‘This promises to be a pretty weird one’: Robin Fox on the eerie soundscaping of Hellraiser for Hear My Eyes

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‘This promises to be a pretty weird one’: Robin Fox on the eerie soundscaping of Hellraiser for Hear My Eyes

hear my eyes
Words by Kosa Monteith

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, an infamous icon of the horror film genre, will be brought to new, electrified life at RISING. 

The 1987 film, centred on supernatural sadomasochistic figures and good old-fashioned gore, will be stripped of the original Christopher Young film score and reimagined in a Hear My Eyes collaboration between Chicago-based Hieroglyphic Being (Jamal Moss) and Naarm-based audiovisual artist, Robin Fox. Hellraiser will be rescored alongside Fox’s laser show. 

“This promises to be a pretty weird one,” Fox said. “I was about 14 when the film came out. I think I’ve repressed most of it. It was confronting watching again, it’s a pretty shocking piece… although Clive Barker talks about not being interested in shock for its own sake or sensationalism in horror films. I think there’s a lot that’s deeper… It’s an extraordinary film.”

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Hear My Eyes artistic director Haydn Green had met with Fox for years about opportunities to do live work and proposed this collaboration, approaching the film with a blank slate to, in Fox’s words, “give it a completely new sonic identity.”

“All of the scope for sound, recontextualizing what you’re watching is a really interesting proposition,” Fox said. “There’s lots of tropey ways you can do that [in a horror movie] but I think there’s also room for paradox and play with expectations. I’m excited about that challenge.”

“I feel incredibly privileged,” Fox said. “Collaborating with Hieroglyphic Being, being given the brief to rescore such an iconic horror film, supported by a festival in my hometown to work on projects at this scale – all amazing.”

Fox and Moss are in the early stages of their long-distance collaboration, exchanging preliminary sound ‘sketches’.

“I’ve never worked with Jamal before,” Fox said. “Because of the distance and the back and forth we’re about to enter into, the sketches are all about finding resonance. As artists, we have to meet somewhere… That’s one of the most interesting parts of a collaboration in many respects, the dance at the beginning.”

“I’m making music all the time,” Fox said. “When a project comes along I look through the things I’ve been working on and see which elements might fit the brief, as a starting point.”

“We’ve had some conversations about how to use a leitmotif technique, assigning sonic aspects of the film,” Fox said. “The Cenobites, these central demons who emerge from the other world, their voices seem ‘treated’ at certain times in the film. We might play with that.”

Fox has also turned to Barker’s original novella The Hellbound Heart.“There’s a really evocative description of these melodies and bells that accompany the solving of the [Lemarchand Configuration] puzzle box,” he said. 

“It didn’t really translate for me in the film… When I was watching the box being solved in those early scenes… I was expecting a nod to that and I was a little unsatisfied. There might be ways to do that with some kind of live percussion.” 

“It’s this kind of Rubik’s Cube that unlocks this other universe where pleasure and pain are indistinguishable feelings,” he said. “We’re in the Town Hall in Melbourne and there’s this enormous organ sitting there, so we’ve also discussed maybe giving the Box a bit of an organ identity, but that’s all very much up in the air.”

While Fox’s shows are known for transfixing and affecting audiovisual experiences, amplifying Hellraiser’s horror aspects is a different proposition.

“I don’t usually like to shock or upset people,” Fox said. “But the discomfort that horror films create is an interesting psychological state… Sound can play such an integral role in heightening that.”

Fox has composed for theatre and contemporary dance (often working with choreographer Stephanie Lake), but having film as the pivot is more ‘locked in’. 

“The marriage of sound and image is central to my audiovisual work even though it’s much more live and synaesthetic,” Fox said. “But working to picture can be really satisfying because it’s like playing in a symphony orchestra, you’re just one part of a much larger picture.”


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“Part of the initial [Hear My Eyes] brief is that the foley and the dialogue has to be preserved, the film is still the film… Thankfully there’s a lot of Hellraiser where there’s no dialogue, just screams and people being murdered. So there’s lots of scope for sonic play and invention.”

The performance will include both recordings and live elements. As co-founding director of MESS (Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio), Fox has access to a huge range of historic electronic music equipment.

“I’ve recently become fascinated with the Crumar DS-2 synthesiser, an early digital synthesiser,” he said. “There’s something about the sound of the Crumar DS-2 which is captivating me. So I think that’s one I’ll be bringing with me to the stage… Jamal is planning to bring a few of his digital instruments: digital saxophone, digital flute… For me, performing electronic music, I like to try to make sure there’s some danger in it.”

Fox faces a creative challenge integrating laser work. “The laser shouldn’t overwhelm the film, it should complement the film,” Fox said. “There are lots of really nice moments of colour that I want to complement… Some great deep red moments, really nice golden moments, coming through slatted windows, bring those atmospheres into the space.

“Then there are moments where the Box comes to life with lightning and there’s flashes of 1980s visual effects… I also want to project lasers onto the film at key moments. I’m thinking about how to deploy lasers in an expanded cinema way rather than in an overwhelming laser show way.”

But there will be scope for laser play before and after the screening. “In the credits, there’ll be room for a bit of ‘go crazy with lasers’ time, which is always fun,” he said. “You can’t put a whole lot of lasers in a room and not do that. That would be a crime.”

Catch Hear My Eyes: Hellraiser at Melbourne Town Hall on June 9 and 10. Grab tickets here.