GitC – While I’m sure you get this question with every interview, I need to know. What was the inspiration for Midnight Syndicate? With the market already saturated with run-of-the-mill horror compilations, why did you decide to jump into that arena?
Edward – For just that reason – because the Halloween music industry (if you could even call it at that back in 1997) just consisted of very low-budget, low-quality cassettes/CDs consisting of cheesey sound effects and Monster Mash compilations – all driven by companies trying to make a quick buck instead of focusing on producing a quality product. We felt it was time to do a Halloween CD of quality. A disc that would be the best of its kind and raise the bar for what amusement parks, haunted houses, and fans of the Halloween season could expect from these CDs. That’s how we got our start.
Halloween was the perfect vehicle for getting Midnight Syndicate’s music out there. Midnight Syndicate’s discs are instrumental soundtracks to imaginary films. Back when we started, that was a pretty far out concept for a band and not very marketable. It made it impossible for us to get a label or distributor. In the end we had to take on those responsibilities ourselves. Thankfully the incredible support of our fans in the Halloween, gothic music, haunted attraction, and roleplaying game industries made it so that we were able to make it happen.
GitC – Probably should have asked this first. How would you explain Midnight Syndicate’s musical vision to someone that may have never heard your work before?
Edward – Soundtacks to imaginary films. Our CDs blend dark horror and fantasy-themed instrumental music with sound effects designed to pull you into a world or movie of your own creation. Each disc has a different theme (a haunted Victorian asylum, dragon’s lair, abandoned village by the sea). It’s music to read, write, create to, or just to put on to escape for a while.
I’ve always been fascinated with the supernatural and horror. There’s just something about the genre that has always sparked my imagination. I also love instrumental music because I feel it really leaves the interpretation up to the listener. It’s great how several people can listen to a song and get completely different images in their head. That was the idea behind Midnight Syndicate.
GitC – How does the creative process work when creating a new album? Has this process changed over the 10+ years you’ve been producing work?
Edward – Surprisingly our process has not changed much from our first discs. Gavin and I get together and determine what the theme of the album will be (a haunted Victorian mansion, vampire’s crypt, etc.). Then we flesh out the details of the world we are creating. After that it’s just a matter of envisioning that world while we write the music. Sometimes a song is based on a scene we imagine, other times it’s a place or even a character from that particular place. Although we write separately we are continually bouncing ideas off each other throughout the process to make sure that the music is complimentary and is really developing this world.
GitC – Your music takes me back to the classic Universal or Hammer horror films, was this always your intention with Midnight Syndicate? In addition, can you think of any modern horror film that you would draw inspiration from? (Excluding your great work on The Rage).
Edward – The Rage was a really fun project to work on, thanks. For me I would say that a lot of my inspiration comes from EC Comics, Stephen King, and most of all … horror films and at the top of that list are the Universal and Hammer films… so intentional or not, that’s absolutely what a lot of our music hearkens to. The old Universal movies are what I grew up on and I am a huge fan of everything Hammer films ever put out. Gavin and I are both fascinated by the paranormal and we love the Victorian era so those two things are huge inspirations that come up a lot on our discs and add to that “classic” feel. As far as modern horror goes, there are plenty of great horror movies being made nowadays. In the modern era The Sixth Sense, The Others, The Haunted (1994), and The Ring are at the top of my list. More recently I really enjoyed Wicked Little Things, The Happening, Let the Right One In, the first hour of The Descent, and Reincarnation to name a few. It’s the images from these modern horror films that I often draw inspiration from – not really the scores. Musically I tend to be inspired by the film composers from the mid-60’s through the early-90s: Danny Elfman, James Bernard, John Williams, Elliot Goldenthal, James Horner. I love John Carpenter too. He’s a real inspiration for me as a director/composer.
GitC – What are some of the instruments you use while creating a new album? Are there any plans to incorporate an increase in vocals in a future album?
Edward – Although I won’t say never… the instrumental music of Midnight Syndicate has always been an integral part of our identity and even more so our purpose. Our goal is to spark people’s imaginations and allow them to escape the confines of this world even if just for an hour. I think instrumental music is one of the best vehicles for this. Gavin and I love hearing how the music speaks to people differently. My fear in adding lyrics sung by a vocalist is that we would be limiting listeners interpretation of the music by adding too much of our own interpretation of it. The human voice is an incredible instrument though and I definitely see us doing a lot more with that in the immediate future. As far as our instruments, we use as many different elements as we can and are always trying to expand our palette – from synthesizers, orchestra, human voice, world instruments — to sound effects — anything we can use to help pull people into the world we are trying to create is fair game.
GitC – Shifting a bit from the music, Midnight Syndicate is entering the realm of filmmaking with The Dead Matter. As one that knows the pain and joy of independent filmmaking… Why the move?
Edward – As I’m writing this, I’m flying back from LA where we just finished the last session of post-production. Gary Jones and Mark Rakocy (two of the producers on the film), myself and some of the cast just watched the final version of the movie last night. I’m really pumped. Seeing the completed film up there for the first time was an incredible experience – and a big reason we made the move.
Although I started in music, my schooling has been in theatre, filmmaking, and editing. My first project out of college was the original The Dead Matter which we shot on Super-VHS tape for $2000 back in ‘95. Back then we knew we’d be limited by the technical specs of the movie (S-VHS was more expensive and – worse yet – not at the level of today’s lowest-grade digital cameras) but our goal was to get the movie done as best we possibly could and use that experience to remake the movie with a budget in the future. It took twelve years but through Midnight Syndicate and Precinct 13 Entertainment, it eventually became a reality.
GitC – Can you explain the inspiration for The Dead Matter? Also, when can we expect a theatrical release, or will you distribute directly to DVD?
Edward – The inspiration was much the same as it is for Midnight Syndicate … classic horror films from the 30s through the early 80s. The Dead Matters mixes the worlds of both vampires and zombies and is a great story-driven film with lots of atmosphere and old-school horror appeal. We produced it with FX-legend Robert Kurtzman (Producer From Dusk Till Dawn, co-founder KNB FX) and Gary Jones (Boogeyman 3, Lightning Strikes) and it stars Andrew Divoff (Lost, CSI:Miami, Wishmaster), Jason Carter (Babylon 5, Angel), Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn, Dawn of the Dead), and television horror hosts Count Gore DeVol and Big Chuck Schodowski.
As I mentioned we just completed post-production and are right in the middle of securing distribution. In the end, the distributor will decide whether to release our movie theatrically or not. I expect we’ll know more about that as well as the release date in the next coming months.
GitC – Because my horror readers would kill me if I didn’t ask. What was it like to work with the legendary Tom Savini and Robert Kurtzman?
Edward – Tom and Bob are not only friends of mine but true class acts so being able to work with both of them has been incredible. Tom will always be known for the advances he made in the special effects industry but he is also a talented actor. I think his performance in The Dead Matter is one of his best – he really brought a lot to the character and the film. Tom and I have been friends through Midnight Syndicate for many years and it was great being able to finally work on a project with him. Bob and I first met when he approached us to score The Rage and it was through that project that I had the opportunity to approach him about The Dead Matter. Getting him on board was one of the most critical elements in making the film happen. One of the things that is great about Bob is that in addition to his incredible talent he’s a really great person. As anyone can tell you whose met him at a convention or worked with him, he’s a very down-to-earth guy who knows his stuff. He also brought my other co-producer, Gary Jones on board. The wealth of experience between those two made this movie an incredible learning experience for me.
GitC – Everyday you hear the music industry complain about online piracy and the downfall of the CD in terms of sales. How has Midnight Syndicate, at least from my outsiders view, been able to buck this “trend”? Or, has online piracy had an impact on your work?
Edward – Online piracy hurts every musician. You can’t really avoid it. With each passing year it becomes harder and harder for musicians to make a full-time living in the music industry. In the end, we have to hope that our fans support us and buy the music as it’s the only thing that allows us to continue to do it. We do have some of the most incredible fans in the world. We never had a major record label support us or commercial radio — so the only way we’ve been able to grow and that people have heard about us is because our fans have spread the word, told their friends, etc. We’re truly grateful for that and for the support they continue to show us by picking up our CDs in the Halloween stores and online each year.
GitC – What can listeners expect from the future of Midnight Syndicate?
Edward – The Dead Matter movie should be out this year. That’s going to be a really exciting time for us and the fans who have been hearing about it for eleven years and have patiently waited over the past year and half for it to come out. We’ll also be releasing the score to The Dead Matter and are tossing around the idea of an additional soundtrack to accommodate the non-score music that appears in the film.
As far as after that, Gavin and I have a really cool themes for our next Midnight Syndicate disc that we’ve decided we’ll keep secret for now. Suffice to say we are REALLY excited about it and have a lot of ideas for it already.
GitC – Again, Edward, thank you for talking with Geek in the City, I know times are completely crazy for you right now. One final question in the grand Geek in the City tradition: Midnight Syndicate attends many fan conventions, so I need to know; what convention has the more interesting attendee: San Diego Comic Con or Dragon Con?
Edward – Dragon Con – Dragon Con is just one huge party full of the most colorful characters you will run more than any convention I’ve ever done. Some of the most memorable costume contests as well. It is definitely one of my favorite shows of the year and I highly recommend it.
GitC – Edward, my deepest thanks for taking time out to answer these questions. I’ve receive a large amount of emails thanking me for reviewing The Dead Matter CD and readers are excited to read this interview. I can tell you with no hesitation, Midnight Syndicate is loved in Portland, OR. (Helps that ½ the year we’re covered in a sheen of clouds and mist).
Edward – You are awesome Aaron.. thank you for your continued support… looking forward to meeting you in person sometime.
Thanks again to Edward and everybody and Midnight Syndicate, were it not for their work, all my D&D games would have nothing but Brad Fiedel and Carmina Burana playing. If you are a fan of Gothic inspired instrumental music, you really owe it to yourself to give them a listen.
You can learn about all their projects at Midnight Syndicate.