Death In Vegas – “deep and dark. It’s certainly not happy surf music”
Riding the Soundwaves (Independent April 2005) Surf’s up at the Barbican, as a day of films celebrates the sport – with a soundtrack from the psychedelicists Death in Vegas.
Neither Richard Fearless nor Tim Holmes, the duo better known as the electronica band Death in Vegas, has ever been near a surfboard, but the two men are now sitting in front of a television set, studying a series of psychedelic surf films. They are in the process of creating an instrumental surf soundtrack that will be performed live at the Barbican in a one-off concert entitled Chairman of the Board, to accompany highlights from three films celebrating surfing culture.
During this 90-minute extravaganza, scenes from Liquid Time, filmed in 2003, will be mixed live on stage and projected on to a screen, alongside excerpts from two titles from the golden era of surf – Morning of the Earth (1971) and The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun (1968).
Death in Vegas, has never been near a surfboard
Fearless describes Death in Vegas’s contribution as “deep and dark. It’s certainly not happy surf music. These films show the naivety of what the kids were doing during the late Sixties and early Seventies. In one scene, they’re surfing off Australia in an area where they’re not meant to be. There’s barbed wire and a plane drops a bomb, because they are near an air-force base. These surfers are outlaws. It is dangerous. This is not about surf culture and long-haired hunks trying to pick up girls.”
This isn’t the first time that Fearless and Holmes have contributed to the movies – their track “Girls” appeared in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, and “Dirge” in The Blair Witch Project – though this is the first time the pair have tuned into the surfer mentality. “I’ve seen thousands of waves, but what is lovely is that the content of the films is very much about a lifestyle,” reflects Fearless. “The surfer kids are living in tree houses, getting stoned out of their minds and surfing all day. They really are living the dream.”
The lifestyle shown in these films is not the logo-heavy view of surfing today
In order to set the scene for the evening’s entertainment, a programme of cult surf films chosen by the curator Rowan Chernin will be screened throughout the day. This will begin with Lee Evans’s Land of Saints (A Cornish Surf Movie). “[Evans] reflects a new wave of British surf-movie makers who portray the bone-numbingly cold experience that we have in the UK, rather than the tropical paradise generally seen in surf films,” says Chernin. Also showing will beDogtown and Z-Boys – the award-winning documentary about a gang of skate’n'surfboarding teens in Venice Beach – and Riding Giants, which looks at the history of the sport.
Chernin also masterminded Death in Vegas’s contribution. “Their sound matches perfectly with those surf images,” he says. “They have the right tone. It fits in with the golden era of surf films – a very surreal stoner rock. The lifestyle shown in these films is not the logo-heavy view of surfing today. It looks more like the cast of Woodstock on water than Baywatch. Everyone is in tatty old board shorts, riding boards that these days you see hanging up in some museum. It was a unique sub-cult that reflected the counter-culture of the times.”