Vintage synths, soundtracks, and scary movies: The Bob Moog Foundation talks to Tara Busch of I Speak Machine

TaraBusch

Bob Moog Foundation supporter Tara Busch created The Rocket Wife EP to benefit the Foundation. Explore and purchase The Rocket Wife here on Bandcamp

Q: Tara, what would most interest people inspired by the Bob Moog legacy in your performance September 21 at London’s Southbank Centre?

Tara: Five vintage synths on stage is something you don’t see very often (probably because it’s a bit nuts!). So this is indeed one for those that love & appreciate these machines coming out to play.

(Trailer for I Speak Machine’s performance on Sunday September 21, including footage of Tara Busch playing the score to The Silence at Mountain Oasis 2013)

You’ll get to experience a cool hybrid of film and live music at once. The pieces that I Speak Machine make are quite unique as the film and score are made for each other, simultaneously.

I come from a “rock singer” background, and for years I didn’t have the confidence or impetus to produce & compose music on my own. One of the things that changed everything for me was becoming inspired by Bob Moog and his contemporaries making new sounds, as it were.

I now get to hop on stage with a marriage of film and music with a bunch of wild, insane, beautiful machines and play dark, outlandish, bizarre and hopefully good music for you to enjoy. There’s a bonus that you may get a little scared…if you love sci-fi/ horror, this is the show for you.

(“Crawl Home,” also from The Silence soundtrack, releasing on Lex records on November 24)

Q: What instruments have you added to your arsenal for this show, and why did you choose them?

The “band members” are: ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Roland SH 101 or SH2 (depending if the SH 101 behaves herself at soundcheck!), Pro One and OSCar. Here’s how I’ve delegated their roles: OSCar is my bassist, Pro One is “guitar”, the ARPS are my equivalent to Roxy Music- era Brian Eno & the SH 101 is my favorite diva backup singer, Merry Clayton.

So…we found ourselves in the UK for an extended period of time without my normal live gear (Moog Voyager & Moogerfoogers), and our booking agent offered us this lovely gig in London–of course we said “yes!” In the meantime, Dave Spiers from GForce Software kindly lent me an Oberheim OB8 & the OSCar synth so that I could compose the scores to two new films (which we’re screening Sunday).

I told him about the gig, and he in turn offered to loan me a bunch of vintage beauties for the show. I’ve always wanted to get my head around an ARP 2600 (at least I’m trying). They’re magnificent.

Dave’s studio is incredible, and he was so generous about lending me these beauties. He has just about every synth that I lust after, so it was hard to decide!

Q. Is your scoring process rigid, or fluid?

Writing music for film, to me, is much more fluid than say, the process of writing songs for an album…perhaps it’s because it’s not as formulaic…or just a different, very collaborative process as you’re working with a director and of course, the film.

I had a really great conversation with the composer Clint Mansell on the website Drowned in Sound about this as he comes from a song writing, rock & roll background as well–we both found it interesting the amount of work that a film composer finishes compared to making an album…it’s funny how once you have the guidelines or limitations in place, the process becomes very open & free.

So, while the writing process is very full-on and fluid, the live process, is all pre-written and meticulously rehearsed, over & over! Except for some of my vocal parts, I’m not improvising at all. The are so many moments that rely on sub-second timing that anything but this approach would not work.

With horror & sci-fi, there are loads of cues that need to be spot on. Plus, it’s important to Maf & I keep the relationship of the film & music intact & tell the story as it’s meant to be told & not “veer off.”

Q. How has Bob Moog’s legacy inspired your performance?

First of all, how do you touch any make of synthesizer and it not be part of Bob Moog? Just having all those machines up there with me represents his work and innovation, and what has come out of his genius.

I also feel that this particular show has broken down a few creative boundaries and fears. (I’ll be patching and playing an ARP 2600 and singing a “duet” with it live in front of everyone for the first time! Fun.) And Bob is someone that always inspires me to challenge myself, innovate & try my best to move forward creatively, as he always did.

Q. How much influence does your film collaborator Maf Lewis have in the music, and how much influence do you have in the films?

We influence each other very much! We use a very specific process. We call it synchronic art, or Synchronika: we start with a story, and we create a script and score with the writer, composer and director. So, the score and script are developed simultaneously from the story.

When a scene is proposed, the writer and composer both bring ideas to the table. Some times the score is a support for a particular piece of action or dialogue, sometimes the scene supports the music.

The idea is not to have either the music or the film have unanimous power over the other. Often the pace or length of a scene can be affected by the music, and the mood of the score by the script dialogue, or both.

It comes from Maf’s disillusion of how scores are often last minute additions to movies, like pop videos smacked on top of music–he genuinely thinks it a crime how both the music and film industry generally misunderstand and diminish the art of the other, & I totally agree.

Though there have been great examples of directors working with composers at an early stage, such as Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone, it’s important to define that as a process so that it can easily be discussed and put to use by others. This allows the films to have a lot of space to accommodate the music, and vice versa. I really enjoy that interplay.

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Vocalist, composer and synthesist Tara Busch and filmmaker Maf Lewis are I Speak Machine.

They perform their electronic soundtrack to the short science fiction film The Silence, along with selected original short horror films, live in London’s Southbank Centre on Sunday September 21 at 7:45 p.m., with vintage synths and software recreating the vintage synth sound.

Explore and purchase Tara Busch’s special Bob Moog Foundation benefit EP, The Rocket Wife, on Bandcamp.

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