of interesting musical gear.  Long overdue, Lakeshore has put together a package that any fan of the Saw films or horror soundtracks will be stoked to own.  Initially only available at FYE stores in the US and HMV stores in the UK, fans will be able to snag these beauties on March 16th.
You can find my full interview with Charlie Clouser here.
By thee Rachel Prin

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Ariel Pink "I Wanna Be Young"

Made this in 2011.

I wish I could go skateboarding with you today, it is Saturday. I wish you could watch me fall on my skateboard. I wish you could watch me upgrade the height of my box size 5050s one by one. I wish you could be there today when for when I ninja spin kick out of one. I wish you could have stayed young. I wish you could not be controlled. I wish you had an invitation from yourself to party your pants off. I want to eat your brains and gain your knowledge. The End.

Re-recorded and re-released in 2017.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Indialantic Motel by Rachel Prin

The crunch of shells beneath their feet was audible above the wind as they walk along the wet beach.  Years of work from creatures beneath the waves so quickly destroyed and
turned into new sand. Foam from casual waves creep towards her feet, never quite reaching them. It was strange. Being so familiar with a person and yet such a stranger. Months of correspondence and  conversations had led them to this point, to this place. And now here in the moment the conflict of her emotions was unfamiliar and intriguing.  

There was no specified destination to this journey, but that was not the purpose of this outing. Miles of empty beach sprawled out before them with no end in sight. She found the sound of his voice, untainted by technology, intoxicating and soothing. His presence a welcome one.  As the breeze blew cool off the waves she found herself pulling him close. Partially for warmth, partially just to feel his physical presence against hers and to feel what that meant.   

A line of buildings soon come into view stretching for miles down the vacant beach. Dated, and a little beat up, these buildings show years of wear and tear. Some from weather, some from neglect.  It’s apparent that at one time this place was supposed to be something. A destination. And yet the years had not turned out how they were supposed to. Now this stretch of land was really just a physical manifestation of a dream unfulfilled. There was a beauty in their battered state. Forever sealed in the time and era in which they were conceived, they ooze nostalgia.  

There was one building though, a building that appeared to have experienced more than just years of neglect. Despite the obvious damage that this building had sustained at some point, there was an appeal to it. The combination of pink, blue, green and yellow hues reminiscent of a time that attracted them both. Approaching the building she took it all in. The word “MOTEL” printed in large letters across a wall that was now missing it’s roof. Unfamiliar foliage encroached around the structure.  Broken windows, abandoned televisions, twisted, knotted blinds, pieces of molding
with nails still sticking out of them, attached to nothing. The damage was not recent, and yet there appeared to be little effort to clean up the incredible mess. But this was not just a clean up gone stagnant to them, it was a backdrop.  

They climb to the third floor, or what remained of it.  The cement steps leading up to it littered with plywood, plaster and various debris. He forces the door open and in one of the rooms they find everything one might expect to find in a hotel room; lamps, mattresses, blankets, televisions, furniture. Yet in this room the mattress is soaked and a cloud of tiny flies appears when she climbs over the top of it, sidestepping the pile of fabric, furniture, electronics and drywall that is piled near its’ base. The roof is completely absent and the sunlight from the cloudless sky pours into the room casting perfect shadows across the scene. He directs her where to stand, directs her where to look.  He’s capturing the moments, she’s capturing the memory.  

The next room reveals a similar scene, but this time she turns a camera on him. As he climbs onto the fly infested, water damaged mattress, his feet sink into a decaying piece of drywall that has fallen across the bed. The way the shadows and sunlight fall across his face, his hair, strike her as beautiful in this room that is anything but. It’s likely that given enough time this building will simply disappear. There’s no salvaging what is left of this structure, and yet it has become such an intrical part of their story. The end of this old, storm damaged motel is really just the beginning for them.  

Not wanting to push their luck they decide to return to the ground floor. Along the way he stops her, taking advantage of a rail-less balcony, an interesting window, some attractive lighting. The way he finds beauty and interest in this place appeals to her and tells her more about him than hours of conversation could. As she ducks underneath a low hanging piece of plywood nearly blocking the stairway, she notices some yellow caution tape. At one time it had been tied across the stairway, the same stairway they had just climbed. She hadn’t even noticed it when they first embarked on this adventure; distracted by the scene, by him. The light slowly starts to fade as the sun begins to set and they return to the beach. The tape, still tied to both sides of the railing but torn in the middle, flutters gently in the breeze.  
Story by Rachel Prin
Polaroids by James Reeves

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Master of Horror John Carpenter Celebrates His 70th Birthday by Rachel Prin

Few out there can claim the title “Master of Horror.” John Carpenter is one of those few.  Sharing the title with such visionaries as Romero, Craven and Hooper, Carpenter has been scaring, inspiring and entertaining audiences since Dark Star hit theaters in 1975. January 16th marks the 70th birthday for the acclaimed filmmaker and it’s the perfect time to reflect on some of the amazing things Carpenter has accomplished.  While volumes could be written about such classics as 1978’s Halloween, 1980’s The Fog, or 1982’s The Thing, I’d like to take this opportunity for us discuss some other aspects of Carpenter’s legacy. Three things specifically; the John Carpenter line of comics, collaborations with Kurt Russell, and recent endeavors in the world of music.
Let’s start off by talking about some comics.  Over the years Carpenter has been involved in some great collaborations, but perhaps the greatest is with his long time wife, partner, and colleague Sandy King.  King is the President of of Storm King Productions and the home to the John Carpenter line of comics.  There are currently three different ongoing series’ in Carpenter comic line; John Carpenter’s Tales of Science FictionJohn Carpenter’s Asylum, and John Carpenter’s Tales for a HalloweeNight.  Each line of comics is completely different from the others, but all have that classic Carpenter touch.  Tales of Science Fiction is a monthly anthology series based on stories written by Carpenter and King.  Entrenched in the world of sci-fi, Tales is a dark and mysterious ride to be sure.  While the Vault series has closed for now, the Vortex story has just begun recently.  Check out the trailer below:
Asylum is a dark and emotional horror comic that tells the tale of Father Daniel Beckett and his struggles with demons both real and imaginary.  Tales for a HalloweeNight is a graphic novel anthology series that comes out annually around, you guessed it, Halloween.  Currently up to three volumes, HalloweeNight brings together a wide array of writers and artists in a series that is so fun and exactly what any fan of a horror anthology (comic or film) would want.  Volume 4 is already reported to be in the works with a SyFy television adaptation also in the works. Comics can be found here or at your local comic book shop.
Next up, the glorious world of 80’s Kurt Russell.  The 1980’s were packed full of amazing action stars; Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Ford, Gibson, and Weaver just to name a few.  And then there was Kurt Russell.  Carpenter and Russell first collaborated on 1981’s Escape from New York where Russell played the stone cold bad-ass Snake Plissken.  This role was unlike any that Russell had had before, and really unlike any other action “hero” out there at the time.  Plissken, a creation from the mind of Carpenter, was a reluctant hero, distrustful and not really a nice guy.  And yet his swagger coupled with Russell’s incredible facial expressions, comedic timing and that perfect head tilt create a classic and much loved character.
It wasn’t long before they were working together again, and in 1982 we got the masterpiece that is The Thing.  In this classic sci-fi horror film, Russell plays helicopter pilot MacReady, trapped in an Antarctic research station battling a parasitic, unidentified life form.  The film thrives off the confusion and paranoia that encompasses the camp and Carpenter does a marvelous job at never giving too much away.  Once again, Russell plays a character that straddles that line between good guy and bad guy. It’s hard to believe that’s an accident, and it’s a role that Russell plays to perfection.
In 1986, Big Trouble In Little China was released and Russell took the reigns as the cocky, charming and completely incompetent Jack Burton.  The way that Carpenter slowly brings Burton from the real world, into the realm of fantasy hiding beneath Chinatown is perfection. Similar to PlisskenBurton is a reluctant hero filled with confidence, although maybe a bit more misplaced than Plissken.  Carpenter seems to embrace the idea of an anti-hero and Russell is the perfect conduit for it.  Through Burton we are able to really see how masterful Russell can be with comedy.  His delivery and ability to ask a million questions without ever getting any answers makes Burton a hero who really just happens to get lucky a lot.
The relationship between Carpenter and Russell created a whole new kind of action hero during the 80’s.  None of these “heroes” were really admirable, selfless or super physically intimidating.  And yet, they remain likeable, relateable and maybe most importantly, realistic.  Placed in these incredible situations, all three of these characters are there reluctantly.  None wanted to be there, and yet they handle it in the best ways they knew how.  Carpenter really launched Russell in his action acting career and their work together created some movies that will forever remain near and dear to our hearts.
Finally, the music.  One of the most unique and incredible things about John Carpenter is his ability to not only craft an incredible story, but to score one as well.  Originally constrained by budgets, Carpenter began to work on his own film music as a simple way to save money.  His minimalist, synthy scores complimented his atmospheric films so well and really created a style all his own that is still revered today.
As a kid watching John Carpenter’s films, he was the first director where his work made very clear to me that he cared significantly about the music and sounds in his films.  His underlying importance and attention with sound and music has been heavily influential to myself as a filmmaker. –James Reeves, Filmmaker and Media Production Manager at Florida Tech
Aside from his film work, Carpenter has remained busy composing, recording and performing his musical compositions.  In 2015, Carpenter released his debut studio album title Lost Themes and released by Sacred Bones Records.  Along with his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies, Carpenter recorded nine tracks that could easily be associated with a Carpenter film, but weren’t.  This first release was a gift to all fans of his film scores and was quickly followed up by a second and third release when Lost Themes Remixed and Lost Themes II were released in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Finally, just this last October, fans were treated to new recordings with the fabulous Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998 release.  Also put out by Sacred Bones, this release features the same Lost Themes band and is must have for any fan of John Carpenter.  Not to be one confined to the studio, Carpenter took to the road again this past year allowing thousands of fans the opportunity to experience these themes live in a unique and intimate way.
Ross Sauriol, Freelance Screenwriter and Projects Manager for Storm King Productions, was kind enough to talk to NOFS about first meeting John Carpenter:
I was a freshly graduated film student and an obsessive horror fan, so to say that I was nervous the first time I met John Carpenter is an extreme understatement.  Sitting on his couch, half watching the Lakers, I was quickly put at ease.  He couldn’t have been more open, welcoming, charming, funny and generally easy to talk to. Now, after 8 years of knowing/working/touring with him, I feel the same.  He’s the coolest dude I know ON and OFF the set (or stage) and he’s the ONLY true ‘Master of Horror’ we have left.
A creative mind that has given film fans so much to love over the years, John Carpenter has proven that he’s certainly not slowing down.  From movies, to comics, to television shows and music; the Carpenter fan is a truly blessed one with a lot of great things to look forward to.  Happy Birthday Mr. Carpenter!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Polaroids from Palm Bay skateboard park

I truly do love skateboarding.  Now residing in the central east coast of Florida state, Brevard County, Melbourne to be more specific.  I find myself again in a new town, skateboarding mostly alone, by myself.  There are two skateboard parks in my immediate area.  Satellite beach and McGriff (commonly referred to as Palm Bay.  Which is where these photos are taken).  I'm pretty used to skating alone.  I just get lost in my head, daydreaming, listening to music, and it generally feels like I'm just dancing.  Getting into a groove on my board, feeling 15 years old.  I truly do love skateboarding.  I'm so thankful to regain the ability to spend time with it, jumping, grinding, slashing, scraping, slapping, flipping, and yes...even bleeding.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

[Exclusive] The Sounds of SAW: An Interview with Composer CHARLIE CLOUSER

Interview by Rachel Prin

Once upon a time, way back in 2004, a then relatively unknown James Wan made his directorial debut with a little film called Saw.  The film rocked the horror world and was an instant hit in the genre.  Since then, the Saw universe has continued to grow, expand and ask the now infamous question;
“Do you wanna play a game?”

While Saw has experienced different directors, writers, proteges and victims, one of the constants that has helped truly unify the Saw universe is the music of Charlie Clouser.  As a former member of NIN and his years working with artists such as Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and David Bowie, Clouser was well versed in the world of electronic and industrial music when he took on his first solo scoring gig with Saw.  I recently had the privilege of speaking with Charlie for a bit and we talked about all things Saw, including the upcoming Saw Anthology releases from Lakeshore Records.  Check out our conversation below:
 Rachel Prin for NOFS: In 2004, the very first Saw movie was released and it was our first introduction to the now infamous “Hello Zepp” theme.  Did you realize you were creating a theme at the time?
Charlie Clouser: I kind of had a game plan going in that I discussed a lot with James Wan and Leigh Whannell, that we thought it would add extra impact to that twist ending, and the sort of thing that’s become a sort of trademark in a lot of the Saw movies, the ending reveal montage where there’s a lot of quick cuts and flashbacks to earlier scenes in the movie while Jigsaw’s voice narrates and explains the parts you may not have seen earlier in the film.  So it was kind of on purpose that the whole main body of the movie had a score that was just very murky and indistinct and kind of blurry and didn’t really state musical ideas, thematic ideas strongly at all.
 As it turns out, if you dissect the notes, chords, harmonies and everything that’s used earlier in the movie, they relate to the “Hello Zepp” theme, but they’re transposed down a couple of semi-tones so that it’s just a slight shift when the actual theme comes in at the end. We really felt like we wanted it to be as if the bright lights get turned on when that ending theme begins. So you spent the whole movie in this cloudy, murky, dark indistinct world of music and sound that then gets really insistent and shattering when it comes in full force at the end. So for that reason the sounds that are used in the ending theme aren’t used elsewhere in the movie and it’s sort of a whole different set of sounds and a different approach.  
I knew that in order for that piece of music to work it would have to be fairly simple and kind of repetitive and hypnotic and not have a lot of musical information in there but still kind of start small-ish and then build as the insistent phrases kind of repeat. So once I had that game plan sort of in my mind, the creation of that “Hello Zepp” theme wasn’t something that took days, it really kind of came together kind of quickly because I had already established these kind of mental rules and conditions that it had to fulfill. I did most of the music in a few hours one day, spent the evening arranging it for a string quartet, the next day recorded a string quartet, and boom it was done.

NOFS: What have been some of the films or composers that have influenced you and your scoring work?
CC: The kind of movies that I wind up liking and enjoying are often well outside the horror genre.  Some of my earliest influences, for movie anyways, were all of Kubrick’s.  That’s what I wanted to see on screen. Whether it’s movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey or his version of Stephen King’s The ShiningI still think it’s the greatest horror movie ever made and even though maybe pure horror fans don’t feel like it fits in with their genre, I always thought that it was just fantastic. And of course the music that Kubrick uses a lot is not composed for his movies, but was music that he found in classical music collections and so forth.
I still remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey when it was in the theaters for it’s initial release when I was just a little kid and being so struck by these atonal choir pieces, by the composer Gyorgy Ligeti, and it’s just these dense tonal clusters that sounded so other worldly and unlike anything I’d heard before. Of course a lot of other music from that same kind of genre of super modern classical composers is also used in The Shining. There’s a lot of Penderecki, Bartok and these other composers and it’s almost a sonic experiment more than it is traditional classical music.  The clattering, rattling, smacking sounds and weird atonal and dissonant elements; those kind of things have always been the pieces of music that stuck with me over the years. Mainly because it wasn’t anything that I knew how to do or just figure out how that music was put together by picking up a guitar or sitting at the piano.  It was such a mystery to me how that music came to be and that was what drew me in.
Of course horror movies are perfect avenues to use atonal and dissonant and experimental kinds of music, more so than say an Indiana Jones kind of movie or something, and so that’s sort of what drew me into these kind of movies. 

NOFS: Lakeshore Records has recently digitally released (with CD and vinyl forthcoming) the Saw Anthology Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 featuring music from all 8 Saw films.  Were you involved in this process and if so what was your role?
CC: Oh yeah. They said ‘Look, you figure it out, you put it together and we’ll put it out’.  So, it took me almost a month to go through all of the pieces of music. I literally went with a microscope, inspected and chose, out of the whole sum total of movies (there’s over 550 pieces of music in the source folders across all 8 of the movies). Since it’s coming out on vinyl, each side of a vinyl record is about 20 minutes, so I sort of set up a set of mental rules for myself that each movie would get 1 vinyl side and within that 20 minutes I would try to put my favorite cues from each movie in chronological order so that it felt like a miniature journey through the films themselves.
 I didn’t do things like, put all the action cues from all 8 movies all together and that sort of thing. I tried to reduce each movie down to this 20 minute slab that maintained the order in which those pieces of music originally appeared in the film. Once I had that set of rules, I had at least some sort of guidepost that I could use to map things out, and it certainly was agonizing to throw away and skip over so many pieces of music that I liked, but I still wanted it to feel like it balanced. So that each 20 minute chunk from each movie would have a variety of stuff; the thematic melodic material and also some of the crazy action and trap scenes, and some of the weird floaty dark ambient stuff that fills up so much space in those movies.  
So having that kind of game plan in place really helped me to organize my thoughts as I went through it.  And I did combine a lot of pieces together where I might have 2 or 3 pieces of music that are only 30 or 40 seconds long, and I would combine those together and then graft them on to the front of a longer piece. To create a sort of flowing, landscape of longer pieces instead of just a million short little pieces of music with silence in between them.  And I always like it when so many of my favorite albums growing up had that sort of feel, like Pink Floyd albums. Where the songs kind of cross faded against each other and it was just one long seamless experience, so I wanted to kind of emulate that as much as I could for this Anthology project.
NOFS: This is the first time any of the Saw scores have been released on vinyl. How do you view the importance of physical media and what is your connection to medium?
CC: Aside from the obvious sonic differences of listening to something on vinyl vs. CD, or streaming or whatever, the physical experience of holding something that’s large and slightly fragile and has to be treated with some kind of care and respect.  You know, you don’t leave your vinyl records lying around on the floor the same way you might leave CD’s laying around in the glove box of your car, or downloads lying around cluttered on the desktop of your computer.
So that process, and that manner in which you have to physically interact with the vinyl certainly forces you to behave a little more carefully with the vinyl that you own. Not to be in such a hurry to grab one and throw it off to the side to listen to another one, and that is helpful because it kind of leads the listener to not be in such a hurry to skip over songs and get to the next one.  I always prefer that on vinyl, if you do want to skip over a song you have to carefully lift the tone arm off the record and carefully place it down, as opposed to a CD or a stream where you just hit the next track button. I’m glad that vinyl makes it more difficult to skip over things because then maybe people will take the time and just relax a little bit and let the music flow along.
That’s also kind of why I wanted to combine a bunch of different pieces of music into longer suites and to kind of cross fade them all together so that you can’t get in between every track and it kind of forces the listener to sit back and let this whole 8 minute thing with it’s peaks and valleys kind happen.  The resurgence of vinyl and people’s love for a big solid hunk of physical media sort of has parallels in the resurgence we’ve seen recently with big hardware synthesizers for musicians in the studio.
For a long time it seemed like everything was going to just occur inside a computer. We had so many great software programs for creating music that everybody was just jumping on that bandwagon, and then a few years ago we started to see the resurgence of synthesizers that reminded us of the 1980’s. Back when things were big and had lots of knobs and were sort of expensive and delicate. There’s been a real resurgence in that as well and I think it really comes down to the tactile experience of wanting to touch the thing, to feel like you can feel the sound waves emanating from it.  I think both of those phenomena are kind of related in some way.
NOFS: Do you have any go-to Saw instruments or techniques that you only use in the Saw films?
CC: Yeah, there’s a whole category of sounds and techniques that I use, that in my mind anyway, that really only apply to that world.  I have a bunch of strange handmade acoustic instruments that are basically made out of pieces of scrap metal, which you can play with a violin bow or with sticks and most of them involve some kind of metal sheet or metal rods that’ll produce sound when you operate them.  I have a whole family of 5 or 6 variations of that kind of instrument that were built by a metal sculptor and musician named Chas Smith that I’ve known for a long time. In my mind those instruments are restricted for use only on Saw movies because they’ve become a big part of the sonic landscape that I use in those movies. And they also create sounds that are just so heavy-duty scary that they don’t really apply in less insane kind of scoring work. 

NOFS: After a 7 year hiatus, did you ever think you’d be coming back to the world of Jigsaw?
CC: You know, I secretly knew that somewhere deep down inside that, even though the 7th movie was called the “Final Chapter”, I knew they weren’t gonna let this thing die.  We had been doing the movies every year, one per year for 7 years straight, and it was always a mad dash to get the things finished. So once they decided to take some time off from the franchise I knew we’d be back. I didn’t know when, but they’ve created such a rich kind of cinematic universe of heroes and villains and victims that I knew they’d find a way. And at this point nothing would surprise me in the Saw universe.  So I wouldn’t be surprised if there was even more yet to come.
NOFS: So, Saw 9…you in?
CC: Oh I’ll ride that horse into the sunset.
The response to this latest movie from the hardcore Saw fans was really good and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the phone rings and they say ‘Hey get back on the horse because we’re working on the script for the next one’.  Of course, if they keep the franchise rolling, I’ll be all in for as many as they care to do. The first Saw movie was the first feature film that I scored by myself so it has a special place in my heart.  I’m fine to do as many as they care to roll out. They can count me in.
 The digital version of the Saw Anthology Vol. 1 & 2 is currently available from Lakeshore Records and you can find it here. CD & vinyl releases coming soon so stay tuned for more information on that.
Also available from Lakeshore Records, the digital release of the Jigsaw soundtrack.  Make sure to check out that release here.