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Behind The Video: John Carpenter - My Name Is Death

John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies have a brand new video out for "My Name Is Death", from their upcoming album, Lost Themes IV: Noir, out May 3, 2024 on Sacred Bones Records.

Since the first Lost Themes, John has referred to these compositions as “soundtracks for the movies in your mind.” On the fourth installment in the series, those movies are noirs! The music video is perfectly fitting.

It was shot by longtime Synth History collaborators: director Ambar Navarro (Weyes Blood, Roger O'Donnell, Mark Mothersbaugh) and DP Max Flick (Michael Jorgensen of Wilco).

Got the opportunity to hang out with them on set and even set up some synths!

Below are some BTS photos by Cloudy Thoughts, an excerpt from a conversation with John, and Three Q's with Ambar and Max.

Without further ado...

John Carpenter, Master of Horror.

Note: The full conversation with John will screen at Vidiots on March 21st, before a screening of Assault on Precinct 13 and My Name is Death, part of the Iconic Scores series. More info here.

Synth History: Can you tell me about the song?

John Carpenter: "My Name Is Death" is from our new album, Lost Themes IV: Noir. The songs inspire the title. This is more of a rock ‘n’ roll sound, we went with a ‘40s noir feel for it.

Synth History: What’s your process like making music with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies?

John Carpenter: Well... wake up in the morning, have some coffee, go downstairs with them, make some music, come back, have some more coffee, then watch basketball. 

Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter and Daniel Davies by Cloudy Thoughts.

Synth History: What's your team?

John Carpenter: I love the Golden State Warriors, oh my god!

Synth History: Steph Curry, pretty good.

John Carpenter: Oh yeah, my favorite.

Synth History: I like the Lakers but I wish Steph was on the Lakers! [laughs]

John Carpenter: [laughs] You can change your allegiance, it's easy, from the Lakers to the Warriors.

My Name Is Death BTS.

My Name Is Death BTS.

Synth History: What was your experience like working with director Ambar Navarro and DP Max Flick?

John Carpenter: It was just a lot of fun. They knew exactly what they wanted. It’s a very stylized video and we make a guest appearance as ourselves playing music. Just a lot of fun.

Synth History: Do you ever get nervous in front of the camera as opposed to behind it?

John Carpenter: I used to get nervous, but I'm used to it now.

Synth History: Is there anything you want to say to people before they watch the music video?

John Carpenter: I hope you enjoy the song, and the joy with which we made it!

John Carpenter.

Ambar Navarro, director of My Name Is Death.

Synth History: What was your favorite part of the music video to shoot?

Ambar Navarro: I was obsessed with the 1920's one-time-use flash bulbs we popped off during the photo scenes! I loved seeing the inside burn up and fizzle out. You just can't get that effect any other way.

Natalie Merring aka Weyes Blood.
Natalie Merring aka Weyes Blood.

Natalie Merring aka Weyes Blood.

Synth History: What was it like working with John Carpenter?

Ambar Navarro: John is super nice and pro of course! He was excited that I was inspired by Night of the Hunter while talking about harsh shadows and genuinely seemed happy to be on set. Working with a legendary director didn't feel intimidating because he was supportive and gave us all the space to make the video. I also really liked seeing him in the classic car.

Synth History: Are there any easter eggs to look out for in the video?

Ambar Navarro: We had to include a pumpkin of course!

Synth History: If you could give aspiring directors one tip, what would it be?

Ambar: Watch old movies!

Synth History: I've been on shoots (and now on set!) with ya'll. You always have the greatest playlists on. What is some music you like throwing on currently during downtime or in the background of a shoot?

Ambar: This is definitely a Max question. I get nervous DJing on shoots so I'll just play the music video track on repeat that way we can all stay in that world but Max has multiple on-set playlists ready to go for our shoots. It's usually just a lot of post-punk tracks which I feel like you can never go wrong with. It's still cool, a little dancey, sorta new wavey, and carries a beat that people can still get work done.

My Name Is Death BTS.

Max Flick, DP of My Name is Death.

Synth History: What was your favorite part of the music video to shoot?

Max Flick: Doing the poor man's process for the driving scenes were really fun. Ambar and I went out a couple nights before the shoot and filmed those driving plates for the background and it ended up looking pretty amazing. I also really liked the first performance shot we got of the band with the single lamp overhead and just had my gaffer, Danner dimming the light on the beat. Just such a simple and effective idea that ties in the detective scenes to the performance.

My Name Is Death BTS.

Synth History: What was it like working with John Carpenter?

Max Flick: Working with John was pretty sweet. I didn't think that would ever happen in my lifetime. The song also rips. My dad was a massive fan of the movie The Thing and I remember watching it as a kid and him laughing hysterically at the severed head spider part where the guy sees it and just says "You gotta be fuckin' kidding."

Synth History: What are the benefits and drawbacks of shooting on film?

Max Flick: The benefit of shooting on film is that it makes everything look way sicker. Plain and simple. It also kinda helps make the setups go faster because I got one or two takes of any given thing and we gotta move on. You just cannot afford to mess up while rolling. We had about 60 shots on the shot list and almost got every single one of them. That's like 10 minutes per shot so that's us cookin' at full speed.

The drawbacks of shooting on film are that anything could go wrong at any point between it being loaded until it's processed and you lose everything you shot. It scratches, it gets dusty, a microscopic piece of hair could find its way into the gate and you're screwed. So there's always some worrying until you get the footage back. You also need a ton of light to expose the film. It's a very different process from digital.

Synth History: If you could give aspiring cinematographers one tip, what would it be?

Max Flick: My one tip for someone wanting to be a DP is to find your individual style. Find those references that speak to you and tweak them to make it your own.  There's too many people out there making the exact same looking work. It's hard to explain but it's like this sort of look that everyone accepts as being high-end cinematography and it's hard to differentiate any DP from one another.

Synth History: I've been on shoots (and now on set!) with you and Ambar. You always have the greatest playlists on. What is some music you like throwing on currently during downtime or in the background of a shoot?

Max Flick: Ambar and I are always finding new music and I have a couple 10 hour long playlists I made called "SET TUNES" that I can throw on without having to think about it cause there's already way too much to be focused on. I listen to a lot of wild music but it can't be too abrasive or weird and has to appeal to everyone on set. I'd say most of it is synth-driven songs. [Here's a link to Max's Spotify playlists on set! Set Tunes, Set Tunes 2].

Mini Instax of crew by Danz.
Mini Instax of crew by Danz.

Miscellaneous BTS & Crew Clockwise: Danner Gardner, Ambar Navarro, Max Flick, Trevor Hollander, Danz, Hannah Kinlaw, synthesizers, Staz, desk with pumpkin, props.

You can pre-order Lost Themes IV: Noir here.

Check out a previous conversation I had with John here.

If you're in LA, hopefully we'll see you at the music video screening! More info here.

Synth History Exclusive.

Interviews conducted by Danz.


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