I was fortunate enough to ask Cullen Gallagher a few questions about his music project Modern Silent Cinema. Cullen and I have worked together musically for the past 2 years. He's a great guy, with unique tastes that seem to know no bounds. We've worked together on music projects in the past (he plays bass on multiple recordings of mine and is the other half of Dreambox). His prolific attitude in regards to writing music is outstanding, he's constantly producing his own records and providing reviews for various film and novel blogs. AO Blog highly recommends that you take the time to read through this series of Q&A's, and more importantly, make sure to tune in to Cullen's songs.
AO: How did MSC come about? How many releases have you made since the inception of the project?
CG: It started back in 2004, when I moved back to Maine after leaving NY. So, Shoot the Piano Player was basically broken up at that point, and I didn't have a band and I wanted to play some bass, so I figured I'd throw down some guitar chords just to practice over. I never tried recording on a laptop before. I just used the computer mic and some free software. When I imported the songs into iTunes, I needed a band name to label the tracks, and I had the weird idea that I'd eventually write film music rather than rock n roll so Modern Silent Cinema took about 4 seconds to come up with, and it stuck. As for albums, I think there are 17 now plus a 4-disc collection of early songs that were for an album that never was completed called In Praise of Cecil Hepworth.
AO: What is your writing/recording process like?
CG: I guess it depends, but I usually start with the rhythm guitar part, which is usually complete when I start recording, I might have ideas for bass or melody, but those come after the rhythm guitar. For this album I'm mixing now, Situation Bacon, I often did the drums 2nd.
AO: Where does the name Situation Bacon derive and how far back are the songs coming from?
CG: I misheard Casey Smith (from Shoot the Piano Player) telling me about a Kinks song on Something Else. I was in a record store on the phone with him, and he said there was an awesome song that I'd like called “Situation Bacon,” but when I picked up the album, it was “Situation Vacant.” Worked out well in the end -- the Kinks song rules, and I got a title.
AO: The songs have a cinematic feel to them...You are involved with the film world, have any songs ever been used as scores for short-films?
CG: Yeah. Ted Markowsky from Orono used one track for a short, then he and my brother co-directed another short called The Last Supper and I did some music for it. I'd like to try doing music for movies again at some point. It’s fun, challenging and different than writing rock songs.
AO: It seems like your catalog of music is begging to be put along with film...almost as if that is ‘the point’ of it.
CG: I'd like the opportunity to write some material specifically made for movies. A lot of the stuff I've been doing lately has felt (to me) more rock n roll in nature. I used to do a lot with mixing and arrangement for multiple guitars and even some midi, but lately I've been trying to write more for a live band, sticking to just 2 guitars, 1 bass, and 1 drum track.
AO: That hints that MSC may eventually verge into a band. Has that idea ever been set into motion? Do you think they'll be a time when you play live?
CG: I've tried a couple times in the past, never worked out, but I'm hoping to try again.
AO: I know we talked about Michio Kurihara as one of your favorite guitarists. Who are some other big influences?
CG: Oh man, you know how long that could go on, with us swapping music we like. Let me think of a few…G’N’R, Fugazi, Slint, Bedhead, Converge, Cave In, Botch, Freddie King, Magic Sam, Boys Life - - too many, but also classical stuff like Takemitsu, who did a lot of movie scores. Takemitsu's stuff can be super creepy; also one of the first composers to combine John Cage and modern styles with traditional Japanese instruments.
AO :What is currently in the works for you? What should we keep our eyes peeled for?
CG: More Dreambox recordings hopefully! And I'm hoping this hardcore project called Registered Nurse will get off the ground.
AO: When you put your MSC archive together…where will it be found?
CG: The music will be at MSC Bandcamp to listen to. The artwork is already up at MSC Blog, and once the songs are available to listen to I'll post links there as well.
Cullen also does a lot of writing and reviews which are linked below.
Pulp Novel Reviews:Pulp Serenade
Film Reviews: Cinema Journal
Cullen currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.