“John taught me everything about playing guitar'” – PJ Harvey
John Parish has been a busy man since his last release on Thrill Jockey Records, Once Upon A Little Time, (2005). After producing and performing on PJ Harvey’s Mercury Prize–winning Let England Shake (2011), he completed the soundtracks for several European films including the critically acclaimed Sister (2012), produced albums for numerous artists including Rokia Traore, from Mali, and Norwegian avant garde artist Jenny Hval, both due out this year.
Parish is best known for his work with the acclaimed British artist PJ Harvey, which dates back to when she was backing singer and guitarist in his cult band Automatic Dlamini. He is also an accomplished composer, solo artist, and producer. Parish co-wrote and performed on Eels’ 2001 album Souljacker, and has worked with Sparklehorse, 16 Horsepower, Tracy Chapman, Adrian Utley and Howe Gelb/Giant Sand, among many others.
Parish has been composing film scores since 1998, starting with Patrice Toye’s debut film‘Rosie’:
“It was a natural progression…” Parish explains. “I was making my own records, someone asked me produce theirs - other people liked it and started asking me to produce them… and suddenly I was a record producer. The same sort of thing happened with the film composing - I was approached out of the blue by Belgian director Patrice Toye to score her first full-length movie Rosie. The movie and the score did well and that was the beginning of that strand of my music”.
Parish always had a fascination with soundtracks:
“Growing up, film soundtracks had provided some of my favourite pieces of music – Morricone, John Barry of course, but also Wim Mertens, early John Carpenter, Nino Rota, many others. I could tell that all these influences were buried in my own music, which I thought of as filmic long before I’d ever scored a movie”.
While a couple of his scores have been released as Original Soundtracks, Screenplay is the first that brings his film work into clear focus. He explains:
“Rather than release each one as a ‘Soundtrack to…’ it might be an interesting idea to try and compile an album with the highlights from several movies, something that would be a good listen regardless of whether you have seen the films”.
So Screenplay was born, a collection of scores that captures the beauty of each film giving listeners the sense of the atmosphere without having seen them.
‘Screenplay’ draws from several Parish scores including ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘Plein Sud’’, ‘Sister’ (original title L’enfant d’en Haut) and Patrice Toye’s latest film ‘Little Black Spiders’. 'Sister', directed by Ursula Meier, won the special Silver Bear at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival, and was shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars. With the amount of music he had written, it was a lengthy process selecting them for Parish, who wanted the album to have its own distinct identity.
Parish recorded most of the songs in his home studio, Honorsound ,in Bristol, UK and at Toybox Studio, Bristol with acclaimed engineer and producerAli Chant (Griff Rhys, Perfume Genius, Euros Childs).
The opening track of Screenplay is ‘Katharina’, from the film Little Black Spiders. Director Patrice Toye asked Parish to write a theme for the main character, Katharina/Katja, a classic tragic heroine. The music reflects both the sadness and the resilience of the character. ‘L’Enfant d’en Haut’ was a piece that magically fell into place by itself during the recording process, “I literally just turned on the amp, plugged in a couple of pedals & that sound was there”. A few notable guest vocalists also feature on the album; Tammy Payne (Jukes) on “The Girls Rehearse”, the Lebanese singer Nadine Khouri on the vinyl version of “Baby’s Coming” and Maika Makovski from Spain for “The Minotaur pt2”.
Screenplay live band:
JOHN PARISH – guitars, keys, vocals
JEAN-MARC BUTTY - drums
MARTA COLLICA - keyboards, vocals
GIORGIA POLI - bass, vocals
JEREMY HOGG - guitar, lap steel