Category Archives: Music

Ghost in the Graveyard soundtrack

We love those old horror movies from the late 1970s and early 1980s; the slasher films, the monster-from-outer-space films, the zombie films. What we especially love are the soundtracks. The really low-budget, simple scores that eschewed live orchestras in favor of banks of analog synthesizers and were often composed and performed by the director himself. And we love to use those soundtracks in our games. But invariably, we’ll cue up a track from one of these films to underscore a dramatic moment and realize that the players were thinking less about the game – and more about the movie the music came from.

So we decided to create our own awesome 80s horror movie music. As fate would have it, we do have a few vintage analog synths in our studio (including an old Moog Rogue and a Roland Juno 106), so we fired them up and started playing.

The result is the “Ghost in the Graveyard” soundtrack album: nine dark, moody music pieces performed on classic analog synths in the style of those fantastic 80s horror flicks.

There’s no movie, of course, just a bunch of cool music. But we kinda didn’t let that stop us. Just for kicks, as we were mastering the album, we also rounded up a couple of local actors and shot fake trailers and opening credits for the movie that doesn’t exist.

Ghost In The Graveyard Trailer #1 from Toxic Bag on Vimeo.

And we didn’t stop with the trailers! Downloads of the soundtrack from DrivethruRPG or Toxic Bag also include a special set of souvenir lobby cards, 2 movie posters and a reproduction of a 1983 newspaper ad with showtimes for “Ghost in the Graveyard.”

Clearly, we had a lot of fun working on this project. We hope you enjoy it as well.

You can see the trailers at our YouTube and Vimeo pages, and buy the soundtrack at Toxic Bag dot com or DrivethruRPG.

Special thanks to Stephanie Lewis, Alan Vuchichevich and Ele Matelan for their great work on the trailers!


Songwriting with the Bard

“If music be the food of love, play on.”
-Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1.

Mister Shakespeare gave us lots of great words, but not a whole lot of catchy tunes. What this means to modern directors and sound designers/composers is: when you put up a Shakespeare show that has songs in it, you have to write the music. This actually works out well for those directors who decide to set their production in some other setting besides Elizabethan England (which it seems is most directors these days), as they don’t have to somehow defend the existence of 17th century music in, say, New York in the 1930s or Sydney in 2006 or Mars in the 35th century.

The last two Shakespeare shows I’ve designed, “Measure For Measure” and “As You Like It” contain six songs between them, which has presented me with lots of opportunities to “collaborate” with Old Will on some tunes. I generally try not to listen to what other composers have done with these songs so that I don’t get locked into melodies, so when my brother handed me Barenaked Ladies’ version of the “As You Like It” music I listened to it once and then tried my best to forget it. Once my director had approved all of my demos I went back and listened to the BNL record again to make sure I didn’t inadvertently cop any of their ideas (we’re safe).

Here’s a few examples of the music I came up with for the two shows. I invite any composers reading this to post links to their own interpretations of these songs. I think it’ll be fascinating to hear the different approaches.

Under the Greenwood Tree: the director for “As You Like It” wanted to set the show in the late 1950s, moving through the early ‘60s to about 1966/early ’67. The show opens with this song, presented as a rockabilly number complete with “Jordanaires” backup vocals. The backup vocals played for the show, but the lead vocal was performed by the actor onstage. This version features the demo vocal.

Blow, Thou Winter Wind
: later in “As You Like It’ we’re closer to the mid-1960s, so this song is more reminiscent of the jangly British Invasion pop music of 1964/65. Once again, this vocal is the demo version and the vocal was performed live for the show.

Moated Grange Blues: Promethean Theatre’s “Measure For Measure” was set in a modern New Orleans-but-not-really-New-Orleans, and this blues interpretation of the song that opens Act 4, Scene 1 was played as if Mariana was hearing it on her iPod. The vocal is by Herman Wilkins.

Whiles A Wedlock Hymn: One of the final songs in “As You Like It;” in our production the character Hymen appears as a man in drag, lip-sync’ing to an old girl-group hit. Vocal by Karla Beard.


Updates and Downdates

  • Our current theatre sound design project is Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” at Moraine Valley Community College. I’m working on adapting the songs in the show to work as 1950s/60s pop tunes. Elvis, Donovan, the Supremes. I’m having lots of fun trying to mimic the orchestration and production styles of the era. And of course, trying to sing like the Jordanaires…
  • Tim Bradstreet has worked on Hellblazer, the Punisher, a series of sourcebook covers for Vampire: The Gathering, among many other things…and also created the cover art for my 2006 album, Rough Cut Love. If you’re a comics or graphic arts enthusiast, check out Tim’s new series of podcasts.
  • As I ease back into performing music, I’ll be doing a short set with Tim Hort and Tamara Vendetta in Madison, WI at the Art Fair on the Square, Saturday, July 11 at 2 pm.
  • Jared Newman at Technologizer posted a link to a Hollywood Reporter article: the 1979 arcade game Asteroids is going to be made into a movie.

    “Universal has won a four-studio bidding war to pick up the film rights to the classic Atari video game “Asteroids.” …As opposed to today’s games, there is no story line or fancy world-building mythology, so the studio would be creating a plot from scratch. Universal, however, is used to that development process, as it’s in the middle of doing just that for several of the Hasbro board game properties it is translating to the big screen, such as ‘Battleship’ and ‘Candyland.'”

    I’m not sure what disturbs me more about this, the idea of turning a completely plotless video game into a movie or the fact that four studios in Hollywood were bidding on the rights to do it.

  • We’re now done with shooting for the second Michael Brownlee short. Fortunately the weather was cool enough that it never got really nasty hot on set (the actors may disagree with me on that one). Props to Kevin, Steve and Phil for outstanding performances. Dave and Blood got some great noir looks on tape, and we’ll continue editing after the holiday. Happy Fourth everyone!
  • If you’re not automatically redirected…

    …click the link below. Actually I know you won’t be redirected, so just go ahead and click it.

    Last night I attended a very cool panel discussion sponsored by The Recording Academy and Shure, featuring record producers Mike Clink, Ron Nevison and Keith Olsen. These guys have recorded the Who, Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, Heart, Bad Company, the Rolling Stones, Whitesnake, Fleetwood Mac, and countless other amazing bands. I’ve written a little bit about it over at the Donny Who Loved Bowling blog because, well, it seemed to make more sense over there. Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think.

    Dose of Delia: Birthday edition

    I’m dead keen on limiting resources…You need to have discipline in order to be truly creative. If you’re just given total freedom to do anything you like… You’ve got to impose some discipline on either the form you’re going to use or the sounds you’re going to use.
    –Delia Derbyshire

    Today’s Dose of Delia is in honor of what would have been the composer’s 72nd birthday. As I’ve said in the past, Delia Derbyshire is best known to sci-fi fans for her electronic realization of Ron Grainer’s theme music for the BBC television series Doctor Who.

    Delia Derbyshire 1937-2001

    Delia Derbyshire 1937-2001

    It sounds like synthesizers, but Delia’s recording of Doctor Who was created with tape editing, electronic filters and tape loops. She’d record individual notes from oscillators and other electronic sources, one by one onto tape, cut them up with a razor and stick them back together in order. As someone who’s edited miles of tape, I can tell you: that’s a long and labor-intensive process. Delia assembled Doctor Who over the course of two weeks.


    Within a matter of months [after joining the BBC Radiophonic Workshop] she had created her recording of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who theme, one of the most famous and instantly recognisable TV themes ever… “Did I really write this?” [Grainer] asked. “Most of it,” replied Derbyshire.

    On the score he’d written “sweeps”, “swoops”… beautiful words… “wind cloud”, “wind bubble”… so I got to work and put it together and when Ron heard the results.. oh he was tickled pink!
    –Delia Derbyshire

    Have a jelly baby and enjoy Delia Derbyshire’s recording of the Doctor Who theme. Happy birthday, Delia!

    Nice Of You To Have Come To My Funeral.

    “Do you understand that poem, Dr. Wallach?”
    “Well, Charles, it certainly is a very personal expression.”

    Weird nightmare
    You haunt my every dream
    Weird nightmare
    Tell me what’s your scheme?
    Can it be that you’re a part
    Of a lonely broken heart?

    Weird nightmare
    Why must you torment me?
    Weird nightmare
    Pain and misery
    In a heart that’s loved and lost
    Take away the grief you’ve caused

    Can’t sleep at night
    Twist, turn in fright
    With the fear that I’ll live it all again In my dreams

    You’re there to haunt me
    When you say she doesn’t want me
    I’ve been hurt – Do you know what that means?

    Weird nightmare
    Take away this dream you’ve born
    Weird nightmare
    Mend a heart that’s torn
    That has paid the price of love
    A thousand fold
    Bring me a love with a heart of gold

    Today is Charles Mingus’ birthday. I was first introduced to Mingus through Jeff Beck’s cover of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” and later reintroduced via Hal Willner’s stunning “Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus” album. A fantastic upright bass player, composer, and bandleader, he’s easily one of the most important musicians of the last century.

    Do yourself a favor when you get home: listen to Mingus Ah Um. Listen to the Willner record. Listen to Joni Mitchell’s “Mingus” album. Download Pithecanthropus Erectus from iTunes, or check out another of his 70-plus albums.

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