Monday, 5 December 2011

Interview: thebrokendoor

Pantomime is reasonably considered to be the all-singing, all-dancing staple of the festive season. Its aesthetic and auditory enterprise appeals to both the coach-loads of school children high on Christmas spirit and the TV soap thespians who line their pockets with a Christmas bonus. But what if the icy chill of winter lessens your appetite for overly jovial slapstick and rhetorical audience interaction isn’t a prerequisite for an evening’s entertainment?

Experimental drum’n’bass specialists thebrokendoor think they have the answer. Using their knack for forward-thinking and unbounded creativity, they have adapted musically memorable films, reincarnating the originals’ tunes as technologically tweaked tangents using samplers and well-trained musical ears. The Lancashire quartet have hosted two previous annual audio-visual adventures in their native Bolton and the third will focus on the classic film Singing In The Rain.

They embark on a mini-tour, calling in the south Manchester area this Sunday (11th December) at Dulcimer bar in Chorlton, where they’ll be joined on the line-up by two of Manchester’s finest exports in electronica, Jason Singh and Veí, who’ll re-score the Quay Brothers’ Streets of Crocodiles and a walk-through of the computer game Limbo, respectively.

Now Then Manchester spoke to thebrokendoor’s vibraphonist and vocalist Emma Welsby ahead of the Manchester leg of the show.

Now Then: You performed an improvised set to Charlie & The Chocolate Factory last year. What made you decide to take this step?

thebrokendoor: We have been doing an alternate soundtrack to a film every year for the last three years. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory was a film which was a big part of our childhood memories and the original soundtrack lent itself well to being re-sampled so we could add our own twist on the songs. We were really pleased with the outcome of this and decided to try Singing In The Rain this year.

NT: How did it compare with your usual performances?

tbd: What we enjoy about our band is we can step out of the live improvised drum n bass we normally do and have side projects such as this to challenge us musically. In our normal set-up we pick a key and improvise around that, whereas working around the structure of a film makes us have more discipline. It changes how we work together as a team and we learn more about each other as a result. Instead of playing to people to make them dance this is much more a ‘sit down and watch’ affair, which is different for us.

NT: How did you select the film to use?

tbd: The film has strong songs which occur regularly throughout so it lent itself to us having quite a lot to perform. When we originally watched the film we had strong ideas for each song so it made sense to give this one a go!

NT: Are there any other musicians who’ve influenced this direction for the band?

tbd: This particular direction probably took influence from bands such as The Cinematic Orchestra who have written for film before. We also really vibe off musicians who push the boundaries of live technology such as Amon Tobin who have a great live show which is highly visual. One thing we wanted to do differently is to not just be a band playing in front of a film taking no inspiration from the original soundtrack. We stay true to the songs and take influence from them – hence why you can hear samples from the original songs as we play with them.

NT: Who inspires you in the world of film?

tbd: We all have different tastes in film in the band but we like the darkness of the soundtracks written by Danny Elfman and the abstract musical writings of Maurice Binder (James Bond). We also like Sofia Coppola for her selection of soundtracks for film. And writer Frank Darabond, producer Ridley Scott and director Ron Fricke because he creates tone without the need for a narrative. We like the French animator Moebius who creates fantastic other worlds.

NT: This year will be Singing In The Rain; what can we expect from that?

tbd: If you want to hear the original soundtrack re-sampled and reworked to incorporate big beats, bass, vibraphone and electronics, taking influence from drum n bass, dubstep, electronica and post rock then this might be the show for you!

Words: Ian Pennington
Poster #1: Craig Brown (Beards Club Illustration)
Poster #2: Courtesy of thebrokendoor
thebrokendoor photo: Courtesy of thebrokendoor
Jason Singh photo: Courtesy of Jason Singh

thebrokendoor headline an early evening of electronic music performed to specially selected films at Dulcimer in Chorlton on Sunday 11th December. Jason Singh (performing to Streets of Crocodiles by the Quay Brothers) and Veí (performing to a reworked walkthrough of the Limbo computer game) will also perform. Doors at 5pm; entry policy is pay-what-you-like, £3 suggested.

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