I'd been meaning to do a film since "The vonHummer Hour" went out of production at the end of 2003. I'd written several scripts over the years, but it wasn't until I hit upon the ridiculous idea of a boob-grabbing werewolf, in the spring of 2006, that I finally found an idea silly enough for which to endure the hell of film making.
And it was hell. Don't see Helvetica Bold around anymore? Film making. See the strands of silver under the lobsters? Film making. But for all the hell of film making, the soundtrack was the easy part.
Diverting a few hundred from the film budget, I bought a Zoom MRSZ-1608 and made the jump at last to digital recording. All other vonHummer music had been recorded on a Tascam cassette 4 track. Now with 16+ tracks available to work with, I was prepared to join the 21st century in the studio.
Oh what a difference it made. Effects, drums, guitars so clear...
I picked five songs, pretty much at random. As long as they were catchy, they were in. My template for the film was an Elvis movie, and the songs in Elvis movies often have nothing to do with the plot, which is probably wrong movie making but it feels right. The idea back then must have been: "I'm Elvis. I'm such a big star, I don't have to tailor my songs to any particular project. I just shit 'em out and you'll dig 'em, baby." What's not to like about that?
Now, theoretically, he's Elvis and I'm vonHummer, but...How will I ever get to be Elvis if I don't think like Elvis? It's worth a try, anyhow. The stakes are huge.
A couple of the songs had been heard by fans already in demo versions ("Sometime Soon" and "Mansion on the Moon") and I'd played "A Love Like Ours" live once. "Speaking Truth to Power" had never been heard, though, and neither had "Cheerleader" or "Just Passing Through."
Long-time friend, executive producer, and bass player Syd O'Nimm was going to play bass on the songs—seemed a fair payback for his unwavering support over the decades—so I started by recording demos of each of the songs for him to learn.
I'll release those at some time in the near future because they're horribly raw and rockin', as at the time I was listening to the Seattle garage band of the 60's, the Sonics and wanted to ape their nasty sound.
Syd blew into town for a day or two, as is his usual M.O., and we recorded his parts in a day-long marathon of recording. It's nice to have a standard bass plunking along simply in the background of my songs—I did so on a lot of the classic songs from the tv show if you listen carefully—because even though I play a bass, too, the unique tuning usually requires me to capo up for different keys, and then I can lose a good bit of the bottom end. Adding a regular bass in adds solidity, and I figured I'd especially need that for a film.
Instrumental parts were done on the primary songs by August of 2006 and I finished the vocals by September, probably just before the shoot at The Red Room, where I had to lip synch to "Mansion on the Moon" and "Cheerleader."
I didn't get to recording the stings and instrumental music until January 2007, after production had wrapped. Improvising with one guitar—probably the Danelectro Longhorn bass—I incorporated riffs from the songs and noodled around on tracks like "Disturbgency" and "Omnissio."
The more orchestral pieces were done in Garage Band on Ann Hammer's iMac. Which sound pretty good to me, considering it was the basic version of Garage Band and I used the pre-made sounds. A little cheezy, I suppose, but—especially on this project—how could that be a bad thing?
Scoring a film is serious work, however, so of course I didn't take it all seriously, science-wise, and was appalled at the premiere of the film in October of 2007 a the way the songs sounded in the Hollywood Theater...Weak...Spread out. Clearly I knew zip about mixing for the big screen.
But since the destiny of "Bübiwulf!" has been progressively smaller and smaller screens, that hasn't turned out to be such a crime in retrospect. Usually, in the back catalog of an artist, when one buys the "Original Motion Picture Soundtrack," it's because one has already scraped the bottom of the barrel. That was my motivation anyhow for "Yellow Submarine" and "Flash Gordon."
However, I'm proud to have a "shitty soundtrack album" in my back catalog. It means I'm still be on the receiving end from the muses after all these years. Blessed is a deep anthology, for fans and artists, eh?
released October 17, 2007
Produced by Clark Kent for Therisno Records.
All songs by vonHummer.
Mutated bass and high guitars: vonHummer
Standard bass: Syd O'Nimm
Cover by Clark Kent for Therisno Design.
Photo by Ann Hammer