Sheffield’s math-rock heroes 65daysofstatic are one of the hardest working (and loudest) outfits out there. We quiz instrumentalist Paul Wolinski on their film score work and how they let their music do the talking…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 25 Oct 2013
  • min read
Six albums, a touring schedule which puts others to shame and a wealth of live soundtracks and film scores - Sheffield’s 65daysofstatic have been a band for over ten years but their creative flame is burning just as brightly now as when they first started out.

Their passion for their profession is apparent from their hectic live schedule, huge sound and thirst for musical confusion. This four piece play rhythmically perplexing instrumental music which veers between the heavy and the beautiful.

It’s a devastating combo which has made them poster boys for a UK underground scene informed as much by guitar squalls as Warp Records electronica.

A decade in and this fiercely loved group have gradually started moving their music into film soundtracks. They’ve always had a strong visual identity alongside their music and it’s one they’ve capped with their score of seventies sci-fi film Silent Running and this year’s gallery installation project, Sleepwalk City.

Both showed off their lust for musical experimentation, deadly rhythmical precision and dedication to new sonic ideas. With their sixth album, Wild Light, recently released, we quizzed to multi-instrumentlalist Paul Wolinski about the inspiration for their film music projects...

How did the Silent Runnings project come about?

In mid-2010 we got approached by Glasgow Film Festival to do a live soundtrack. We jumped at the chance as we’d always wanted to work with film. No one had approached us until then, so it seemed like a great opportunity.

We were encouraged to pick any film we wanted. And we chose Silent Running because with the existing soundtrack, there are almost no places where it interferes with the dialogue. It meant we could strip away the existing music and replace it entirely with ours without losing the thread of the film. Our number one aim was to really write a whole new soundtrack than just jam over the film for 90 minutes. We wanted to do it properly.

So we drove ourselves insane over the winter of 2010 by pulling that together in our rehearsal room. We performed it in Glasgow in the February of 2011. And at the time we thought it was just gonna be two nights in Glasgow and that would be it. But the response was so overwhelming, we ended up touring the set around Europe and it became a record. The response was really surprising.

What did you find to be the main challenges when writing the music?

We had to figure out how to play entirely in sync with a film which had been edited 30 years ago. That was the main challenge. That edit couldn’t change so there was no flexibility with what was there. We just had to squeeze music exactly into the right places. There were a lot of crazy, secret click backs and weird shifts in BPM. So when every explosion happened, the music had to be right. We wanted to do it as tightly as possible.

But from a composing side, it was really nice. When we write records, it’s so intangible, it’s about everything all at once and it can be hard to pull it all together. With the soundtrack, it’s right there on the screen for you so you can be a lot more literal, there’s much more to hang what you’re doing on. It’s a very different discipline. Even though we’re an instrumental band primarily, the approach between soundracks and record writing is totally different.

Did you feel you had to conform to any soundtrack composing conventions when writing the music?

We did but at the same time, we made sure we embraced it in the right way. It can be really good some times to work inside parameters and to create briefs to something other than your own.

It’s obviously an old film and we wanted to write a suitable soundtrack that captured the age. As although it’s futuristic, it was still made a long time so you’ve got this synth, seventies soundtrack. We allowed ourselves to lean on some established genres more heavily than we would if we were writing a standard record. There are a lot more rules you can follow with soundtracks in some ways of making the music right.

Has working on this informed future projects? Such as your recent Sleepwalk City installation at Tramlines?

That was the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever undertaken. That was an AV soundtrack project but we installed 16 speakers around the room as well as the main PA. So we had this surround sound aspect going on matched to visuals. It was inspired by Silent Running and other bits and pieces of computer game work we’d done. When we wrote our new record, it was all informed as much by ignoring the lessons we’d learned in soundtracks as much as allowing ourselves to be influenced by them.

Did the Sleepwalk City project go down well?

The response was overwhelming. We did nine shows in two days which was a bit full on in hindsight. It all became feverish as there were a million technical hurdles to overcome until ten minutes before we opened the doors. We received many new people coming because of the Tramlines Festival – this weird, swirling chaotic sound and visuals was all tightly in sync. We wrong footed people. Which was great. They got this insane 30 minute piece of gloominess!

Is this a side to 65daysofstatic you're looking to develop?

It is picking up. It seems like the UK indie film industry is the same as the indie music scene and no one has any money. So we’re talking to some great people who are trying to get some projects off the ground. If they do, we’re ready to get involved. We do make cinematic stuff. Hopefully we’ll be doing more of it in tandem with our albums.

Being in Sheffield has got that northern greyness which helps inspire cinematic sounds. Every rehearsal room we’ve been in has been an old steel factory in one way or another. It brings these ideas out of you whether you like it or not…

The band's sixth album, Wild Light, is out now.