Sunday, 15 February 2009

Clive Barker, Coil and Hellraiser

Book lovers in my hometown of Cork will know that Vibes & Scribes is a good place to find an interesting book, and yesterday I picked up a copy of Douglas Winter's biography of Clive Barker, which I had completely missed. It's a weighty tome, the hardback edition has some 500 pages of reading so I'm looking forward to getting into this sometime.

Disappointingly, Coil get only one short mention in the book. Coil, an extraordinary experimental electronic collective (one of my favourite bands) were commissioned by Clive Barker to write the soundtrack for Hellraiser, which they did but New World, who financed the film rejected the score for being "too intense". Hellraiser went on to be released with a very fine Christopher Young score, and Coil released their unused soundtrack as The Unreleased Themes For Hellraiser

Coil interviewed in Compulsion magazine (Issue 1, Winter 1992) spoke about the Hellraiser project...
Regarding Hellraiser, what actually happened? Did Coil pull out or did the financial backers think the music was too weird?
Well we pulled out about 10 minutes before they said we were going to pull out anyway. The thing is we were in right at the very beginning of the project, like Clive Barker was writing a screenplay and he came to our house and took away a load of piercing magazines and things. Which is where they got all the Pinhead stuff from.
Apparently, it was quite S/M orientated
Yeah, we saw some original footage which we unfortunately didn't keep but it was really heavy and good, like a sort of twisted English horror film. And then when the Americans saw this footage they thought it was too extreme and they also gave Clive ten times the original money.

It completely changed then
Yeah, so then Clive sort of felt, because it was his first film and with Hollywood being involved it was his gateway to the stars. So they changed the location to America, dubbed all the actors over and took out a lot of the explicit sex.
Did you feel let down about this? It could have been your gateway as well
Yeah, it would have been brilliant but we wouldn't have carried on because they were changing everything and they weren't being very nice to us the actual film people. They were keeping us in the dark a lot. We said we'd had enough just at the same time they decided they wanted to use Howard Shore (sic). They just wanted normal film music. They didn't want anything too scary which is sad and ridiculous for a horror film.


  1. I shudder I(in a good way) to think how much more timeless and iconic Hellraiser would have been if the money men hadn't flashed their wad at Barker - the major downfall with that film is how the transatlantic mish mash has dated it. And yep, the score is indeed a good one and works perfectly within the confines of the film, but Coil's work manages to transcend those filmic limitations which often anchors traditional scores thus making them a somewhat lacking 'experience' when listened to in isolation. The really memorable scores for me are unsurprisingly electronic and more often than not at the hands of people who straddle the visual and sonic worlds of art, and more often than not have a history in crafting their wares in lesser known, or less popular genres - of course this isn't always the case and it's not a rule by any stretch of the imagination, but it's something that I generally pick up on as it appeals to my aesthetic sensibilities (if I actually have any!)
    Coil's Hellraiser is a truly nightmarish experience, full of juxtapositions and counterpoint moments that imbue a feeling of dread because their rhythmically atonal carnivalesque ditties, music box deteriorations and pulsating snyth-lines play upon the viewers/listeners innate distrust of light and dark occupying the same space. A truly wondrous experience.
    Are you familiar with Boyd Rice's NON guise Wes? Now there's an artist who I'd love to hear soundtrack a film. I recently (and lazily) described his NON work like LaMonte Young, Throbbing Gristle and Michael Gira in a padded cell and he definitely displays elements of all three, but he retains his own unique and inimitable style of producing truly horrific music, I mean it's genuinely startling in its darkness and nihilism. I'd throw in a spot of Michel Houellebecq as well for his apparent apathy towards humanity, which is reflected in some of his songs lyrics, but to be honest his lyrics are secondary to the walls of sound and fabulous discord that he conjures up like an alchemist whose raw materials are Whitehouse's back catalogue, Steve Recih's sound experiments of the 60s and Swans' Filth.
    I genuinely believe that his music is so powerful that he makes Thomas Banglater's Rectum track sound like a nursery rhyme for kindergarten!
    Come on Mr Now, sign him up for one of your next projects please.

  2. Fantastic stuff Phil.... I think my favourite piece of music for a film is still Takemitsu's score from Kwaidan - I could listen to that piece right now, and would barely be able to do anything else, so captivated as I am with it. Another favourite score for me is Walter Murch's sonic constructions for THX-1138, - really amazing electronic stuff there. You're right though, I do wish more experimental artists were commisioned to do scores, and I often thought film makers have visually assaulted people but rarely do it with sound, like using a NON track as you suggested (having said that my favourite NON track is the tranquil loop Solitude, I love that tune). Funnily enough I was watching an old 80's Come Organisation video a few days ago, and one sequence was made up of a montage of surgical footage, plus the climax of Snuff, and the impalement scene from Cannibal Holocaust, scored to a screeching Whitehouse track, and it was difficult to sit thru...

  3. I like Hellraiser as is, but I wouldn't mind an alternative version that was more what Coil signed on for. As for the rest of the post and the's all a bit beyond me...but I do like a good John Barry score...

  4. I like John Barry too... in fact I heard his music last night in King Kong 76 and one of the film's themes features a really clattering metallic backbeat, which leads us back nicely to Coil's experimenal, post-Industrial score which is a fine peice of work but Chris Young's big grandiose score I think was the right choice...

  5. Hello Wes

    I recently had some time off work sick and during that time I read your blog from start to finish, and thoroughly enjoyed it, a great mix of topics that reflect my own interests a lot. Keep up the good work!

    I don't know if you know of the artist John Coulthart, he has a blog and every Sunday posts a collection of interesting online articles/art/interviews/music, I recommend it. This week there is a link to an interview with Stephen Thrower which covers the same topic as your piece above, thought it might be of interest. (Coulthart is also a big Coil enthusiast)

  6. Now if only I had remembered to post the link...

  7. Many thanks for writing Zeroid, and thanks so much for the kind words - just the other day I was moaning to someone that no one takes the time to write a comment anymore, so your getting in touch is much appreciated. And hopefully you're on the mend again ! Yes, I'm very much a fan of John Coulthart, I have a copy of the Lord Horror compendium Reverbstorm, which John provided the stunning artwork. And yes, I'm very much a fan of his { feuilleton } journal, which often lends inspiration for these pages. It's very timely that we're talking about Coil right now, I'm eagerly awaiting the re-issue of Time Machines which is due any day now - I wasn't lucky enough to grab the original CD issue, and very pleased to see Dais putting this landmark album out, after their excellent re-issues of two rare Psychic TV albums... Thanks again Zeroid for getting in touch, it's much appreciated, and please write me again some time.