Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sony to release The Devil's Chair on DVD

I've just learned that Sony Pictures is going to release The Devil's Chair on DVD on the 30th of September. Last year, I wrote the score for this film by Adam Mason.

"With a pocketful of drugs, Nick West (Andrew Howard) takes out his girlfriend Sammy (Polly Brown), for a shag and a good time. When they explore an abandoned asylum, the discovery of a bizarre device - a cross between an electric chair and sadistic fetish machine - transforms drugged-out bliss into agony and despair."

I will warn you in advance that this film is NOT for the faint of heart or the extremely sensitive. It is graphic, gory and scary-as-shit. As I was writing the score, I could hardly bear to watch it and kept the sound off most of the time.

There are numerous funny stories about making music for the film. Jeff and I had only recently moved into our cabin in the woods, and you could say things were a bit rough around the edges. I setup my studio in a dark, freezing cold, spare bedroom, and was burning the candle at both ends to get the music done in time. One day, I had been up for 36 hrs, struggling with a particularly chilling scene starring an ax and a large quantity of blood, when Jeff returned home from the hardware store (he'd been very productive and had installed a woodstove). He stood in the doorway, all cute in his earflap hat, and exclaimed cheerfully "honey, I've bought an ax!", while brandishing his new red ax at me. For the rest of the day, things were extremely surreal. I continued to work on this dreadful scene, with the monster enthusiastically hacking up a lead character, and then I'd look out the window and see Jeff (in earflap hat) enthusiastically hacking at logs.

However, I did actually enjoy writing the music. I think I've talked about it before. I liked how with this genre all musical conventions go out the window. Anything goes. It was very liberating. It felt like I could do anything, which I know I always could, but it took a horror film to show me. The only difficult thing was the compressed schedule, because there was so much more I wanted to do, but we just ran out of time. But I'm happy with it and I'd do it again. I thank Adam for tracking me down and convincing me to do it.

One of the pieces in the movie is "Saddest Song" which I've played live (I think there is a YouTube video of it). I named it long ago when I was going through a phase where everything I wrote sounded like a tragedy. I kept joking that I was trying to out-sad myself with each new song so this particular piece I referred to as "the saddest song in the WORLD" (quickly followed by a new song, "the saddest song in the SOLAR SYSTEM"...etc). It just so happened that Adam really liked it, so I developed it into the larger score.

Also, it sounds like a funny thing to say about a horror film, but it is beautifully shot. It looks glorious. Adam's talent shines through the whole thing and I think Andrew Howard, the lead actor, is the cats pyjamas.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

talking all day and all night

I spent last weekend at O'Reilly's FOO Camp. It was 2.5 days of intense hanging out with about 300 uber-smart people. Like I mentioned in my last post, I get invited to perform at quite a few tech conferences. I love going, not just because the chance to play for a thoughtful and critical audience often spurs me to try new things, but also because I enjoy the session topics and love the atmosphere.

FOO Camp was unique in many ways. For one, there was camping on the lawn, next to the bar, which made the whole thing like your dream summer camp. Next, you can't buy tickets and have to be invited so there was no division between presenters and attendees. Whereas often at these things the presenters are like rock stars, FOO had an egalitarian feel to it. Of course, that could have been my personal experience because I didn't attach people's names to their credentials until after the event. It's possible that if I had known who I was talking to in advance, I would have been too shy to approach anyone. As it was, I enjoyed seating myself with people I didn't know at meals (the food was absolutely fantastic) and striking up random conversations with strangers.

I didn't know much about FOO in advance and so I wasn't sure until I got there if I was meant to participate in the whole weekend or just meant to entertain, provide some local colour and then disappear. Luckily, I decided nothing was meant, and it didn't matter, and so I proceeded to have a spanking great time. What was a complete surprise was how many people there I already knew, or was separated from by only one degree.

I wish I enjoyed music conferences as much. The few I've been to have been truly dreadful so maybe I'm not going to the right ones. The musician attendees have felt a bit desperate and I get the sense every conversation is a promotional opportunity with everyone ready to impress at a moments notice. Authentic interactions feel hard to come by. Maybe "geeks" are better at hiding their motives? I never had the sense at FOO that anyone had an agenda. Although, it does occur to me that because I was "just a musician" and not a CEO, no one needed to impress me.

And then, I'm sorry, but what do rock musicians talk about when we are together? Worst gigs. Best gigs. Tour horror stories. Dissing other bands. How drunk so and so got last night. Yes, that's a horrible stereotype and of course there are exceptions, but the current culture of the music industry does not seem to reward thoughtfulness or multidimensionality. Talking history or social psychology or political philosophy or poverty or whatever, is a good way to provoke glazed looks and worse, sarcastic comment. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy regular bouts of senseless mirth. I have yet to master burping on command, but I can probably drink you under the table. But, I crave banquets of curious people with which to have mind-expanding, vitamin-packed conversations. Luckily, I had about 40 hours of those conversations at FOO Camp and I realize that I have them almost every day with my partner-in-life Jeff, and with my friends. Burp.

Anyway, I also happen to be in the planning stages of a long-term project involving live visualizations (video, animation, imagery, etc) that I can control either via my music itself, or through manual midi commands. I mentioned it in passing to someone and they said, "you should ask people here, I bet you'd find people". So, I mentioned it when I performed, and sure enough, all weekend long people came up to me with ideas or knowledge about musical visualization. Now I wish I'd formally put it on the session board, but it certainly expanded my horizons as to what is technically and artistically possible. It also helped me realize that it will be a cooler project if I open it up and work with more artists. To be continued...

My other regret is that I never played werewolf because I was too busy chit chatting. I meant to join a game on Saturday night, but at 2am I suddenly turned into a pumpkin and went to sleep (this is after having been up until 4am on Friday, and then awake at 8am). Hopefully I can teach werewolf to everyone on the Amanda Palmer tour, since it seems like it could be a good game for 10 or so people trapped together for many weeks on a tour bus.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

a foo camping I go

Somehow I've become the looping cellist of technology conferences.

Last year there was ISTE Educational Technology conference in Atlanta and then Pop!Tech in Maine. Tomorrow I'm playing at O'Reilly's Foo Camp and then in September at the Emerging Technology conference at MIT.

What's funny to me, is that I had this whole tech career before becoming a professional musician, and I never went to a single conference. But now that I'm a MUSICIAN, I'm invited as a special guest. Ironically, none of them have any idea of my past geek life (or do they? can they tell?). Hopefully they are not disappointed when they find out...

I worked at a tiny startup in San Francisco all during the dot com boom. We did "information visualization", and no one could understand what it was good for at the time but we knew it was going to change the freaking world. However, with the exception of the marketing guy, few of us could explain in one sentence what the company did. I could't tell you what I did for that matter although I worked all night at it (ok, I guess that's still true). I started out as the receptionist, then taught myself whatever programming languages were necessary, and graduated to the engineering department as an interface developer. The CEO used to joke, "Zoe was so bad at being a receptionist, that we made her an engineer". After the crash I moved on to stuff I really cared about - art and culture digital archives (RLG Cultural Materials and the Database of Recorded American Music) and of course, making music.

All that time I had a "secret life", going off at night to rehearse and perform with various bands.

So now, I do music all day (ok, technologically extended music) and when I have down time, I like to curl up with my laptop and catch up on the all the tech blogs. I guess my past life is useful... I can fix everyone's Myspace pages, or troubleshoot all the computers on the tour bus, or organize everything in the house by its descriptive metadata. But sometimes I wish I could just CONSUME technology, like some people seem to, rather than always see it for what needs improving (don't get me started on Myspace..ARGH!). I always want to fix stuff, make it better, use it for some new purpose that it wasn't built for.

Ah well...I'm off to get ready for tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fall Tour with Amanda Palmer

i've been keeping quiet about so many things for so long i've been afraid i'd explode. to keep myself under control and not annoy anyone around me, i've had numerous frenetic gardening/weeding/raking/run-up-and-down-the-hill sessions.

so this is one...from the saucy lady herself...

AUGUST 2008 - ???

The august dates in US & Europe are going to be strictly solo piano...then i am going to be starting the world tour in europe in fall and bringing the danger ensemble & a small string section (including zoë keating!) with me. zoe will also be opening up and my good friend jason webley *might* be joining us for a good run of dates in europe. Conjoined twins Evelyn Evelyn may make their first european appearance as well...more info on all the support acts soon.

info on US dates (starting in november) will be also coming soon. as always, stay tuned to dresdendolls.com/calendar/ for dates, ticket links, support acts, directions, and other good things…

i am exciiiiited.

in other news...author Neil Gaiman, photographer Kyle Cassidy and I are working on the WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER photo/storybook which will hopefully be released right around the time the record comes out. I've never hung out with so many cool people in my life, it's making up for high school in spades.

love amanda


you might remember i went to nashville last year to record with amanda at ben folds headquarters...to hear what you are in for with her solo record, listen to the song Astronaut. i think the words EPIC SONIC EXPLOSION sum it up pretty well, don't you agree?

so, clearly a lot of excitement and exclamation points and lack of proper capitalization happening all around. thank dog the cat is out of the bag and i can stop controlling myself...almost

here be the dates so far...

Sep 27 2008 Academy Dublin, Dublin
Sep 28 2008 Auntie Annie's Porterhouse Belfast, Carlow
Sep 30 2008 Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh, Scotland
Oct 2 2008 King Tuts Wah Wah Hut Glasgow, Scotland
Oct 4 2008 Academy 2 Sheffield, Midlands
Oct 6 2008 Club Academy Manchester, Northwest
Oct 7 2008 Thekla Bristol, Southwest
Oct 8 2008 Concorde 2 Brighton, South
Oct 10 2008 Koko London, London and South East
Oct 12 2008 Knaack Klub Berlin, Berlin
Oct 13 2008 Star Club Dresden, Sachsen
Oct 14 2008 Karlstorbahnhof Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg
Oct 16 2008 Abart Zurich, Zurich
Oct 17 2008 Music Drome (fka Transilvania) Milan, Milano
Oct 18 2008 Komma Worgl, Tirol
Oct 20 2008 Szene Vienna Vienna, Wien
Oct 21 2008 59:1 Munich, Bayern
Oct 23 2008 La Boule Noire Paris, Ile-de-France
Oct 24 2008 Handelsbeurs Ghent, East Flanders
Oct 26 2008 Melkweg Amsterdam, Noord-Holland
Oct 27 2008 Helling Utrecht, Utrecht
Oct 29 2008 13 Tilburg, Noord-Brabant