This is the third show I've worked on with Tobi - in the past I've also lived with him and made music for his sibling Kerith's shows, so our creative process is pretty relaxed and comfortable. I think half the battle is getting on the same page! Tobi sends quite detailed sonic references and notes on the show, while Kerith would send Pinterest mood boards with colour palettes and more conceptual things - both are equally helpful methods. as long as the vision is clear.
For this show, I asked Tobi to come over and we'd start work on it while he prompted me with references. Initially, he came to my studio and we made the music that would eventually turn into the intro for the show: I started on the drum machine and Tobi played some keyboard parts and we just went from there. Later, I added some more synths, distorted guitars and percussion and then we had a piece of music! Tobi definitely helped make the music for this show and we did a few more sessions like this - making music from scratch and having fun. Not all his references were sonic either, sometimes it’d be text he’d been working on, an article about the source text, or something that resonated like a trashy tv show or an old speech. Then, once the mood was set, I went and made the rest of the music solo.
We also saw Brecht’s penchant for writing light operas as an invitation, and even though the original Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti only has a couple of songs in it, for this adaptation we’ve pushed that. Sometimes the show’s like being at a gig and other times it’s like being at a realist play.
What I like about making music for theatre is how experimental you can be and also the virtual bands you can make. I perform as a bass player and guitarist in a bunch of Melbourne bands and in none of them could I make a ten-minute synth drone and then bow an acoustic guitar over the top! So for this show - a kind of runaway road trip story - we got to make everything from surf rock to doom metal to trap to country music. And in terms of being experimental, I don't mean harmonically, I mean more sonically: really focusing on the mood of the music and creating a world with distortion and reverbs and effects, and also getting sounds out of instruments that you wouldn't go for in a band "song" setting. For example, I'd send instruments that weren't guitars to guitar amps and guitar pedals and record them back into the arrangement, things like that.
For this show, I used an MPC 1000 drum machine using various drum samples from real Melbourne drummers, my Billy Hydes percussion-for-beginners set, electric guitar and bass, acoustic guitar, double bass, lots of guitar pedals and some synths. I used both the Roland Space Echo, which is an 80s analogue real tape echo and the modern Teenage Engineering OP-1 quite a bit throughout the score. Both of these pieces of equipment are quite unpredictable and sent me down sonic rabbit holes that I couldn't have imagined without them. I like to be lead by the instrument or the piece of gear I'm using at the time I guess, as opposed to channelling a symphony orchestra, which unfotunately, I cannot do!
Jules Pascoe's Puntila/Matti opens at the kings cross theatre on Monday 25th September and runs through to Saturday 14th October. More information and tickets here.