Image from Haxan
Gateshead’s Old Police House excels at hosting experimental art and music-based events. With a cultural community at its heart, the venue is spearheaded by musicians Mariam Rezaei and Adam Denton, who between them produce such weird, wonderful and bafflingly cool events that their output is enough to make even the most creative of DIY-ers quiver in awe.
Their recent partnership with Newcastle Castle on a series of silent film events has added yet another string to OPH’s bow, with the Collective adding aural texture to silent horror films. “OPH Collective is a mixture of visual artists and musicians who have naturally joined forces to make things happen.” Mariam explains. The Collective counts a multitude of creatives amongst their numbers, including Mariam and Adam themselves, alongside Mariam’s fellow FUQ cohort and Pentecostal Party one-woman hit machine Dawn Bothwell, OPH resident DJ Mark Wardlaw (aka Forest of Eyes), artist, author and musician Ant Macari and guitarist and DJ Ian Adams. It’s a gang that all the cool kids want to join too, with such local luminaries as avant-garde musician Richard Dawson, Alt-Vinyl main-man Graham Thrower, improvising musical chameleon Jamie Stuart, producer and UK DMC finalist DJ Beast Box and NewBridge Bookshop’s Kuba Ryniewicz all honorary members of the OPH team.
If there is one thing to expect, it is the unexpected; we have a taste for the punk, noise and absurdity
Mariam’s an old hand when it comes to film scores, having worked on several collaborations in the past. “I like to work with musicians in an open and honest rehearsal room. We discuss ideas and every film and ensemble of musicians have different thoughts.” She says about the process. “The ‘composition’ of a structure to a film soundtrack can be attributed to me in most cases, however the content and authorship of the music belongs directly to every individual musician involved. Some groups like to compose thematic material that is played and manipulated by everyone, some like to stick to particular keys and harmonic structures whilst others simply want to be attributed to a particular character in a film and sway between making sound effects and playing a direct narrative of a character.”
Mariam admits that horror and experimental genres are a favourite for the group. “The easiest films for us to work with would be weird and experimental silent films, simply as this is our comfort zone. Challenges for us can be as simple as seeing each other and how we will communicate with each other in a dark room in front of an audience. We all have our own challenges as musicians and, for me, sometimes it’s just knowing when to sit back and let others play.”
The Collective’s next film foray comes in the form of a live soundtrack to Häxan, a Swedish-Danish silent film by Benjamin Christiansen from 1922 which explores witchcraft, demonology and Satanism, screening in the Castle Keep’s eerie Great Hall on Sunday 27th November. Cases of ‘real-life’ witches are explored, alongside scenes of ancient superstitious practices, complimented by a 360° live soundtrack. “We will be working with acoustic and electric instruments, drum machines, recorders, vocals, guitars power drills and magnets amongst many other things. If there is one thing to expect, it is the unexpected; we have a taste for the punk, noise and absurdity.”