INTERVIEW: Reverend Screaming Fingers
Photo credit: Michele Thomas
Hi Lucio, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been well, thanks and happy to talk with you.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “No Destination”?
It is the lead off tune from my latest collection of ‘Music for Driving and Film’ releases, which are based around music that has been used in film and also makes a good soundtrack for (and often inspired by) long drives – the windscreen being a movie screen of sorts.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
It was specifically written for a three screen desert landscape projection/installation piece by Joshua Tree landscape artist Diane Best. The three screens being the front and two side windows of a car, so this piece in a way perfectly exemplifies the concept of ‘Music for Driving and Film’. The installation itself is a twenty minute loop and contains three of my pieces (two from this volume and one from the first). It premiered a couple years ago at ‘The Joshua Treeniale’
Any plans to release a video for the single?
It is out already! It is a mix of sequences from Diane’s projection piece, with a very loose narrative based around my Reverend Screaming Fingers character, and a couple really cool – and slightly dangerous – desert landscape shots involving moving freight trains. You can see it here: https://vimeo.com/280747980
The single comes off your new album Music For Driving and Film, Vol. III – would you call this a continuation from the past volumes?
Absolutely. The first volume features shorter bits from a very fun short called ‘La Vie d’un Chien’ by John Harden. The second centers around music from a multiple 16mm projection piece, ‘NightSoil’ by The Overdub Club, which was brought to Sundance in 2003, and ‘Vol iii’ got it’s kickstart from Diane’s No Destination project. Like the first two releases, ‘Vol iii’ started as a compilation of music from several projects, but I decided that a more thematically cohesive record of music influenced by living, writing and recording in a desert landscape was what i really wanted to do. A number of very good tracks didn’t make the final cut, so it also represents a change in direction.
How was the recording and writing process?
It varied from recording solo guitar while looking out a big picture window onto a vast expanse of desert, a bit like live scoring, to full blown live studio sessions with charts. I usually write very quickly, often based around a simple idea or riff, which i then expand or refine. These days I am more inclined to rely on the synchronicity of a group of great musicians playing together in a room to bring these ideas to life than a more layered, laborious process. Together with the basic harmonic form, I often gave the musicians purposefully vague instructions such as “picture the bad guy cresting the hill at dawn and looking down upon the unsuspecting town below”, making slight compositional adjustments on the spot when needed to incorporate certain ideas.
What role does Joshua Tree play in your writing?
It has influenced it significantly, as have the innumerable miles I’ve driven across western landscapes, so it is a matter of head space. I have a theory about there being fewer molecules colliding out in great expanses, that everything moves slower or at least differently and that influences the proceedings. For instance, ‘Rattler Ranch’, the solo guitar piece i referred to earlier, is the original ‘demo’ recording. I simply could not capture the super laid back, out of time vibe of the demo in a studio environment. I needed to be in that environment to write it and possibly even play it that way.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else or scoring film rather than working on this solo side material?
I am not a traditional scoring composer, but my writing has almost always been visually inspired and I have worked with visual artists for many years. In almost every case, the visual artist has heard or likes my music or the general vibe and asks me to work with them (or I them) to achieve some kind of synchronicity. From there, I work alone and present ideas/demos. For example, a couple days before the full recording session for ‘No Destination’, i played a demo for Diane Best that I was quite happy with but she did not like at all. I significantly reworked the structure and feel and we both absolutely loved the result. It’s possible that I work best under pressure.
What film scores get to influence the music on this album?
I absorb things over time and they get into my work. I love dark foreboding sounds as much as richly melodic lines and love to juxtapose them with the manic and weird. Of course, Ennio Morricone, but also Angelo Badalamenti’s work with David Lynch (and others), Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer and anyone who scores a Jarmusch film. The tune “Funereal’ on ‘Vol iii’ is a direct homage to a piece of music that rocked my world when I heard it in the theater in 1995 – Neil Young’s solo guitar from Jarmusch’s ‘Dead Man’. I won a copy of soundtrack at the end of the screening based on my ticket number, so it was sort of destiny.
What themes did you get to explore on this record?
I wanted to feature the guitar more prominently and combine minimalist melodic themes with some epic improvisational passages. Pieces that conjured great expanses and movement, some with more urgency than others. Sound itself is a theme and getting great tone from the instruments gives the recordings a rich, balanced tibre. Acoustic instruments here, hammond organ there, etc. The double bass is prominent on this volume (every bass track but one) which is a significant departure from the last two. Normally, the material varies a bit more but I consciously avoided some of the more manic ‘city’like’ passages that I write.
Any plans to hit the road?
I have not toured this music much in the past and I hope to change that. This music thrives in the proper setting and I am really looking forward to a special two night run in Joshua Tree Nov 30 & Dec 1 with full band and film projections. This will be followed by a week of shows around CA in early December in a more stripped down form with my colleague Janie Cowan (Vera Sola) on standup bass. For 2019 I am planning to get to Europe as much as possible, starting with more solo & collaborative presentations in March/April of 2019, mixing this material with more of my improvisational and ‘experimental’ work. If anyone wants me get in touch!
What else is happening next in Reverend Screaming Fingers’ world?
I have been bringing together the composed and improvised sides of my work and I’m really excited about a bunch of new tunes I’ve written! My plan is to record and release much more frequently (every few months instead of years) in order to build up the library. It would be really really great to release the next album on a simpatico label because besides make booking and touring much easier, it’s great to be associated with great curators and artists who, despite a strange economic music landscape, keep on fighting the good fight!
Hi Leyton, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? I am very well thank you! …