Chris Alexander is already something of a cult figure among horror fans thanks to his gonzo-style writing for magazines Fangoria and Rue Morgue, as well as frequent radio and TV appearances... and is probably best known as one of five critics to receive and accept a bizarre challenge from notorious hack Uwe Boll (House of the Dead, Bloodrayne, etc.) to ten rounds in the boxing ring. Chris lost, but went down in a blood-spray that would have made Sam Peckinpah proud...
But even among genre fans, few may know Alexander is also an accomplished musician, inspired by the scores to countless giallos and Euro-zombie bloodbaths as well as experimental music styles past and present. Often working in collaboration with partner Carrie Eliza, Chris has created eerie, haunting sonic landscapes that not only pay tribute to the classic films he loves so dearly, but have also complimented several modern horror movies as well.
Now you can get a tantalizing taste of these familiar yet unique works in a new CD, now available for sale through Chris's own label. Though a bit short in length (around 30 minutes), it's a potent concentration of low-key ambient pieces that achieve something miraculous ? they manage to be both meditative and bone-chilling at the same time. Call it ?Zombie Zen,? if you will.
Chris and Carrie told us the story behind the beautiful strangeness that is Music for Parasites.
FEARnet: Tell us a little about each of your musical backgrounds.
CHRIS: I am essentially a self-taught guitar player (though my old man instilled the love of progressive music into me from birth) and compose by ear. I fancy myself a stylist more than anything and compose music like a painter would paint. I am most comfortable using sound to express myself in an abstract way.
CARRIE: Singing has always been my favorite expression. I love experimenting with my upper range and using my voice as an obscure instrument. I am a classically trained soprano, but at times I'll dabble with the piano and guitar.
FN: What events or ideas led to your decision to work together on a music project?
CHRIS: Carrie and I have been working together for a LONG time. We had a prog-electronic performance art band in the '90s called The Walls of Jericho. I think she brings an angelic femininity to my more aggressive soundscapes that just works... honestly, she can do things with her voice that are literally otherworldly. And in a horror film, this dichotomy ? this beauty and the beast dynamic ? is key.
CARRIE: I think it's a natural extension of our relationship. We work well together, there's no power struggles, no pretension or egos. We compliment each other's capabilities and without needing to discuss our intentions, we've got a rare ability to create an end product that we're both happy with.
FN: What was the main inspiration for Parasites?
CHRIS: Movies inspired Parasites. Not just the movies that the work was created for, but the films I adore. The sounds of Morricone ? especially his early work with Argento's first three giallos; Goblin stuff like Profondo Rosso and Contamination; Fabio Frizzi and especially Popul Vuh and Too Dark Park-era Skinny Puppy. But then there's also a LOT of early Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd in there too. I have lots of freakin' influences!
FN: A few tracks on the CD share titles with movies like I Drink Your Blood and Deathdream. Did those films inspire your compositions?
CHRIS: I love those old exploitation titles, because they're so bold, strong and sinister and epic ? almost operatic. I Drink Your Blood is just so... so... final. Such a statement. When I made that piece (which is actually 2 pieces blended together), it reminded me of rabies and infection, like the hippie monsters in that great sleazy film. Deathdream is one of my all time favorite films... creepy, messy, surreal and melancholy. The piece of music I called that I feel shares these traits. I am an avid, die-hard, obsessive [fan] of horror films ? especially '60s and '70s horror ? and certainly the avant-garde music composed for those pictures is no small part of that attraction.
FN: You mentioned Popol Vuh [aka Florian Fricke] earlier... he composed the music to many of Werner Herzog's films, and I hear a lot of similarities in your work. How were you inspired by him?
Florian has been a major influence since I first saw Nosferatu on TV as a kid... that haunting, shrill chanting over those shots of the mummies under the credits; that sad requiem during the plague piece; the mandolin/piano music as Lucy and Jonathan walk on the beach. F**k, I love that music, I love that movie. I also really dig Fricke's work on Aguirre. I think [tracks] like ?Deathdream? and ?Creeper? have [a] strong Popol Vuh influence for sure.
FN: With PC-based home music studios popping up everywhere, it's refreshing to hear a very old-school approach to ambient music. Can you describe your studio setup ? instruments, effects, etc?
CHRIS: My studio setup is like the set of 12 Monkeys: all duct tape and tangled wires jamming into weird orifices surrounded by walls of horror movie [posters] and colored lights. I use whatever analog crap I can get my mitts on and only use computers to clean up sound quality and adjust levels.
The music is composed and recorded in analog. I hate computers... not because I'm a Luddite, but because there is a sameness, a clean , controlled feeling you get when you use them that for me isn't appealing. There is an art to mixing the two; I think [Skinny Puppy co-founder] cEvin Key at his best did this. But I personally get off on touching things and making sound in an undisciplined manner. This album is 99% exclusively composed with only vocal and acoustic guitar, running through weird pedals and old amps.
FN: How did you become involved in scoring the films The Stink of Flesh and Am I Evil?
CHRIS: The Stink of Flesh came to me through some work I'd done for a Tempe Entertainment release called Jigsaw. The director was doing some post sound for Stink and recommended me. They wanted some [Ennio] Morricone-esque music (Morricone being one of my strongest influences for everything I compose) for their picture, which if you've seen it, has a very strong western visual aesthetic. Then, the director of Stink [Scott Phillips] asked if he could mine some material from my older albums, so I let him. Half of the work on Stink is patched together from my back catalog.
Am I Evil came to us through the director, Richard Terrasi ? a really passionate, nice guy who had made this Euro-style slasher thing and wanted a rough sound. I think Richard was a fan of my work in Rue Morgue and he had heard my music off my site.
FN: Which tracks on this CD were derived from those scores?
CHRIS: There are five cues culled from the work that Richard used... [another] is from Cottonmouth, a f**king brilliant new short film by Christopher Garretano [Horror Business] that I am SO goddamn happy to be involved with... man it's good, and sooo skin-crawling... two are from Stink, and the rest are from the ether!
FN: Since those projects, have you been approached by other filmmakers to score their films?
CHRIS: Yes, but I'm a writer first and foremost, with the music being something I do for my own satisfaction. I wouldn't want it to become a "job" per se. I only take on assignments that interest me.
FN: That said, could you see this CD as a calling card for filmmakers interested in your music?
CHRIS: Yes, I suppose... I've released several albums independently over the years, but I am most proud of this collection so far. It's organic, free of the shackles of pop music and is certainly the most nightmarish and cinematic collection of my work.
FN: Are you planning a follow-up?
I have a major desire to make a full blown, jet black psychedelic album, with a full band. Really expressive, experimental and frightening.
FN: Any idea when this might happen?
CHRIS: Soon. I need it to happen, because I've plotted it out in my head ? and it sounds amazing up there!