If you are a movie buff, then you have to know value which music score provides to a motion picture. Movies would have been so different with just sound effects or even completely replaced film music. Oliver from Asian Film Fans sits down to talk with David Kaer (a.k.a. Alien Private Eye) who made a rescored version of sci-fi classic anime Ghost in the Shell (1995). Read the full story about how Alien Private Eye composed a very upbeat 80s synthwave sound that feels not only as an homage to action music from that period, but also as a love letter to literally every scene of Ghost in the Shell.
Ghost in the Shell : RESCORED. How did this project come about?
Honestly it is something I have always thought about doing. I have always been interested in composing for films and such, and always had this idea in the back of my head of “wouldn’t it be cool to just take a movie I love, strip away all the music and put my own music over it?”. And then at some point last year I decided to just go ahead and do it. I already knew I was going to go for a more synth-based score and thought Ghost in the Shell was the perfect choice of film. Not just because of the cyberpunk aesthetic of the film that is so often linked with synth music, but because Kenji Kawai’s original score, with all those natural instruments, was so different from what I had in mind.
Was it your intention to correct the 1995 movie?
Absolutely not. I guess I had two main motivations for this project thinking back, other than it always being something I wanted to do. Firstly, I was having a bit of writer’s block when it came to making music and I figured the film could give me some inspiration. Secondly, I was especially interested to see if I could completely change the vibe of the film. You can find those videos all over the internet where someone has taken a scene from Star Wars (1977) or Jaws (1975) and completely removed that fantastic John Williams score leaving just the dialogue and sound effects. Everything is suddenly super weird and awkward. I wanted to see if I could create a similar drastic change in tone just by changing the music. Consider this whole process kind of an experiment.
I have to admit that I know nothing about the technical aspects behind creating music. Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed the upbeat 80's synthwave sound. Is this the retro style that you specialise in?
Specialise is a strong word. I dabble between many genres really. This could easily have ended up being a heavier more guitar-based score but that’s not how I happened to be feeling at the time. I like what I like and I play what I feel like playing. Too much emphasis is put on genres if you ask me. However, electronic music is what I am most involved in these days. Like another musical project I am lucky enough to be part of; an electro-funk duo called Flash Cassette. Our style is more like electronic funk, with a disco twist.
I like to think that if Harold Faltermeyer had been originally asked to compose the score, then the music of Ghost in the Shell would have been exactly like your rescore. Were you influenced by any particular movie composer from the 1980s?
That is not a bad observation at all and I will definitely take that as a complement. I would say I was more influenced by the likes of Jan Hammer and John Carpenter, at least for this particular project. Carpenter for the darker, more ambient and repetitive moments and Hammer for that upbeat 80’s vibe you mentioned before.
What are your thoughts on the original score by Kenji Kawai?
Incredible. Like I mentioned earlier, all that natural instrumentation and the vocal choir go completely against what you would expect a film about cyborgs and futuristic technology to sound like. And it works. Big time. Imagine finding a film buff that somehow still has not seen Ghost in the Shell. If you showed them just the images with the sound off and asked them to take a guess at what the music sounded like I bet it would not be long before you heard words like “Blade Runner” or “electronic”. That is why that score is so good. It is not what you expect. At all.
Can you tell us a bit more about the end credits song?
‘No Call’ was actually written years ago by myself for a college assignment. I had never been able to use it in any of the bands I have been in over the years. It just never fit in. So when I reached the end of this little project and was contemplating having an actual song over the end credits, I knew I was going to use this. Laura Shackleton from country duo Waiting For Wednesday agreed to come in and re-track the vocals for me (she did the original vocal track too back in the day). She did five or six takes of the song, of which I ended up using only one. Yes, she’s that good. Throw in some guitars and the project was done. There’s some thematic reasoning behind only having vocals and guitar on the last track too. Laura’s voice and those guitars are the only real acoustic instruments on the whole album. Everything else is electronic. I think it really fits with the whole “birth of a new lifeform” concept that happens at the end of the film.
On a side note, people should check out Waiting For Wednesday if they like what they hear from Laura on this track. They are completely different from my work but if you like slick vocal harmonies and songs where the lyrics genuinely mean something, then you should really go check out their work.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I mentioned Flash Cassette before. We are working on our third album right now. Or we were until the UK essentially went on lockdown the other night. We were looking at a late June release, but everything is kind of in limbo now. As for myself, I do not have a clue. The only time I will know when I am going to begin my next thing will be the minute before I start it.
The fan-edit premiered on March 12, 2020. If you want to check it out, then contact Alien Private Eye on Reddit, Facebook or Twitter. You can listen to the score tracks independently on bandcamp and spotify.
Please check below to see Asian Film Fans official review of Ghost in the Shell (1995):