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An Interview with Kristian Day, Filmmaker and Composer

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2011

Kristian Day on (re)Search my Trash

 

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First of all, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who don't already know you?

 

My name is Kristian Day and I am a filmmaker and soundtrack composer from Des Moines, Iowa. I have been in the business for over four years starting with composing original music and sound for independent horror films such as 100 Tears and Mutilation Mile.

 

You are currently working on a documentary called Capone's Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye. What can you tell us about this movie?

 

During the prohibition era, farmers began making their own booze and were bootlegging in order to save their farms during those dark economic times. Although it was really only meant to supply booze to speakeasies in the surrounding counties, it caught the taste buds of the most famous mob boss, Al Capone.

 

What drew you to the project, originally?

 

Booze and Mobsters? Sign me up! I am actually a huge history nut. Especially history that I am not familiar with. A lot people donít want to talk about it as it was a very dark time in our nation's history. No one wants to admit they had any connection with this stuff.

 

How or easy/difficult was it to get all the relevant information and footage on the subject?

 

Well, I sent a press release out at the beginning of February announcing the project and invited people to email us their stories. We picked the ones we liked the most and got in contact. At every interview we would ask questions and some of the answers included names of other people who had been involved with the subject. We would contact those people and bring them on board. Thankfully, Templeton Rye is hot a subject in these parts.

 

Besides Capone's Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye, you are currently also working on a horror film - and call me a bad researcher, but I don't even know its title. So what's it called (tentatively) and what is it about?

 

Vessel. I have kept it pretty secret. Itís stars author and public speaker Frank Meeink (Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead) and actress Vanessa Giselle (from my short film Bird Seed). We shot in 2010 from March to September. I donít want to give anything away. But think if Cronenberg directed The Trip instead of Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here].

I showed the trailer on March 18th 2011 at a local a local gallery called Finders Creepers as part of the closing reception to my 4 Rooms Film Exhibit.

 


Doing the two back-to-back, what are the main differences between working on a documentary and shooting fiction, and how are you allowing your personal style as a filmmaker to shine through in both of them?

 

Honestly, I have to do both at the same time. I shot my documentary, Brent Houzenga: Hybrid Pioneer, at the same time I shot my upcoming feature, Vessel. On the business end of things, I have to have one film in pre-production, one shooting, one in post-production, and one currently screening. This is the life of an independent filmmaker. I donít have day job anymore. Itís the only way to keep business going.

On the creative end, I feel it helps me. There is a lot more pressure on me when I direct fiction, however I can be a lot more creative. I donít have as much pressure in shooting a documentary, however there really isnít a lot of room to make the rooms melt or have heads explode. There is also a huge learning experience with doing things like this that I can use with both styles.

 

Any future projects beyond those two films you want to talk about?

 

I am also directing a documentary called James Bearden: Man of Metal. Itís going to be a short film (29 to 48 minutes). Itís sort of a surreal approach to documentary, where I am actually collaborating with James Bearden on an artistic level vs treating him as a regular subject. Think of it as a mix of a Salvador Dali film and a Werner Herzog documentary.

The promo teaser it online now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IRLL7dcDnw.

 

You started directing shorts with such lovely titles as Dead Man Working, Body in the Dumpster and Wolf Tits: An American Superlative in 2008. What can you tell us about your early efforts and your free-form approach to filmmaking?

 

I was at a different place in my head back in then (and its only been 3 years). I grew up on horror and abstract music. So thatís where I started. Dead Man Working is a skeleton in my closet and I will never let it get out. It was the only time I ever worked on a 48hr Film Project. I didnít care for it one bit. There are so many restrictions and I realized that it really doesnít make you a better filmmaker, it just teaches you how to make a movie for the 48hr Film Project. The best thing that came from that was meeting make up and performance artist Patrick Boltinghouse. We have been working together every since.

 

Body in a Dumpster was attempted to be made when I wasnít ready. I admit that now. It was such a surreal experience. Our crew had a million things working against us: a 500 year flood, tornadoes destroying locations, and location managers not having their paperwork together. But itís not completely lost. Someday I will return to this movie complete it. Itís in a lot of ways a masterpiece in my eyes.

 

Wolf Tits: An American Superlative was the first film I made after college. Aaron Long (the man called Wolf Tits) is a very close friend of mine from my time in Colorado. I always wanted to put him in a movie as he is great on camera and is completely up for anything.

 

Any other of your movies you'd like to talk about?

 

I just did a short film exhibit at a local art gallery/horror boutique shop called Finders Creepers. I made 4 new short films and each of them had their own room. I then assigned an artist to each room to create up to 4 pieces that were inspired by each film.

It ran from February 5th through March 8th 2010. The films were The Process, I Lost You to the Beach, Animal, and Inside a House.

 

Browsing through your filmography, one can't help but noticing you have worked with actor Barron Christian quite a few times [Barron Christian interview - click here]. A few words about him, and how did you two first hook up?

 

Barron Christian is my closest friend. When I was in college I worked at gas station and he would come in to get soda. We just started chatting about movies and eventually I told him I was in school for music business and engineering. He was the one that pushed me into film. I originally had no interest in making films myself. I directed him on a class project where I had to make a 30 second radio commercial for Hersheyís Kisses. From there he told me that I needed to become a director.

Barron is an old Hollywood actor from the 60ís and 70s. Which is my favorite era for the industry. He has worked on a number of films including Star Trek VI, Navigator: A Mediaeval Odyssey, and A Story of Healing (1996 Oscar Winner Best Short Documentary). He is a lifelong friend and business partner.

 

Even before directing films, you left your mark on the film scene as a composer. What can you tell us about your approach to scoring films, and some of the films you have scored?

 

I made a lot of noise. When I was 15 I found an interest in broken instruments and worn out records. I loved how everything sounded disjointed and unprofessional. It reminded me of soundtrack of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Nothing was ever in tune, not to mention most of the objects used were not even instruments. To this day, I still feel that a-tonal sound has much stronger effect on an audience than conventional scoring. I also rarely used a computer except as a recording device and maybe a sequencer. A lot of people are making music entirely on a laptop and midi controllers. I donít care for that approach at all.

To date I have recorded soundtracks for Marcus Kochís 100 Tears (2007) [Marcus Koch interview - click here], Richard Terrasiís Am I Evil (2007), and Ron Atkinsí Mutilation Mile (2009). I have also had music/sound included on a number of commercials and industrials. For Mutilation Mile I got to experiment with an old EMS VCS3. A synthesizer with no keyboard, just a patchbay and joy stick. I had a homemade contact microphone that had a magnet attached on the end and could be submerged underwater. I had that thing plugged into the EMS VCS3 and I would feed it sounds of metal scraps, my dishwasher, radio signals, you name it.

 

How does composing for your own films differ from composing for other directors?

 

In my films, a lot of times the music actually comes first. I will be recording a sound or be using a loop and I will start to see visions of a movie in my head.

Sometimes directors will give me some guidelines which send into the right mental realms. Sometimes things can get a little convoluted.

 

You have also made music not intended for film soundtracks. Does your approach as a composer to music for its own sake differ from writing a film score?

 

I love strange and exotic music. I originally just wanted to be a recording artist/engineer and run my own label, but I didnít feel there was any real money to be made from it. But I still love to compose and it can be a real stress relief sometimes. I normally donít have a preconceived theme in mind as I would if it was for a film. If I am feeling good, my songs will have more structure. When I was recording my album Dub in Deep Red, I was mixing elements punk drumming with Martin Denny style lounge and Brian Enoís ambient textures. I was in great spirits. Now, when I am feeling very stressed and or angry I tend to strictly make noise.

 

How did you get into making music in the first place, how into making movies, and did you have any formal training in either?

 

I liked to make noises. Loud noises, weird noises you name it. I had some basic piano and about 3 months worth of guitar lessons. The rest just came from not knowing how to use tools I was using or using them different ways. It was actually Barron Christian [Barron Christian interview - click here] who pushed me to start sending my work to filmmakers. The rest is history.

 

Musicians who influence your work?

 

There have been a lot. Everything from the early avant garde guys to some very southern rockers.

The ones you can hear clearly: Boyd Rice (Non), Brian Eno, Merzbow, Martin Denny, early Skinny Puppy, Throbbing Gristle, Ennio Moricone.

Not so clearly: Frank Zappa, Roky Erickson, Dick Dale, Link Wray, Sigur Ros, early Misfits.

 

Directors who inspire you?

 

Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Goddard, and Sergio Leone. Films by these men have had huge affects on me.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Once Upon a Time in the West. This is the greatest film ever made in my eyes. I can talk about it for hours.

Others: Clean Shaven, Holy Mountain, Hour of the Wolf, Crash (Cronenberg), No Country For Old Men.

I have worked on a number of horror films, but to be honest they are not a the top of my list. I love westerns and films that show the beauty of desolation. Documentaries are also at the top of my list.

 

... and of course, films you really deplored?

 

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Most of the current independent horror that has been coming out. There is a lot of garbage getting released and not selling. People need to realize that it's not the 1980s anymore. Sure those films were fun but those same tactics donít work today.

Also, most of the remakes that have come out are pretty terrible, but I am just agreeing with everyone else.

 

Your website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

www.kristianday.com

http://www.imdb.me/kristianday

http://www.twitter.com/kristianmday

http://www.facebook.com/people/Kristian-Day/502793459

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have just forgotten to ask?

 

I just had an album released through my label Left Hand Records, itís called Ambient Martyr: Selected Works of Kristian Day It has music recorded over the last ten years including my first radio single, early sound experiments, and a even a live track. 18 Tracks.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ambient-martyr-selected-works/id424901705

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Tršume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natŁrlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
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