He shoots, he re-scores!
As cinema meets clubland this autumn, we relish a growing trend of multi-sensory nights out in London where the DJ provides an alternative film soundtrack
Forget a picturehouse, popcorn and a date movie: adventuresome after-dark types want something more from cinematic outings. We want to dress up in theme and speed-date the film characters before we settle down to watch the feature; we want midnight movies, washed down with tequila, outside on the terrace of a 30-storey building; we want to watch cult favourites in 3D while hanging upside down in a dungeon as monkeys feed us nachos. And now, we want to listen to specially crafted DJ sets that re-score the movie magic as we watch and club it all off afterwards.
It's been the pretentious fodder of band folk for years - Pet Shop Boys and 'Battleship Potemkin', 65daysofstatic and 'Silent Running', The Cinematic Orchestra and, well, everything, even Asian Dub Foundation taking on 'La Haine' to name just a few - but not many have been part of what you'd call a club night. Until now…
Last month, Innervisions DJs Henrik Schwarz, ¬me and Dixon attempted a live re-score of 1920s German classic 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari' at the Roundhouse, polished off with DJ sets amid artist Ron Arad's visuals. And now, Bestival boss Rob Da Bank and Optimo's JD Twitch are breathing sonic life into the silver screen.
Da Bank will be spinning an alternative soundtrack to 1933 silent horror classic 'King Kong' at BFI Southbank on October 7 as part of its new club series, The Sonic Cinema, followed by a talk between
curator Tayo Popoola and Da Bank and DJ sets in the bar. Twitch, meanwhile, will be on the Queen of Hoxton rooftop this Friday for The Soundtrack Set as he re-envisions Ron Fricke's evocative 1992 nature doc 'Baraka', armed with a crateful of tunes you wouldn't expect from him. Later, he'll head inside to play all the ones you would as he spins a three-hour set till late.
'It was a staple of Glasgow post-club after-parties at the time, usually viewed as a tenth generation VHS bootleg copy,' says Twitch on his choice of 'Baraka'. 'Myself and some cohorts used to run a Sunday evening ambient night in Glasgow from around 1992 to 1994 and would regularly screen it there, playing our own selections of music along to parts of it. I finally saw it on the big screen in 2000 and fell in love with it all over again.'
Soundtracking is a new challenge for his DJ skillset too. 'It will be very hard, if not impossible to match the edits of the film and to fit the mood,' Twitch continues, 'but there's an appeal in playing music I would never, or only very rarely, get to play to an audience.'
'The fact that a feature movie is about the same length as an average DJ set means that the two medias naturally work well together,' explains DJ Yoda, one of the best known visual mash-up DJs, whose sets usually sew different movie clips together with comic panache. 'Plus, it's fun to imagine whatever song you want accompanying certain movie scenes - you're free to play whatever you like.'
Likewise, for Da Bank, his attempt will be a 'little light-hearted'. 'There'll be tunes in there from Springsteen, such as “Born to Run” when the cast is running away from Kong, so it is quite tongue-in-cheek,' he says. 'For any serious film buff expecting something faithful to the original, it's really not!' Cue a suitably eclectic spread of selections, from Bon Iver and Radiohead to Laurie Anderson and even Harry Connick Jr.
In the wake of the success of Secret Cinema, Future Cinema, Nomad Cinema and BUG (the BFI's sell-out music video night), it's the next level of multi-sensory nights out. 'It's the kind of thing you do when you're not 21 but you're still into music,' confirms Popoola, a long-standing London DJ, who was behind the notorious Rooty parties with Frank Tope and Basement Jaxx in Brixton in the '90s. 'My mates have seen it and done it all a hundred times - try selling Catch [in Shoreditch] on a Friday night to them!'
Well, only if you promise a screening of 'Dr. No', Diplo on the decks and a waterfall made from tequila.
Sounds and visionaries
The films we'd like to hear re-scored and the DJs for the job, selected by Time Out film critic David Jenkins
Aphex Twin re-scores Benjamin Christensen's 'Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages' (1922)
This spooky and depraved silent mock doc from Danish pioneer Benjamin Christensen would make a fine bedfellow for Aphex Twin's weirdo electonica dirges, especially if they're cut through with the occasional freaky ambient filler.
Fatboy Slim re-scores Fred C Newmeyer's 'Safety Last!' (1923)
As a bespectacled dimwit extraordinaire, Harold Lloyd never bettered the feat of high-rise physical comedy that made up the climax of this knockabout classic. In a bid to win the hand of a gorgeous gal, Lloyd accepts the challenge of climbing up the façade of a multi-storey department store, a stunt that would be backed very neatly by Norman Cook's multi-layered beats.
Carl Cox rescores Eric Von Stroheim's 'Greed' (1924)
Known for his all-night techno wig-outs and mammoth stints behind the decks, Carl Cox would kinda have to be given one of the silent behemoths to tackle. DW Griffith's multi-stranded masterpiece, 'Intolerance', might run a little short for Coxy (at a paltry three hours), so Von Stroheim's long-lost labour of love, in its restored 239-minute version, might just make up the time. Whether the images would benefit from a chugging techno backdrop is another question entirely.
Richard Norris re-scores Robert Flaherty's 'Nanook of the North' (1922)
It's been called the first ever documentary, but Robert Flaherty's brilliant ethnographic profile of a family of Inuit going about their daily chores (slaying walruses, fashioning bows and arrows, building igloos) is a perfect match for Norris's earthy psychedelic workouts.
Flying Lotus re-scores Alexander Dovzhenko's 'Zvenigora' (1928)
Known for his experimental tendencies, Thom Yorke fave FL could test his freestyle mettle with Dovzhenko's impenetrable bucolic tone poem about Ukrainian class warfare. Surely a film that flips back and forth in time and between dreams and reality would suit FL's cosmic, jazz-laced stylings?
The Soundtrack Set is at the Queen of Hoxton on Fri Sep 23. Sonic Cinema is at BFI Southbank on Fri Oct 7.