Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Women in Horror Month - Christina Agamanolis Interview

Greetings ghouls and boys, Happy Women in Horror Month DAY ONE!!!  Mwah!  Here I bring you an interview with the adorable, wonderfully talented Christina Agamanolis.  Chris is one part of the awesome Siren Music Productions threesome that did the score for the David Jacobsen movie Dahmer.  Dahmer stars one of my most favourite actors of all time (and one who is FINALLY getting the recognition he has deserved for a LONG TIME!!!), Mr Jeremy Renner!!!  *insert lots of hearts and butterflies and stuff*  ;)  Sooooooooooooo..............

I love in the featurette on the DVD (R1…I refuse to have the R2 one as they have called it Dahmer: The Cannibal…grrrrr) where you speak about how on an emotional level you start to relate to some of the things he was going through, it’s a beautiful little part of the featurette and I felt that you perfectly summed up so much about what I love about the movie.  Now I freely admit how much of a slight obsession I have with Jeffrey Dahmer, he fascinates me like no other serial killer.  I feel empathy for him.  You have made such an incredibly dark, yet touching soundtrack, did you feel that same kind of empathy?

A tricky question.  I did feel empathy for the teenage Jeffrey Dahmer as David Jacobson depicted him in his film.  In the movie, Jacobson introduced the young Dahmer right as he was discovering himself and his true passions.  Not only was Dahmer figuring out that he was attracted to men, but also that he enjoyed the act of killing something.  I can only imagine how alone, confused, and scared he felt at the revelation of what brought him true satisfaction/pleasure and how overwhelmed he must have been by the implications for how he would (or wouldn’t) fit in with normal society.  (I felt Renner’s depiction of Dahmer during this time was incredibly insightful.) As teenagers, we all go through this trial and error period to figure out who we really are.  Most times, even for “normal” people it is a very emotional period in one’s life.   For Dahmer – not only the realization that he was attracted to men, but also of how different he was from everyone around him must have been horrifying.  And think – back then there wasn’t the internet or blogs - any outlets for someone like him to research his condition or anonymously discuss his actions and feelings.  He had to figure it out for himself – Could he live the way he wanted to, keeping all of  his indiscretions secret – or should he reach out and get “help” - try to be a normal member of society.  In the last scenes of the movie we watch him make this critical decision – and I think the way David wrote and directed these last moments of the film, and the way Renner acted them was brilliant.

Did you have any reservations about working on a movie about such a prolific serial killer?

No.  I was mostly excited my co-workers and I (in Siren Music Productions - Mariana Bernoski, Willow Williamson, and myself) to get our first feature.

What did your friends and family say when you told them you were working on the movie?  Were they mortified, disapproving or did you just get raised eyebrows all round?

Raised eyebrows for sure.  Most people (again) were happy for us that we landed our first feature film.  As for the subject matter, we got mixed feedback.  Not disapproving – more like concerned, disturbed or grossed out.  There were some people who were really into it too.  I definitely remember having a few intense conversations with my mom (she was one of the ones who was concerned.)

How familiar were you with the story of Jeffrey Dahmer prior to shooting?  

Pretty familiar.  I grew up in Akron, Ohio.  Dahmer grew up in Bath Township – only 15 minutes away.  I remember the day when he got caught.  I was in high school and the news circulated the school hallways.  I even remember a girl crying in the bathroom – saying that she knew the family (perhaps even knew Dahmer himself) and that she couldn’t believe what was happening.  We were all pretty shocked. Since he was from Ohio, the story was widely covered on our TV news reports. 

I have never seen David Jacobson’s 1994 movie Criminal, I’m curious about it.  Have you?

Nope!  I’d really like to though – maybe tonight!  I bet it’s really good.

If you go onto the IMDb message boards for Dahmer, one of the main topics that always comes up is people asking, “Who did the end title credits song?”  How does it feel to have created something so beautiful and haunting that makes people instantly fall in love with it?

It feels wonderful.  I’m so grateful that people like it.  One of the main things that drives me to write music is to reach out to people – make that song or piece of music that people want to hear when they’re happy or sad… music that they turn to for comfort when they need to cry, or listen to when they want to cheer up.  A song that people can really relate to.  I feel like I’ve really accomplished something with Blue Theme.

The only thing that wasn’t so great is that we were never allowed to release the song or the Dahmer Soundtrack to the general public.  We tried to when the film originally came out, but there were a lot of complications (legal and otherwise).  The girls and I still talk about trying to get it up on iTunes – we are in the process of giving it another shot.  We’ll see what happens this time!  It would be a shame if we never get to put it out there – we still regularly receive fan mail and requests for the song.

What kind of mind set did you have to get yourself into to work on getting the perfect score for this movie?

Heavy.  Introspective.
When we landed the film I was temporarily living in Ohio – working at Oberlin College as a Visiting Professor of the TIMARA Department (Technology In Music And Related Arts – basically music composition).  One of my previous teachers went on sabbatical and I took his place for a semester.  Being in the Ohioan climate really helped with my mindset.  I am always very inspired by weather (which makes me wonder why I lived in LA for so long!!).  Feeling that heavy humidity and heat, seeing huge thunderhead clouds floating above you, hearing distant crackling thunder ripping through the sky (and wondering, hoping that it’s coming your way), rain storms, seeing the leaves change color and fall to the ground, the barren trees, smelling the damp leaves rotting on the ground, the crisp smell of the first snow and the sound of snowflakes falling and hitting the ground.  I love it.  It really puts me in an awesome place for writing – definitely helped with the introspective part.  Also the housing in Ohio is a lot more charming and romantically tattered.  I remember first writing the bass line for Blue Theme in my makeshift home studio there.  The wood floorboards were so warped that I had to struggle to keep my rolly studio chair from drifting down into my keyboard, which is especially difficult when you’re trying to balance a bass on your lap and click the record button all at the same time.

Also, since the film was being shot and edited in LA, I travelled back there for meetings and to write and record the soundtrack with the girls two weekends of the month for about 4 months.  I love flying – I’ve often thought that I’m at my most creative when 40,000 feet in the air. Melodies and lyrics fly through my head and I have to struggle to get it all down.  I wrote quite a few things for the film on the plane.  And I’m sure the jet lag contributed to my mindset too.  Arriving in LA and being dead tired… sleeping on Mariana’s floor for an hour before we began a writing session…

As a huuuuuuuuuge Jeremy Renner fan, like right from the very start when he appeared onscreen in National Lampoon’s Senior Trip (haha), I have to ask…what was he like to work with and how absolutely gorgeous is he in real life?  Also what is your favourite out of all of his performances to date?

I met him a handful of times, but never really had a chance to get to know him.  (I definitely don’t think he’d know who I was if you mentioned my name to him … lol)  He definitely was an attractive guy in person. 
I honestly haven’t seen him in very many films, but out of all of the ones that I have seen, I really do still think that Dahmer is one of his best performances.

Post Dahmer you released the album This Side of North with your Dahmer collaborators Marianna Bernoski and Willow Williamson…this is one of the single most perfect albums of all time in my humble opinion.  Here’s a difficult question for you though, if you had to recommend one song off that album to a newbie, what would you pick?

That is a very difficult question.  To introduce people to This Side of North, I’d pick from Come Around the Island, Five Four, or Driving, or Under the Covers.  Probably Driving?  It’s really hard to pick because I love all the songs.  Several of them reflect the collaborative writing the girls and I did (like the ones I just listed), and others are more examples of my own writing style – Love Affair with the Sun, Silence as the Storm Calms, & Under Cover.

You have a new band now, Luna Vida.  Again, loving everything I’ve heard so far.  What are your hopes for the future of the band and would you like to do any TV/Film work with them…or are you just happy gigging it up and going with the flow? 

Hopes for the band – Number one, I just want to enjoy playing and creating with my band mates regardless of “music business” success. It’s been such a long road for me back to feeling comfortable with music, deriving pleasure from playing and creating.  I don’t want to let that go no matter what happens.  That’s not to say that I don’t want that commercial success, but it’s no longer a driving force in my life.  I think all of the members of Luna Vida (Ryan Anton, Matt Rogers, and myself) would love it if our upcoming album reached a wide audience– and even better if we could quit our day jobs and focus all day on writing!  (Though I would miss doing flips with my students at my current day jobJ  We aren’t gigging at the moment – just writing, recording songs, and endlessly working on lyrics (we write so much material that it’s hard to keep up).  We’re planning on releasing our first album in late 2011 or early 2012.  I hope that a few of the songs get placed on TV programs or in Films. 
As for me, I am excited about the idea of writing for TV and Film again, but no opportunities have come up yet.  I really want to write for a feature length Sci-Fi or psychological thriller-type film – I think that would be extraordinarily fun and I’d be really good at it. 

Is there anyone whom you would love to work with, be it either in the movie or music industry?

Beck.  Foo Fighters. Cliff Martinez.  Steven Soderbergh.  Arvo Pärt.   I know there are so many more…
I’m really bad at remember names of things so I can’t offer you too much here.  This would literally take me hours to get you a good answer.

What else can we expect to see/hear from you over this coming year?

I’m pretty focused on Luna Vida, though I do get calls and write music for commercials from time to time – none of my tracks have been selected recently for any of the final commercials, but you know never know!  I also have been craving to make some ambient/textural music – lots of guitar.  Fun!

And last but not least, who is your ultimate favourite woman in horror, be it an actress, director, composer, writer…anyone?  And also, if you had to pick, what’s your favourite horror movie?

Again, I’m pretty crummy when it comes to names of films or people.  I’m the kind of person who says, “… you know that film where there’s that guy and then he gets chased around in that city”.  I can however sing you soundtrack themes and songs left and right.
OK – Off the top of my head – I loved the soundtrack to “The Shining” by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind.
Does funny horror count?  I love Anna Farris.
Favorite horror movie – gosh… I don’t know.  I don’t really like “horror” movies.  I get scared, I yell at the actors on the movie screen (ex., “the bad guy is right behind you – you idiot!!  Turn around!!), I grab fellow movie-watchers, and have bad dreams.  I enjoy psychological thrillers - like Silence of the Lambs – even though they still give me bad dreams and creep me out.  And Sci-Fi horror.  And I love funny horror…

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