Friday, February 24, 2012

Owen Oakeshott (star and co-producer of The Elder movie) interview

What is the current status of your friend Seb Hunter's upcoming film The Elder, which is based on the 1981 KISS concept album Music From The Elder?

We're currently "in development", with Seb busy scribbling away at the script and me occasionally blundering in like an idiot and giving generally unhelpful advice. And the occasional blog update to keep people keen. The idea is to film a "short" over this summer - a few scenes from the script - to break us in and give people an idea of where we're heading with this thing. Hopefully, this will help drum up further interest as we go forward.

Are you and Seb going to wait to obtain permission from Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley before you begin any actual work on The Elder? Why or why not?

We have already begun work in the sense that Seb has started on the script, there's an active internet campaign and we're boring our respective partners about it every evening over tea. To that extent, we will make the film whether we get official sanction or not. Obviously, we would love to have the KISS imprimatur for the project and it would help us immeasurably in it's general profile. However, the worst case scenario is that they say no and we have to tweak things a little to keep us out of the shade of copyright infringement. Which, due to the "universal myth" nature of the story-line and our take on it, wouldn't actually be that difficult. But we want Gene in it. He IS Mr. Blackwell. I'm trying to convince Seb to add a scene specifically for the Simmons tongue. Come on, Gene, you know you want this!

What exactly does your role as co-producer of The Elder entail?

At this stage:

  • organising a schedule for the "short" in the summer
  • dreaming of cocktails on a sun-lounger in Cannes

I understand that you are also going to be one of the actors in The Elder. What character(s) will you be playing?

Morpheus. Sort of Obi-Wan Kenobi with a drink problem. And a dog-collar.

As an actor, who are some of your influences and why?

Richard Burton (I was weirdly obsessed with him when I was a little boy; altogether now: "Broadsword calling Danny Boy..."), Tom Baker (the ultimate Doctor Who) and Kevin Spacey. In acting terms, they all have the same thing in common that totally presses my buttons: speed, fluidity and vocal deftness of touch. I was in a play in London with Spacey many years ago and he was utterly mind-blowing. He took the cast go-kart racing after the show once. I beat him. No, I really did.

What were your initial thoughts when you first heard the Music From The Elder album and what are your thoughts on it now?

I hated it. It's grown on me since though. But not much. Like slight acne. I think KISS and Bob Ezrin should have another go at it in 2012 - they could improve on it immeasurably.

I personally never had a problem with the band doing something so portentous and detached from their canon as it turned out to be. I just don't think that they, or Ezrin, were up to the job at that particular moment in their respective careers. What the concept required musically was the bombast and eclecticism of Queen's A Night at the Opera or the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, with the melodrama of Pink Floyd's The Wall and the light and shade of Tommy by The Who. What we actually got was something much flatter and uninspired. In essence, I find the writing too weak and one-dimensional for such an ambitious idea.

But hey, don't tell Seb. Please. We've had enough arguments for one month.

What are your thoughts on KISS in general?

They've become part of the international rock'n'roll furniture, haven't they? Gaudy, fake blood spattered, black & white furniture that shoots flames from it's cushions at regular intervals. But still, an undeniably enjoyable leisure experience.

To a young 'un in the late 1970s, however, they were completely visceral and overwhelming: the Mardi Gras of heavy rock. Or did I just nick that quote from Pete Townshend? Certainly, when we're at an impressionable age, repeated exposure to high impact images and sounds marks you for life. The front cover of Alive II still does funny things to my lower intestine even now.

I consider their first album to be one of their finest. It matures considerably with age, which you can't say about all of them. You can hear their Beatles influences shining through and it's glorious. Destroyer is the dogs bollocks, of course. I love listening to Unmasked (mainly 'cos I'm a pop bitch). And I adore Creatures of the Night, principally 'cos of that amazing two second jet-fighter sound effect Vinnie Vincent provides for the middle section of the title track. Oh, and for "Rock And Roll Hell". Which I always wanted to cover. It's IMMENSE.

Finally, I remember standing in front of a mirror naked at the age of 11 and singing along to "God Of Thunder" with my mum walking in during the middle eight. We've all been there, surely.

What are some of your favorite bands/artists and why?

  • Dylan: 'cos he's Dylan - you could spend your whole life with him on your headphones in a locked room and never get bored.
  • Springsteen: I became obsessed in the '80s along with the world and his dog and he's never really left me. I keep going back to Devils & Dust. It's a thing of beauty.
  • Abba: the soundtrack to my youth. I still cry when I listen to Arrival. The Visitors is the finest swansong any band gave to the world. "The Day Before You Came" is the saddest, strangest & scariest pop song ever written and "Dancing Queen" is the greatest ever. Like all truly great pop songs, it FLOATS.
  • Iron Maiden: they slam out the same damned thing every song they do but if that same damned thing is "The Number of the Beast", frankly, who cares? Their recent stuff is much underrated. It's got orchestras in it now. Oh yes!
  • Motorhead: Seb and I shook Lemmy's hand in the Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, CA a few years ago. He was at a fruit machine. THE WHOLE NIGHT! Almost as if he was secretly taking the piss out of himself merely for our benefit. Genius. Overkill is my favourite rock album bar none. I would take the title track as my Desert Island Disc (a silly radio program for middle-aged British people). It's like an alarm clock stuck on the front of a juggernaut - every time you think it's stopped, it starts up again. Would certainly get me out of my hammock of a morning.

What are some of your favorite concept albums and why?

  • Delirium Corda by Fantomas: turn out the lights, turn up the volume, shit your pants. Desperately try and find your way to the off-switch. You can't - the lights are off. Too late. Progress quickly to fear-induced heart attack. Quite brilliant. And utterly terrifying.
  • Nostrodamus by Judas Priest: silly, silly, SILLY. And orchestras again. Oh yes!
  • The Pros & Cons of Hitch-Hiking by Roger Waters: pisses all over The Wall. Man having a nightmare about a female German backpacker. It's strangely gorgeous and unsettling. If you can put up with Eric Clapton.
  • Operation Mindcrime by Queensryche: the greatest concept album ever. I'm a recent convert. Although I saw them live for the first time supporting Priest in London last year and I was sorely disappointed. I was told to like them by Seb. Out of respect. Couldn't do it. Sorry. Geoff thingummy, live, was just too bald, shouty and sweaty for my tastes. But then Rob Halford is a metal god! Where's the consistency, I hear you ask? (In the Midlands.)
I once wrote a concept album myself. It was never released. It was called Sleepers Hill. It was about an old people's home that Seb and I lived in back in 1989. It had the Hampshire Youth Orchestra playing on it. Oh yes!

Are there any concept albums that have not yet been made into films that you think would translate well onto film? If so, please discuss. If not, why not?

Frances the Mute by The Mars Volta. I have no idea what it's about. And neither does anyone else, it would appear. Perfect for a movie. No need for a coherent narrative through-line. Which is a bastard to get right, let me tell you.

Feel free to discuss any of your other endeavors (musical or otherwise) here.

I leave the music now to my betters. I might be acting in a show soon in Wales. Or in Liverpool. I'm not sure. Check with my agent -

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