Alan Sinclair has been making synth-based sonic dread since 2009 under the name Repeated Viewing. The UK-based musician/composer creates moody records that look and feel like some lost soundtrack to a grimy, woozy exploitation flick your mom would never let you rent. Movies like Ms. 45, Nightmare, The Beyond, and Death Wish 2 would pair quite nicely with Repeated Viewing albums like Street Force, The Three Sisters, Frozen Existence, and Six Dead Orchids in an Eagle’s Talons. Sinclair immerses the listener in the music worlds he creates. With so many imagined soundtrack artists popping up and having a crack at the genre, it’s quite refreshing to have someone that still does it right and who does something unique each and every time.
Repeated Viewing is a musical project that I’d call prolific, as Alan Sinclair seems to always be preparing something new for us to sink our teeth into. On February 18th Repeated Viewing drops the newest addition to the discography called The Beach House. As with previous albums, Sinclair takes us on a melodic journey with synths, guitar, bass, piano, and percussion that pulls on the heartstrings as well as laying some serious dread. It’s another top notch musical journey from the imagination of Alan Sinclair.
I sat down and talked to Alan about Repeated Viewing, horror films we came up on, and how Killing Joke changed everything for him.
J. Hubner: At what age did you get into horror films and horror soundtracks?
Alan Sinclair: Pretty early really – my folks were quite liberal about what they let me watch when I was a kid. The two I distinctly remember seeing at an early age were Psycho and Poltergeist. Both scared the bejeesus out of me but certainly roused my interest in horror. As for horror soundtracks, that came later when I got into the John Carpenter movies but really kicked off when I started tracking down the Italian/video nasty stuff. Discovering the Frizzi and Goblin scores was probably ground zero for the stuff I do now. I also loved the ridiculous action films of the 80/90s – tons of good synth malarky on those soundtracks as well.
J. Hubner: Who were some of your favorite filmmakers growing up?
Alan Sinclair: As a kid I loved all the usual 80’s stuff but when I hit my early teens I really got into horror in a big way and consumed as much as possible. All the classics really – Craven, Carpenter, Hooper, the Hammer movies… Then my folks got cable TV and I discovered the Bravo channel which essentially showed nothing but Italian horror, Troma and asian action flicks every night after 9pm. I used to set a video recording every night and then check out what I’d snaffled in the morning. That’s how I saw all the Argento and Fulci stuff (as well as Rabid Grannies/Surf Nazis Must Die/Brain Dead etc).
J. Hubner: When did music come into your life?
Alan Sinclair: Day one essentially. All of my family are musical in one way or another. My dad’s an amazing pianist (unlike me) so I grew up listening to him bashing out classical numbers and playing jazz with his pals. From early on I associated music with happy times and wanted to get involved myself. Luckily my folks always supported my involvement in any form of music, even when it involved one of my weird pals practising blastbeats in their garage for several hours every Saturday afternoon!
J. Hubner: Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?
Alan Sinclair: Certainly do – after years of nicking my older brother’s tape I finally bought my own copy of Killers by Iron Maiden. Still a cracking album. Shortly after that I got my first cruddy turntable and picked up Killing Joke’s debut LP and Never Again by Discharge, both due to hearing the cover versions by Metallica and Anthrax on a wobbly tape my friend had given me. Those remain two of my favourite albums.
J. Hubner: I’ve found that a lot of musicians in the world of heavy synth and horror scores came up in the hardcore world. Did you start in hardcore and industrial before heading into the direction of Repeated Viewing? If so who were some of your favorite artists?
Alan Sinclair: Thrash/Death metal and hardcore punk were without a doubt my first musical loves, anything obnoxious and noisy really. I was lucky enough to make friends with a bunch of folk who were heavily into all that stuff so we shared new discoveries via tape trading. Killing Joke were probably the first band that I really obsessed about from early on, something about their sound always seems to trigger instant happiness in my brain. I was also a massive industrial fan in my teens, Ministry/NIN were the gateway drugs leading to Skinny Puppy/Young Gods/Godflesh etc. That stuff still massively tickles my fancy nowadays.
At one point an older friend of my best mate asked him to look after his vinyl collection while he was away for the summer. He was obviously quite a turned on extreme music lover because it was all Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Carcass, Whitehouse etc. I remember us sitting in his room looking through all the sleeves and thinking, what the fuck is this stuff? Then we put a few on and I was instantly blown away by how weird and individual all these bands sounded. Shortly after that I got into all the Warp/Rephlex stuff and eventually found out you could actually buy some of the older soundtrack stuff… and hey presto, eternally empty wallet!
J. Hubner: When did you seriously get into synths and soundtrack-based music? Was there a particular film/composer combination that steered you in that direction?
Alan Sinclair: Well, I’d love to say it was Halloween or Blade Runner but the first soundtrack that really caught my ear in relation to synths was probably Flash Gordon by Queen! There’s a lot of cool Oberheim oompf and squiggles on that one that got me wondering how they made those noises. I re-watched it recently with my kids so they’re currently into the OST LP – still sounds great, I’ve been enjoying donning my Brian Blessed hawkman outfit and revisiting that one.
J. Hubner: Let’s talk about the new Repeated Viewing album ‘The Beach House’. How long have you been working on it? What is the concept behind it? Who or what are some influences on the sound and overall aesthetic?
Alan Sinclair: The Beach House has been around in one form or another for a few years but took a while to chisel into shape. The influence for the LP actually came from a deserted house a group of us found during a hungover morning walk along a beach near where they filmed The Wicker Man. It was a kind of 70’s brutalist structure with a creepy overgrown pool and big “Keep Out” signs – very strong LEAVE THIS PLACE vibe. It instantly got me thinking that it would be a great location for a weirdo slasher movie. So there you go, key influences on this one – hangovers, poor property management and manky swimming pools. Plus, I grew up next to the North Sea so any excuse to have a coastal setting works for me.
J. Hubner: How do you see the evolution of your work from something like ‘Six Dead Orchids in an Eagle’s Talons’ to your newest record ‘The Beach’? To my ears your work sounds less Gothic and 70s European in nature than it did 7, 8 years ago.
Alan Sinclair: Yeah, I’ve probably become more focussed on production over the years so things have gradually gained a bit more clarity. When I first started out I compensated for a lack of skill by feeding everything through tape saturation and lo fi effects. Now I have more gear/sound options and new fangled ways of compensating for my lack of production skills! I like to keep shifting the sound a bit as well, it keeps things interesting for me and the last thing I want to wind up doing is churning out the same LP over and over again. In fact, the latest stuff I’ve been working on is edging back towards the old school 70’s tape wobble vibe, so watch this space…
J. Hubner: What is your writing process like? Do you write a script to go on when composing, whether literally or figuratively speaking? Or do you write and record the songs and come up with a concept/story after the fact?
Alan Sinclair: I generally find that I’m a happier camper if I do something related to music on a daily basis so I try to record everyday, even if it’s just a 30 second blast on a synth. Every couple of weeks I’ll sit and listen back to the various ideas and pick out a few to develop further. This eventually leads to a couple of fully formed tracks which then give me the vibe/concept for completing other tracks or picking out stuff I think might work well together. I then proceed with the hair tearing out process of trying to make it sound vaguely listenable! I’m a chronic tinkerer so often a potential release starts with one concept but ends up with a completely different idea and most of the tracks replaced! I usually get there in the end…
J. Hubner: It sounds like you use a bevy of instrumentation, including live drums, piano, guitar, as well as synths. Is that the case? Do you perform everything yourself?
Alan Sinclair: Yep, I’m a regular one man band. I was a guitar/bass player before I got into synths so still have some very rusty chops on that front. The drums are a Komputer cheat though, my natural rhythm on the traps is dreadful. Easier overall to argue with myself about how I want things played than falling out with other folks.
J. Hubner: Your albums are an all-encompassing experience. From the songs to song titles to artwork each one feels like a walk thru a back room in some video store in the mid-80s. How closely do you work with the artists that design the covers? It’s all rather brilliant.
Alan Sinclair: I’ve been incredibly lucky with the artists I’ve had a chance to work with – Eric Adrian Lee, Adam Burke, Hauntlove. TBH, I’m a nightmare when it comes to deciding what I’d like on a sleeve! In some instances there’s a fair bit of back and forth regarding what’s going to work but I’m generally happier to feed somebody a rough concept and then let them take that where they think it should go. So far that’s worked out incredibly well. It’s actually often the case that as the graphics emerge I get more ideas about the flow and content of the LP and wind up reshuffling the tracklist; so the artwork has a fairly big influence on the overall package. Gotta love them talented scribblers!
J. Hubner: What is it about those old late-70s/early-80s exploitation films that’s so appealing? I was pulled into that world in my early teens and never quite crawled out. What was about them that pulled you in?
Alan Sinclair: For me it was the grimy outsider vibe of them. Everything feels like it’s riding an undercurrent that the normal film industry didn’t want to touch. I guess I was attracted to those movies because I could see some similarity with the DIY attitude of the music I liked. I guess as with music, there was a bit of a community element to the horror stuff as well – you tended to click with people who were into that sort of thing. Nowadays there’s an element of nostalgia for my youth, of course. I do still love checking out a fuzzy, barely-watchable VHS with a wonky soundtrack (although that’s mostly done via youtube rips nowadays.)
J. Hubner: So what’s next for Repeated Viewing? Do you have any ideas for stuff you’d want to explore? Have you ever made an album with a space theme? Maybe something like ‘Outland’ mixed with ‘Lifeforce’?
Alan Sinclair: Another LP is due later in the year, it’s got a 80’s culty type vibe going on and some truly fantastic sleeve art. There’a few other potential releases on the brew as well. Who knows, I might even take you up on the space theme challenge – Repeated Viewing 2049?
Repeated Viewing 2049. Please make this happen. Until the replicant-themed Repeated Viewing album hits, we still have The Beach House. Go to Lunaris Records on February 18th and grab a copy of Repeated Viewing’s newest long player. It’s absolutely incredible, but you probably figured as much.