Bookhouse: Some die-hard Twin Peaks fans will think we're assholes
Photo courtesy of the artist
Since its premature demise 20-some years ago, the television series Twin Peaks has found new fans too young to remember the show's brief broadcast run. Devoted viewers now host festivals and write fan fiction, but one thing that's been relatively static is Angelo Badalamenti's evocative score. From Laura Palmer's memorable theme to hours of moody incidental moments, the score set the tone for the surreal series.
Now, local jazz trio Bookhouse have turned the songs into one of the Twin Cities' best jazz albums in recent memory. The double LP, 45rpm Ghostwood explores Badalamenti's score -- and several themes from the 1992 prequel, Fire Walk with Me -- from several angles, including cool jazz, a retro Mad Men approach, and the free forms of '70s ECM jazz albums by artists like Paul Motian and Dave Holland.
Gimme Noise spoke to Bookhouse bassist Josh Granowski, drummer/keyboardist Chris Hepola, and multi-instrumentalist Paul Fonfara -- who have ties with Painted Saints, Jack Klatt's Cat Swingers, and the Poor Nobodys -- to find out if there would be pie at Friday's release show, and how the project came together.
How did you get started playing music from Twin Peaks?
Chris Hepola: We'd been doing the tunes for fun when Jamey Erickson met us. He was a huge Twin Peaks fan and had heard about what we we'd been up to. He was great, he just said he thought we should make an album and he wanted to produce it.
Josh Granowski: We didn't approach him with plans to fly guys in from England or spend $10,000 or anything.
CH: Or spend a month in a cabin up north.
Paul Fonfara: We started playing the songs a few years ago. We were playing Monday nights at the Kitty Cat Klub. Some songs were kind of a flop, like "Falling" just never worked when we tried to do the piano. Until we got away from the TV show and started to play the simple melody. We used to do free noise stuff, too, with a metal detector and lots of samples and stuff.
JG: We played some Paul Motian songs.
PF: Some people would notice. Some of those themes are recognizable. Some of it, just tonally, just the way we do it, like "Falling" has that very specific bass sound, that keyboard bass. We don't always treat it that way, so I don't know how quickly people recognize what we're doing.
Why Twin Peaks? What is it about the music you wanted to explore.
PF: When you really dig into the recordings, some of the musicians are really good. Eddie Daniels, who did all the reed work there, has probably made eight hundred records. He was a studio guy in New York, and he's a phenomenal clarinet player. And when you listen to some of the "b side, back track" stuff, some of it is really interesting.
JG: There's a huge online archive of those outtakes. I think it was released weekly on a blog, Jamey [Erickson] followed it. They compiled the little thirty-second bits and five-minute snyth tracks, or solo clarinet pieces from a scene where someone was walking down a hallway at the Lodge or something.
CH: Actually, I didn't love the Twin Peaks music at first. It definitely stands out for what it is, campy and cheesy. The melodies are catchy. We became more interested in some of the incidental music.
JG: That could be because we're just into weirder stuff. But when you think about what's in the show, the familiar melodies... do doo, boom, do doo, boom (snaps fingers) you know, people hear that and they say, 'Ah ha, Twin Peaks!' When we originally talked about approaching this music, it was from a satirical angle. It's cheesy stuff, but why don't we try it. We wanted to do Thelonious Monk, but this stuff is swinging. It's fun.
CH: On the soundtrack, there's a few themes that have different treatments under different names. We tried to reduce it down to which pieces had more strength than others.
How do you make a song intended for a film or TV show work in a live setting?
CH: Poor Nobodys do a lot of music for movies, and a lot of times it's really difficult for music written that way to transfer over to band numbers.
JG: But a lot of Phillip Glass' stuff is in and out of movies whether he intentionally composed it for that or not. I'm thinking also about the Dreamland Faces score for The Lodger and how Andy McCormick said they improvised between different shows. That can be a cool thing, like the score for Ascenseur pour l'echafaud that Miles Davis recorded. Be doo be doo be doo be doo. Upper fourths. That's all improvised watching the film. Or there's all that Ornette Coleman stuff, or Naked Lunch, which is Howard Shore with Ornette Coleman.
A lot of people are going to listen to this album because they love Twin Peaks, not because they're interested in jazz. Do you think they might take from their experience a greater interest in modern jazz?
CH: I hope so.
JG: I'm gonna be skeptical and say there's some die-hard fans who will think we're assholes.
PF: But they'll appreciate it. There's fans who support anything that references what they're into.
JG: We tried to play the opening credits for a few gigs where Chris would play piano and realized what we were doing was going to suck.
Your finished arrangement of "Falling" is really compelling.
CH: I think we approached it by trying to make the arrangements sound good, taking permission where we had to, to make something interesting.
JG: We approached the theme from Fire Walk With Me as more of a traditional jazz trio, which is cool because that's where we started with these melodies.
PF: Now we're so far removed from actually watching the series.
CH: There's one that I transcribed from a random moment in the show, which we call "Windom Earle."
JG: It's late in the second season, there's this rogue former agent friend of Agent Cooper, a teacher turned nemesis. He's in his hideout with a shakuhachi flute. Chris transcribed it and that's what we played. After a couple years we realized what we were doing was just a theme from one of the Julee Cruise albums in a different key.
Will there be pie at the release show?
No plans yet. But there will be a log lady.
Bookhouse -- with three guest performers: Jenna Wyse of the Poor Nobodys, Mike Gunther (Painted Saints, Mike Gunther and his Restless Souls) and Andy McCormick of the Dreamland Faces -- will perform their entire album, Ghostwood, at the Ritz Theater on May 31. Brute Heart will play an opening set. Prizes will be given to audience members with the best Twin Peaks costumes. $10, 7pm. 21+. Info here.
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