Interview with Steve Chandra Savale aka Chandrasonic

On Wednesday 2nd May 2012 – on the eve of London’s mayoral elections, an ambitious project was launched by The Other Cinema. A free screening of the classic French film – La Haine held at the Community Centre in Broadwater Farm, Tottenham.

This was not just a normal screening. Many of the residents from the estate were involved to help create a really positive atmosphere. BMX riders, breakdancers, a local boxer and some graffiti artists. There was also a short film competition. This was all followed by a screening of La Haine, with a live score from Asian Dub Foundation (ADF). You can read our full report from that night here. The show has since played at The Troxy in London and then moved onto Paris just before the French elections with some more dates to come over the summer.

Front Row Reviews caught up with Steve Chandra Savale from ADF to discuss the project in more detail.

[FRR] Are there any plans to do any more of these La Haine shows? Would they be with The Other Cinema?

Yeah but we’ve had a couple of offers to do it independently as well, like we used to do it. We did the show about 20 times between 2001 – 2005. We did it at a French rave with 6 or 7 screens – they knew the film so well. No seats, so people were just dancing along and interacting with the film in a different way. Shouting out at their favourite bits.

There are a few festival gigs planned over the summer too, in conjunction with Secret Cinema.

[FRR] So, it’s a totally different experience to the Broadwater Farm show?

Yeah, it’s very interesting, the different variations. We toured it in Australia. We did this huge gig at Melbourne Hollywood Bowl. 3000 people sitting on the grass and smoking it! So that was like a total hippie version, really laid back and summery.

And another time we did a show at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. The sound check was so awful, we all got really down and just decided to get absolutely blotto. Everyone in the crowd laid down on the floor on leather pillows – the sound was so ugly and rough, really industrial kind of sound. But we still did it and it was the best ever. It was a really heavy, brutal version of it. It was brilliant.

[FRR] Have you done any other projects involving a Live Score?

You have to be careful, you can’t just do a live score to any old film. We did it again with The Battle of Algiers, which we turned down the first time, eventual we did it at The Dome as part of the Brighton Festival. We did that on the day that the photos came out from the abuse at Abu Ghraib. The film has a big scene featuring some graphic torturing, so that added to the tension as well. That film had a Morricone soundtrack. We worked out a way of incorporating that with what we were doing, so as not to insult what Morricone did.

[FRR] Are there any other films you would like to work with?

Yeah, i’d love to find something else. You don’t wanna do something just for the sake of it though. La Haine and The Battle of Algiers suited our ethos as a band so they were obvious choices for us. Our first album was all about riots, anti-nazi and anti-colonialism. Watch this space.

[FRR] When you first did the show, it was very much of the time – fast forward 12 years and things have come back round again.

Yeah you got it. There is that thing about it. We did it at a particularly historical juncture as well, which i think adds even more to it. With the London Mayor and French elections going on the timing was perfect. I think there are lots of layers that make the thing more powerful.

[FRR] Do you think its better to work with a subtitled film in this context?

I don’t know, it’s hard to judge. La Haine was an obvious one for ADF. It sort of represents what the band are about and also it has no real soundtrack.

[FRR] Have you got any plans to release any more ADF Studio Albums soon?

I think the next thing we will do is make a recording of the La Haine show. Like in the French show, afterwards it loosened up a bit and some of the rappers came and joined in a bit and we did some of the music again. So we might do an album like that. If there are any profits we may well use them to help fund the Outreach Cinema project.

[FRR] The first time you did the La Haine show, did you have to get permission from the films distributors?

We didn’t really have to do any of that, The Barbican were putting it on, so they took care of that – even thought it was our idea. We were just rehearsing along with the DVD but when we came to do it – we didn’t know why but all of our cues were wrong. Literally 20 minutes before the doors opened. We then realised that its because they were screening the 35mm version, so it was 1 frame per second slower. So luckily we managed to speed the film up slightly and it seemed to work.

[FRR] So you have it all set out then? From watching it, it seems to flow very naturally.

Yeah there is a structure but there will be some variations each time. Its like any gig, you have a set list but things vary and also the sound engineer will be tweaking the sound as you go – based on the acoustics of the room, so you know it’s not the same every time. The sound engineer becomes so vital in these type of gigs, it would be impossible to do without them.

[FRR] How long did it take to put the show together?

Initially i would say about 3 – 4 weeks. Non stop work. Recently, it took us 3 days to rehearse to get it back up to speed again.

[FRR] There seems to be a lot of Live Cinema going on at the moment.

Yeah when we first did La Haine, there was a few others around then too. The best one i saw was pretty obscure actually. A really great band from a place called Tuva – somewhere in-between Mongolia and Siberia. A lot of throat singers – a bit like human synthesisers, it was a bit like horse galloping music. Loads of other elements too, like a triangle shaped instrument that created loads of distortion. They did an incredible live soundtrack to an old 1927 Soviet Propaganda film, called Storm Over Asia. It was amazing. So unusual, like it was from another planet.

But others haven’t worked so well. The Pet Shop Boys did a version of Battleship Potemkin in Trafalgar Square. Utterly pointless.

[FRR] How did the show go down in other countries?

Really great. The Broadwater Farm show was amazing because of its meaning and purpose. It was a fantastic concept from Fabien to bring it into the heart of the community. The French shows were great too – they all know the film so well out there and especially being on the eve of the elections. yeah it was very well received.

[FRR] How different is the process creating a live music score compared to writing a normal album?

Completely and utterly different. The film takes you – you are not the driving force. Every scene in the film has it’s own rhythm. That’s the first thing that we discovered – find the rhythm of the scene. In La Haine, there are some really obvious ones, like when they go to the drug dealers place and they are dancing, moving their hips – that in effect gives you the tempo of that scene. We did not concentrate so much on each character, like a normal soundtrack might do. There are peaks and troughs – what we wrote completely reflects that. The last half hour is in a completely different place to the start.

[FRR] Did your approach to the film flow like the film, from start to finish? Where did you start?

We actually started with the last half hour. We found an awesome riff which then became basically the underpinning of the last 25 minutes. That actually came first, once we found that and realised it worked, we were away. Some other stuff we already had written and just dropped in beautifully.

[FRR] In general these days there is a real movement these days towards independent cinema’s and events, increasingly moving away from multiplexes.

Yeah which can only be a good thing. Fabien actually said that when he saw the original Barbican show back in 2001, that was one of the inspirations for him to create Secret Cinema, which is really great. Very happy about that. Fabien is an unusual guy you know, he likes to play with your perceptions.

I went to their production of The Third Man, the level of detail is just amazing.

[FRR] It’s similar to the Broadwater Farm show, it seemed very much about adding another dimension to the film.

Yeah with the boxer, the graffiti artists and other performers, I think it helps to understand the film a bit more. Some of that continued at The Troxy gig, the artwork travelled with us. France was a little bit more restricted. The difference here to Secret Cinema was this was very Avant Garde, at its best. It was Art but it was non arty – more like a festival atmosphere.

[FRR] I read some things online before the show that said it was a really bold move to screen La Haine in that environment and it was basically going to stir up trouble, what do you think about that?

That is crazy. When you actually went to it, you saw how it was. Wasn’t that just a stupid thing to say. That just tells you more about peoples prejudices. The sense of community was everywhere and there was a great vibe. The whole thing was very positive, as it was meant to be. We did a project a few years ago about the Favelas in Brazil, we did a jam session there. Now there is stuff going on in 17 different Favelas, a type of Afro Reggae. There was a film about it – Favela Rising. This Broadwater Farm project reminded me of that. Some of the poorest places in world are the most creative and Broadwater Farm is no exception. It was wicked. I don’t know anyone can knock that.

the-other-cinemaMORE INFO:

Asian Dub Foundation
The Other Cinema
Secret Cinema
Future Cinema
Future Shorts

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