Disco Does Fulci: An Interview with Ancient Heat
A few weeks ago, I had the immense pleasure to see Ancient Heat play at Mississippi Studios in Portland, where they blew my mind with a disco re-imagining of the theme from Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (not to mention a killer stage presence). Recently, I asked Brendan Grubb (Ancient Heat’s front man) a few questions about the band’s origins, Fulci films, and more. There are just two things you need to know about Ancient Heat before you read this interview:
1. Ancient Heat is a disco band.
2. They kick total fucking ass.
–BIZARRO CENTRAL: How did Ancient Heat form?
The concept and the first batch of songs all came from me, alone in my apartment. After my last band broke up I had pretty much decided I wasn’t going to do this anymore. It was really rough emotionally; worse than any relationship breakup I’ve ever had. But the farther I removed myself from playing music, the more ideas came to me.
So I wrote a bunch of songs and made some home recordings with a drum machine and whatever instruments I had lying around without any real intention of doing anything with them, but eventually I was convinced to round up some folks to see what it would sound like live.
Once we started playing I realized we’d need a good chunk of people to do the compositions justice, so we pretty much just added more and more friends until it sounded right. I really don’t feel like I could have found a better gang of people to be in a band with. Everyone’s really on the level.
Anyway, we had 9 people for a long time but now we’re down to 8. I think 11 is the perfect number for our band but I don’t have any more time to wait for the right people to come along. Plus we have enough trouble fitting everyone on stage as it is.
–BC: What’s your favorite Fulci film? And is there any chance you’ll be incorporating more euro horror into your music?
My favorite Fulci film is definitely Zombi 2. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Don’t Torture a Duckling are both solid movies but nothing else in his repertoire is as perfect as Zombi 2. That zombie on shark fight scene is just unbeatable. And that gnarly scene where the zombie pushed that lady’s face into a nail? Awesome. Also, the score is incredible. I’ve wanted to do a version since the first time I saw the movie and Ancient Heat was the perfect project for it.
As far as incorporating more of a European horror vibe into our music, I wouldn’t mind borrowing a bit of the giallo aesthetic. They were all so stylized and tense. I feel like there’s already a lot of overlap between the idiosyncrasies of giallo and the disco movement anyway.
–BC: Who are your influences?
I’ve always been a huge fan of disco music. My favorite producers are Patrick Adams, Cerrone & Giorgio Moroder. I also really appreciate a strong female lead vocal. I LOVE Candi Staton, Gwen McRae and Donna Summer…but then again who doesn’t?
I’ve also been inspired by a lot of opera. I feel like in order for things to be interesting the stakes have to be huge. There should be constant tension that builds to an overwhelming sense of passion or terror or euphoria or whatever.
–BC: A giallo disco musical would kick ass.
I don’t think disco really ever went away. It’s undeniable that there was a major backlash (have you ever heard of Disco Demolition night? That shit was insane! 90,000 people showed up to a baseball stadium and rioted because they hated disco THAT MUCH) and it went into hiding for a little while but then it just kind of evolved into other things, like house, techno, synth pop, even post punk bands like PIL and Bauhaus borrowed a lot from the original disco sound.
I feel now more than ever the pop music industry is pretty similar to what it was like in the 70’s. We’re in a period when getting singles played on the radio (or sold through iTunes or whatever) is more important than getting people to buy full lengths. Just like in the 70’s, the producers are responsible for most of what gets played, especially in pop and r&b. The pop stars themselves don’t have much to do with the music itself, they’re just part of a marketing package.
–BC: What are the day-to-day operations like? How do you all stay in sync with each other? Any rituals?
We usually meet twice a week; once to work on new material and once to fine tune our set. It can be kind of difficult sometimes because we ALL work day jobs and have separate social lives but we also love and respect each other. We WANT to spend time together because we like each other so much, so when someone can’t make a rehearsal, I
know it’s for good reason.
When we get together to play it’s usually pretty loose. We take our time and party a little, talk about our week and then when it feels right we start playing. But no rituals to speak of, really.
–BC: What’s next for Ancient Heat?
So we have a record coming out on 11/1/11. It’s our first release and it’s an EP featuring 2 originals and 2 remixes. We recorded in town at Revolver Studios and those guys made us sound so good! The remixes are by Daddy Warbuxxx (who plays in White Hinterland) and Hydroplane (SF producer who plays in Click.Boom). It’s gonna be available on LP and as a download. We’re getting 500 made and we probably won’t do a 2nd pressing so once they’re gone, they’re gone. Hopefully we can make enough money from this record to release another couple songs we recorded in the same session, and I figure we’ll just keep doing that until someone wants to help us make a full length. Or until we run out of songs.
We’re also gonna be on this comp benefiting the Oregon Historical Society. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about it but Jason from Floating World Comics helped put it together and he got a TON of great bands. We’re really honored to be on it. That’ll be out in January.
Visit Ancient Heat online at www.ancientheatdisco.com, and don’t forget to pick up (or download) their debut record on 11/01/11!
Cameron Pierce is the author of Cthulhu Comes to the Vampire Kingdom, Lost in Cat Brain Land, The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island, and other books. He lives in Portland, Oregon.