“I wanted to do it before anyone else, because I was convinced nobody else could give it the level of detail needed,” Adam Znaidi tells me. It’s a fair assertion, considering what he’s aiming to do, and the profundity of his inspirations. The Physics House Band bassist is close to bringing his new musical project to Hove’s The Old Market, after becoming yet another pandemic postponement in 2019.
With works like The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom, iconic director Wes Anderson has helped transform attitudes around music in modern cinema. In turn, Znaidi is now recreating a selection of Anderson’s most celebrated scores for the stage. “It started because I wanted to do Ping Island / Lightning Strike from A Life Aquatic for a live session, as I thought it would be really fun. It made me realise no-one has done a music of ‘Wes Anderson’ show.” Live performances of film and game music are very much in fashion, with shows around Star Wars or Skyrim being staged around the world. Znaidi says he’s been obsessed with Anderson as a director, and in turn the music in his films, for a long time. A simple ambition to play music created for The Life Aquatic while wearing recreations of the film’s Team Zissou outfits has snowballed into an entire show.
A journey through the rich tapestry of compositions from the auteur’s oeuvre, Wes Banderson is a playful multi-instrumental collage. Anderson’s approach to music and scoring has seemed innovative since his feature debut in 1996. Along with an evocative, and occasionally singular, style of direction, he’s fully exploited the overwhelming impact a soundtrack can have on the movie-watching experience. From conjuring a sense of isolation with samba cover versions of David Bowie classics to the majestic Oscar-winning compositions of Alexandre Desplat, he steps outside familiar traditions to create something truly magical.
While careful choices create an air of timelessness across his work, they also offer meta-narrative alongside the onscreen theatrics. Often the music establishes atmosphere and a sense of space while offering rich insights into a character’s internal dialogue. “The music often delivers the emotion of the character in that moment. It’s like a cut out of their personal mixtape for the scene.”
The period of Anderson’s work which Znaidi most favours is between the love-rival comedy, Rushmore, up to The Darjeeling Limited and its joyously-awkward spiritual journey. This is a period where Anderson felt particularly empowered to allow his music to speak to cinema audiences, laying it over slow-motion cuts and dialogue-free action to enormous effect. “It’s really strong of him to let the music play and allowing these tableaus to reveal themselves in front of you.” The dramatic effect is undeniable, creating a huge emotional hit with the viewer and drawing them further into these imaginary worlds.
The show is a beneficiary of the Old Market’s ‘Gig For A Gig’ project, which has seen local legend Fat Boy Slim staged a show where proceeds would go into funding new work from emerging artists. Znaidi says it’s a huge understatement to say there’s gratitude for all the love and support he’s receiving from the Hove venue. “There’s an awesome team there. They’ve been really supportive.” He thinks the show should attract the superfans, as well as those who know the director only from the award-winning magic of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
“I get an idea and I have to do it. I guess it comes from being into a lot of stuff. I’m into a lot of different film, and I try and take in as much as I can. From the Avant Garde, like Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain to the latest Fast And The Furious.” It’s the same with music. Whether it’s some strange 1920’s Russian work, which is essentially just noises from sirens, or straight-up pop music, he likes a broader than usual range, and somehow these neatly fit together in his mind.
He’s familiar to many on the Brighton scene as a member of The Physics House Band. This hugely inventive trio perform with over 30 instruments between them, forging beautiful slices of spacious experimental space-rock. There’s also a long-standing association with The Go! Team, standing in as a session player for the local lo-fi heroes. “That’s a lot of fun, really strange and interesting. It’s got to the stage where there’s a real cult movement around them.”
Znaidi grew up in a household where music featured heavily. His father was into all kinds of esoteric stuff – lots of jazz, blues, electronica and Avant Garde orchestral music, while his mother listened to Arabic, North African and trance music. “I just had music thrown at me from a young age. I started playing drums about 12, and just taught myself stuff from there.” His mother would allow his practice in their small house, defending him when the neighbours complained. “The guys would turn up, and I’d take their guitars and amps upstairs. While they were all downstairs watching skate videos, I’d be setting up.” After learning several different instruments and having a top-down view of how things work, he’s found it easy to take an objective view on arrangements. He says there’s been some good fortune in having really talented friends who can take, and sometimes improve on, anything thrown at them.
After forming, planning and finding the players, the project has been relatively straight forward. The biggest obstacle he faced was in finding a belief that he could get Arts Council support. “I know how difficult it is, and how shit it is for people to go for funding. I’m one person out of God knows how many.” It was only when the group produced their first video, and he showed people, that he really allowed himself to think everything was going to work out. “I think it’s taught me if you just do it and stop worrying about it, it’s going to be fine. And that time is important. When you only have a certain amount of time, you use that time so much better.”
The beauty of Wes Banderson is that the concept can crossover to a range of platforms, like music, film or literary festivals. The ambition is to book tours, either in the UK, Europe or America – and maybe become the leading group in the world performing this repertoire. “It’s part of me displaying my obsessions,” Znaidi confides. “I guess creativity is generally showing this thing you’re obsessed with, and just hoping someone else can have that conversation with you.”
Wes Banderson comes to The Old Market on Sat 4 – Mon 6 Dec.