What happens to a teenager in 1990s Bristol, England, who spends his time defying a censorship regime to procure (through surreptitious channels) his favorite low-budget (and controversial) gems from directors like Bruno Mattei and Jess Franco, who, respectively, gave us such titles as Caligula Reincarnated As Nero and Mondo Cannibale?
Anton Maiof was that teen, consuming those films and others, like Entrails of a Virgin and Ilsa, She Wolf — and he turned out all right. As Antoni Maiovvi, he’s become known the world-over for his real and imagined film scores and other work (some of which Death Waltz and Lunaris have released). In 2012 he co-founded Giallo Disco Records with Gianni Vercetti (AKA Vercetti Technicolor) and has toured the world in support of his craft.
Those are just some of his projects. Along the way, he has never lost sight of his foundational love of horror, something clear on his score for Turkish director Can Evrenol’s Housewife, which recently got a vinyl release via Burning Witches Records.
Maiof’s been known for a decade as a quintessential purveyor of synth-driven scores for films of unclear provenance — Electro Muscle Cult, Shadow of the Bloodstained Kiss, and Battlestar Transreplica are a few examples.
However, in recent years he’s been altering his compositions to go beyond his initial John Carpenter and Fabio Frizzi influences. On the extraordinary Thug (AKA Kkangpae), a score for a film project that never came to be, and Abdullah, a film released in 2017, Maiof began adding elements such as strings and more organic percussion samples to the mix. It was a natural transition.
“I got into film music because of The Shining, which had [György] Ligeti and [Krzysztof] Penderecki,” Maiof said in a recent interview with Vehlinggo. “It made me go, ‘Holy shit, film music is amazing!’ I didn’t know at the time that it was music put into the film and not pieces for the film.”
All that comes to bear on his score for Evrenol’s mind-bending Housewife, which the inestimable Burning Witches Records released in March on double vinyl, following the score’s digital run via Lakeshore Records.
It’s a haunting and compelling blend of organic and electronic cues that tap deeply into the psychological horror at the center of the story of Clémentine Poidatz’s traumatized and listless character Holly, whose encounter with a charismatic cult leader unfurls an unhinged dissolution of reality. Hallucinogenic swirls of soul-stirring strings, haunting choral vocals, and suspenseful piano runs dominate. The massive percussive stabs serve to punctuate the evocative compositions.
“For me, the Housewife score is that of a dreamlike, erotic nightmare,” Maiof said. “It should excite in all senses of the word.”
In this interview, conducted over Skype with me in Brooklyn and Maiof in The Hague, The Netherlands, we discussed his music for Housewife, the seeds of his comprehensive interest in horror, his favorite horror scores, and some other projects he has planned.
The Horror of Antoni Maiovvi
Vehlinggo: In our previous interview, you had hinted at your move toward more organic sounds for Housewife, but I hadn’t expected it to be such a profound shift away from the synthesizer-driven sound you’ve perfected over the years. How’d this choice come about?
Anton Maiof: It was what Can wanted. He’d send me two tracks and go, “make it like this.” He’d send an Angelo Badalamenti piece and a John Carpenter piece [but ask for it to be a blend of both]. Another one was from Ken Russell’s Altered States.
When you’re composing, even for films of a fantastical nature such as this, what sort of personal experiences or feelings do you tap into?
Let’s say through circumstance and experience I related a lot with Holly, the central character. I could kind of understand a little of the way she felt. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’d completely understand her motivations or anything, but I got a sense of that person — I was trying to channel this kind of intelligent person who’s bored.
There’s a kind of sadness to her character, and you can see that she’s not a stupid person. She’s just traumatized and living a very boring life. The fact that it gets really fantastical is a reflection of her boredom.
I wanted to ask you about working with Evrenol. How’d you two start working together? [Editor’s Note: Giallo Disco Records released Volkan Akaalp’s score for the short version of Evrenol’s previous film, Baskin, in 2014.]
I was in New York at the time. So what was generally happening was that I would chip away at it, and send him what I was doing. He’d tell me what wasn’t working, and then I’d wake up early the next day and chip away a bit more and take the notes in. The main thing was we had a week before we’d start missing deadlines for film festivals, so the bulk of [the score] was done in four days. It’s the hardest I’ve worked on anything.
“… The bulk of [the ‘Housewife’ score] was done in four days. It’s the hardest I’ve worked on anything.”
There were a couple of cues that I wrote for different scenes that ended up being used in a different place in Housewife. Those are some of my favorite parts…, namely [the cues] “Goodbye Valerie” and “Say Goodbye to Your Face.”
I really like the counterpoint between the melancholic music and the extreme violence. These things could only happen working with a director like Can.
Over the years, it seems like horror has been a major driver of the reinvigoration of synth-heavy scores. Why do you think that is, if you even think that is?
There’s definitely a nostalgic thing. There’s definitely a cheapness thing. A lot of these movies, even ones today, are made on a severely low budget. Also, the kind of people making films are like my age and they’re basically going, “I remember renting Big Trouble in Little China. I remember it sounded awesome.”
I remember discovering Fabio Frizzi. He was probably one of the big ones that really opened up my interest — less so Goblin, I mean I love Goblin, but I think in terms of synthesizers Fabio Frizzi did more for me. My favorite Goblin score, Suspiria, has all these Eastern instruments. It has barely any synths at all.
What are your favorite horror scores in general?
Actually my partner and I watched Prince of Darkness last night, because she’s never seen it. It’s probably my favorite Carpenter movie and Carpenter score. I also like Candyman — I’m a big Philip Glass fan.
Why Prince of Darkness? That’s not usually the film or score cited very often.
Because I like the concept and I like that it’s not afraid to be kind of ridiculous. It’s really entertaining — really ridiculous — but it’s also got some good ideas in it. I’m all about ideas. You can make a terrible movie, but if it’s got a good idea in it I’ll go, “no, it’s good.”
It had Alice Cooper in it, too. Can’t beat that.
Alice Cooper stabs someone with a bike. (laughs) No other movie has that. Ever.
I recall you talking about, at some point, how you want to make your own horror film. Who would be the directors you’d want to work with? And why?
Yes, there are actually a few things I’m developing. I completed a feature script and two short scripts, and am working with a friend on another concept. I can absolutely see my creativity moving into both music and image in the future. In terms of people I’d like to work with: William Friedkin always tops my list, as would [Tetsuo: The Iron Man director] Shinya Tsukamoto. I’m basically open to projects, because I enjoy it.
To tie things up, I’ve been thinking about how much you’ve toured the world with your various projects, whether doing live shows, DJing, or attended film-related events. What have your travels and experience taught you about humanity?
I’m not sure I learned much about humanity; I learned a lot about myself, though. I don’t take things so personally and I have a lot of patience for people. I figure if you can do that, you’ll have quite a nice life.
The Housewife film is available to purchase in physical and digital forms. Antoni Maiovvi’s score is available to stream or download via Lakeshore Records’ Bandcamp and other services. The vinyl, presented as a blue- and purple-colored double album and with art by Darren Hopes, is available via Burning Witches Records.