CBS Horror Channel branding

Back in January I completed the sound design for a series of 10 second branding idents, directed by Chris Turner, for the Horror Channel. I'm excited to say that they have now launched, so tune in to see/hear them. Sound wise they are a mix of electronic sound design and foley (thanks to Sue Harding for the fire advice) and I had a lot of fun conjuring up suitably dark sounds on the Buchla Electric Music Box and Oberheim OB-6, of which the latter features heavily in this production. 

“When Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson were writing the screenplay for ‘The Shining’ they kept referring to Sigmund Freud’s book ‘The Uncanny’; a book which explores the way an image or scene where something is not quite right can make the skin crawl and quicken the pulse in a much more visceral way than mere shock and gore. We took the same approach. Each of our idents provides the thrill Horror fans love without ever making the source of that emotion explicit.”
— Richard Holman - Holman + Hunt Agency

Laurie Lipton - Love Bite

Jim Scott's short film about artist Laurie Lipton is being premiered at SXSW this year and I'm proud that a black channels track is used in a very moving moment towards the end of the film. 

No one on the planet has drawn more than Laurie Lipton. LOVE BITE chronicles her life and prolific body of black & white work spanning over fifty years. Largely ignored by the mainstream art world, her haunting creations are made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny strokes of the humble pencil. Laurie and her work seek answers to some of the most uncomfortable themes in our culture - fear, politics, sexuality, murder, mayhem, greed, and indifference - answers that will likely never be black or white. What compels a bright and outspoken woman to live a life of isolation drawing is as disquieting as the images themselves.

Find out more and keep up to date here.

My favorite soundtracks - Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

This film is all about loops. Tape loops & narrative loops. As ghostly fragments of sound echo and distort on tape spools, the story of a British sound engineer out of his comfort zone in a 1970s Italian horror film studio unravels within the hazy mist of a nightmare. We watch as Gilderoy struggles to cope with the dark nature of the film within a film, 'Equestrian Vortex'.

The band Broadcast are the perfect match for this, their music has always mined and ultimately transcended the rich seam of strange soundtracks and library music of the '60s and '70s. This film blends music and sound design in such a way as to blur those boundaries to brilliant effect. A real treat for sound and music lovers.

My favorite soundtracks - Planet of the Apes (1968)

Jerry Goldsmith's percussion heavy soundtrack for Planet of the Apes took avant-garde dissonance and techniques from musique concrete in to the cinema. Echoplex strings, stainless steel mixing bowls, swirling violent violins, bursts of piano and a host of percussive instruments conjured up this 'other world' that was familiar and yet so totally alien.

The film's mind bending climax (penned by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling and which tapped in to society's heightened fear of nuclear annihilation) stunning Oscar Award winning make up and costume design and Goldsmith's Oscar nominated score helped Planet of the Apes break box office records.

My favorite soundtracks - Forbidden Planet (1956)

It's easy to forget just how pioneering this soundtrack was at the time.  The use of electronic sound and music within films was relatively unheard of, and Forbidden Planet's soundtrack was the first to be comprised solely of electronic sounds, most of which could be quite challenging to general listeners heard in isolation.  Of course similar electronic experimentation was going on at this time, but none that reached the audiences of a major motion picture from MGM.  The richness and range of sounds that Louis and Bebe Barron conjured from their basic analogue oscillators is inspiring and perfectly complimented the strange futuristic world visited in the films story.  There was a bitter twist to the story though as movie execs downgraded the Barrons' credit to 'Electronic Tonalities' which they believe robbed them of an Oscar nomination.

Buy the album here.

Listen to this brilliant BBC radio documentary about the soundtrack and the Barrons, by Ken Hollings.



My favorite soundtracks - Assault on Precinct 13 (1978)

The first in a regular look at some of my favorite soundtracks. With so many to choose from its a tricky task, but here goes.

First up is John Carpenter's stark electronic score for his first feature film Assault on Precinct 13. The film itself is a pretty straight forward 'police under siege' story and is a great example of how a soundtrack can lift an otherwise unspectacular movie. Simple DIY electronics created using borrowed equipment, provide wavering synthesizer tones and repetitive primary drum machine rhythms, more noise than definable as actual drums, which lift the film and give it the cult status it rightly deserves. Its a powerfully evocative score that hints at later work to come in Escape From New York.

Recently re-issued by Death Waltz Records in a stunning package.

Wheels That Go

I love the collaborations between puppeteer and film maker Jim Henson and pioneering electronic musician Raymond Scott. Created for a film competition at Montreal's Expo '67, Wheels That Go, explored motion and movement and featured Henson's son Brian.

This next film Paperwork Explosion, for IBM explored the problems of too much information and not enough time and how computers might help readdress the balance. Scott's electronic treatments are perfect for this hectic fast paced montage, with a noticeable contrast between the cachophony pre IBM and the organised rhythms and tones once we start finding out more about their new time saving technology.

More about Scott's electronic sound design company Manhattan Research Inc. here. He was way ahead of his time, building early sequencers and collaborating with Bob Moog to build many more of his own musical inventions.

'Machines should work, people should think'

Cliff Martinez interview

Brief but enlightening interview with Drive and Solaris sound track composer, Cliff Martinez. As I turn my attention to getting involved in music for picture, its very interesting to hear how other musicians, especially those whose work I admire, broke into it (Martinez was previously a drummer for The Red Hot Chilli Peppers).