Tag Archives: Daniel Davies

John Carpenter Live @ Play Station Theater in 7/8/16 in NYC

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I honestly can’t believe I got the chance to live a lifelong dream.  To see John Carpenter, the filmmaker who influenced me to become a film director, perform music from his movies in front of my face.  I’ve been listening to John Carpenter’s scores since the early 80s and have religiously playing his soundtrack music ever since.

But let’s first put something in perspective just how much respect he deserves for being able to do this.  John Carpenter is touring the world with the music he created for his films, to go along with some of the music he’s generated for his two recent solo albums Lost Themes and Lost Themes II, which you can purchase at Sacred Bones Records.

This is something no other director in the history of film has done or could do.  Not Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Orson Wells, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Frances Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, William Friedkin, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Oliver Stone, Tim Burton or James Cameron.  None of them.  They don’t perform the music for their movies.

John Carpenter has composed or co-composed the music for all but 4 of his movies, two TV movies and couple episodes of Masters of Horror.  Think about that, the legendary director has directed 21 movies.  Plus he’s composed music for two films he didn’t direct (Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch) to go along with a couple video games.

Ok on with the show.

I wasn’t there as a journalist, so in no way I’m not obligated to write this review.  I’m writing because I feel I owe it to the man that made me want to be a film director and nobody else will tell what happened exactly like me.

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It was an amazing experience to walk into Broadway, the Mecca of all Live Performances in the biggest city in the US, New York City and see John Carpenter’s image and name in lights for a Sold-Out Show.  Plus everywhere you looked people were wearing t-shirts and jerseys that supported all the man’s work over the past four decades.  Shirts with Michael Myers, Jack Burton, Snake Plissken, Blake the leper, John Nada and MacReady were just a few of the cool pieces of apparel representing filmmaker we all love.

I was standing in line (wearing my specially ordered John Carpenters’ The Thing shirt, which shows every character from the movie) with my John Carpenter pal Chris Sasser (wearing a Big Trouble in Little China shirt) and his John Carpenter friend James (They Live shirt), who both had taken the train up from Philly.  Somehow our line got chosen to enter the venue first.  What struck me right away as we entered the building was hearing John Carpenter’s music playing on the overhead speakers.  Everywhere we went, his music could be heard before the show started.  Including when I went to use the bathroom and Prince of Darkenss was playing while I was in the latrine.  I couldn’t help but just smile and soak up the atmosphere because my favorite film music composer was finally getting his just due.

It was so cool just being able to talk to other people who respected John Carpenter’s films & music with the same fervor as I did.  As I stood waiting for the show to begin, I really enjoyed speaking to total strangers about all things John Carpenter.  My friend Chris, said he’d compare it to a religious experience and I’d have to agree.

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Carpenter and his band hit the stage with “Main Theme” from Escape From New York, which not only was appropriate considering the town they were performing in, but it’s easily one of everyone’s favorites.  Carpenter looked comfortable in front of the legion of 2,100 fans in attendance, did a little dancing and just soaked up the adoration aimed at him.  It’s very well known that Carpenter has been weathered by the criticism and box office performance of his films, but we did our best to let him know his body of work deeply mattered to all of us and everything he’s done is not in vain.  Carpenter was clearly enjoying himself and that made me feel better than anything.

The Main Title from Assault on Precinct 13 was next and I got to say it was beyond cool hearing the familiar melody pouring out from the speakers, while watching the handpicked images from the 1976 movie playing on the screen behind the band.

“Vortex” was the third song performed and I have to say one of the highlights of the night.  It’s such an amazing track because it contains most of the Carpenter’s signature instrumentation and it point blank ROCKS!

“Mystery” was next and allowed the band move into some musical realms different than the other tracks played on this stupendous evening.

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I loved that when the band performed “Main Title” from The Fog, the stage got covered with the white misty stuff.  This matched not only the title of the movie, but created the fog enshrouded atmosphere Carpenter and DP Dean Cundey captured so well in their classic ghost story.

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“Coming To LA” from They Live was absolutely when of the best songs of the entire night and it was beyond cool that the band donned sunglasses during this song.  It has stayed with me ever since this show and when I talked to other folks in attendance they all listed it among the top 3 tracks.  Just seeing all the Reagan-era themed subliminal messages from the movie playing while listening to the bluesy instrumentation just made everything work so beautifully.

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“Desolation” from The Thing was next and Carpenter said a few kind words about The Thing Music Composer Ennio Morricone.  I’m so glad they did something off what is John Carpenter’s pinnacle work as a director.  I cannot never get enough of seeing the brilliant images from the movie because it’s just one of the greatest films ever made.

“Distant Dream” from Carpenter’s latest Lost Themes II definitely worked for me as well as the rest of the audience.

“Pork Chop Express” Live from John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China

“Pork Chop Express” from Big Trouble In Little China was another stellar selection on the memorable night.  One of my favorite moments occurred after this track concluded.  Many in the audience held up The Chang Sing sign (as seen in the movie a.k.a. One Finger Shooting Zen) to show our universal approval to the master.  How cool is that!

“Wraith” was next from the first Lost Themes album.  It has some liquid like instrumentation which made for a cool live experience.  Especially when paired up against the darker “Night” that followed.  I particularly liked Daniel Davies heavy distorted guitar hanging on notes to emphasize certain moments of the song.

The pulsating rhythmic pattern to “Night” is very catchy and addictive.  It made for a cool music video too, which parts of it was projected on the screen behind the band.

“Main Theme” Live from John Carpenter’s Halloween

Cody Carpenter really showed off his keyboard prowess during “Main Title” of Halloween.  Seeing the images of Laurie Strode, Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis were music for my eyes.  Carpenter’s landmark slasher film is one of my two favorite movies and his score is legendary.  But I will say I don’t consider it as one of the better ones of the night.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear In the Mouth of Madness “Main Title” as I was hoping but not expecting to hear it.  During this Metallica inspired track, the highlight of the night happened for my friend Chris, when one excited fan yelled out “Sam F^&*ing Neill!”

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After a brief break from the stage Carpenter and his band came back for a 15-minute encore that begin with a killer rendition of “Darkness Begins” from Prince of Darkness.  Davies guitar really brought a crushing explanation point to this song about doomsday with the Devil.  I might say the inclusion of this was the biggest unexpected treat of the night.  I absolutely love the score for Prince.

“Virutal Survivor” off the latest Lost Themes II album was a cool avenue for the band to go.  Then “Purgortory” off the first LT album was next and features a down sullen mood for the band to chill things down a bit.  Parts of it remind me a little of Carpenter’s music for his film Vampires.

“Christine Attacks” Live from John Carpenter’s Christine

Carpenter wrapped the night with a wonderful performance of “Christine Attacks” from his highly underrated film Christine.  The main melody of this piece has a huge hook that has staying power.  Having just had re-watched the film shortly before this show, I totally dug the assemblage of footage backing the music.

It’s not every day you get to see your lifelong hero stand before you doing something he/she enjoys.  The fact that I did, along with 2,100 other John Carpenter fanatics just made the night seem almost surreal.  My daughter had national dance competition the day before this show in Hershey, PA.  I choose not to go because of this once in a lifetime opportunity.  Her dance team ended up scoring their highest award ever, but I feel I scored just as high attending this show.  I guess we were winners all around.

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If I was you, I would make it my mission to catch John Carpenter and his band when they come to your town.  I’m still buzzing about the spiritual experience of soaking up the incredible music of John Carpenter almost a month later.  I can’t thank the filmmaker/composer for taking his music on the road and giving all us fans an experience that will never be forgotten.

http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/tour/

 

 

John Carpenter’s – Lost Themes II

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John Carpenter – Lost Themes II
Sacred Bones Records – 2016

I’m going to write this review differently than most of the albums I evaluate.  I’m going to type it raw as I’m listening to it the first time and be finished by the time the disc ends.

“Distant Dream” has a stomping drum that is reminiscent of “Christine Attacks” from Christine.  But the tune twists into an electronic ripper more along the lines of something Italian band Goblin would create.  The sequenced synthesizer that gives the track is base is pure John Carpenter and as a huge fan of his music, it’s something you can never get enough of.

The notes and keyboard tone in “White Pulse” is very pretty to listen to and takes you to a different place verses the darker opening.  The high keyboard line is very cool and in some ways reminded of the synth sound so prevalent in the great 80 slasher films.  Mid-way through the cue travels into Big Trouble in Little China territory with both the keyboards and active percussion.  Three minutes in the composition made me think of Carpenter’s music for Village of the Damned.

“Persia Rising” feels like playing a video game.  Traveling through different levels of a game to reach where the story takes you.

The electric guitar in “Angel’s Asylum” counter weights the mystical keyboard line.  The tune is rockified in a way like Carpenter has done before in Big Trouble In Little China and In The Mouth of Madness.  There’s some nice guitar and keyboard interplay the last quarter of this track.

I like the lower part of the sound registry of “Hofner Dawn.”  There’s some real fantasy musical elements working here.

“Windy Death” has the nihilistic quality found in Escape From New York.  It even has a catchy groove to hook you.

Speaking of Escape From New York, “Dark Blues” hops aboard that compositional train big time and rides it for all it’s worth.  The sliding keyboard part just over two minutes is pretty darn cool.  I love all the different musical elements in this cue.  Guitar, keyboard, bass and percussion.  Very nicely done.

The beginning of “Virtual Survivor” makes it feel like you are one of the last people left on Earth.  The dramatic push of this song is infectious.

Early into “Bela Lugosi” the distorted keyboard made me think of Dark Star.  There’s some impressive keyboard runs dancing about.

There’s a haunting quality to “Last Sunrise.”  The choice and order of notes in this song bring Village of the Damned to mind.  I do like the tempo change and the direction the song moves towards.

Enjoy the musical celebration that is “Utopian Facade.”

There’s not a single track that’s more powerful than “Vortex” found on the first Lost Themes release.  But as a whole Lost Themes II is more focused and cohesive.  It’s a tough road John Carpenter, his son Cody Carpenter and his Godson Daniel Davies have to drive because everyone wants to hear classic John Carpenter.  Yet they want new music.

I think this threesome of musical partners are headed into right direction.  I’d love it if they went into darker territory like Carpenter’s best scary movies, but I guess that might require a film.

I’m just happy to hear more new music from the legendary director and his cohorts.  Don’t stop anytime soon.

www.sacredbonesrecords.com

John Carpenter’s Lost Themes

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John Carpenter’s Lost Themes

Sacred Bones Records – 2015

To be honest with you, the opening track “Vortex” gave me goose-bumps because it’s the most “John Carpenter” sounding piece I’ve heard since the late 80s.  It’s got this super cool groove that’s a cross between Escape From New York and Big Trouble in Little China.  After some screechy sounds, a simple piano comes in only to be interrupted by a dark syncopated keyboard that throbs along with a stomping drum.  It’s trademark Carpenter and easily one of the best tracks of his long and distinguished career as a composer.

In Carpenter’s own words, Lost Themes is a soundtrack for imaginary movies.  It runs the gamut of different moods and Carpenter hopes will inspire people to visualize stories within their heads and maybe even filmmakers for their work.

“Obsidian” has interesting ebb & flow, sounding like a video game gone haywire and then slows down in way that made me think of Hans Zimmer scoring a John Woo movie.  At the five-minute mark, the keyboard goes into Rick Wakeman-like mode, reminiscent to what the former Yes Keyboardist achieved in the movie The Burning.

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Daniel Davies, John Carpenter and Cody Carpenter in the studio

 

In the linear notes, John Carpenter says “Lost Themes was all about having fun.”  You can certainly hear pleasure on this album as the director/composer not only captures some of his signature sound but veers off into new directions.  He gets musical assistance from his son Cody Carpenter and Godson Daniel Davies.   Carpenter says, “the goal was to make his music more complete and fuller because they had unlimited tracks. “

There’s a grim finality to “Fallen.”  It definitely feels like someone has been defeated and beat down.  I like how a driving keyboard picks up the pace just two and a half minutes in and how the electric guitar gives the tune a boost of power.

There is an aura of an area being ruled in “Domain.”  The quicker guitar/keyboard melody that ventures in not only gives the track energy but a sense of humor as well.  The quick played keyboard riff that is played a third of the way is amusing.  There is some real creative keyboard work that is geared for the fantastic world of fantasy rather than horror.  Carpenter is getting a chance to explore new musical worlds.

There’s definitely something shrouded in “Mystery” that is not easy to figure out, but worth seeking the answer to.  I like the musical time change 2-minutes and 40-seconds in, when the tune gets darker and more serious.  The distorted electric guitar embellishes it further along with the screaming vibrato keyboard.

A dark, harmonious succession of notes leads you down into “Abyss.”  A keyboard pattern is complimented by the percussion.  It’s really cool hearing how the musicians grab a hold of the bouncing rhythm mid-way through and then ride it with the instrumentation that follows.

“Wraith” has a real engrossing beginning with what sounds kind of like calypso drums leading into hard-charging guitar.  In some ways this instrumentation makes me think of Tangerine Dream, whom I’ve always loved.  I know Carpenter is a fan of their work, especially the William Friedkin movie Sorcerer, so this wouldn’t be a far-fetched comparison.

It sounds as though “Purgatory” isn’t the happiest place to be with the sullen music representing this cue.  The steel guitar is reminiscent of what John Carpenter did with his Vampires score.

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The really high pitched keyboard notes towards the end reminded me of something you’d hear on the Fresh Aire series from Mannheim Steamroller.

“Night” features a dark, funky approach that isn’t scary but actively cool.  There’s a momentum that keeps rolling forward, pushing you through darkness towards the dawn.

The last six tracks are remixes of the five of the tracks listed above.

Zola Jesus (Nika Roza) contributes her earthy vocals to “Night” (Zola Jesus and Dean Hurley Remix) and Dean Hurley gives the tune a touch of his David Lynch-like sensibility.  There are some mad beats in “Wraith” (ohGr Remix).

Silent Servant (Juan Mendez) keeps his manipulation of “Vortex” (Silent Servant Remix) within the musical pocket John Carpenter had etched prior on this album.

(Blanck Mass Remix) of “Fallen” treads into trip-hop territory with cymbals and heavy beats leading the way.

My favorite remix track is “Abyss” (JG Thirlwell Remix) because the Australian Producer/Composer (also known as Clint Ruin, Frank Want among others) augments the Carpenter music in a way that it sounds like John Carpenter.  I could easily hear this rendition in Escape From New York or Escape From LA.  Sure it’s got beats and a mix of dance floor ingredients, but it stays the most true to the source.

The last track “Fallen” (Bill Kouligas Remix) is the most esoteric and least listenable of the lot because it’s just a jumble of all sorts of sounds spun around in an audio blender.

You don’t have to be a fan of John Carpenter’s movies to appreciate purchasing his first solo album.  With all of the listeners of electronic music, techno, trip-hop, chill out, ambient, rock-n-roll and of course film scores,  there is a world of people Lost Themes would appeal to.  Some of the tunes will get you from the get go, while others I’m certain will grow on you.

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There isn’t another film director alive that does what John Carpenter does as a composer.  We’ve got to stand up and celebrate the man’s considerable talent.  I’ve read that John Carpenter would be willing to take this music on the road with his son Cody and Daniel Davies if there was a demand.  I’m here to say I’d be there in a moment and I know for a fact there a legion of John Carpenter supporters who would join me.

Lost Themes is a special occasion for the listening world that should be enjoyed with vigor.

http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/products/sbr123-john-carpenter-lost-themes

http://johncarpenter.sacredbonesrecords.com/