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For this week’s edition of My Favourite Things, we have a very special treat indeed. GUNSHIP are one of many great artists making (synth) waves in retro-inspired music at the moment. The trios self-titled debut album, released in 2015, is a masterpiece of audio escapism that evokes daydreams of star fighting adventures in the far reaches of space and night driving through a neon-drenched dystopia accompanied by your significant other. Furthermore, their music videos contain so many nods to retro pop culture delights that you can lose hours of the day trying to spot all the references. If any band encapsulates the TNC vibe, it’s GUNSHIP. It’s an honour and a privilege to publish this feature, and we’re beyond thrilled that Dan and Alex G took the time to share their tastes with us.
MOVIES & TV
Dan: This is the perennial impossible question. Obvious: Blade Runner, Terminator (1&2), Alien (1,2,3), The Thing, Fight Club, Big Trouble In Little China, Scarface, The Abyss, Predator, The Shining etc. Retro: The Explorers, D.A.R.Y.L, Wargames, Flight of The Navigator, Red Dawn, Iron Eagle, Toy Soldiers, Escape From New York and The Last Starfighter. Slightly Less Obvious: All Wes Anderson, especially Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, Glengarry Glen Ross, Miller’s Crossing, Amelie, China Town, and The Big Lebowski. Recently loved Deathgasm, Corin Hardy’s The Hallow, Gone Girl, Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Black Swan – WHERE are all the great new movies? All writers gone to TV land? See – Stranger Things, Breaking Bad, The Wire, House Of Cards, Game of Thrones etc…
Alex G: I’ll try and keep this retro-ish… Blade Runner, The Thing, The Big Blue (“Find me the Frenchman”,”A thousand commanders, and we get the Belgian from Alcoholics Anonymous!”), Transformers (1986 animated – hands up if you still cry when Optimus buys the farm ), Terminator (1&2), Alien(s), The Last Starfighter, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade, Scarface, The Deer Hunter, Spaced (TV Series), Red Dwarf (TV Series – “Smoke me a kipper…”), American Werewolf in London,The Meaning of Life / Life of Brian / Holy Grail, Excalibur, Awakenings, Exorcist, The Abyss, Total Recall, Brain Dead / Dead Alive, all Wes Anderson movies, all Back To The Future’s (BTTF – probably the greatest movie ever made), Field of Dreams, Hot Shots! Part Deux, (I owe my ability to say “Come aboard, want some fudge?” in Iraqi to this movie – also notable for pre-Tiger blood Charlie Sheen and dad Martin in greatest movie cameo ever – “I loved you in Wall Street!?), Wall Street (see what I did there?), Clockwork Orange, Rocky, Serpico, Miller’s Crossing (“Take your flunky and dangle!” – best script ever written), Carlito’s Way (“Maybe I don’t remember the last time I blew my nose”), Chinatown, Jaws, Hard Eight, Glengarry Glen Ross (“Where did you learn your trade…?”), Predator (and soft spot for 2), Big Lebowski, Wayne’s World (1&2), Angel Heart, Contact, Escape from New York, The Edge (I sure wish I could do something unequivocal…), Starship Troopers, Robocop (1&2), A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, Ronin (“Seppuku?”), The Shining, Corin Hardy’s The Hallow (shout-out woop!), Full Metal Jacket (“Did your parents have any children that lived?”), Rain Man, Iron Monkey, Drunken Master 2, Silence of the Lambs, The Omen, The Shining, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (“Sure, I did it, I’m guilty. I knew it was a crime, I did it anyway.. Look at me, I’m a fucking criminal” – Depp’s best, love HST), Network, Big Trouble in Little China (“Wind, fire, all that kind of thing!”), American History X, The Goonies, The Conversation, L.A. Confidential, The Graduate, The Godfather Trilogy, Cronos, Shawshank Redemption, Taxi Driver, Leon, Amelie, Narc, Platoon, Apocalypse Now, The Matrix, Intacto, Gladiator, Tremors, Goodfellas, Immortal Beloved, Manhunter, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Evil Dead 1-3, The Insider, The Ninth Configuration, The Right Stuff, Watchmen, The Wire (the best TV series ever made IMO), Seven, Zodiac, Black Swan.
I envy anyone who can enjoy any of those for the first time!
Dan: Syndicate (Amiga), Doom 2 (PC), Quake (PC), Beneath a Steel Sky (CD32), Blade Runner (PC), Alien Breed (Amiga), and of course the Monkey Island series which we pay homage to at the end of our video for “Revel In Your Time” (which you can watch here). Incidentally, Alex G and myself worked in the games industry together and worked on the Quake, Counter Strike, Need for Speed and 007 franchises. Prior to that we also made full ‘mod scene’ mission packs for Quake 1 (titled ‘Deaths Dominion’) and for Quake 2 (titled ‘Oblivion’). I’m currently playing Rainbow Six Siege and the new Doom game… the new Doom is actually stunning – and the soundtrack is exceptional. Great synths and Meshuggah-esque guitars! Shout out to Mick Gordon!
Alex G: My all time favourite video game would be the Gollop Brothers’ seminal UFO: Enemy Unknown (X-COM: UFO Defense in U.S.A.). A big part of its appeal is the soundtrack, which manages to convey an atmosphere of dread and escalating terror whilst still making you feel like there’s hope for your crack organisation of soldiers, engineers and scientists. They did so much within the confines of that era’s technological limitations – I still listen to it today. Nothing like throwing on the geoscape/tactical midi file while getting some work done! I love the R&D tree – researching the alien technology recovered by your commandos and building bigger and better weapons and ships. It’s also an interesting game from a difficulty curve perspective. At the start it’s really difficult – the aliens have a head start on you technologically and you’re left huddling together in a corn field frantically using peashooters against laser and plasma weaponry. As you progress you level up and bring in the heavy weapons – you have fun laying down the heavy ordnance, but the aliens keep pace by revealing more powerful species and technology. Ultimately, in the late game you become all powerful and untouchable as you ram blaster bombs into every available alien orifice and dominate the skies with your Avengers. A lot of people think this is “broken” game design, but I personally feel like it’s the satisfying pay-off for all the earlier hard work. I highly recommend Firaxis’ recent reimaginings. I’ve played both XCOM 1 & 2 and, while quite different to the original, they are a whole lot of fun and do the series the justice it has recently been missing.
Kingdom is a recent indie pixel-art game I’d really like to recommend – a small but perfectly formed gem with enchanting visual style and an absolutely KILLER soundtrack by Toytree. There is minimal exposition (which is lovely and adds to the mystery and joy of discovery). You’re a king or queen, and you have to invest gold in building a settlement and fighting back demons who emanate from portals in the forest and attack en masse at night. It was a really magical experience playing this game. The use of music is probably the best I’ve experienced in recent years. The tone they manage to achieve is fantastic – the music transitions brilliantly from bright and hopeful during the daytime, then segues into foreboding and terror during the blood moon when abnormally large hordes of demons attack, before melting into relief as you survive another night and morning blooms. It’s a short enough game that it doesn’t suck your life away, but gives you this perfect otherworldly experience. I got it on Steam and got the soundtrack bundled in. Grab it and get the soundtrack with it, or check the soundtrack out here. This guy’s a legend, maybe we can do a collaboration?
From truly retro, to modern retro to just plain modern. I love Rainbow Six Siege. This game has become the only true successor to “golden era” Counter-strike (talking 1.7). The meta-game is much deeper and the game as a whole is just breathtakingly awesome. The level-design (Dan and I used to be level designers) is mind-blowing and I just find it to be some of the most exhilarating multiplayer I’ve ever played. Dan and I just fired up the new Skull Rain DLC last night and tried out the new operators – Capitão is a beast!
Dan: I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately – pooling up inspiration for the next GUNSHIP album. Books I recently read/revisited: Neuromancer and Count Zero by William Gibson, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon and both Ready Player One and Armada by Ernest Cline. I can’t recommend these books enough. All of these books hold particular significance in the current zeitgeist, with VR right on the horizon and humanities seemingly un-derailable rush to merge with machines/technology. The themes, tone and even characters from these books are having a heavy impact on the music I’m writing currently. I only recently realised that my English teachers were actually right – reading really is the best way to supercharge your imagination.
Alex G: I wrote an essay on video games; for this one I’ll keep it simple. Aside from reading comics as a kid, I never really got into graphic novels in (alleged) adulthood. I did read and love Watchmen (of course – Alan Moore lives just down the road!), but for the most part I tend to read a lot of factual stuff with the odd bit of fiction thrown in. From fiction the favourites are things like Dune and Snow Crash. From the real world I highly recommend Genius by Richard Gleick. It’s a biography of famous physicist Richard Feynman and probably one of the best books I have ever read. Feynman was many things, scientific colossus, mischief maker, almost certainly a person who deliberately cultivated quite a bit of their own mystique, but always an interesting and interested character and one involved in many momentous events in history. It’s pretty cliche to recommend people read about him, but then again there’s a reason for that.
Dan: “Burn My Eyes” – Machine Head , “Vulgar Display Of Power” – Pantera, “Master Of Puppets” – Metallica, “Blade Runner OST” – Vangelis, All Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack work, All NiN records, all RATM, most Pink Floyd…This is going to be impossible and endless… so… this month in synthwave scene: Makeup and Vanity Set’s “Brigador” OST, Perturbator’s “The Uncanny Valley”, Carpenter Brut’s “Trilogy”, Miami Nights 1984’s “Turbulence”, and Electric Youth’s “Innerworld”.
Alex G: A lot of soundtracks: “The Big Blue” – Eric Serra, “Blade Runner” – Vangelis, anything by Michael Kamen (Robin Hood, Highlander), anything by Basil Poledouris (Conan, Robocop), anything by James Horner (Legends of the Fall, Aliens…KRULL!).
Alex G: Albums: “Saturdays = Youth”, M83. “Rage Against The Machine” – RATM, “Siamese Dream” – Smashing Pumpkins, “Blue Album” – Weezer, “Dark Side Of The Moon” – Pink Floyd, “Animals As Leaders” – AAL, anything by Queen, anything by Toto (god bless the legend Jeff Porcaro), throw in a bunch of Metallica, Machine Head, Pantera and Sepultura. This is a pretty random list because listing everything would be futile, but hopefully someone discovers a shiny nugget.