Over the very varied course of their recorded history, the word Cinematic is one that has been applied constantly to the Soulsavers, and with good reason. Whether it’s the VHS pulp noir of their Tough Guys Don’t Dance debut, the Wim Wenders outsider Americana of their It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land follow-up or the full-blown epics of Broken and The Light The Dead See, the impression I always got from the collected musical output of Rich Machin and Ian Glover is of a soundtrack to a film that the rest of us aren’t privy to. So it’s perhaps a happy inevitability that the Stoke-On-Trent duo have cast their sights somewhat more specifically in this direction by applying for and receiving a grant from the PRS For Music Foundation in order to realise an ambition to put together an instrumental record to be pitched as a calling-card to the film industry. 6 Days From Tomorrow is thrilled that Rich took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about this project, film music in general, and what the future holds for the Soulsavers.
First of all, what’s the new record called and when will it be out?
– It’s called ‘Reconsidering The Madman’ and it’s due out this summer.
How did the opportunity with the PRS funding arise (ie, application/invitation)?
– Someone who we were working with at the time was involved with the PRS and suggested we apply for this project as it was exactly the kind of thing the fund was set up for. They took a look at the idea and very kindly funded it.
As the new record is wholly instrumental, has the process for this one differed any from your previous work where you have written music for vocalists?
– Not really. You’re still essentially approaching each track from the point of view of “What does this piece of music need?” Now that may be a vocal sometimes, other times it additional instrumentation. But it tends to start out from the same point no matter what.
Is having the spotlight firmly on yourselves with this project rather than being the quiet heart of an assembled cast list something you’re enjoying with this new venture?
– No, not at all. But the good thing is that instrumental records tend to be low-key so you don’t really get that spotlight anywhere near as much as the way that you do on a normal record. That’s certainly all good with me!
Has the experience of working with other composers on your previous records (ie, Dustin O’Halloran, Daniele Luppi) influenced the way you’ve worked on this one?
– Hugely. A large debt is owed to Daniele Luppi in particular. When I think how our string and orchestral work has developed over the last 5 or 6 years since we started working with him, he really taught us so much. He’s a genius and he happily gifted so much knowledge to us that’s enabled us to get to the place where we are now. But most of all, he gave me the confidence that we could even undertake making this record. And Dustin O’Halloran is just constantly putting out the best instrumental records out there and raising the bar time after time.
Has the experience of working in a purely cinematic, orchestral medium affected the way that you see the Soulsavers progressing as a band?
– I’ve got a couple of ongoing projects at the moment, but by the end of this year I’ll sit down and start the next proper Soulsavers album. At that point something of a reset button will be pressed for sure. I do feel like we’ve completed a full circle creatively, each of the records has had a different style and it’s now time to do something different maybe, even if that’s just fusing together different things we’ve done in the past. I like the idea of the loops and electronics from our earlier records mixed with the orchestral stuff from our more recent stuff. But we’ll see at that point, I definitely have the urge to shake the tree though.
Any plans/possibilities of this being performed live?
– It’s always possible, but no plans currently.
With this being aimed at courting film soundtracking interest, did you have any specific influence (as in particular films, composers, literature) to use as a guideline, and is it something with a common thread throughout the record or should we expect a host of different styles?
– The spirit of Morricone’s work hangs heavily on this record that’s for sure. There is another big influence on the themes of the record that won’t take people very long to unravel I guess, but that was really for us – I’d prefer not to guide people too far and just let them hopefully enjoy it for what it is. Sometimes I take meaning from records that I’m certain are nothing to do with what they are about, but they end up meaning something completely different to me. That’s the way it should be really.
Do you have any favourite film score composers?
– The obvious ones like Ennio Morricone and Angelo Badalamenti which have been a big influence on us from the beginning. Also guys like Bruno Nicolai, Niño Rota, Lalo Schifrin, Pino Donaggio, Bernard Herrmann & Luis Bacalov. From the more contemporary guys I think everything Max Richter does is great and I also think all the scores that Tindersticks have done have sounded really good and worked really well in the films they were used in.
What are your favourite films / genres?
– That is constantly changing. I’m a huge fan of all the Hitchcock and Sergio Leone movies, I can watch them over and over. I’d struggle to pick a favourite. I watched Straight Story again for the first time in years the other week and I’d forgotten what a wonderful movie that was. But I’m also just as happy to tune out and watch a classic, if it’s got Clint Eastwood or Bill Murray in it and I’ve got a decent bottle of whiskey at hand I’m gonna be happy.
– Once upon A Time in America & Dead Man off the top of my head.
Both completely different scores, but both perfect.
Your work has appeared on TV and in films/trailers. Do you have a particular favourite use of your music in someone else’s work?
– Probably Eastbound & Down, I loved that show. It was an unusual use, as comedy isn’t something you’d naturally think was a good fit – but it all worked really well they used it perfectly.
If you had the opportunity to rescore an existing film, what would it be and how would you like to change it?
– I’m not sure I’d be keen on messing with anyone else’s existing art. Maybe I’m still damaged by the utter horror that was that re-scoring of Drive last year. Everything has it’s time and place, I’m more interested in things ahead of me than things other people have already done.
Looking ahead, and should this record have the desired effect on your career, will you still be finding room to write and perform as Soulsavers the band, or is the ultimate goal to become Soulsavers the composers?
– Well, the answer to that changes from day to day.
I’m always happiest when I know the next project I have lined up is different to the one I’m working on. I need variation to keep me interested & excited. The “band” side of things does provide me with that, but it also has such a side-show around it at times that it can regularly come close to breaching my tolerance for bullshit. If it all worked out, having something else going on will probably end up enabling me to keep the “band” fresher & keep it an ongoing project going forward.
And if all that wasn’t enough, join us for Part 2 of this conversation later this week (because I haven’t finished it yet!) to find out about more of the past, present and future of the collaborative and creative processes involved in making a Soulsavers record, a very long answer about a very artistic typo and a whole lot more besides.