Interview

Interview

Exclusive Interview: Attrition Invoking Nightmares in New Horror Soundtrack

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Founded by the multi-talented Martin Bowes, UK-based experimental band Attrition has been crafting eerie gothic soundscapes for over 30 years in one form or another. While they've been considered pioneers of the darkwave music genre, they have never conformed to a single style, and their most recent dark ambient material has been highly experimental, ethereal and chilling. It's only natural that their music would one day find its way into a horror project, and that day has come with the feature film G.H.O.S.T, produced by indie horror film outfit Mutantville Productions and featuring a wall-to-wall Attrition soundtrack. That score has also been released as the album Invocation, which also stands alone as a dark musical tale similar in tone to their previous album All Mine Enemy's Whispers, which along with this release represents the  group's most haunting work. I recently had the good fortune to catch up with Martin, along with his wife & creative partner Kerri, to find out more about the film and soundtrack album, as well as their upcoming record The Unraveler of Angels.

 
 
FEARnet: How did you come to be involved with G.H.O.S.T?
 
MARTIN: Well, it goes back a good few years... Geo and Jamie from Mutantville were into Attrition of course, and had already asked me to do the narrator's voice-over for a horror feature they were working on at the time called C for Chaos. When we played Raleigh, NC in 2007, they came and filmed the show, and after that I stayed on with them for a few days and filmed a small cameo part for that movie. A year or so later, they were making a compendium of horror shorts and asked me if i would do the score for one of those, called Family Fiend. It went pretty well, so the next step was getting involved with the film score for G.H.O.S.T.
 
Was this your first feature film? 
 
MARTIN: It was indeed. 
 
My first feature score was an intense but rewarding adventure. How was your experience?
 
MARTIN: I agree that it's an intense adventure... my music has always leaned towards soundtracks, so it wasn't that the style was anything really too different or difficult for me; it was the sheer length of the film soundtrack and the fact that it was dictated by the film, which created something different to what I would have composed on my own. It was a learning experience for me, and ultimately one I am very proud of... and as this is the first time i have worked with my wife Kerri in music, it has even more significance.
 
KERRI: I was blown away when Martin asked me to work with him on this. It was an awesome experience! The intensity fueled me, so I was never stuck for ideas regarding instruments or harmonies... I'm so glad Martin looked after the production and mastering though as I would have been rubbish! For me, the experience of composing music to moving images is my dream job, so I was thrilled to have been a part of this.
 
Although the film's images and story guide the music, Invocation stands up well on its own as its own musical narrative, like All Mine Enemys Whispers. Is there a distinct story being told on the album, separate from the film?
 
MARTIN: All Mine Enemys Whispers was very much a story being told through a musical narrative, whereas Invocation was initially written to enhance and extend the atmosphere of G.H.O.S.T, so there was a difference in intent. Once we had the score completed, we looked at how to translate it to an album, and this is when we felt it would work better if the music was adapted for an audio-only experience... actually not all that much, but without the dialogue and Foley [practical sound effects] there was a new space to our music, so I adapted some ambiences and structures to take advantage of that. We're both really pleased with the end result; I think the arrangements and structures are more unpredictable without the anchor of the visuals, and so listening to it even scares us at times!
 
 
What do the album's nine parts correspond to?
 
MARTIN: We decided this album felt very much like an invocation, inspired by the rising of the ghosts in the movie... but taken out of that context, it could now be for anything.
 
KERRI: We decided then that the tracks didn't need to be titled; the music is an invitation to the listener.
 
I love the deep layered textures; it's a chilling experience to listen in the dark on good headphones.
 
MARTIN: Thanks! When we sent the recording to Nik at the record label Infinite Fog, she described listening to the music on headphones, in the deep forest of Siberia, where she lives... and said she could feel the fear. That was an amazing response. It means so much to us that a label believes in music as much as that.
 
In addition to the main vocal and piano elements, what other instrumentation and techniques did you use?
 
MARTIN: I very much dealt with the overall production and atmospheric sounds and samples, and Kerri performed the piano, strings and vocal parts... she's a proper musician. I used similar sounding synth drones to create a depth to the sound... for me it felt very much like splashing sound on an 80-minute-long canvas, and then carving in details over that wash.
 
KERRI: But even with the details, there are still bits that make us jump!
 
 
MARTIN: I remember working on All Mine Enemys Whispers and feeling very uneasy in the studio... in fact, I gave it a rest for a few weeks at one point until I started up with some extra input from cello and violin players, which changed the dynamic a little. But I've always dealt with dark ambient sounds, going back to the Death House album we recorded in 1982, so I'm used to that. 
 
Those deep synth drones seem to work on a subconscious level to unsettle the listener.
 
MARTIN: Over the years I've done some research on the effect of music, and the effect of low tones – in particular around the 19hz frequency – in changing our perception of what is around us... and even causing hallucinations in the extreme, which is a physical phenomena rather than a paranormal one, but equally fascinating in its own way.
 
There are some hushed spoken parts that also call up a kind of subliminal response. Is that scripted, or more of a stream of consciousness?
 
KERRI: Well, I sleep-talk pretty much every night, but it was only when Martin recorded me and I heard it played back to me that I thought “Hmm... we could use this!”
 
What inspired the visual concept for the album art?
 
MARTIN: Again, we had originally toyed with the idea of using stills from the film, but as we were taking it away from there into something of its own right, we looked elsewhere... and actually the answer was in front of us. I had had a photo session with Kerri a few months earlier by our friend Holger Karas in Leipzig, and they were perfect.
 
KERRI: That shoot was awesome, but we never knew at the time that the images taken then would be a part of Invocation! We're very pleased with the results.
 
MARTIN: It's almost as if the images were waiting for this score... it makes me smile when things just are.
 
Can you share any details about The Unraveler of Angels?
 
MARTIN: Yes I can... I'm in the final stages of mastering the album and will be sorting out a label deal for it over the next few weeks, so tentatively I'm looking at a release next spring. It has some special guests and a slightly new direction for me, and the cover is another inspired image from Holger. I shall leave it at that... it's been a long wait for an all-new album!
 
I'm looking forward to it! So what else is on your agenda for 2013?
 
MARTIN: For me, this is the busiest I've ever been in music. I took a short break from touring with Attrition this year as I set up my new studio The Cage, and I've concentrated on producing and mastering for a lot of other bands and labels. It's gone really well so far and is expanding all the time. I've also joined Satori, my friend Justin from Cold Spring Records project, and played my first show with them in Dresden last month. I also have a side project with my friend John Costello called Engram, which is something we started in 1996 and only resurrected this year.
 
How's that project coming along?
 
MARTIN: Expect an album and tour next year. As for Attrition, there will be the release of Unraveller of Angels, and shows in Europe and North and South America are being talked about... and we're looking to do our next film score. I think that will keep us busy enough for now!
 
 
 
Be sure to drop by Attrition's official site and Facebook page for updates on all of these projects... and of course, stay tuned for more coverage here!
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