Invasion of the Not Quite Dead - What's the Score

Happy Invasion of the Not Quite Dead day! To tie in with our big exclusive interview with film-maker AD Lane over on The DreamCage, here, film composer Daniel White tells us how he got involved in the future cult classic...

I have always admired the Independent Film Community, because it's just that, a community. When you work in Hollywood you have a job. You turn up, do your job and you go home. It's a kinda "cog in the machine" sort of deal. When you work on an Independent Film everyone mucks in, makes the tea, fetches and carries, and you have the chance to create something really special. I started working with AD Lane on his, now, 16 year long film project, Invasion Of The Not Quite Dead, as Head of PR and now I am writing about how I scored the film. Weird eh? But, to tell the story about how I scored the film I have to take you way, way back to a time when I totally and completely lost myself. Strap yourself in, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

The year my wife died was a really very dark time for me and the nights were some of the darkest I have ever known in my life. I wandered around Twitter like a lost soul and stumbled across AD Lane, a man on a crazy mission, and he was always awake when everyone else was asleep. Over the days, weeks and months, he would chat to me about his film and vision and, of course, horror films. We liked the same classics and hated modern day CGI ridden horrors that just didn't do it for us. It's fair to say AD kept me from going completely under and it is a bond that has forged our friendship into an unbreakable one. AD was also crowdfunding for his film at a time when it was all new and shiny, way before Indiegogo etc, and the idea of investing in exchange for perks, and even a part in the film, just sounded amazing. The Not Quite Zombie perk was a chance to actually spend a day as a made-up flesh-eating film dead thing and I jumped at the chance. From there, AD kept all the backers up to date with regular emails and one of things that really impressed me was that he never seemed forget the link between backers and the film. He still totally gets it and, sad to say, he seems to be in the minority as a lot of crowdfunded film makers conveniently dump their backers as soon as they have their money. However, I digress. Flash forward a few years and I find myself in a pub near Ashford to meet the man himself and I have decided to pitch to him the idea of a proper marketing campaign to get Invasion to its target audience.

AD Lane walks in to the pub and he is every bit the man I imagined. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt (AD ALWAYS wears shorts all year round,) his 'man from the wilds beard' is impressive but there is realness to his smile and I warm to him immediately. We talk about my ideas of how to promote Invasion ( I should explain that Whitescreen Promotions was an idea I came up with to promote Indie films on a no budget effectively) AD loves the idea and agrees to us working together, he invites me to the next shoot and my heart leaps as I realise that I will experience my first film set. That day will live in my memory forever. The detail is something for another article but the shoot was for a scene involving a very gory moment in the film and make-up artist extraordinaire, Kate Griffiths, was in her element. That day my bromance with AD began and we grew closer over the years that followed. Though WhiteScreen ultimately turned out to be something that was not commercially viable ( I do have Lidl's bills to pay after all) my relationship with AD went from strength to strength. We shared so much but in particular we shared a life long battle with mental illness. We have crawled through the mud together and I owe AD my life on more than one occasion. We have shared tears, laughter and anger and our friendship is one of the greatest in my life.

So why am I telling you all this? Simply, because to score a film, any film, you have to do a lot more than play notes and instruments. A film's scoring has to have an emotional pulse of its own, otherwise it's just a load of musical phrases and sounds. When you score a horror film you have to feel its darkness, its very terror in your soul and you have to translate that into music. Invasion had a composer but, months before the film was about to be completed, he dropped out. I was so outraged that I offered my sound-tracking services to AD and he agreed to my proposal - I had previously sound-tracked a couple of AD's shorts (pun intended) and I had a natural sense of knowing what he wanted. I have been composing since I was a young boy and I have always loved soundtracks. I have fond memories of borrowing soundtrack LP's from the library (yes I'm that old) and The Untouchables (Ennio Morricone) and Batman (Danny Elfman) captured my imagination. If you had told young me that I would one day soundtrack films myself I would have said you were insane. I am a synth player at heart but I also love big orchestral scores (Zimmer's work on Pirates of The Caribbean is simply astounding) but the problem has always been that big scores cost big bucks and so an exclusive soundtrack used to be restricted  to a big Hollywood film. Well not anymore! DW Film Composer was set up because, thanks to the huge progress in synth technology, it is now possible to offer big orchestral scores to a little or no budget Indie film. So here I was, about to get the chance to provide a score for Invasion, a film that I passionately believed in.

Now we get to the bit that actually was what I was asked to write about (sorry Susan) scoring Invasion. Josh White (Invasion's Director of Photography) said "Daniel is perfect for Invasion because he knows pain" and that is the underlying credo that the Invasion score is written to. AD has said that the Invasion score is "not beautiful" and even The DreamCage's illustrious leader has referred to my score as a "mind f*&^." This is absolutely intentional and I take both comments as massive compliments. 

To understand the score you have to realise that it frames the battle for mental health, the descent into bloody insanity and the roaring and overwhelming sound of distortion and white noise that threatens to wipe you from existence every day. Mental illness is nasty because it twists who you are and leaves you an empty husk, an almost not quite human. If the visuals of Invasion Of The Not Quite Dead scream with pain and loss then so does my score. I emotionally coloured my music with every moment of grief and searing loss that I have ever experienced. I felt every death, every broken promise and every betrayal. My score is deeply personal and it hurt to compose and so it should. Every score should cost the Composer everything, we lay our lives and indeed our very souls bare when we compose. Now that sounds like a load of trite melodramatic flimflam and yet, without that connection at an emotional level, you have a score that is not connected to the film. I personally hate it when music is included in a film just to cover silence. Horner knew the power of silence and would never chuck a load of music into a scene that was better served with nothing. Every moment of the Invasion score is there because it has to be and it is designed to disconnect the audience from the film. That is a very very dangerous thing to do as most film makers strive to connect with their audiences. AD's Invasion is, itself, a powerful portrayal of the disconnect that mental illness sufferers feel from their own lives and, by extension, so is the score. The mix of electronic synth score with orchestral is supposed to accentuate and indeed break up the flow of the music. The only recurring theme is the Invasion main one which sneaks in here and there. My first feature film score effectively allowed me to totally throw out the soundtrack playbook and take huge risks. AD has laid his life bare in making this film and I felt, as the film's composer, I could also offer nothing less. Both AD and I hope that listeners simultaneously love and hate the score because it is that conflict of opposing emotion that is so central to the film. 

Normally in an article like this a Composer would now walk you through a few tracks but I won't do that with my score. It would feel like me telling you what to see in a Van Gogh painting and I really want to know what you hear.

Working with AD on Invasion has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and learning how to translate what he hears in his head to music is something I will never grow tired of doing. Invasion Of The Not Quite Dead will stand as the start of an incredible relationship with an incredible man for me and it is something that brings me to tears when I recount this amazing journey. AD really wants to open up the conversation surrounding mental illness and I couldn't be more proud than to stand shoulder to shoulder with him. Whatever happens with Invasion I know that he has poured his heart and, yes, his crazy beardy insanity into a film that is as relevant now as it was when he started all those years ago. I am ready for the next one AD but the question is where will you take us next?

The soundtrack album for Invasion of the Not Quite Dead will be available for digital download from 23rd December, with the first single from the album out on 25th November. However you can hear a lot of the music tonight, as both Daniel White and A D Lane chat about Invasion of the Not Quite Dead in a Halloween Special radio show on Incapable Staircase Radio from 11:00pm.

Images - A D Lane/Invasion of the Not Quite Dead
Powered by Blogger.