THE LAZE relax in the mixing room of the Hurst Locker, multi-instrumentalist Rich’s own personal studio in their hometown of West Kirby. We’re archiving the interview through a studio microphone. It’s a fitting way to document the end of a development process that has lasted, in one way or another, for over a year.
Twelve months ago the band premiered their live soundtrack to the 1925 silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera at Liverpool’s Picturehouse cinema, in the arts hub of FACT. The sold out, one-night-only performance led to interest in a physical release of their score. Dave, Rich, Rob, Joe, Phil, Gareth and the absent Jouse have finally finished studio recording. On 31st October of this year, they will repeat the feat, once again at FACT.
“We chose Phantom for its mixture of horror and romance,” says Dave. “I admired Lon Chaney’s physical acting; he even did his own make-up. He was fully grotesque yet vulnerable, so versatile. We had wanted to soundtrack a silent film for a long time. We used to talk about maybe doing a Buster Keaton short, doing a comedy soundtrack; in fact elements of that are in Phantom, too.”
“One of the things that appealed to us,” says Rob, “is that within the film there are lots of different atmospheres. We like to play about with genres and atmospheres, rather than doing something that’s just dark throughout. We wanted to include the music we would be making anyway, rather than alter ourselves… we want it to sound like The Laze.”
When the soundtrack is released, it will be the group’s fourth long-player. Beginning with the ear-splitting funk of Keeping The Dream Alive, through Curse Of The Laze (which captured the songs that formed their set throughout their legendary Valhalla club night), the band’s last release was 2010’s Spacetime Fabric Conditioner, a Sci-Fi concept album. They’ve been remixed by Steve Moore, Forest Swords, Brontt Industries Kapital; and given a fair chunk of Wirral’s current crop of left field musicians their first gig experience, and much of their inspiration.
Thus, they came to the Phantom.
The band intone the name of the project as if it were an albatross, or the white whale. It’s clearly taken over a large part of their headspace for a considerable time. Where did they start? Everyone in the band has their own opinion. Dave acts as spokesman: “It took us three months to write, once we had the final edit of the film. We had ideas for single scenes prior to that, but it didn’t come together until the run-up to the performance last year. We’ve been working on other material but Phantom has strangled everything else. Once these dates are done, it’s finished.”
The film itself has had a notoriously complicated history of re-edits and re-scoring. The group were careful not to study any version too closely.
Rob: “Rick Wakeman did a version in 1990; the original cinema release has a soundtrack edited from a Schubert symphony. In a sense we’ve made ours self-referencing.”
Rich: “It’s leit-motif based. Like a Richard Strauss tone-poem. Even the dance section in the middle uses a motif from elsewhere. Rob wrote a Sarabande, like a Baroque dance suite – basically the mediaeval equivalent of Justice. But in 6/4.”
The Phantom will materialise in Hackney’s brand new Picturehouse on 1st November, before a mad rush up the motorway to grace the independent cinema chain’s superb Newcastle venue on the following night. The group have previously taken Phantom ‘out’ on occasion, for two sold-out performances in The New Continental in Preston. In truth, Horror and Science Fiction have ruled the band’s live act for some time.
“We took reference from lots of things, but there’s one soundtrack that ruled all: Dune. It has a motif which exists in almost every horror film. We played gigs in-between recording Phantom, covering music by Goblin, Carlo Maria Cordio, John Carpenter, newer stuff like Mr Oizo and Gaspard Auge’s Rubber. We screened Grindhouse classic ‘Pieces’ at the Kazimier last year, and played a set of Horror and Sci-Fi. We will be doing another set like this at Abertoir, a horror film festival in Aberystwyth on 11th November. Film soundtracks have probably been the greatest influence on the way we make music ever since we began doing it. In a sense, Phantom is the logical result of that.”
The Laze perform their live soundtrack to The Phantom Of The Opera at Liverpool’s Picturehouse at FACT on 31st October.