Vitacura Eyes is a response to living in the city of Santiago, Chile in Oct-November 2019 from the perspective of some kind of tourist/artist/visitor of a divided city in its turmoil. The weird insider/outsider position of living as an artist and parent in a city where you don’t speak the language, in a situation that suddenly explodes into unprecedented violence is captured in warped synths and an almost-operatic theatrical strangeness.
At its height, 1.2 million people were on the streets in protest against inequality and the cost of living. Pyres of tyres burnt at street intersections, monuments were occupied and defaced, shops and supermarkets were on fire and on the front lines of the protests young people in gas masks fought running battles against riot police who fought back in armoured personnel carriers fitted with huge water cannons, spraying teargas. On the fringes and in the outer suburbs were random acts of violence, rubber bullets aimed at eyes, homes teargassed, arrests, rape and murder.
Inside the protests it was a party atmosphere, musicians played, people danced, and old ladies tended the crying eyes of the young rioters with lemon juice, baking soda and water. Men wound their way through the crowd selling ice cream and soft drinks. At night the mood would become more serious as green laser beams lit up the police drones and helicopters, the sky full of orange smoke.
If you stop and think about it this could be so many countries in this world, in one of the many places where inequality has reached a tipping point, but this was Chile in 2019. We were in Santiago working with artists on the initial research that would become “Let Us Drink The New Wine Together!”. From my apartment, I could hear the roar of the crowd and the popping of teargas canisters echoing off the walls of the concrete apartment towers. I started recording the city on my iPhone and composing music on an iPad, tapping out rhythms on a softsynth, singing rough lyrics and playing with samples recorded on the streets, in response to what was going on around me as some kind of observer to this divided city in its turmoil.
Santiago is divided, above the city the wealthy suburbs of Vitacura and Las Condes cling to the sides of the Andes mountains, the houses with lush gardens and swimming pools look down on a dry dusty city. The families that live up here own everything, politics, water, health, education, transport, pensions, medicine and food, and thanks to the neo-liberal economic laws forced upon Chile by the dictator Augusto Pinochet, most Chileans are either in debt to private companies that control the necessities of life or find them unaffordable.
Back in New Zealand, I began working with vocalist/sound artist Serok Park to unpick the iPad recordings and process them into finished works. Originally from Korea, Serok grew up in Berlin and studied music in London before moving to Chile where she now lives with her family. Serok is captivated by location recordings and the possibilities created by using voice and audio installation/performance using Ableton Live. I’m fascinated by layers of sounds and the worlds that can be created and communicated using microphones, recording devices and editing.
Over time, in various studios, we recorded and made music, the first track in this series being Vitacura Eyes….
Originally released in 2003, Woodenhead has become a cult NZ film classic. The vision of director Florian Habitch, the film takes us on a journey through a Grimms Brother's inspired fairytale world, travelling with innocent Gert as he delivers his boss's daughter Plum to her wedding in Maidenwood.
The premise of the film's creative process revolves around the idea of recording the entire soundtrack, dialogue, music and effects before any of the visuals were shot.
In 2002 Florian Habitch and composer Marc Chesterman met with recording engineer Jeff Holdaway in Auckland NZ to record the entire film, creating the script as sound taking the resulting mix away on two CDs as the structure upon which to film the story with the visual actors on set in Northland.
Over a fast-paced schedule of three weeks, vocal actors & musicians enthusiastically worked in front of microphones, even using the overnight downtime hours to create unplanned elements such as "Hospice For Destitute Lovers" written by Steve Able and mixed by Jeff Holdaway, a song that would become a theme for the film.
In 2018 as Florian began planning a re-release of the film (this time in color), Marc Chesterman conceived the idea of a reimagined soundtrack. Various composers / producers were invited to completely remix and recompose the original music using the original recordings as source material.
For the reimagined version, The Red Chairs contributed The World is a Difficult Place - a re-created track building up from the original recordings of cellist Ed Hanfling.
Delayed by the pandemic, Woodenhead reimagined was released for the Wellington International Film Festival in 2021 and Auckland in 2022.