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Friday, July 11, 2014

VIDEOGRAM - The New Sound of Synthetic Horror Madness is HERE!

What started off as a fun idea for a mixtape turned into VIDEOGRAM! Let me elaborate further before you simply jet off to listen to one of the coolest things created by the computer of man in recent memory. Magnus Sellergren and I became friends through a couple of emails going back and forth discussing his music project/alias Call Me Greenhorn. Eventually we did a feature on Call Me Greenhorn’s body of work though not in as much depth as I would have liked. I came into the world of Call Me Greenhorn somewhat late in the game as this project had producing a staggering volume of solid work. Magnus is an extremely creative force to be reckoned with who has generated quite a library of electronic music that feels perfectly retro, assembled to make your nostalgia-sense tingle and is actually quite danceable.

When it came time to plan for Italian Horror Week this year I could only think that Magnus was the perfect person to contact to create a mixtape of either original work or a tape from composers who have shaped the genre. This year we are focusing quite a bit of our energy on composer with the obvious focus on Maestro Mania, a competition of legendary Italian composers fighting for the J&B Scotch belt championship. Magnus decided to create a mixtape of original work. He had previously done some re-imaginings of Fabio Frizzi’s Zombie which must be heard, enjoyed and admired. This was a natural progression of that powerful project.


Over the week Magnus would offer me updates and insight into the creation of his varied project with sound samples of the tracks Charles Bronson and 2077: Raiders of the Apocalypse. Upon hearing these two tracks I was astonished. Call Me Greenhorn had created music that was the perfect fit for a movie score, gym romp or dance hall. Then he hit me with the new artwork and a shock. This would not be a Call Me Greenhorn production. This was something new. Something special. Videogram was born from the souls and corpses of Italian schlock as well as exploitation and horror cinema of the 1970’s and 80’s. With strong John Carpenter sensibilities and layered simplicity that evolves into an aggregated fire storm of sound, this is an album to check out.

Perhaps we should let our friend the Wiktionary help you understand the term videogram:

English

Etymology

video- +‎ -gram

Noun

videogram (plural videograms)

A physical object containing an audiovisual work, such as a videotape or DVD.
The audiovisual work itself, such as the content of a videotape or a DVD, often intended to cover such works regardless of the storage medium.

Usage notes

This term is frequently used in copyright licensing agreements to grant permissions to an audiovisual work in any currently known or later developed video format, thus avoiding the limitations of specifying a particular format, such as "VHS Videotape," that may be inappropriate or unduly limiting as new technologies are developed.

While I love Sellergren’s previous endeavors as a maestro under the name Call Me Greenhorn, this project truly speaks to me and what I love directly. The project is bookended by a classic British voice bumper for tapes circa the 1980’s. It is the perfect way to begin a tribute to an era of movies that was essentially created for horror fans on VHS or Beta tape. From there, as the tape seems to run and our imagination fires up a fever dream of 1986 when we were sitting in front of a console TV watching the latest archaeological dig from the mom and pop video store, we encounter the Videogram bumper. This is not unlike the bumpers for our beloved Cannon, Vestron, Media or Gorgon video bumper. It’s audio only, but you can actually see the image of a strangely animated logo transforming in front of you as the movie begins its preamble.

First a brief interview with the great Magnus.

DT: How do you begin creating genre related music? Not just horror movie tributes and homages, but your Call Me Green Horn project.

MAGNUS: There's generally no formula but I'd say it more often than not I begin with just creating the synth sounds. For the horror stuff I'll hear a certain pad and go "Oh man, that reminds me of X's movie _____" and I take it from there. There's a couple of Videogram tracks that began like that.

DT: Can you go through each track and tell us what inspired you for each? Some are more obvious than others. Either what movie, composer or style.

MAGNUS: The "Videogram Ident" 1 and 2 happened when the concept started to gel. By then I already had a couple of songs finished and it just struck me that the album could be the audio equivalent of the trailer show tapes you could rent cheaply back in the 1980s. As soon as I realized that I came up with those tracks, the title and the logo concept. "Walpurgisnacht" was actually inspired by the drum track Jamie Coghill recorded for me. That definitely set the tone. The music I added to it was inspired by the vibe Goblin created for Deep Red. "I Warned You No to Go Out Tonight" is 100% inspired by Bill Lustig's "Maniac". "The Eight Passenger" was obviously inspired by "Alien", especially the brilliant trailer. "Scavolini's Nightmare" is a loving tribute to one of my fave slashers, Romano Scavolini's "Nightmare in a Damaged Brain". I wanted to create a sort of menacing nursery rhyme/music box thing for it. "Subway Stalker" is actually inspired by both "Maniac" and Fulci's "The New York Ripper". But I remember when I came up with the fat bass sound that it actually reminded me of the disco track from "Friday the 13th Part 3." Kinda weird how it mutated to something completely different! "2077: Raiders of the Apocalypse" happened once I had the grimey drum sound down. That one took a bit of tweaking. It's not inspired by a specific movie, but the overall post-apocalyptic genre. "Eaten Alive" is what I call my "cannibal freakout" track and is heavily inspired by Roberto Donati's work for Lenzi's "Cannibal Ferox". "Charles Bronson" actually started out as a sort of blaxploitation-inspired track but then took a different kinda turn. It's more about capturing the essence of Bronson than any specific movie he starred in. "The Tooth Fairy Night Theme" is 100% inspired by Michael Mann's 1986 cult classic "Manhunter". "Kathy's Dream" is inspired by Fulci's "Aenigma". I wanted to create a sort of dream sequence track that turned menacing about halfway through. "Communication Breakdown" is inspired by my fave Carpenter movie, "Assault on Precinct 13". Soundwise it oddly enough emulates his mid-80s work than what he created for the actual movie. "Regina dei Cannibali End Titles" was inspired by the cannibal genre, but no specific movie. Just wanted to do something that could fit the end titles or a trailer of an early 1980s cannibal film. 

DT: What are some of your favorite Italian Horror Movies? Do you have a favorite Italian Horror director, actor or composer?

MAGNUS: Lucio Fulci's "Zombie Flesh-Eaters" and "House by the Cemetery", Bianchi's "Burial Ground", Scavolini's "Nightmare...", Marino Girolami's "Zombie Holocaust" and Lenzi's "Cannibal Ferox" are the ones I find myself returning to. I don't have any specific soundtrack album that's a personal fave, but I'd say that Frizzi's work for "Zombie Flesh-Eaters" really stands out. Overall, I'd say that the Italian genre movies of the 1980s really had some iconic soundtracks. Kinda funny they had very serious-minded composers tied to the projects considering they were at the time considered to be pretty low-budget efforts. But it made them stand out. 

DT: Who is your favorite 80's VHS label? Who has the best bumper in your opinion?

MAGNUS: My personal fave would be VIPCO in the UK as they released a ton of genre movies. They didn't have a cool bumper though, just a flashing logo and that was it. 

DT: What can we expect next from Videogram, Call Me Greenhorn or any of your fascinating projects?

MAGNUS: Videogram will focus on all kinds of horror sounds with Call Me Greenhorn continuing with the "weirder" stuff. As I just finished up the Videogram debut effort it's too soon to say anything about what's coming next, but I can share that I recently started toying with an idea for an EP. I released Call Me Greenhorn's latest album in March so maybe I'll have an EP coming later this fall. 

DT: If you were going to turn one of the Videogram projects into a music video, which would it be?

MAGNUS: Actually, me and Mike are currently working on some visuals so there'll be some videos coming later on. But if money and copyright wasn't an issue, it'd be awesome to have the directors who's work inspired this effort to edit music videos using footage from their movies. That'd be great! 

DT: Call Me Greenhorn and VIdeogram have been released digitally up until this point. Can we anticipate a physical media release from Videogram in the near future?

MAGNUS: Yes. The promos I've been sending out has received really positive feedback so there has been some offers to release it physically. I worked out a deal for one format, but it's a bit early to share more info about that just yet.

 I hope horror/genre fans enjoy this effort 'cause I personally got a kick out of creating it. Feel free to join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/videogramSWE and drop me a line! I'd love to get some feedback on this. Also, a thank-you to you Mr. Harris (AKA Doc Terror) for asking me to do this is in order. 

[End Interview]

Now that you know the man, let’s run it down track by track so you understand my passion for this project and why I am excited to see my good friend Magnus create more of Videogram on whatever terms he would like.

WALPURGISNACHT is a dark electronic dirge into midnight. This is a classic creepy. It is a fitting tribute in sound and style to the great Fabio Frizzi and his work on City of the Living Dead during some of the less well known tracks on the album. The drums are the perfect stagger of offbeat power crunch that brings the haunt home to you.

I WARNED YOU NOT TO GO OUT is a shocking, sting filled electro glitch track with surprises around every turn that borders on exciting Science Fiction fare. It’s large. It’s fantastic. It screams, “Something in this world has come from another world and wants to end it!”. I like to think of Contamination or perhaps a non-Italian feature like Blade Runner. This could very well be the soundtrack that would be featured in the follow up to Shocking Dark aka Terminator II aka Alienators aka Contamintor from master director Bruno Mattei.

THE EIGHTH PASSENGER is a vacant odyssey into the bleak, cold unknown. With a rapid gentle insect heartbeat underlying a sporadic low key mess of tones, this feature prepares you for the interstellar space, but it cannot prepare you for what you might find there.

SCAVOLINI’S NIGHTMARE is a song whose name says it all. Nightmare aka Nightmare in a Damaged Brain doesn’t always get the recognition as an Italian Horror film, but it should. Romano Scavolini created a film that is messy and perfectly sleazy with lots of nudity, disgusting murder and its fair share of controversy. This is a film to absorb and enjoy. It was one of my favorite 35mm experiences, seeing it at the first Italian Splatterfest at the Colonial Theatre. Jack Eric Williams’ music is a bouncy, electronic frightfest. So it’s Videogram’s tribute to it.

SUBWAY STALKER is either the perfect companion to a movie like CHUD or it belongs in the post-Assault on Precinct 13 world of John Carpenter with a meandering electronic bass note that finds the ear just in time to for a gruesome murder. This is a transition song and not necessarily the main theme to a late 70’s early 80’s slasher film that takes notes from John Carpenter.

2077: RAIDERS OF THE APOCALYPSE is a mainline into my brain that screams of the future, inhabited by strange beings as alien or foreign as the world of Mad Max or perhaps more fitting, 2019: After the Fall of New York from Sergio Martino. This track contains one of the best melodies in the entire release.

EATEN ALIVE pays tribute to the stings in Cannibal Holocaust perhaps even more so than the titular reference to the Umberto Lenzi movie of the same name.With a high pitched blitz of perfect reveals, be ready for the most horrific scenes of gore a filmmaker can insert into a video nasty. Be ready for the attack from the natives if you’ve violated their culture. Be ready for unseen animal deaths that a director like Ruggero Deodato or perhaps Umberto Lenzi will pan too just as you reach for popcorn. There’s a little bit of Cannibal Ferox inside as well.

CHARLES BRONSON the name says it all. This is a song written for a “take no prisoners”, revenge driven madman on a mission. You listen to this track as you walk down the most obscenely crime ridden street in Cabrini Green (or the former Cabrini Green) and you’re likely to scare away a mugger or two (but don’t test that theory). Feel like a badass motherfucker. Listen to Charles Bronson at the gym. The hand claps synch it. Named after the star of Death Wish (among other action thrillers).

THE TOOTH FAIRY NIGHT THEME should not be judged solely based on the name. This is an ethereal synth pop ballad that would feel comfortable in the middle of an 80’s porno from VCI or maybe in the middle of a movie like The Wraith or Night of the Comet. Also one of my favorite otherworldly melodies on the album. The beat pumps you to through tunnels of a fantasy world that could be the end of times or the rebirth of the human race. Perfect for late 80’s Gialli.

KATHY’S DREAM would fit brilliantly into Beyond the Door II aka Shock or perhaps the early 80’s video nasty, Boogeyman directed by Ulli Lommel. It’s haunting and diverse with perfect dissonance that borders on beautiful; perhaps this dream is about to turn into Kathy’s Nightmare or even Cathy’s Curse. By the end, after the piano settles be ready for large pulses of square waves that cut to the bone.

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN is not a Led Zeppelin cover. This one feels like a tribute to Claudio Simonetti and Goblin especially Demons with the pulsing synth and a steady, walking drum beat. The evil stalks you from silver screen, to theater to the streets. It also has hints of the classic walking music from Phenomena also provided by Simonetti and company. Samples underlay the track that sound like voices or eventhe Ki Ki Ki Ma Ma Ma of Manfredini’s Friday the 13th score. It’s a cryptic track that grows steadily.

REGINA DEI CANNIBALI END TITLES is the most danceable track on the album that harkens back to themes in Cannibal Ferox, but also is distinctly alien sounding. This track can go from cannibal exploitation to undead zombies running amuck. This is clearly defined credit music that will prep you for the end of the album and hopefully a sequel to this project.

Before I had the chance to listen to the music of Videogram in its totality one thing stood out that mesmerized me. The artwork from Magnus’ cohort in crime, Mike Daskalov. His graphic design of the lead Videogram logo and cover is the perfect tribute to our beloved Vestron Video and its subsidiary Lightning Video. The Vestron family of companies afforded us titles like Monster Squad and An American Werewolf in London as well as a variety of titles out of the Cannon Films library. Before their bankruptcy and their buyout they produced cult classic horror such as Slaughter High, Blood Diner, Nightforce, The Unholy, Waxwork, Parents, Lair of the White Worm and even Ghoulies 3. It is a tremendous tribute and homage that is paid to this fantastic logo and bumper symbol of a time passed. In addition to the main Videogram logo, Mike Daskalov has also created other cover designs for a number of the tracks (featured here).

I cannot thank my dear friend Magnus enough for his contribution to Italian Horror Work which as gone beyond any conception I may have had about what the creative mind is capable. He is a friend first, but I assure you that with a listen, you will understand just what his work means to you personally. I share it enthusiastically with you, and also will be offering chances for you to download the album for free to help spread the Videogram legend the way you might have watched a videotape with a bunch of your filthy droogies back in the day. All hail Swedish Progressive Synth Horror!

You can contact Videogram on Facebook  for opportunities to work with Magnus on your upcoming project or for other inquiries including review opportunities and other press release related items. Please show him some love. Let him know what you think of the project as a whole or specific parts. You can also contact the graphic design, MikeDaskalov, here who has offered up a fine tribute to iconic images of our collective media history.


Make sure to purchase the Videogram album now on Bandcamp. Hopefully, with sufficient interest, a physical release will arrive soon.

You can also explore Call Me Greenhorn here as well as on Facebook and my write up.

Tapeheads, tapesluts, videovores, collectors, hoarders… you have found the soundtrack to your next VHS alphabetizing party. 

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