In our next Artist Interview, we chat to Ellizabeth Bernholz (Gazelle Twin) and Max de Wardener about their work together on the soundtrack to The Power.
How are you both doing today?
EB: A bit frantic! Last day of school term today, so I’m trying to get as much as possible done before we have two weeks of Lego building and snack making.
MDW: Yes, the usual juggle of family and work!
Max and Elizabeth, talk us through the development of ‘The Power’ soundtrack, and what it means to you?
EB: It was a really enjoyable, and detailed process of development beginning with some early demos in 2018, and shaping things over a couple of years, working together to build a very complex sound world for the film. I found it really fascinating to work on it with Max. I’d bring my electronic weirdness and he brought a more classy, classical compositional approach. I think it’s a great combination and works brilliantly with the picture.
MDW: I’m used to working alone, so being a team was good fun and enabled us to push further into ideas and experiment more. We decided quite early on to keep the palette small, which hopefully gave the score cohesion as well as a more claustrophobic feeling. Elizabeth has as deft touch at avoiding the obvious and was able to create incredible sounds and textures often purely with her voice, which was very inspiring to work with and meant we could do so much without recording lots of musicians.
You describe it as a long-haul thrill, what were some of your favourite experiences building the soundtrack?
EB: Yes, it was a lot of fun. Max would send me bits to sing over or add some electronic production to, and vice versa, and then we’d take turns in distorting them and bending them out of shape to see what would happen. We made a huge amount of recordings in total, there is so much music that actually didn’t make it to the cut but it was essential to refine it because so much of it was pure experimentation.
MDW: A lot of the film is shot in the dark so we tried to find ways to make the music feel ambiguous. If anything was too clear or shiny it got further processed or dismantled. Elizabeth had brilliant ways of flipping the gender of her voice, as well as obscuring words which added to this idea of making things uncertain and unknown.
You went to the derelict wing of Goodmayes Hospital to record, any spooky stuff happen?
EB: The night before we went, I had a dream there was a ghost of a nurse at the hospital. I had not spoken to Max before about the place at all. Then, when we were on our way there in the Uber I told him my dream and he said that crew had been experiencing weird things and that night security were hearing footsteps behind them! Maybe Max will elaborate as I still don’t know the full story. I don’t think we picked up any nurses or footsteps but when we recorded a squeaky hospital trolley it gave out the most amazing melody of squeaks that ended up featuring heavily in the score.
MDW: The film was shot in the derelict part of the hospital but as half of it was functioning there were various spooky stories circulating, one of which about a male patient who puts his hand on your shoulder in the middle of the night. I also heard about a ghost matron who still is doing her rounds which of course made Elizabeth’s premonition fairly chilling!
Did you get any direction from Corinna Faith on how to approach any part of the soundtrack?
EB: Yes lots. Corinna wanted us to develop the music before the shoot had even begun. I had the script very early on, and the themes she had built were very heavy and rich with possibility for voice as well as electronics and lots of emotion too. ‘The Well’ was a song that I had left over from writing my album, Pastoral, that I never finished, and it became part of the film quiet early on. It had just the right mood.
MDW : Along with the script there were wonderful mood boards which were really inspiring. There were lots of images of reflections in those boards, so early on we worked on music that might correspond in some way, often through musical delays where the sound eroded or bent through each repetition.
What’s next for the both of you?
EB: I’m trying to write a new album for next year, and have a few collaborative projects happening over the next 2 years. As long as we don’t need to keep locking down for the rest of the year, I should be able to manage it.
MDW: I’d love to do more music with voice after working with Elizabeth. It was a real eye opener as to the possibilities.
You can buy the soundtrack here: https://lnk.to/YJw2DKN6