Chris Carter: Records that changed my life

Eva Mackevic

English musician and one of the founding members of cult industrial group, Throbbing Gristle, Chris Carter, tells us all about the records that changed his life. 

An Electric Storm by The White Noise

I grew up on a transistor radio diet of BBC Radiophonic and pop music, plus some easy listening records and crooners that my parents were into. I'd been building electronic circuits for some years, as I was given an educational radio kit and a small tape recorder when I was 11 or 12.

So as my knowledge of electronics developed, I would hook up my homemade circuits and little tape deck to my father's larger reel-to-reel tape recorder and while my parents were at work I’d begin experimenting, making and recording weird lo-fi sounds through our hi-fi in the living room.

Then in 1969, the first time I heard An Electric Storm, it was like an epiphany, it was mind-blowing. It has those quirky melodies and vocals, odd time signatures, it's part horror and part pop. I had this moment of realisation that combining melodies with unusual soundscapes and treated voices was something I could do too.

Well, of course, I couldn't then... but I believed it enough to spur me on to build more gear and start performing live. It's an album I still regularly listen to and put into DJ sets and playlists. I love that it has this strange quality that makes it difficult to pin down to a specific period, I guess it's timeless.

 

Walkabout OST by John Barry

Nic Roeg’s 1971 enigmatic masterpiece Walkabout is one of my all-time favourite films. I first saw it on the big screen when I was an impressionable 18-year-old and was spellbound. Those stunning visuals with John Barry’s rich and melancholic arrangements are one of his best and most enduring scores. It was a perfect combination.

The film haunted me so much I saw it three times in a week... and not least because I already had a mad crush on Jenny Agutter. But the soundtrack wasn’t officially released until decades later and for years I just had a hissy cassette bootleg of it. Then, in 1978, I found an obscure Japanese copy of the soundtrack in a shop in Soho. I paid about £30 for it, which back then was a hell of a lot for an LP, but it sounded amazing.

Of course, I played the vinyl endlessly, until it was released on CD about 20 years ago. The album is a hallucinogenic mix of those trademark emotive John Barry melodies and soaring string arrangements, ethereal choirs, finely tuned sound design and children’s nursery rhymes... presented as only he could. Even though it has this poignant vibe about it I've always found listening to Walkabout to be wonderfully inspirational.

 

Blade Runner OST by Vangelis

Another cult soundtrack to a masterpiece of the cinema, those amazing visuals with that outstanding musical score. The first time I saw the film I was completely hooked by Vangelis's dark tones and epic synth arrangements.

Cosey and I went to see it as soon as it was released in the summer of 1982, in 70mm on one of those gigantic screens with fantastic surround sound in the West End of London. We'd recently had a son and hadn't been going out much so we kind of went on a date I guess and loved every minute of the film.

Well, so much so that the following week we wrote a track titled “Raining Tears of Blood” that was totally inspired by the closing moments of the film. Our fans have always loved that track. It's funny because I've never been entirely sure how much of the atmospheric sound design in the film, which is so tightly interweaved with the music, was also by Vangelis.

I wasn't a fan of his earlier soundtrack for Chariots of Fire, it was a little pompous for my liking and I'm still not a massive fan of his, but what he did for Blade Runner was in a different league. It's one of those soundtracks I can't hear without imagining the visuals... in my mind’s eye I rerun shots from the film and when I see stills from the film I hear the soundtrack in my head.

For such a highly regarded, groundbreaking suite of music, this was another of those soundtracks that the movie company initially refused to release. Lucky for me I managed to track down a decent sounding cassette bootleg until it was eventually released on CD ten years later. It's maybe not always that obvious but it's probably the soundtrack that had the most influence on our early work as Chris & Cosey.

 

About my new album, Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Volume One

My new album, Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Volume One, is out on March 30 on Mute and is my first solo release in over 17 years. It was made over quite a long period of time—six years—in the home studio I share with Cosey Fanni Tutti.

The foundation work had been going on longer, but the untimely passing of Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson (fellow Throbbing Gristle founder) meant that recording came to a rest as I gave myself time to grieve. I think some of that process is manifested in parts of the album.

The photography on the artwork and the videos for this release were all created by me, and inspired by those BBC experimental LPs they used to release in the 1960 and 1970s. Creating visuals to accompany what I do has always been an important part of the process, ensuring the whole audio/visual experience is presented as I envisaged it.

 

Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Volume One is out March 30, you can pre-order it here