To celebrate ten years since we made this short experimental feature I’ve decided to make mine and Chris Purdie’s Letters To The Dead available publicly for the first time. This was a labour of perverse love over the summer of 2012, featuring amongst the cast place-making scholar Dr Cara Courage, poet/painter Gary Goodman and experimental soprano Ingrid Plum, and a countless retinue of absolute heroes amongst the crew - Dave and Adrian Bristow deserve an especial shout-out for their quasi-Herzogian ferrying of a heavy writing desk - by hand - over three kilometres and back again so that Gary could scribe his letters amongst the rock pools, to be cast hopefully into the ocean.
The film only had one screening - a champagne-fueled premiere at The Duke Of York’s in Brighton, exactly a week after the debut performance of the album which serves as the film score - in St Mary’s Church, Brighton. At the Q&A a classic Brightonian Tory queen (far too ubiquitous an oxymoron as you head east) raised an oh-so-droll hand to ask if the new Bond film was showing next. “Yes” I said “and you’re the villain”.
The concert was a triumph of vision and collective will over resources. As people entered the concert space they were assaulted by a wall of dry ice and flickering strobes, as undead ocean-dwelling sprites glacially circumnavigated the pews in translucent robes, holding aloft gargantuan origami sampans on which were scrawled the titular Letters To The Dead. The only light sources were a television emitting static, and the strobe bouncing off the chest of a crow, poised mid-flight, perched on top of the television. The concert was in November and I turned the heating off for the prologue so as to augment the gothic chill. As the undead sprites circled the space and guests took their seats, a sub-bass drone penetrated the walls, generated via one of the album tracks being slowed 100 times.
Both the concert and the film premiere were profoundly special moments and I would like to honour every collaborator who contributed to the manifesting of both: thank you.
Chris Purdie and I stayed up for two days straight in a race to finish the edit and create the master copy in time for the Duke Of York cinema’s test screening, whose date had been abruptly brought forward, taking it in turns to sleep for ninety minutes while the other barreled on held aloft by Jack Daniels and monomania.
I look back on that summer as one of ecstatic collaboration and untrammeled creativity - and with humbled awe at the generosity of spirit and graft of all who gave their time and energy towards an idiosyncratic and ambitious project.
The album can be heard here - and the incredible musicians and artists are credited within the Bandcamp listing:
I was delighted to learn that a copy of the vinyl made its way into the hands of Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis a few years before he died. His music ignited an early kernel of inspiration for the compositional process. And I gleefully remember sitting on Kenneth Anger’s lap at the ICA, stroking his burgundy velvet lapel and handing him copy.
As I try to process the untimely passing of several friends in the last year I realize I’m still writing letters to the dead.
4th September 2022.