Harlow MacFarlane makes some seriously evil music. Combining elements of ritual ambient, power electronics, and the atmopsheric end of the black metal spectrum, his various recording projects -- Funerary Call, Sistrenatus, and the analog synth-oriented Grey Towers Stone Temples -- have earned him recognition from avant-garde music fans worldwide (he's appeared on French, Australian, Polish, and American labels). He's also a horror movie expert who has worked for years in the make-up and prosthetics industry in B.C. He's still not a well-known quantity in this city, but his upcoming live performance -- under the Funerary Call aegis, providing a live score for the Vancity Theatre's projection of Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages -- might help raise his profile here at home.
Harlow MacFarlane had time for a few quick email questions about the upcoming performance, which repeats twice (Oct. 26 and Oct. 31).
Allan: Have you done live film accompaniment before, or used film in performance?
Harlow: No, this is my first live musical accompaniment to a film. I generally use an edited version of Legend of the Witches (1970) for most of my Funerary Call performances and short a film by local film maker, Geoff Redknap, specifically made for use as a backdrop for Sistrenatus shows.
Allan: You're working with another musician this time out -- tell me about that? How are you preparing for the project?
Harlow: I'm working with my drummer friend, Nathan Funk from the Whale Hunters. We are writing and rehearsing while watching the film as it's projected on the wall of Nate's studio.
Allan: Will there be any elements of ritual or theatre to the set, or will you be subordinating yourselves to the film?
Harlow: For our performance at Vancity we will be playing along to the film in the darkness of the theatre -- and only as background accompaniment, there will be no stage theatrics or rock star posturing.
Allan: In live performances, you don't always have the sort of control over the final product that you have in the studio. So do you approach making music differently in a live setting?
Harlow: Yes, definitely. Nate and I work on ideas at home and then bring them to the studio where we collaborate and rehearse. I have pre-recorded some loops that I plan to recall in specific parts of the film but there is definitely a major focus on improv and seeing where the music takes us each night.
Allan: Out of curiosity, do you have any idea of the history of the whole "witches kissing the anus of Satan" thing? It makes for colorful cinema in Häxan, but is it historically accurate?
Harlow: Osculum Infame, or Kiss of Shame, is considered to be an act of homage or respect that one pays the Devil at the beginning of the Sabbat. Especially required when a new witch is being initiated. So it's kinda like a greeting or initiation rite.
Allan: Do you have a list of favorite occult horror films?
Harlow:The Devil Rides Out, Lucifer Rising, Häxan, The Devils, The Wicker Man, The Devil's Rain, The Omen, The Ninth Gate, and many more...
Allan: Any interesting history with Häxan, or favorite scenes? Any thoughts on The Devils and Inferno, the two films your performance is double-billed with?
Harlow: I love The Devils! It's one of my all time favorites! At least one of my favorite Ken Russell films...
Allan: What music is on your mind lately? Any upcoming recordings you want to let people know about?
Harlow: Currently listening to a lot of A Story of Rats, Hive Mind, and Sigillum Dei. And Funerary Call has a new album titled The Mirror Reversed coming out November on Cyclic Law.
Allan: Do you have any special fondness for Halloween, or plans?
Harlow: Yes, I love the fall season and Samhain (Halloween) would have to be my favorite Pagan holiday. It is the time when the veil between the spirit world and the physical world is at its thinnest. It is an ideal time to communicate with the dead.
More on the Vancity Theatre's exciting Halloween lineup.
Visit the Funerary Call Soundcloud.