Roly Porter began his career as one half of Vex’d, releasing a series of singles on the Subtext label before moving to Planet Mu to release Degenerate and Cloud Seed. His solo work fuses his background in soundsystem music with contemporary classical composition and focused sound design, resulting in a unique and often harrowing sound. 2011 saw the release of the critically acclaimed LP Aftertime, followed in 2012 by the Alderburgh Festival-commissioned Fall Back, a collaboration with renowned Ondiste Cynthia Millar. 2013 will see the release of his most ambitious project to date, Life Cycle of a Massive Star.
As a composer and sound designer, Roly has produced original soundtracks for Big Talk/Film 4’s In Fear, which premiered at this year’s Sundance festival, and dystopian thriller Interferenz. Below, Roly discusses his ten favourite movies.
1. Dune (David Lynch, 1984)
I saw this film long before reading the books, and that is probably for the best. So much of this film has dated terribly, and a lot of it was terrible in the first place. The costumes, special effects – it’s all pretty bad but I can’t help loving it, even the warty, floating Baron. When I was younger it felt like the most epic thing ever, the shield fights blew me away and somehow that epic feeling has survived – apart from Sting, he looks totally lame in his pants. The soundtrack is suitably epic, which is lucky as Toto seem a baffling choice when listening to their other records. I don’t know whether there was any cross over between them and Eno or whether he just added the ‘Prophecy Theme’, but either way it’s pretty epic. I had a brief listen to the official soundtrack and it contains some complete turds, which I don’t remember being in the movie, but I’d avoid listening to it if possible.
2. Into Eternity (Michael Madsen, 2010)
Fascinating documentary about a nuclear storage facility. The thing I love about the film is that it gives you some idea of how long 100,000 years actually is. The narrator is pretty annoying, but there is some great sound design and some terrifying ideas.
3. Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2009)
When I first watched this I found it completely engrossing in a way I have rarely experienced sober. I watched it on my laptop, which could have ruined it, but the film is so powerful it didn’t matter, although I would love to see it in the cinema. It’s basically the perfect film for me. I think it was badly marketed as some kind of Gladiator-style Viking romp instead of the doom laden, dark ambient masterpiece it actually is. I tried to rent it from an amazing shop in Bristol called 20th Century Flicks, whose recommendations are always spot on, and the guy there spent some time trying to dissuade me, so they must have had a few complaints. The music is good but scoring this film would have been my dream job. The timing of everything in this film matches some part of my brain that I can’t identify. I could watch it again and again.
4. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
Perfect in every way. Slow, beautiful, heartbreaking, funny – it has every part of life somehow squeezed in. An unbeatable classic.
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
If I have enjoyed a book I will make sure that I never see the film of the book. It’s always a disappointment, if not always bad. No Country for Old Men is supposed to be great, but why bother – the book was great and I don’t want the characters in my head altered. 2001 is the one exception to this rule. I saw the film first and spent many years watching it in a haze, not understanding it but loving it. The book and the film are the perfect accompaniment to each other, they each make the other more enjoyable. Knowing what is actually happening in the film totally transformed it for me. This film is older than I am and it still looks better than anything since.
6. Nuts in May (Mike Leigh, 1976)
This is a pretty painful watch. It’s directed by Mike Leigh, and I expect it’s either love or hate for this. Keith is a legend. If you’ve been camping give it a go.
7. Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008)
I know very little about the IRA but I found this film disturbing and fascinating. It is by no means the most violent film I have seen, but the violence towards the prisoners is so effectively portrayed that it genuinely upset me. Beautifully made, but I suspect that if I had a better grasp of the history, I would have found it harder to enjoy this film.
8. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
Just an absolute classic. Every time I come back to this film I am surprised by how good it is.
9. Upstream Colour (Shane Carruth, 2013)
The strange thing about this film is that you can say it makes no sense, or that the plot is ridiculous, but that doesn’t detract from how great it is at all. The pig thing comes close to being rubbish, especially when they are all reunited, but somehow the film fights past it to become meaningful. It is almost as though Carruth has chosen the most absurd plot as a challenge to overcome. As I have only recently seen this and Primer, I can’t say they are my favourite films, however Upstream Colour is certainly one of the most original and enjoyable films I have seen in some time.
10. Caddyshack (Harold Ramis, 1980)
‘Skinny skiing, bullfights on acid’.