We last caught up with Kevin Godley back in July, when we interviewed him about his eBook, ‘Spacecake‘. During that interview Kevin mentioned his next project, an ‘ear movie’ based on Richard La Plante’s memoir, ‘Hog Fever‘. Now available via digital download and also as a five part CD plus soundtrack, we chatted to Kevin about it all.
EP: Hello Kevin! Are you getting excited for Christmas? Do you do Christmas?
KG: I do! I’m winding down for Christmas, preparing to wind off, I just want to chill out for a few weeks. I’m going to do as little as possible, I’ll probably bathe in a bath full of roast potatoes!
EP: Talk to us about ‘Hog Fever’! When we were talking in July you touched on your involvement in it, and here it is, it’s out – I listened to it today – it’s hilarious, I had to make sure though when I closed my eyes and listened because…Terence Stamp’s voice…it’s very soothing.
KG: (laughs) It is! It’s hypnotic isn’t it! Gorgeous speaking voice!
EP: If he decided to get into hypnotherapy for real, he’d be very good.
KG: He’d have a lot of women queueing around the block – and probably a few men too!
EP: It’s an ear movie – and it really works well as that – but how do you define it?
KG: I suppose the closest thing to it is a radio play. I think the thing that inspired me, and probably inspired a lot of people is the ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast that Orson Welles did, and it scared the shit out of people, but it was so good – it’s like anything, when you remove an element from an entertainment experience, you have to use what’s left to conjure up the experience. You don’t see anything, but you hear it. You can imprint your own imagination on the thing. I suppose it’s a movie for blind people, a movie with the pictures turned off. It does owe a lot of respect to the radio plays back in the day.
EP: There’s probably quite a large market out there for this sort of thing – I mean, look at ‘The Archers’, it’s been going for like 3,000 years, and it works a similar thing, nobody knows what those people look like, you have to imagine it. But from your point of view – you’re a very visual person – was that tricky?
KG: It was interesting. ‘Hog Fever’ first was a book written by Richard La Plante, then it was a screenplay written by Richard and myself, but we could never raise the money for it, it was too wacky, so it got shelved for a few years, and then Richard decided that he wanted to record an audio book of ‘Hog Fever’, but quickly got extremely bored just reading it off the page, and then he thought, why the hell don’t we do the script? And then he called me, and we figured, but not just the script – let’s have sound effects and music – let’s do it as if it was the film, just not include the pictures. And it was exciting for me because I love sound just as much as pictures, but what was great about it, and what I learned about it, is that about 25% of the ideas that were in the film had to go, for the simple reason that they were visual, and anything that relies on pure visuals can not take place in an ear movie. We had to loosen it, we had to adapt stuff. And more importantly, we had to come up with a way to tell the story, or to extract the story from Richard, as it were, because in the original screenplay there was no Shrink. So I had this idea of Terence being a Shrink coaxing Richard’s story out into the open, what happened. I think it works quite well. He does a good job as a Shrink.
EP:I imagine in the screenplay you’d have had a visual image of the leathers being stuck to the footpedal after he had his accident – I’m kinda glad you don’t get to see that…
KG: [laughs] Well the best example I can give you – after he meets Gabriela for the first time, and she has to leave and the Shrink asks, “and then what did you do?” and you hear a thumping bass drum, and a girl going “ah ahhh ahhhh” so it’s pretty obvious he’s masturbating in the film that was going to be Robert’s bike jumping on Gabriela’s bike and humping! But we couldn’t have that, even though we did record it, and it made no sense whatsoever, so you have to twist your brain to the left a bit, to work out what it’s saying to you – is it gibberish or does it tell a story. There’s still a few things in there that I’m not convinced people will know what’s actually going on.
EP: How do you direct an ear movie? We’ve touched on it a bit, but how do you do it?
KG: Well, I’m here in Ireland, and Terence was in Los Angeles with Richard, so what we did was they went into a sound studio, and I directed them via Skype, which wasn’t an ideal solution. We got the basis of episodes 1-5 down overnight, the interaction between Terence and Richard was the main thing, everything else was added afterwards. I actually got two thirds through the edit and had Richard redo a few parts, and add a few extra pieces that I’d added along the way to make a bit more sense of it.
EP: I like that there’s the story within a story of Terence Stamp being one of Jeremy’s clients and beating him up basically – Terence Stamp playing Terence Stamp, in a story being relayed to Terence Stamp playing The Shrink, with Terence Stamp in the background singing ‘Night And Day’.
KG: There was a lot of Stamp!
EP: You play how many characters?
KG: I play about 8 characters: I play ‘Charmer’, I play ‘Hype Romano’, the video director, and I play ‘Biklos’, and I play ‘Billy’; and a few others here and there which aren’t as significant. For me that was one of the most exciting things about it! I didn’t set out to do that – but at certain junctures we only had scratch recordings that weren’t great. We were working to a limited budget because we wanted to keep this our project, so I thought I’d have a crack at it – and I think I did reasonably well! Oh I’m the announcer at the end as well!
EP: And your wife Sue is in this too!
KG: Yes! We tried everybody! The one part we found really tricky to cast was Gabriela, we must have tried at least 3 or 4 different people until we found the right one. It’s kinda weird, because when you’re putting it together, you’re not working with the finished product, so you’re adjusting the timing to fit in with something that isn’t there yet. It’s kind of like an audible version of green screen. But the interesting thing I found was the editing process was wonderful, you can actually shorten words, elongate words, add a bit of space between this bit of dialogue and that bit, and it changes the meaning and feeling of it. In many ways it’s just like film editing, but if you did it on film you’d see them.
EP: You didn’t all record in the one place – what about all the other actors?
KG: The majority of it was recorded in LA. Some of them were friends of Richard’s, some were friends of friends; everybody did it for scale or for love. I feel we got some good stuff! We did a few good sessions recording over Skype, after a while we figured it wasn’t necessary to see each other but rather to hear each other. I also did some recording here. The finished thing was over four hours long! We wrote it very quickly. Terence is a good friend of Richard’s, he was staying with him, and he was going out of town in two weeks, so we had to get both of them in the studio, so I had to adapt it in 2 weeks! I was working ludicrous hours! I didn’t really know what I was doing, which in my case is sometimes an advantage.
EP: Well definitely! Because you try things that aren’t the standard way of doing stuff!
KG: Exactly! So it got rough mixed in LA first, but it was too long, the story was getting diffused, it was disappearing. One thing I learned early on is don’t get lost in the sound for sound’s sake. Just because you’re working in sound it doesn’t mean people want to listen to an elevator for 45 seconds. They don’t give a shit! Tell the story, and decorate it as much as you want, make it as believable and emotional as you want, but don’t hang it on a great elevator sound, or a great gunshot or whatever – no-one cares!
EP: It’s one thing if it’s in an actual visual movie, but if you’re listening to it, you might think, hmm, let’s just skip past this part.
KG: It would be like having a guitar solo that lasted for five minutes, in the middle of a hit song. It’s just not on. And I guess we were just using our instincts, as to what works and what doesn’t work. It was a steep learning curve, but it was great fun to do! There’s one thing missing from it, which I don’t think will be missed, and that is we made a conscious decision not to have footsteps in it. I mean, occasionally you’ll hear something, like, it’s relevant where Richard’s dancing, or where he’s getting up and jumping onto the ledge or whatever, but there’s no Foley in it.
EP: I don’t think it’s necessary – I didn’t miss it.
KG: Well we know people walk from A to B – it’s not very interesting. For this the palette has to be a bit simpler.
EP: I liked the ticking clock in the background.
KG: It’s comforting.
EP: Yes it is! And it conveyed to me the sense that he’s in the Shrink’s office, and he’s in there for an hour, or whatever, and the Shrink knows he’s got to get as much information out of him as possible in whatever time. He does get involved, tremendously involved in Robert’s story, but he’d be conscious of “oh I’ve got my next patient coming up” or whatever.
KG: We wanted to give different places different atmospheres, we tried a crackling fire in the consulting room, we tried a bit of music in the background, but in the end we went with the ticking clock. You knew even if you’d not heard Terence’s voice come back in yet, you knew where you were as soon as you heard the clock. It helps you situate yourself.
EP: So background sounds – you’ve written quite a lot of the songs on the soundtrack as well…was it fun?
KG: Four of them! Yes! It was different for me because I’ve never written on my own before, I’ve always been a co-writer, this was different. ‘Work Song’ was something I threw down as a bit of film music, it took 20 minutes. But ‘Bad and the Beautiful’, ‘Just Write’, and ‘Confessions’, were written in whatever way I write. ‘Confessions’ was interesting because it was the chords behind a speech Robert, that’s Richard’s character by the way, makes when he’s out on the ledge, and I felt there was a song in it, but what were the lyrics going to be, and *ding* they’re obviously going to be a truncated version of what Robert was saying. I don’t usually write like that. That was a different way of writing, turning a piece of dialogue into music, it was kinda cool.
EP: So the whole thing is Robert’s midlife crisis isn’t it!
KG: That’s exactly what it is! And to a degree it’s based on fact…maybe that’s why Richard gave such a stunning performance.
EP: Have you ever had a midlife crisis where you want to toss it all in and want to go off on a motorbike?
KG: I know it’s kind of seductive isn’t it…I get the vibe, the whole idea of falling in love with something mechanical and beautiful and wanting to keep customising it and improving it.
EP: What was your favourite voice to do in Hog Fever?
KG: My favourite voice! What an interesting question! I think my favourite voice was Charmer. I quite enjoyed doing Charmer. I thought Viklaus was fun to do, but I found after about 3 takes my lips failed, because I’m essentially speaking gibberish, and I was worried that I might actually be saying something in an unknown language and someone might pick me up on it. But Charmer was the easiest because (puts on a drawling voice) “I had to talk like this” and I’m not like that at all, they had to autotune me down so I sounded a bit heavier than I actually am. It was all great fun to do! I suppose the easiest one was Hype Romano, the video director.
EP: He didn’t last long did he?
KG: He got shot and decapitated – like all video directors should be!
EP: Haha! I liked Charmer, he was a bit of a philosopher wasn’t he, he might have been a bit rough around the edges, but (puts on a voice) “he knew where it was at, maaan”.
KG: He had a whole ethos that was driving Robert, but he was actually taking the piss out of him as well, like when he loaned him the Rebel. Robert took him seriously, took it a little too far. I like that he showed how tough he was by tattooing his lower intestines by himself.
EP: Do you think Robert was the murderer? Or was it Biklos?
KG: Oh I couldn’t possibly say. It’s too much of a spoiler. Biklos was the maid’s brother, who was obviously psychotic, and thought he was Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, very bizarre character. I can’t remember how that character came about. He was going to be in the movie, and he had a Mohican hair style, same as Travis Bickle, and there was a lovely scene where you were following the hairstyle, as he walks behind a wall, and you can see the hairstyle over the wall, and when he peeps around the side you can see that the hairstyle is wrong, it’s going from ear to ear rather than from front to back! We are missing a few humorous moments but I don’t care! It’s a new way of getting things out there. We thought Ear Movies could be pretty cool and entertaining, so we actually really knuckled down and addressed it, so I’m really chuffed that we got it done, and that it works.
EP: So are you going to collaborate on anything more in the future, do you think?
KG: Well if this goes okay, and Blackstone Audio, who had the vision and balls to release it agree, we’d love to do more of them. They might not be all comedic, some might be pure drama, some might be more musical, could be sci fi stuff. The interesting thing is that modern recording technology and playback lends itself to this kind of thing. A good pair of headphones and listening in the car, it’s entertaining. Passes a couple of hours.
EP: You see it and you think, argh it’s going to be 2 and a half hours or whatever, but it goes really quickly when you’re listening through headphones.
KG: We thought it would be sensible to break it down into 20-25 minute chunks. Again we were making it up as we went along. Finding our way in and out of episodes was a bit tricky and we kinda figured out it should start here and end here and so far. I think that we were lucky in that any speed bumps we hit on the way weren’t too difficult to get over. There was a certain point where we felt, perhaps wrongly, that we knew what we were doing, at least within this context. It was a matter of “does it work?” Is it funny, does it tell a story, do you understand what’s going on – if the answer is no to all three, then just rethink it.
EP: This would work well on BBC Radio 4 or whatever, the ones that do the radio plays in the UK, they would lap this up!
KG: They might! We would like this as part of inflight entertainment. So we’re looking at all different ways of getting it out there. It’s available as a digital download, and on CD from Amazon via Audible.com, and Barnes & Noble there’s also talk of doing a vinyl edition, but at the moment we’re buzzing over the idea of getting it finished.
EP: So just one final thing, Kevin, what do you have got coming up? You’ve still got Whole World Band, that’s doing well…what else?
KG: I’ve got a few ideas for TV series that we’re pitching at the moment, there’s a few things in the air, but I don’t want to jinx them.
I have to ask! Did you enjoy it!
EP: I did! I laughed all the way through, it was really really good! Congratulations to you, a job well done! And to Richard as well. Thank you so much for talking to us, and have a lovely Christmas, do make sure you actually wind down a bit, and we’ll catch up with you next year to talk about your next project!
KG: And a happy new year to you too! Look forward to it!