Dark Soundscapes : Timothy Fife Talks ‘Black Carbon’, SxSW, and Giallo Films

Timothy Fife. Heard of him? No? Well stick around and let me introduce you. You see, Timothy Fife made his presence known to me last year in the form of the synth duo Victims. Their 10″ release with Death Waltz called Form Hell was one of those jaw dropping experiences for me. Along with Chris Livengood, Fife laid out two epic heavy synth tracks that felt like the universe slowly expanding and then retracting onto itself. To my ears the music Victims create is of the intellectual sort. Music that evolves and reshapes every time you listen to it. Soon after that release there was word that Fife was releasing his solo debut with Spencer Hickman and Death Waltz sometime in 2017. That day finally came a few weeks ago. The release is called Black Carbon, and it’s a stunning album of moody compositions that run the gamut from eerie epics to ambient excursions.

Fife is one of those well-rounded musicians, composing scores for films, collaborating with other artists, and just generally expanding minds through circuitry. He’s also a guy that keeps moving forward. I reached out to Timothy Fife and asked if he’d mind talking a bit about the new record and what’s next for him. He was happy to reply.

J. Hubner: So tell me about your experience at SxSW. You re-scored a portion of ‘Kwaiden’? How did this come about? What was it like working with Antoni Maiovvi?  

Timothy Fife: SxSW was great. I did my first solo set there and I re-scored over an hour’s worth of music for Kwaidan with Antoni Maiovvi.  Working with him was pretty much effortless, he is a really great musician and can improvise really well.  The Kwaidan rescore was a collaboration between Holodeck Records and the Austin Film Society.  Antoni and I were the only artists that rescored Kwaidan that weren’t on Holodeck so it was a real honor to be picked for that.

J. Hubner: Would you go back to SxSW?

Timothy Fife: Oh definitely.  I didn’t see a lot of really commercial stuff when I was there and a lot of what I saw was really great electronic acts that all had their own thing going on.  Austin is definitely a great place for synth music right now, and very little of it was “synthwave.”

J. Hubner: So let’s talk about your Death Waltz Originals debut ‘Black Carbon’. It’s an incredible album, man. How long have you been working on these tracks?

Timothy Fife: I actually made that album really quickly.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do with that record, so I really just banged it out.

J. Hubner: Was there anything influencing you? Influencing the direction the songs took?

Timothy Fife: The whole thing about Black Carbon came from listening to a report on Public Radio about climate change.  The country just seemed to be going crazy with the elections at that time, so hearing something that was even worse about the environment really made me want to have those feelings as the undercurrent in the record.  Obviously I’m still heavily influenced by Berlin-School music but I really wanted elements of noise in there.

J. Hubner: I can hear that undercurrent in “Sydney at Night”. 

Timothy Fife: When I was finishing up with the track I remembered reading something awful about Sydney, Australia and I thought “that title fits.”

J. Hubner: I really dig the bonus track “Alebedesque” ,only available on the download version of the album. This one almost has an industrial vibe to it. Why didn’t it make the vinyl cut?

Timothy Fife: Yeah, that was just something I was working on potentially for the record and I just didn’t think it made the cut. I was definitely inspired by noise acts at that time.  Some people really liked it, so I decided to make it a “bonus track.”   But I think the definitive version of the record is the one Death Waltz released on vinyl.

J. Hubner: Speaking of Death Waltz, how is it working with Spencer Hickman and that crew. They seem to really get the whole synth scene really well. 

Timothy Fife: I owe a lot to Spencer.  I was basically a nobody from nowhere and he liked my work enough to want to release it on the best label out there.  I’m on the same label as Bruno Nicolai, that’s fucking nuts.  He is also really hands free if you want him to be and he gives you complete artistic freedom toward your release.  For Black Carbon, I didn’t have art set up like I did with the previous record, so Spencer asked Eric Adrian Lee to do it because of his awesome work on the Death Waltz giallo records.

J. Hubner: When did you start to get into Giallo films? 

Timothy Fife: I would say I was in my mid-twenties.  One of my friends was really into foreign exploitation films and he would show me Joe D’Amato and Jess Franco films a lot.  When I first saw it, I kinda didn’t get it but I liked the style and design in them.  Around that time I became really addicted to the soundtracks, and the Giallo ones were some of the most incredible ones I’ve heard. Loving those scores really got me into that genre.

J. Hubner: Someone coming into the genre green, where would you recommend they start?

Timothy Fife:  I guess if someone didn’t know the genre and they wanted a good start, it would definitely have to be Argento’s Tenebrae or Profondo Rosso just because they are still kind of like Hollywood films.  If they were enticed by those then Sergio Martino would be the next great giallo director to check out.

Timothy Fife(L) and Antoni Maiovvi at SxSW 3/17/17. Photo courtesy of Holodeck Records.

J. Hubner: Since we’re on the subject of films, at this point do you prefer film composing over writing original music?

Timothy Fife: No preference, at least right now.  Whenever I do non-film music I’m always eager to get back into film composing and vice versa.  It’s definitely more personal to write non-film music, but my style if you want to call it that certainly comes out of film composing more than anything else.

J. Hubner: So what’s up next? Any live shows?

Timothy Fife: Next week I play a few shows in New England and testing the waters with performing more.  I was a composer for film for so long I kind of forgot how to play live in a way.  I’m playing with Tyler Gorman from the band Dust Witch.  He’s one of the best musicians I know and we like the same stuff so it’s cool.

J. Hubner: Any new Victims releases in the works?

Timothy Fife: As far as Victims goes, I believe Chris will be coming back from NYC soon and we already have some ideas for a live show.  We have like 30 Victims tracks we never used so we want to put something else out with that material.

J. Hubner: It seems like performing something like Black Carbon would be a challenge.

Timothy Fife: I’m not going to play anything from Black Carbon live, at least not for now.  When I played my first show with Tyler I did open with a version of sorts of Low Plain Landscape, but those compositions really aren’t meant to be played in front of an audience.  I really see Black Carbon as more of a mood record of sorts.  For these shows the music is way more cheery and you could probably dance to it.

J. Hubner: Is getting back into performing something you’re excited about, or something you feel you need to do? Maybe a little excitement and dread?

Timothy Fife: When I played my solo set at SxSW I was really nervous.  I had never done that before and I think you could tell if you heard the performance.  I still haven’t developed my live set yet completely so every time I play it’s going to be pretty different from the last show.  I am excited about it, and so far everyone seems to be into it so I’m OK with that.

J. Hubner: Before we go, are there any dream/future collaborations you could share with us?

Timothy Fife: I have about three tentative collaborations set up already.  Wish I could tell you about any of them right now because they are all really cool.  As far as musicians go, I’d love to work more with people that influenced me.  Alec Empire would be cool.  As far as directors go, my dream gig would to score a Cronenberg film.

Head over to Mondo and grab a copy of Black Carbon on vinyl, or if downloading is your poison grab some digital goods at Mondo’s Bandcamp page.

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