Silent Running: 65daysofstatic

Behind their new soundtrack project...
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In what was meant to be a quiet year off, Sheffield based band 65daysofstatic have been busier than ever rescoring the cult classic Silent Running. With their tour coming to an end, the band sat down with ClashMusic to discuss the how the project developed, rom-coms, kettles and life after Silent Running.

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Does it make a nice change being able to do this Silent Running set rather than your own material?

65 DOS: It does, but to be honest we're itching to do some proper 65 DOS sets because it's been such a quiet year for us.

How many shows is it now then?

65 DOS: 5 or 6 I think, something like that. And we've got even more before the end of the year. We're really happy with it, but I think it’s a good time to start something fresh.

So you’ve been doing this for a year now, have you found anytime for your own 65 DOS material in between?

65 DOS: Not at all, we haven't played a 65 DOS set since touring the last record in Singapore. It was going to sort of be a year off, well not off, but quiet, but the Silent Running thing came about and it’s been a bit of an unexpected success that’s taken up most our time.

How did it come about in the first place?

65 DOS: It was about this time last year and the Glasgow film festival got in touch with us and said “we'd love you to play the film festival, would you like to soundtrack a film for us?” It was as open as that.

Was that an easy decision to make?

65 DOS: Well we’ve always wanted to do a soundtrack of some description, and that was the first real invitation to do one. So we watched a bunch of films and chose Silent Running, in part because the film kind of fit our style; but also because the way the soundtrack works in that film it was really easy to strip it off and keep the dialogue. We never wanted to just jam over a film, we wanted to still make it work as a narrative, like a proper soundtrack really, and it lent itself to that quite easily.

So did you like the original score from the film?

65 DOS: There are some really nice piano bits. We remember the first time we saw it, we was quite taken with it because it was so at odds with the film. But yeah, as we got more involved I think we began to see that it's not the finest soundtrack we'd ever heard.

It’s not a classic is it? You wouldn’t say it’s what makes the film a cult classic.

65 DOS: No, not really. Like when you think about Blade Runner or any John Carpenter movies, they’re really integral and powerful, which isn’t really the case with Silent Running.

Do you prefer your version?

65 DOS: I don't know... I guess our version has got more reference points to someone who is watching it now, because Sci-Fi genres are generally associated with synthesisers and cosmic guitars and stuff. Let's not say it's bad, I'm just not sure how comparable they are really.

So did you find the writing process more difficult than say when you’re writing your own album material?

65 DOS: Actually writing the music was easier in some respects than our normal work. It was nice to have something to hang everything on, because we wasn’t writing about ... well everything. Like if we were doing an album, we could go “right, we're writing about space here, or robots.” It was kinda easier to lean on the film and we knew it would work. But on the other hand, having to match the songs to the edit exactly was also pretty tough.

Does that mean that a lot of material went in the trash can from editing things to fit the film?

65 DOS: Well it was more...we really wanted to have it brilliantly in sync with explosions and stuff if that makes sense. We’d write a song and it'd be 10 or 20 seconds too long, so we'd either cut out parts of the cycle or speed it up a little bit so that the BPM would match that of the film. It was quite freeing in a way, because we didn't impose all the rules we sort of impose on ourselves for an album, and then the rules that were imposed by the film were just arbitrary song length. But in terms of the actual music we wrote, we didn't get rid of that much, because we weren't as precious.

Did you have the film in front of you when you was experimenting?

65 DOS: No, not really. Maybe we had it running in the background or something, but we’d already identified the kind of themes and things that we'd need, and then we kind of started with the beginning and the end. We make a lot of things like that, records, set lists. We kind of bear in mind how things start and how things end, because we’re trying to make them as memorable as possible rather than just walking on stage. And then some of it just came together like music does sometimes.

We’re guessing you never had a temptation to lay any vocals or harmonies onto it?

65 DOS: Not really, no.

Only the original soundtrack had one track on the end with some vocals from Joan Baez.

65 DOS: Well the thing is, we've got some vocals. Whenever a song has felt like it needed them, we've tried them and put them on there for a few of them. Most of time it feels like there's no space for them to be honest. It's like, it's really nice that people call our music cinematic, but I think that our albums wouldn't make great soundtracks for films because there's too much going on in them. They're too distracting. Soundtrack music has a better set of rules, and more space, and we're really doing a lot less on stage than we are in the live shows. That being the case, because we were aiming for that, vocals never really came into it because in our heads they're just one extra layer … and in any case, none of us can sing particularly well, or at least not in a Joan Baez kind of way.

Now that you mention it, not playing your own material, was it ever strange for the periods of time that you were on stage and there was either just the film playing or like a very light piano motif.

65 DOS: It was strange; but it's good for us to do that though. I think we're a band occasionally cursed by the need for everybody to do something. I think it's good for us to remember that music's not about that as a group, it's actually one person doing something and waiting for other things to happen.

We’re guessing that you’ve enjoyed the experience, would you like to write for films more often or was this literally a one off project?

65 DOS: I don't think that specifically rescoring things live is something we’d want to be doing more of; but we’d absolutely, love to start scoring films. I suppose the project is a bit like a show reel in a way, so hopefully someone will see it and say “do you think you could write music for a film that's not been made yet?”

If you went into that area, do you think you're best suited to sci-fi films or are there other genres that you'd want to try?

65 DOS: I think we'd try anything. We'd like to think we can ... well not rom-coms ... actually nah we’d try it.

Now for this project you made and sold your own noise box’s. Where did that all come from?

65 DOS: Well our bass player Si, he was...well...the term genius is thrown around a lot but he's somehow taught himself how to be a full electronics genius. He's fixed pedals that I've had broken for years that nobody knew how to fix, and at the same time he started designing and building his own synths and pedals.

Did he make it because he wanted to do it for the project or did you find that something was missing in the material?

65 DOS: I think it was made just for the love of things really and then it ended up getting used in the set and sold on?

And where did the idea come to sell these on to the fans?

65 DOS: Well we wanted to do something really special for the project and I mean there are only 10 of them, so they’re fairly unique, made in Si’s house of all places. It’s not that love and care hasn't gone into downloading the digital record, but it's a different idea now.

How do you mean?

Well you can be very cynical about that kinda ‘merchandise’ stuff. Obviously some bands go into huge lengths to do things that make their records sell, which is obviously some marketing person somewhere going “you need to capitalise on that huge advance we gave you years ago”. We just think there's like a food chain of people out there.

A food chain?

Yeah. Like there might be like a ground swell of people who might come to your shows and love the band, but aren't really interested in buying products anymore. Those people are probably some of your biggest fans, so you can't really criticise them for doing that. But there’s also a small amount of people at the top who really want to be a part of the band, and they want to buy these little treasures and I mean these noise boxes are a genuine thing that’s been made in a fallout from making the music. At the end of the day, it's not like we’re saying let's do mugs and kettles and crap.

Kettles?

65 DOS: It's the next step.

So after Kettles what’s the next step?

65 DOS: Well we’ve got all sorts of ideas of stuff, we're going to get Si to build a few things for the next record. Stuff that, as a guitar player, or someone who fucks with kit, you think “why doesn't stuff like that already exist?”. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

So does that mean that the next record is going to be a little bit more experimental?

65 DOS: Who knows. We don't really have many rules on what we can and can't do, because everything tends to get 65’d in the end.

But before Kettles you’re going to be releasing the rescore right?

65 DOS: Oh definitely. You’ll be able to buy it in the autumn.

Finally, how do you think you’ll feel when you finally put this project to bed?

65 DOS: Well when we started writing it we thought we were going to use remixes of our old songs. We certainly didn't think we were going to write 90 minutes of new music. So the fact that we have, and the fact that it’s entirely original material, there's no samples or anything, there's something quite nice about that. It's like the unexpected album we never thought we would make. So we’re quite proud of what we’ve done.

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Words by James Wright - @JamesWright_UK

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