Blade Runner, Terminator, Alien, 12 Monkeys and The Fifth Element will come to life when five local supergroups present their 25-minute original scores at 8 p.m. Saturday on the Ruins stage for Sci-Fi Fest.
If you missed the announcement two months ago, King Camel’s Jeff Brown put together a lineup of diverse Dallas musicians who have never played together, teamed up each group with a visual artist and tasked them to create five multimedia performances for his favorite sci-fi films.
“This is a one-time only music/sci-fi bonanza,” Brown says. “I've had the chance to hear a song or two for a couple bands, and I can say without any doubt that people's ears will be treated to a serious treat. Our visual artists have also been working with the bands a lot, so you're going to see some really dope art to add to a complete immersion of sci-fi art love.”
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to organizing a show like this. In the early stages, keeping the bands together presented its own set of challenges.
“It was kind of intimidating at first because I didn’t know any of the people in my group until some members dropped and Jeff had to put new member [Stephanie Burns of Lizzie Boredom]," explains Sub-Sahara drummer Alex Mireles of the Alien band.
For him, just seeing a familiar face created a smooth vibe, making it “awesome to see what kind of music and sound you can create with other people,” he said.
For Loafers guitarist Taylor Smith of the 12 Monkeys band, creating an original score was more a lyrical than a musical endeavor. Smith says he's not sure if the style of music his group created, which he has dubbed “Circus Groovecore,” fits the film.
“We just threw out keywords and phrases that we liked and ran in that direction," Smith says. "Like maniacal, chaos, frantic, etc.”
Other bands took a more organic approach to creating the music for their assigned films. Dead Mockingbirds guitarist and vocalist Kenneth Pritchard of the Blade Runner band says, “For this band, it was much more improvisation than any other I've worked with in Dallas, and it reminded me very much of my days in the Chicago free jazz scene.” He says the style will be “post-electro or noise EDM — all instrumental.”
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By contrast, the style came more naturally for Pritchard’s Dead Mockingbirds bandmate, Matthew Crain, who will lend his talents to the Terminator band.
“From the start, we were pegged as the heavy band,” Crain says, because the band's lineup also comprises Hunter Moehring of Sealion, Kevin Adkins of Upsetting (formerly known as Teenage Sexx) and Brandon Hoffman of Fogg. “I think by default that we will ultimately live up to that expectation, but I also wish to be the most dynamic band as well.”
Ultimately, getting to work with new musicians allowed band members to push their music a bit outside their comfort zone and look forward to new possibilities.
Bargoyles drummer Adam Locklear of the Fifth Element band says he's never had the chance to play with someone like Rickey Kinney of Squanto.
"He's so active with his synthesizers and digital toys, and he's constantly layering sounds, so that was fun and, at times, challenging," Locklear says. "It was a blast. Wouldn't be surprised if that turned into a collaboration in the future.”
In addition to what is sure to be an incredible set of musical performances, there are original contributions from some of the city's most innovative visual artists.
Robert Knott from the Fifth Element team calls his style barrage editing.
"I chop and loop fragments of the film," Knott says. "It is solely based on the rhythm of the action on screen. I have no music as a reference, but the video tends to look like it is synced up because your mind will try to make the two parts fit together.”
On the other hand, Schmeckelhead’s Jim Branstetter, who will be both playing in and doing the visuals for the Alien band, says his team's music and visuals came together at the same time.
"The visual content is a collaboration between the other members of the Alien band and me," he says. "We broke it down into different segments that would evoke a specific emotion for both the music and visuals.”
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Evan Henry from the Blade Runner team says his style of abstract pattern generation will incorporate elements both staged and improvised.
“Going into a live gig, I'm already familiar with the act," he says. "We're generally already friends, and I'm exclusive to them for the evening.
“I have a copy of Blade Runner on VHS that I plan to process with the system and fade into and out of certain elements from the film itself,” Henry continues. “Generally what happens, though, is that new patterns emerge from complex patching. … I have no idea what to expect, so nothing is informed of a past element. It could be total noise, irrational experimentation or anything in between.”
Sci-Fi Fest is certain to be an epic event built on a fearless pursuit of artistry and experimentation. In this celebration of all things science fiction — a genre that explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations — the fallout may be, as Smith says, “to take your perception of reality and throw it away.”