Delve behind the scenes of Bolt Gun guitarist Jon Vayla’s new solo album with a look at his favourite film scores.
At the end of 2017, Astral Noize named Bolt Gun‘s stunning Man Is Wolf To Man as our Album Of The Year, commending its vast scope, oppressive atmosphere and, most notably, its cinematic mastery. So we were understandably excited when we heard that guitarist Jon Vayla was gearing up to release a solo album inspired by and written in the style of a film score.
The result is four expansive tracks that take the cinematic scope of Vayla’s work with Bolt Gun, strip it of its black metal core and replace it with rich orchestrations that draw from famous composers like Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer and Ennio Morricone. Accompanying this are droning guitars and expressive synths that bring to mind bands like Swans, Sunn O))) and Earth or experimental ambient artists like Lawrence English and William Basinski. As listening experiences go, it’s utterly enthralling, capable of drawing the listener in with swelling orchestral refrains before making time stand still with enthralling drones.
To get a better idea of the inspirations behind Float Beneath The Sun, we asked Vayla to compile a list of his favourite film scores. Read on to gain a deeper understanding of his transcendent debut album.
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Sicario (2015)
Vayla: So tense! Just waves of superbly crafted fear. The atonal sections within [Jóhann] Jóhannsson’s score are so visceral. A more experimental score compared to the almost traditional orchestration of someone like Howard Shore and probably has a little in common with my own techniques… minus the percussion. The blending of synths and orchestral sections makes this a layered and imposing piece of work. Such a loss. RIP.
Howard Shore – Eastern Promises (2007)
I really liked the two [David] Cronenberg films with Viggo [Mortenson] and the music in Eastern Promises is wonderful in itself. I listen to the Eastern Promises theme very regularly. Howard Shore creates intense emotion with only minimal string arrangements.
Wojciech Kilar – Bram Stokers’ Dracula (1992)
Wojciech Kilar! It’s big and terrifying. A masterpiece. Enough said.
Howard Shore & Ornette Coleman – Naked Lunch (1991)
More Howard Shore worship. I really love the combination of classical and jazz by Shore & Ornette Coleman. It’s a chaotic and confronting score. The music perfectly supports the film’s narrative, as it should.
Hans Zimmer – Hannibal (2001) / Howard Shore – Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Hans Zimmer is wonderful on the Hannibal soundtrack, but it’s not just a Hans Zimmer score. Patrick Cassidy’s ‘Vide Cor Meum’ is so beautiful. What I like most about this soundtrack is the way the ethereal melodies make space for the horror. You can sit back and enjoy these peaceful songs that suddenly become scary. Howard Shore’s Silence Of The Lambs score does this too. Hauntingly beautiful, fairly minimalist at times… you can sleep to it, but then you suddenly realise it’s turned into a snarling beast. I listened to the Lambs score every night for two weeks whilst writing new Bolt Gun songs and then returned to it regularly on the Float Beneath… sessions. I was trying to let it sink in and drift around my mind as I worked on my own music. I can’t add much to what has already been said about Howard Shore and his score. It’s a classic and instantly summons Dr Lecter and Jame Gumb into your living room. Genius.
Vangelis – Blade Runner (1982)
It’s hard to overstate the importance of Vangelis’ score. The influence surfaces a lot in my own music. Apart from my solo work, all Bolt Gun songs usually have an initial synth layer that tips the hat a little to Blade Runner and Vangelis. I also loved the Blade Runner 2049 score, with Zimmer and [Benjamin] Wallfisch paying deep respect to the master but also booting you in the face with their own epic interpretation. I heard the soundtrack before I saw the movie. The low-end kick in the 2049 soundtrack scared the shit out of me when I first played it in my studio. So good.
Ennio Morricone – The Thing (1982)
I love the Morricone soundtrack and the film… particularly as it’s full of John Carpenter’s own synth creations too. I’m still wearing out an old VHS copy because it reminds me of my childhood. One of the greats… *tears*.
Ennio Morricone – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
One of my favourite movies. I lived in Italy for a little while and bought a live album of Morricone’s Voci Dal Silenzio… I think it was recorded at the Verona Arena. I’ve been hooked on his music ever since. What to say. I love these songs in the full orchestral versions performed around the world and the more stripped back original soundtrack. There’s a reason Metallica often play Morricone’s ‘Ecstasy Of Gold’ before they go on stage. Amazing. There’s a brief Ennio-type moment on track two of my album, it’s shameless and I’m very happy with it. For those that think classical music is too conservative, I suggest they listen to the title-track from Voci Dal Silenzio… Ennio pulls no punches here.
Bernard Hermann – Psycho (1960)
Bernard Hermann. It feels redundant to write anything about this but it cannot be left off the list. For what my view is worth… the film and score are equals here.
Too many to list.
Float Beneath The Sun is out now. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr