Zombie movie gets new soundtrack from Asheville band

by Jonathan Dermid – Staff Writer – jbdermid@unca.edu

Silver Machine, an Asheville based space-rock band, has returned from among the stars with a brand new album made exclusively on their spaceship – at least, that is the narrative that Chris Tanfield, guitarist and theremin player in Silver Machine, is telling the audience.

This album is as unique as the story itself. It is a re-scoring of the 1968 classic horror film Night of the Living Dead. 

“The story we’re telling people is that after our last show at the Orange Peel last year, we blasted off into outer space and went back in time, made the music for this movie and beamed it back to the present day people of Earth,” Tanfield said. “It makes for a good story. In reality, we always wanted to put our music to some kind of animation or psychedelic thing, and with one of our first music videos, we found some old cartoon footage from the ‘30s that had fallen into the public domain and been banned, so we used it. After that we just started collecting unused footage to use, and eventually we all decided on doing our own soundtrack to Night of the Living Dead.

Photo courtesy of Chris Tanfield

The sound of the band itself is unique as well, with Tanfield taking the reins on a theremin, which he was introduced to through his time in the music department at UNC Asheville.

“Around the time I graduated from UNCA back in 1997, I was in the recording engineering program under Dr. Winger. One day he brought in a theremin, and my mind was just completely blown. Here was this instrument where you just moved your arm out in this empty space, and you changed the pitch and sound. It completely changed the way I looked at music, and that continued after I graduated, where I actually worked at the Moog factory making theremins,” Tanfield said.

This hands-on process of building and operating theremins on a daily basis was crucial to Tanfield, who said it was only after several years of such working would he consider himself good enough at the instrument to perform with it, due to its difficulty to master.

Regarding the history of the instrument itself, Jim DeBardi, manager of the Moog Store in downtown Asheville, said, “The theremin is the world’s first electronic musical instrument. To this day, the theremin remains the only analog musical instrument that is played without touching. Bob Moog drew inspiration from this incredibly unique and expressive instrument, and Moog theremins have since become the gold standard for the instrument and have been seen inspiring some of music’s most creative artists.”

This kind of expressiveness is exactly what Silver Machine wanted to use in their own music.

“We were constantly experimenting with different sounds and tones, and we wanted to be making music that was healing for us, almost like meditation or yoga, but through music. So of course, the theremin was perfect for that kind of experimentation,” Tanfield said.

The Night of the Living Dead album was another kind of experiment for them as well, as it was all done in their own studio with multiple computers and labored video editing. The resulting product is not only a freshly re-scored version of the film, but the highest quality remaster currently available on DVD. Tanfield said this was accomplished by taking the Blu-Ray release and downscaling it to fit on a DVD, which he said was, “Nothing too terribly difficult to do, but a definite difference from other versions out currently.”

Since its release, the film has impressed Asheville film enthusiasts with its unique, local flair that has not been seen before.

“That’s pretty cool that they made their own soundtrack. I always find it interesting when people make up their own music for movies, because it changes the dynamic and can make it a totally different experience,” said Asheville resident and horror fan Nate Dupont.

Tanfield is a fan of the genre himself, and he wants to make it clear this project is made from a fan’s perspective, as opposed to trying to usurp a classic.

“I’m a super huge horror movie fan, and we’re aware that there is a collector’s market out there, so we want to have an alternate version of the movie out there. We’re not out there to replace the original by any means. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. We just think it’s cool to have another version out there for people to dig or not.”

The band is not only using this as a creative outlet and a love letter to a favorite movie, but also as a unique business strategy.

“We see this as just the beginning of our soundtrack career, because it’s kind of a self-produced calling card for us to pass around and get publicity for the band. We’ve got a couple ideas for future projects, like the original Nosferatu, for example, which would be perfect for us, because it is silent, so we’ll see what we decide on.”

The band will show the film with their accompanying soundtrack at Asheville’s Wedge Brewery on Oct. 25. In the future, they hope to tour and play the songs live alongside the film.

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  1. [...] to a UNC-A Blue Banner article interviewing band member Chris Tanfield, the band has plans beyond the CD: The band is not only using this as a creative outlet and a love [...]

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