RYAN GRAVEFACE doesn’t slow down. In the midst of running the Graveface Records, running both the Graveface Records and Terror Vision labels, and prepping a new museum project, he’s also getting ready for this year’s Fright Fest, taking place on Oct. 5 at the Lucas Theatre.
An all-day event featuring classic horror films, the festival includes live scoring to select films done by prominent independent artists.
We caught up with Graveface ahead of the event to find out what people can expect, and address a sudden lineup shift that ultimately pushed him into creative overdrive.
Tell me about the lineup change regarding Xiu Xiu’s involvement in the festival.
Xiu Xiu is on the Graveface record label, and I’ve been trying to get them to Savannah for 10 years. We finally got it locked down—they usually do fly-ins and one-offs, but finally they were going to be passing by. I asked them to live score The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and they were like, "Fuck yeah, that sounds awesome." They actually did a Twin Peaks record a couple years ago that was super dope, so it seemed to be in their wheelhouse.
Once I secured them in April or May, I kind of built this event around them in a sense. I wanted it to be composer heavy as opposed to director heavy. I put out a soundtrack for a movie called Splatter University on the Terror Vision imprint of mine, and hit up that composer and said, “Do you want to fly down and live score the movie?” He did a test run in New York that worked really well, so he was in.
Then I got composer statements from people who couldn’t make it—Mark Governor is in Europe and he couldn’t make it, so I had him record an intro for Pet Sematary 2.
When Xiu Xiu dropped out because of some mental health issues that he was having, I was, at first, going to change the concept a bit and then screen a different film. But then I realized it was kind of an opportunity. I do an annual album under the name The Marshmallow Ghosts. It’s everything from just me to 12 different people working on songs. This year just so happened to be one of those heavy collaborative years, so I thought, “You know, this is actually pretty perfect.” We’re doing an eight-piece band, keeping the live scoring of Dr. Caligari.
Was the concept of live scoring something you’d seen before? How did that idea happen?
Graveface: No! [laughs]. The only thing that made me think of it was that I haven’t seen it done. I’m sure it’s been done tons of times, but outside of a live organist to a silent film I’ve never seen it done. I run three labels and have a record store, so why not focus on the composer aspect?
I’d imagine you have to focus heavily on how the movie is progressing rhythmically. How intensive is rehearsing for something like that?
Well, Xiu Xiu cancelled a week ago today. So the past week has been, “Can I actually do this? How many people do I need?” Then it’s studying the film and mapping out all of the points. Ian, an employee of mine, has been insanely helpful because I’ve been so fucking busy building the museum downtown. I’ve been sending him different stems and loops, and he built out the full 75-long timeline and added some loops to it.
The point of doing that is to pick keys. Act I is going to be whatever key, and then I can send the 75-minute long clip to all of the musicians to study it on their own over the next couple of days. Then we get together and practice those songs. There’s a bunch of minimalist pieces, and then some actual “song” songs. It should be a nice mix and definitely should not be boring, fingers crossed [laughs].
Does doing events and short-term projects like this help break the “cycle,” so to speak, of running a business every week? What drives you to do stuff like this when you have so much on your plate already?
I think the reason why I do so much is because it legitimately helps with issues like depression that I struggle with. Some people might be like, “Well that’s not healthy, you’re not actually dealing with your problems.” But they’re not problems that can be fixed, you know? It’s an actual chemical imbalance.
So it actually does work, because the more I do and the more that I add to my plate that is different—the moment I feel bored, I feel awful. It’s hard for me to get out of a rut. There’s boredom tied to the motivation to do this, but it’s not boredom in a traditional sense.
Is there a particular aspect of the festival that you’re most excited about?
Honestly, no [laughs]. I don’t find too much enjoyment in anything that I do; I obviously really like what I do, and they’re insanely passionate projects. But at no point before it do I ever actually look forward to anything, and it’s only in hindsight that I can reflect positively or negatively. And it’s kind of basic bitch—it’s either, “That sucked” or “That was great.”