The prairie connection led to this heavy metal band soundtracking a movie about a werewolf cop.
Shooting Guns, purveyors of hard riffing, high volume instrumental doom, have impressed critics and fans across the world with their two full length records, the Polaris nominated debut Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976 and 2013’s Brotherhood of the Ram. Their live shows are a swirling haze of dope smoke, unholy light, and punishingly high volume “Neanderthal Rock” that leaves ears ringing and minds melted. And their recorded output is perfect for taking a private trip to alien worlds, where savage beasts stalk the shadows of the full moon, and rivers of bubbling green ooze spill over their banks, rendering the flooded lands charred and wasted.
With the upcoming Canada wide cinematic release of WolfCop, a horror-comedy feature produced in Saskatchewan, Shooting Guns will be reaching a whole new audience with their soundtrack to the film. WolfCop is the story of a hard boozing werewolf cop set on the cold Canadian prairie; a film that seems perfectly suited to the depraved and twisted tastes of this unruly band of psychedelic hosers.
“We’ve never done anything like this before and we don’t really know what we’re doing,” said Jim Ginther, the Bob Seger loving drummer of Shooting Guns, over the phone from Saskatoon the other day. “We were completely unproven, untested. So the idea of us doing a score, in theory, seemed cool. But could we really pull it off?”
“Being the type of band we are – instrumental, heavy, psych or doom, whatever you want to call us – we don’t really have many things to offer people,” Ginther laughed. So, like other prog and psych artists before them, from Can to Goblin, and beyond, the boys in Shooting Guns set up a studio, picked up a case of cold ones, and got to it.
“I’m on the phone with one of the producers,” recalls Ginther, “and he asked if we had a studio ready to go. I said, ‘Yeah.’ So we run straight into Long & McQuade and started renting all these tube pre-amps, microphones, basically setting up a studio on the fly to get this audition done, while teaching ourselves how to record to video under this huge timeline pressure.” Recording for long hours during the brutally cold Saskatoon winter of 2014, Shooting Guns enlisted long time friend and fellow Saskatooner Toby Bond—an accomplished composer and former band mate of Ginther’s—to help with the finer points of producing music for film, handling the more subtle details such as the underscore and “mood stuff.” “We would do the spots where there was action, tension, or like, driving stuff,” said Ginther. “Then we’d fuse them together, tie it all in.”
Judging by the teasers from the soundtrack on the band’s Soundcloud page, the boys have indeed pulled it off. Relying on high volume, deep tone, driving riffs, and an unhealthy dose of mad-synth feedback, Shooting Guns have crafted a score that is both true to the sound they’ve become known for, and pushing the limits of that sound into new dark, uncharted realms. We spoke with them to find out how they managed to maintain their sound while doing something new.
Noisey: What’s up with WolfCop? How did you guys get involved in the project?
Jim Ginther: In early February, the producer reached out to us through Facebook. He liked our first record, which he heard through Bandcamp. I guess they wanted something… weird. He sent us a message asking if we were interested in scoring this movie called “Wolf Cop.” We were like, “Yeah!” It was all filmed in Saskatchewan, and we’ve always been big prairie boosters, so it just seemed like a good fit. There were four reels of film to work on, each about 20 minutes long. Reel one took us three weeks, and with every passing week there was added pressure to get this done and ready to go to make [the producers’] deadlines. Reels two and three were done in another week and a half, and reel four was done in three days. There wasn’t a lot of sleeping going on [laughs]. We were doing this in the dead of winter. The very first day we started doing this, it was -50 outside. So every day we’d work on this, it would be grueling weather outside. We’d come inside and just hammer down on it until we couldn’t go anymore. Then we’d go gruel back outside. But, here we are.
Was your usual regimen of Pilsner, dope, smokes, and coffee in place throughout these sessions?
Sounds like you were there! Looking at the mountain of Pil, Lucky, and Great West cans in the aftermath, let's just say we weren't rolling through the sessions dry.
Was scoring a film something you guys had wanted to do before?
Oh yeah. Doing a soundtrack seemed like something that could, potentially, be something that we might be suited towards doing. Now, wanting to do it and having someone actually have a picture that they actually want you to work on are two very different things. I just assumed it would be great to get that opportunity, but that it was the same as saying it would be great to tour with a really big band and get exposure. Everybody wants that, but what we want we don’t always get. That’s kind of been the tale of us. Being based out of Saskatoon, I love the community, it’s very supportive, it’s really fun. But at the same point, there’s not a lot of people outside the community looking in here. I think the fact that this project was made in Saskatchewan is one of the few times that being from here actually worked to our advantage [laughs].
What are your favourite movie soundtracks? We’re there any soundtracks you looked to for inspiration?
We’re all huge John Carpenter fans, but I think that’s also a pretty obvious answer. Everyone is [laughs]. Another soundtrack we really like is the Lalo Schifrin Dirty Harry soundtrack, like “Scorpio’s Theme” and stuff like that is just so awesome. And some of the stuff like the Sarah Connor underscore in the first Terminator and even a bit of a Twin Peaks thing.
I hear there’s even a country song on this soundtrack. That’s something completely different for you guys. How did that come about?
We really, really tried to go outside of our comfort zone to write things we’d never do normally. We found this as an opportunity to take a crazy risk and do something that doesn’t sound like us. It’s not a Shooting Guns record, this is a score. We hope that the soundtrack makes the movie fun. But it remains to be seen if anyone actually thinks they’re good songs [laughs]. If we went and did all of our writing expecting people to like it, we would have given up long ago.
From what I’ve seen, WolfCop looks like a pretty wild flick. Is there, like, a state of mind I should be putting myself into before going to the premier?
This is definitely intended to be a party movie. I was told early on in the project that the aesthetic, or the vibe, they’re going for is to have the kind of movie where maybe people are sneaking beers into the theatre. Just party and have a good time. This is one where, hopefully, people get loud and have a good time. Ultimately, that’s what everyone is trying to go for. This isn’t a think piece! [laughs]
Your sound has always been cinematic (see “Predator II” from Brotherhood of the Ram). How do you think this experience will impact the writing of your next record? Or, how do you think this will affect you guys moving forward?
It’s gonna change a lot, and I think it’s going to be for the better. Doing this project, we had to set up our own studio. So now that we have our own studio, and we can put stuff like this out much easier than before, we’re going to be able to pump out a lot more material. I don’t know if how we write is necessarily going to change, but I think we’ll be able to put out a lot more. In fact, through this whole process, we wrote a whole other album of material. It was all recorded in the middle of the flurry of recording the soundtrack, and we have a few hours of new material. But it’s all such a blur [laughing] that I can’t remember what any of it is!
Shooting Guns are playing a release party for WolfCop in Saskatoon June 6 at The Hollows, followed by dates in Vancouver, Nelson, Lethbridge, and Calgary at Sled Island. The band has plans to release a split 10” with Toronto’s Hawkeyes in the fall.
Sheldon Birnie is a writer in Winnipeg. He's on Twitter.
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