For the first Saturday of the last month of 2011 I opted to hole up in the flat and re-capture some energy from what has been a very busy and stressful two weeks: illness and and the tasks and co-ordination exerted into the preparation of moving to a new flat as well as preparing a new EP in the new year require focus and attention right up to the moving date and then five days after Lyle and myself travel back to Canada to experience the old homeland in the dead of winter. It should be a wonderful, reflective time.
Perhaps there’s a sense of wonder and nostalgia lately. And it would certainly be present upon viewing of a feature from Japanese television about the macabre Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger. Although I’m never one to get to super die-hard fan status, Giger’s work has come and gone from focus in my lifetime, probably first discovered when I was a youth in the 80s through random science fiction magazines like Omni, battered VHS covers and album artwork — Perhaps I connected because the aesthetic and motives for his artworks very in tune with some of my own aesthetics and viewpoints on the human race — alienation, over-population, the “cog in the machine” viewpoint and sort of the dark, um, sexuality of it all. Although somewhat macabre and terrifying many of his paintings have a sublime beauty and oddly a sense of calm (more so on the more abstracted landscapes).
Around a decade or so I had a brief stint, unschooled, with painting. There was some influence of that school of work albeit in a far more primitive, expressionist style. I’ll have to post some of that as I’ve pulled those items from out of three years of storage. We’ll save that for another time and get back to the documentary.
Opening up with a dark forest setting and a typeface worthy of 1970s psychedelic journey to Middle Earth, the documentary already moves in a more experimental direction with the deep space synthesizer sounds apparently provided courtesy by members of the kraut/prog group Brainticket. These druggy musical soundscapes lay a timeline to drape still fades of a great number of Giger’s painting from his Necronomicon series, many already familiar to those who may only have a passing interest in the artist.
What made this film odd I found was the candid nature of Giger’s narrative (in this case, done by a burly voiced American sounding bass-y and somewhat wooden) overlapping footage of domestic aspects of Giger’s life; including hoovering his Siamese cat, serving guests what appears to be lasagna in his garden, brushing his teeth, etc.. The list goes on. It makes for somewhat of a naïve but interesting contrast to the landscapes found in his paintings. Giger’s thoughts and musings on his artwork and philosophy come across quite naturally and seem to be uninhibited as to what others will think.
In addition there’s also some interest inside from some very jet-setting “Euro” patrons, explaining their attraction to his artwork. I certainly think that the pacing of this “feature” is of one that you wouldn’t really see in today’s “cut to the chase” style of television feature. The slow pacing I think adds to the epic feel of consciousness in the artwork.
Anyway, don’t take my word for it. You can view for yourself below. Switch on the lava lamp, get a fondue nice and heated in an earthware crockpot and kick back…
Thee third and final promotional video for the track “You’re Not Around Here” as been done for the No Longer Stranger EP, for which there will no longer be made any promotional videos for. Thanks to MM Lyle and Greg Allan for their assistance on this project.
Further videos for this EP can be found in the VIDEO section or on the Soft Riot YouTube account here.
Also thanks to those who had come out to the recent London shows. It’s now back in the studio preparing and finishing tracks for the upcoming “Another Drone In Your Head” EP and writing new material. Next show will be the opening party for the London Underground Film Festival, for which you can find more information here. More information on the opening party can be found here.
SOFT RIOT “You’re Not From Around Here” Promotional Video
And then it would continue as something like this:
“…the world has been totally annihilated by nuclear war and man’s greed. The earth’s surface has become an arid and scotched desert of sand and ash. Civilization has deteriorated into bands of nomadic warriors…”
And this would be said in a somber and serious sounding overdubbed narration, perhaps with a bit of reverb, over panning shots of some deserted ruins and skeletons crumbling in husks of eroded automobiles. This would be accompanied by some drone-y, ominous synthesizer music with some weird arpeggiated synth blips. From that point onward the film would be a lot of modified, menacing looking vehicles, men and woman running around sweating in leather or weird, fetishistic armour and less emphasis on acting (especially of the “method” style) and more upon thrills and visual eye candy.
The 1970s ushered in this heightened interest in film making; from more desolate films such as Silent Running, Dark Star, Logan’s Run and more notably Death Race 2000 and then towards the end of 70s and early 80s more popular sci-films that reached more of the general public consciousness such as Stars Wars, Alien, Bladerunner, Mad Max and even Disney’s Black Hole. These films varied in style and tone: some following more a dreamy-eyed post-Barbarella style of fantasy-fiction and others far more dystopian, gritty, and even terrifying.
But one common thread that seems to run between all of them is that they seem to run off the plot line of a Western film: one man/woman (or small group) in a struggle against a larger and corrupt governing body. In a film like Bladerunner it follows more closely the aesthetic of a 40s/50s detective/crime film than anything else, riffing on classic themes that have run through many ages of human storytelling.
Mad Max was a bit of blockbuster in the sub-genre of “post-apocalypse” films and it’s two sequels even seemingly more of a mainstream success. It combined sci-fi and Western and sort of a gritty “punk” aesthetic plus had a lot of car chases and explosions like a lot of action films that seemed to pop up in the 1970s that attracted a lot of different types of viewers.
I remember when I was younger that Mad Max wasn’t the only film such as this and there was an onslaught of dystopian science fiction in the early to mid 1980s. I think the home video cassette player (whether you were VHS or BetaMax) had a lot to do with this. It also almost seemed quite cheap to do such a film — high budget FX films were there in the wake of Star Wars and other such films but even the maverick film-maker could get permission to film in some gravel pits, dress up a bunch of B-list actors in leathers and metal plates, give them a few one-liners and then race them around shooting un-convincing laser guns at one another. You’d then get someone to edit it and the someone with a synthesizer to drone over top of the whole thing.
This whole school of film came up in my life recently, mainly in conversation outside of clubs and over a few drinks. There was a film called Cherry 2000 that came out in 1987 that I had mentioned, starring a then up and coming Melanie Griffith. I hadn’t seen it since I was young and after viewing some clips again more recently it was quite a crap film, and a very misogynist one at that. The premise involves a post-apocalyptic future where a bunch of sad men slobber after busty female “love” robots and one particular sad man accidentally short circuits his in bath tub during a hot and steamy snog. The rest of the film involves this guy hiring a female “tracker” played by Griffith who, with the use of rocket launchers and guns against a band of sweaty dudes in armoured vehicles, seeks out the originating factory of these robot women in the desert to get our sad man protagonist a replacement for his robo-lady. Pretty close to B-rated, or even C-rated?
But that wasn’t the only one — at least that I could remember — and I slowly uncovered in this modern internet age a whole slough of B-rated “dystopian” post-apocalyptic sci-fi/adventure films all from the general time period. Riding off the backs of their more successful role model films couldn’t be the only inspiration for this phenomenon. It was the height of the Cold War after all in the late 70s to mid 80s and technology was starting to become more and more prevalent in consumer electronics: home computers and other such gadgets. The futurism of popular music and culture at the time was very prevalent. The soundtracks to most of these films are one of the few things that actually sound strange and interesting, relying mostly on synthesizers and taking elements from the disco, electro, and soundtrack-oriented styles that were popular at the time.
There’s a great number of films out there but here’s a scaled down presentation of some wonders I’ve found. Looking at them all they somehow fail to meet their ambitions in terms of substance and believability but at the same time looked like they might have been incredible fun to be involved in: running around like some rejected nightclub attendee in a wasteland and delivering the one liners left right and center…
CHERRY 2000 (1987)
The offending specimen that was mentioned earlier. In my gap of watching this from a young kid to a cynical, discerning adult (with convictions no less) it really hasn’t aged well.
EQUALIZER 2000 (1986)
This one looks a bit dated by about three or four years so that really indicates the sparse budget this one was on. This is Part 1 of 9 of the clip on YouTube. The opening soundtrack and voice-over narration are fantastic and a sort of “stereotype” of the genre. A lot of films of this ilk seem to have “2000″ or “3000″ added as a suffix to a title. This sort of naming convention is usually reserved for consumer products. Oddly enough, there’s a restaurant near my flat called Curry 2000 that I always jokingly refer to as “cyber-curry”.
2019, AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK (1983)
This is the intro clip to the film and is more of the same: voice over describing the tragic events leading up to the downfall of civilization coupled with panning shots of the aftermath of nuclear war.
A MAN CALLED RAGE
A pattern is developing…
WARRIORS OF THE YEAR 2072 (1984) or NEW GLADIATORS
One of the great Italian director Lucio Fulci’s forays into dystopian sci-fi. It seems like there’s a lot of Italian made films in this category. Amazing intro song that around the 30 second mark of the clip almost sounds like “To Cut A Long Story Short” by Spandau Ballet.
And this clip, isolated from the film, is priceless (good music too!)
THE NEW BARBARIANS (1982)
The trailer for this is ridiculous as there’s a grouping of these films that seem to be mindless shoot ‘em up movies with awkward looking costumes. Usually there’s a plot but it’s as simple as “we’ve got to get the water supplies from the bad guys”.
More shoot ‘em style. Apparently this director, Cirio H. Santiago, is the king of Mad Max rip-off films and this is one of them.
…and more post-apocalypse action…
EXTERMINATORS IN THE YEAR 3000 (1983)
…and MORE!!! And you wonder where Michael Bay gets all of his ideas. The quality control of this film is reflected by the blatant typo in the film title opening shot.
AMERICA 3000 (1986)
Adding a little slapstick, below-the-belt comedy and sexuality into the mix. Uh…
METAL STORM : THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN (1983)
This one is a bit of an anomaly as it takes place on another planet but the premise is still the same.
In my time picking out some of the clips above, I came across a few other gems; not necessarily in the same mold but fitting of the subject matter nonetheless.
Sort of like a Bladerunner-type film with time travel involved. Some 80′s actors and actresses you might recognize including a young Helen Hunt.
A European sci-fi film starting the always intense Klaus Kinski on the subject matter of man and robotics.
WARRIORS OF THE APOCALYPSE
To wrap up this whole thing, I thought a fitting end would be an epic “eye laser” battle. Wow.
Here are fifteen photos taken sometime between two months ago and now. They were picked on impulse for a collective sense of collective aesthetics. It is also my birthday. The amount of photos as per the title equal 0.46875 of my birthday. Sometimes, I enjoy math.
I have a good number of notebooks littered with these things: random scribblings jotted down when I’m really only half thinking about them. They’re usually found in pages of actual, functional notes and itemized lists; tucked away into page corners or in between lines. I’ve been doing this for activity of what I guess we could call “automatic writing” for years and when I have the chance to look back on them when flipping through a notebook some of them seem almost genius in their fractured flow and others just don’t seem to make any sense at all — some are even entertainingly funny.
I can recognize some of the writings as random cuts out of a conversation or a train of thought that I was running in my head at the time. Some of these were writing during some half-aware phone conversations, most of them of a business/work nature. Others are random bits of lyrics that I cycle through my head as I build a melody and probably some loose method of recording those words in a more permanent manner.
Anyway, this is a first installment of a possible series of entries called “It’s Automatic” — pulling and analyzing these weird little bits of prose in cluster of their own. This particular group is from a thick (30mm) ring binder of A4 notepapers I have at work, dated from June 2009 until now, usually intended for the documentation of phone numbers, design specifications, to-do lists, and other trivial calculations…