Published on November 15th, 2019 | by Al Geiner


A Look Into The Mind Of the King of the Horror Soundtrack Kish Kollektiv

Everyone loves  a ‘70s/‘80s horror thriller flick and often the low-budget soundtracks that went with such movies took on a notoriety of their own. Try to imagine “Halloween” without Carpenter and Howarth’s dark, pulsating synth soundscape or Romero’s “Day of the Dead” bereft of John Harrison, his trusty Prophet 5 and that Caribbean-flavoured cavalcade of bleak and beautiful music cues…  Kish Kollektiv takes you back to those golden days of synth-driven and guitar-led sonic backdrops and eerie “sound design” style pieces. The music will take your imagination on a journey; it’s a movie for the mind and the ears, keeping you on the edge of your seat about what might happen…NEXT!!! Kish Kollektiv orchestrates a musical thriller with “counterfeit” soundtrack scores where the movie can only be seen with your mind’s eye…

Dwellers 1

Born of Italo-Celtic stock into a slowly rusting northern England in the throes of Thatcher-era de-industrialisation, the young Michele Sarto (“Mike” to those closest to him; other people just can’t pronounce the name properly) was bitten by the horror bug early. After having been “encouraged” to sit through an uncut version of Lucio Fulci’s surreal schlock masterpiece “City of the Living Dead” at the age of 6 by mischievous elder cousins, a lifelong fascination with the darker side of fiction was born. Equally haunted and excited by aftermath images of reanimated corpses, horrific “skull-crush” kills and a young woman literally vomiting out her innards, another element of that particular production was to make an indelible impression on the young Sarto; the maestro Fabio Frizzi’s masterful synthesizer-driven score.

Through the intervening decades, this enchantment with the prog rock horror scores of his distant Italian brethren never left him, perhaps the largest component of a much greater love of film and TV soundtracks in general. Always a frustrated soundtrack composer at heart, Sarto’s imagination was captured by Roger Manning (of the short-lived but legendary Jellyfish) and Brian Reitzell’s (formerly of Red Kross) project, “Logan’s Sanctuary”. This was a soundtrack score for a sequel to “Logan’s Run”…but no such film existed. It was entirely imaginary. Sarto had skirted close to such an idea as a teenage composer messing about with a Fender Strat in his bedroom, multi-tracking his own works on an ancient Pioneer cassette deck…but he simply could not conceive of a market for “film music without a film”.

Bitten by the bug anew in 2015, Sarto’s creativity was fired up by a spate of stories in the UK media about the mysterious black-eyed kids, pint-sized (apparently) demonic entities in hoodie tops imploring innocent suburbanites to allow them access to their homes…and possibly killing them when they did. By this point, technological advances and economies of scale had led to the rise of home-based “DIY” musicians crafting their work in garages and spare rooms before releasing it directly via the World Wide Web, often to small but dedicated fan bases.   Adopting the “Kish Kollektiv” moniker (an “ironic” collective of one, taking its name from a biblical city mostly for reasons of alliteration) for his new enterprise, armed with his trusty old Strat and other second-hand equipment and instruments, Sarto scored a horror film about the so-called “BEKs”, becoming simultaneously the screenwriter and director of a movie that existed only in his imagination.

“Children of the Cambion” was finally realised and released in 2018 to a certain degree of appreciation but very little in the way of sales.

Undeterred, Sarto began his next project with considerable vigour, another imagined soundtrack born out of a simple “what if”; if the late Karl Edward Wagner’s infamous short story “Sticks” had been loosely adapted into a UK horror film (in the style of late period Hammer and Amicus) in the early 1980s, what might its low budget synth score have sounded like?

This was the “parallel universe” conceit: “Produced for UK television in 1982 by ATV,  the undeservedly obscure “Dwellers in the Earth” is a loose adaptation of the late Karl Edward Wagner’s short story “Sticks” (itself an inspiration for “The Blair Witch Project”). The film – thought lost for many years until a somewhat degraded can of film reel turned up in a private collection in Hong Kong in 2009 – has been routinely described as one of the scariest made-for-television horror movies of all time. It was directed by the late Freddie Francis and starred Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter with Michael Ironside, Ian McCullough and Linda Hayden in supporting roles.

With the kind permission of the composer’s widow, Nadezhda Mastandrea, Kish Kollektiv has painstakingly recreated Staszek Korolenko’s long lost soundtrack score for the mysterious film. The UK-based Kollektiv gratefully acknowledges Mr. Korolenko’s huge influence on its own work. The Anglo-Belarusian composer died at the age of only 43, while the master recordings of many of his scores were later destroyed when the cellar of his family home flooded in 1989.”

From KK  “Back in the summer, I took the old ‘Children of the Cambion’ pieces and stitched them together (with some re-workings, variations, cross-pollinations and addition of elements that were left on the cutting room floor for various reasons) into a 38-minute long ‘suite’ that would provide an aural journey through the main themes without the stopping-and-starting. I didn’t record anything new but simply re-fashioned the old stuff into a somewhat different entity.”

Inspired by the “black-eyed children” urban legend, the “B.E.K.s Suite” is a 38 minute journey through the main musical cues from the “Children of the Cambion” faux soundtrack. Familiar elements are remixed, reinterpreted and combined in some cases while previously unreleased material that never made it into the original compositions are also interwoven, including the entire song ‘Dark Eyes’….”

You can check out his Mini Movie…..

What first got you into music? 

My parents seemed to have the radio on constantly when I was very young and some of my earliest memories involve the hit songs of the time; I think this deeply embedded my love of music from very early on . As I grew older and inevitably ended up watching more television, I also developed a real appreciation for TV themes and music from film soundtracks.

Who inspired you to make music?

It was developing a love of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly (several decades too late!) that led me to want to pick up a guitar as a child and learn to play it. So I suppose you could say the likes of Cliff Gallup, Scotty Moore, Eddie Cochran, Link Wray and Chuck Berry. I also admired the extraordinarily contemporaneous talented piano work of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Later, I fell in love with guitar gods like Satriani, Vai, di Meola and Holdsworth and became intrigued by the idea of fashioning my own instrumental guitar compositions.

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

These days, you could encapsulate it as instrumental music in the form of retro horror film scores – soundtracks for films that exist only in your imagination.

What is your creative process like?

As I’m primarily a guitarist, a lot of my ideas start there when I’m messing about, although they often become transformed into synthesizer elements as the piece in question takes form. At other times, I began with the drum and percussion tracks (before adding in synth and guitar parts), which can seriously influence the character of the composition or even the whole project, like the somewhat “dirty” sounding syncopated MCP500 drum tracks on “Children of the Cambion” or the looser, more free form percussion mostly from my old G-1000 featured on “Dwellers in the Earth”. One thing that always amazes me is how you can sometimes sit down to work without any particular solid idea in mind, start messing about aimlessly…and then you happen upon something, experience a “breakthrough” and it can lead very quickly to not only one complete idea but several. That is a great feeling, although it doesn’t always happen that way of course.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Well, if you’re talking about a free choice with no limitations, it would have to be the horror soundtrack gods Goblin (although I understand they’ve splintered into a number of separate bands these days, all with variations on the original name). Clearly I’m clearly not worthy anyway!

If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?

See above.

What is one message you would give to your fans?

Thank you for indulging me.

What is the most useless talent you have?

I have double-jointed thumbs.

Do you sing in the shower? 

No, I’ve been banned from such activity by Her Who Must Be Obeyed; my singing is not the most powerful weapon in my arsenal.

What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?

A “proper job” of some description (shudder). Seriously though, I love to write so I suppose I would attempt to pursue something in that area, horror fiction being my genre of choice (surprise surprise!).

How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?

Putting your own music out has never been easier thanks to operations like CD Baby and Bandcamp and via the World Wide Web, you can potentially reach a global audience.  We live in an era where recording equipment and software is much easier to acquire via the internet and online shopping options make it far easier to source used instruments if your budget is tight. There’s also a wealth of technical information available freely for musical autodidacts. The variety of networking platforms also make it easier to connect with potential fans and also professionals who may be able to assist your progress.

Which famous musicians do you admire?

It would be quite a long list, but I’ll try to be succinct. The obvious examples are the main movers and shakers of the 1970s/80 “Golden Age” of synthesizer scores, John Carpenter, John Harrison, Goblin and Fabio Frizzi are the most obvious examples. I could also list electronica artists like Gary Numan, Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre as well as guitar gods like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Al Di Meola, Allan Holdsworth and Stanley Clarke. In terms of singer-songwriters, I love Joni Mitchell, Neil and Tim Finn, Midge Ure, Nik Kershaw, Sting, Andy Sturmer, Roger Manning, Jason Falkner, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Richard Thompson and Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. I also admire the leading lights of Hip-Hop’s “Golden Age” of the 1980s/early 1990s, particularly those whose music had an element of sociopolitical commentary like  Chuck D, Professor Griff, Ice Cube, Ice-T, Paris, KRS-One, Michael Franti and the various members of NWA and The Geto Boys. Industrial artists like Consolidated and Meatbeat Manifesto deserve a mention and I also find Dominic Fernow’s various projects fascinating, particularly Vatican Shadow. Oh, and how could I forget Bach?? 

What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

When I was 7 years old I thought it would be the height of amusement to place a drawing pin on classmate Marie Cooke’s chair. My teacher, the Head Teacher, and my parents…did not concur.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

When you’re driving, always check your blind spot before overtaking, it’s potentially a life-saver…although I think the politically correct term is now “dead angle”. 

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

Streaming platforms should remunerate artists better.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a third faux soundtrack very loosely based on the tragic story of Elisa Lam, a young Canadian lady who died under the most mysterious of circumstances at a supposedly haunted hotel in Los Angeles. It could be seen as a semi-sequel to Kish Kollektiv’s 2018 album, “Children of the Cambion” (which was inspired by the black-eyed children urban legend). The Ruscara Laudanski character reluctantly returns from self-imposed isolation for one last paranormal investigation when her wild, thrill-seeking cousin goes missing after unwisely dabbling with the so-called “Elevator Ritual”, a way of accessing a deserted parallel Earth via – you guessed it – an elevator.

How important is the current climate crisis to you and how do you think you could help?

In terms of what a humble individual can do, I’m a believer that measurable changes on a macro-cosmic level can be achieved through an accumulation of small decisions in our everyday lives; obvious things like limiting electrical consumption (not leaving appliances on standby, turning lights off when not in use, not leaving PC monitors on all day and night etc. etc. ad infinitum ad nauseam), trying to make your commute “greener” (if reasonably possible), making recycling part of your routine and even reducing meat consumption to some extent are all easily achievable things that can benefit the environment (not to mention our bank balance and health) if embraced by enough people. However, unless we can convince the big “super-polluter” developing countries to join the so-called “First World” in making serious efforts to combat mass-scale damage to the environment, we may all be on a hiding to nothing sadly.

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