Pere Ubu, Mogwai, Thomas Truax and Zombie Zombie set for The Glasgow Music and Film Festival
The Glasgow Music and Film Festival is a forum for some fiery disagreements, as well as some beautiful collaborations. Jonny Ensall quizzes the key players
The Music and Film Festival is a strange beast, full of contradictions and tangents that threaten to pull apart its coherence, but ultimately make it the most exciting strand of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. Co-curated by the Arches, and featuring Mogwai and Thomas Truax among others, the organisers have put together a programme of screenings and live performances that explore the screen and sound relationship in its seemingly endless variations.
Enter Zombie Zombie, the pair of Parisian analogue synth enthusiasts whose debt to the eerie tones of John Carpenter’s films will be acknowledged in a live performance of the director/composer’s film scores, including music for The Thing, Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13.
‘He uses the same instruments as we do, all analogue synths and analogue delay, so it’s pretty easy to get close to the same sound’, explains Zombie Zombie’s Cosmic Neman (real name Neman Herman Düne). ‘We’ve got this delay pedal called the Space Echo. When you put anything through this machine – like a scream – it makes it ten times more frightening. That’s how they do the crazy shit in horror movies.’
Düne’s homage is ultimately joyful – ‘We just want to make everyone happy’ he says – however Cleveland avant-garage band Pere Ubu will explore a darker strain of the relationship between audience and image in their performance, Long Live Pere Ubu! The Spectacle.
‘You know they have a thing down here in Brighton called the Everything Sandwich,’ says the band’s, now UK-based, frontman David Thomas. ‘That’s sort of what this is. We have the animations from the Quay Brothers, which run constantly, and most of those we synch our live playing to, because they’re all planned out that way, and everybody in the band acts as particular characters, leaving their instruments at various points, and taking up dramatic roles as it were; slipping in and out of character; doing the dance routines and various other bits of choreography.
It’s basically the combination of a rock concert and a theatre show. What are those Christmas things called? Pantos! It’s sort of like a punk panto.’
Thomas describes the piece as a ‘brutal satire,’ that deals with ‘the corruption of power and nastiness of the do-gooder’. With only limited scope for GFF audiences to see it, are there any plans to film the piece and show it later?
‘To me a film of a performance is basically pornography,’ Thomas argues. ‘It’s nasty – it’s antithetical to what a live performance is. The mass of strength and power of a live performance is that it happens in the moment, and it’s gone.’
Thomas’ comment seems counter-productive. If film is a poor, perverse reflection of an experience, stripped of its meaning, should the filmmakers all pack their bags and head home?
‘I don’t agree with it but I think it’s a remarkable statement,’ responds filmmaker Jane Pollard. Working with her husband Iain Forsyth, Pollard has made her name restaging classic concerts in order to capture grainy, bootleg-style versions of the action. Their project is to preserve the integrity of a performance by capturing rawer, more typical fan footage. However Pollard acknowledges there are still pitfalls.
‘As the maker or the documenter of something you have no way of prepping the audience in how to read what they’re seeing. You can’t be there, and even if you were, and you were saying, “look it’s only from these angles, and what you’re not seeing is this, and remember that this was going on”, people probably wouldn’t believe you.’
Neatly sidestepping this problem, their film The Good Son, which premieres at the festival, takes an innovative approach to documenting the creation, and reception of an album: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds' The Good Son. ‘We create this multi-headed monologue, this kind of schizophrenic speech about the record … it never cuts to any other footage. It’s always people’s head and shoulders, framed identically so that their eyes are in the same place in the shot, so the heads are able to almost morph, without any digital effect, into one another. And then we start editing it so that it makes sense as a whole, single piece.’
‘There’s no better way to make an emotive or immediate connection than to have somebody’s head talking to you,’ she adds. ‘They’re the conversations that you remember – when somebody tells you a story and you can see in the inflection of their face … just how much something means to them.’
It’s a strange but fitting idea, that the best summation of the power of music is the words and feelings that surround a song or album, evoking the spirit of its live appeal without dirtying the intimacy of the audience/performer connection with a camera.
Zombie Zombie, Mono, Thu 18 Feb, 8pm; Pere Ubu, Classic Grand, Sat 20 Feb, 8pm; The Good Son, GFT, Mon 22 Feb, 7pm.