Friday, 3 January 2014

#31. Earthquake In A Cinema

Matt Neal: guitar, programming, organ, keyboards.

Written and produced by Matt Neal.
Written and recorded June 3-14, 2003 in Studio Study-o, Warrnambool.
Mixed by Matt Neal.
Additional mixing by Brendan Hoffmann.



My knowledge of electronic music is pretty limited. My good friend Gus Franklin introduced me to The Chemical Brothers one hazy night in 1998 and that blew my mind quite a bit. Strangely, prior to getting my brain blown by Dig Your Own Hole, I was already making electronic music but without any real idea of what the hell I was doing. I was just making noises (which is how some people would probably describe electronic music anyway).


Fast forward five years - to 2003 - and I was trying to do something a bit cleverer than just making noises. In the meantime, I had listened to a lot more electronic music and had learnt a lot more about music in general. I still didn’t know exactly what the hell I was doing, but I felt like I was getting better.

This particular piece is called Earthquake In A Cinema because it was a) predominantly influenced by a couple of movie soundtracks and b) it made my speakers rumble in a probably-not-good way for a long time until I could figure out how to mix it properly, hence the "earthquake" bit.

The Doctor: making speakers rumble since 1996.

The two soundtracks in question are from The Matrix and Spawn. I spent pretty much a whole summer with an ex-girlfriend listening to The Matrix soundtrack again and again in ’99-’00 (we also flogged The Chemical Brothers' Come With Me and Massive Attack's Mezzanine, furthering my electronic education). There are two key tracks from The Matrix that I was influenced by/trying to emulate/accidentally ripping off.


The first is Rob Dougan’s Clubbed To Death (I think he was just listed as Rob D on the CD tracklisting). That ominous rising bass synth (0:25), the combination of two different beats (0:44), the great mood-changing breakdown (1:31), and much of the song’s dynamic flow are the key things I was gunning for/borrowing. It’s a great track and feels very cinematic, in a late ‘90s kind of way. I was sufficiently impressed by it to check out his one and only album Furious Angels (2002). Apparently he makes wine these days.

The other track is Spybreak! by Propellerheads. I love their one and only album Decksandrumsandrockandroll and from Spybreak! I attempted to pinch the groove and the spy-theme style riffs. I kinda wished I’d put a bassline in Earthquake In A Cinema (there’s no bass guitar at all in the song) but if I had have done that, I probably would have ended up ripping off the bassline in Spybreak! somehow.


As for Spawn, well, it’s a terrible fucking movie based on a wicked comic book, but the awesome soundtrack was a game-changer because it paired hard rock and metal bands with electronic artists – something that was almost unheard of at the time. So we got some killer combinations – Filter and The Crystal Method, Metallica and DJ Spooky, Silverchair and Vitro, Tom Morello and Prodigy to name a few. I particularly dig the Filter/Crystal Method collaboration. Coincidentally, this song was used on the trailer for The Matrix.


Earthquake In A Cinema was one of the first times I’d tried blending the electro stuff I’d been messing around with over the previous five years with the heavier sounds of my band at the time (21st CenturyOx) and the majority of the music I listened to. I reckon the Spawn soundtrack had a bit of influence on doing that.

Strangely, this song was a bit of a throw-together from the only instruments I had lying around in my makeshift studio at the time. As a result, all the guitars on the song are acoustic. They’re just run through various filters to make them sound distorted or whatever. And as I didn’t have a bass guitar I made do with an old organ that a mate gave me for nothing – he’d been delivering furniture to an old lady’s house and she’d asked him to get rid of the organ for her. It was a great organ, with little levers to adjust the sound and bass foot pedals. Unfortunately it’s been living in a barn at my parent’s place for the past six or seven years so I have no idea if it still works. Here’s hoping.

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