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INTERVIEW: Teeth Of The Sea
Ed Ledsham , February 28th, 2014 12:32

We talk to the band's Jimmy Martin about their upcoming musical interpretation of Nineteen Eighty-Four

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For the upcoming CineGlobe festival, Teeth Of The Sea are set to perform a live audiovisual interpretation of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four at CERN in Geneva on March 20 (head here for further details and tickets). It follows their album Master last year, one of the Quietus' top records of the year, as well as a number of live soundtrack projects the band have taken up previously, scoring Doomsday, 2001: A Space Odyssey and, most recently, A Field In England, at the 2013 Cork Film Festival, with the latter set for release for Record Store Day. The band are again collaborating with their visual partner Benjamin Barfoot for the CineGlobe set, which will mark 30 years since the book's eponymous date. We asked guitarist Jimmy Martin to fill us in on the project:

What made you choose to score a book this time around? What made you choose to soundtrack Nineteen Eighty-Four?

Jimmy Martin: Nineteen Eighty-Four's cultural cachet is so enormous that I'm not sure if we felt we were scoring the book per se. Although it sounds a bit arrogant, we always knew what we did would be informed by other versions and adaptations of the book in a sense, but in terms of steering clear of them we wanted to go back to the central themes of the book and re-invent them anew. There's a universal impact to Nineteen Eighty-Four, and I think we felt like we wanted to get that across in the most brutal, unflinching way possible. Obviously the nature of the proposal was very exciting to us too, not least because of the venue, and it was nice to have another challenge thrown at us so soon after the A Field In England – Re-imagined soundtrack project. It's our nature as a band to bite off more than we can chew!

And how do you begin the composition process for a project like this? Were you inspired by either of the film adaptations of 1984 whilst composing?

JM: We've definitely been inspired by the 1984 version of Nineteen Eighty-Four in particular. I think that's a great adaptation for a whole load of different reasons, John Hurt and Richard Burton are incredible in it in particular, and the art design and austere aesthetic just convey the book beautifully to me, against considerable odds. It's quite an intuitive process really. Although we've sketched out a basic structure in advance and talked it through, a lot of what actually transpires is just based around improvising then editing those sessions together and jettisoning the bits that don't work. There's definitely a hive mind kind of effort to sum up a particular atmosphere and impact though. It's been exciting watching this thing evolve and take shape, almost of its own free will.

How did the idea of soundtracking films first come to mind? Was there one particular artist or event that inspired it?

JM: We've always loved soundtracks. I've been a fan of them personally since I was only a kid first getting into music (although I think the very first one I liked, for better or for worse, was Mark Knopfler's one for Local Hero). More recently though, artists like Ennio Morricone, Goblin, Tangerine Dream and Angelo Badalamenti have had an enormous impact on Teeth Of The Sea's music. We've got a definite aesthetic in terms of what films we enjoy as a band (not always good films, I might add) so it was a natural step for us to jump at the chance to do projects like this. The first soundtrack project we worked on was the Reaper piece for Branchage Festival in Jersey in 2011 which was based around Neil Marshall's Doomsday. That was such an incredible amount of work and such a high-maintenance conceit in the first place, plus a blast to pull off, that it was something of a baptism of fire for us, and set a precedent for what's followed.

Will you be attempting to incorporate the setting at CERN into your performance at all?

JM: I think we all feel like it's a perfect venue, but to be honest I've only really seen photos thus far, so lord knows, frankly! If we're dwarfed by it, I'm sure that would tie in with the book's theme of the subjugation of humanity in some spurious fashion.

Finally, you've been busy of late with Master, the Field In England soundtrack and now The Last Man - what else have you got planned for the year?

JM: As I mentioned, we're always looking for more trouble to get into. The Field In England – Re-imagined soundtrack's coming out on a limited vinyl run for Record Store Day, which I'm really excited about as it's a beautiful package. Rook Films and Jim Williams were very helpful with arranging it, and Johnny O from Rocket excelled himself with the sleeve design. We're doing a load of festivals, all of which we're looking forward to, and I'm sure we'll be writing new material and generally trying to strike our usual precarious balance between laughable pretentiousness and Neanderthal rocking-out.