feat. John Carpenter

18 Oct 2016

Horror’s most striking director, composer and performer John Carpenter haunts Brighton Dome this week with his Live Retrospective.

The theme to Halloween (1978) is instantly recognisable – tense, jittering piano paired with low, sinister synths, a sense of dread creeping up the hairs on the back of your neck. It’s synonymous with both horror and one of the genre’s greatest directors, John Carpenter, who in addition to writing, producing and directing the film, also composed its music.

And the inspiration for that theme? The bongos. No, really – Carpenter has said that the seed of the theme came from learning its 5/4 time signature on the bongos with his father, a violinist and music professor.

His musically-versed upbringing intertwines with his prodigious film career – he’s composed 18 of his own films, including horrors like The Fog and Christine, and thrillers such as Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from New York.

For most of those themes, he would simply sit down with the first cut of the film and a synthesiser and would start improvising. Then a few of years ago he decided to see what would happen if he tried to do the same, but without the films.

Lost Themes, released in 2015, and its 2016 follow-up, Lost Themes II, were created along with Carpenter’s son Cody and godson Daniel, and both are filled with the darkly atmospheric music that’s emblematic of the director’s oeuvre.

Critics have praised the albums not for just their synthsoaked ‘80s audio aesthetic but for their ability to conjure the movies within your mind. All you need do to is listen and let the music lead your imagination and soon you’ll be picturing horrific threat destroying the world (or Kurt Russell saving it).

While the first album was formed from the group sending ideas and themes back and forth between them over the internet, the second saw the three of them getting together in the same studio, which they enjoyed so much the idea came about to take the music on tour.

John Carpenter: Live Retrospective is a mix of classic themes from his films and new songs from the Lost Themes albums, performed in inimitable fashion by Carpenter and a full band. Not forgetting his roots, Carpenter pairs the music with a rich visual experience, including clips from his films to accompany their themes.

Whether you’re a fan of his films or just pining for something just a little bit creepy, Live Retrospective promises to be an incredible gig.

Words by Charlie Hayton

John Carpenter’s Live Retrospective is at Brighton Dome on Thursday 20 October.

This preview appears in the third issue of Brighton Dome feat. 

feat. is a free music & culture magazine featuring exclusive content, interviews, and photos of some of the contemporary artists that we’re so proud to have gracing the stages of Brighton Dome’s iconic venues.