The Shakers and The Players
The recordings sessions for Loves of a Cyclops began with a bang when unofficial producer extraordinaire Roland Bonaventure, barred by the filmmakers from appearing on set, took his creative energies into the studio. There, he planned to embark on an ambitious score with a large ensemble of session musicians. He did this without the knowledge or permission of anyone else involved in the film's production, and promised everyone hired for the recording sessions that they would be paid by the production companies upon completion of the score. Roland intended to compose and conduct everything himself, despite the fact that he had never once picked up an instrument or read a single note on a piece of sheet music, let alone write one.
Roland's lack of experience quickly became apparent to the musicians and studio engineers. Much of their expensive studio time was spent on disorganized noodling under his improvisational direction. Without any focus or written score, the nights quickly devolved into meandering jams, which further devolved into heavy drinking and games revolving around landing bottle caps into cups. The vocal booth became a constant hot-box of thick smoke from which a revolving door of guests would stumble in and out.
Eventually the film's production team caught wind of this disaster-in-progress. Though there was no money to pay the bill for the studio or musicians, it seemed that everyone involved in the process had such a good time (or feared for their lives), so they didn't bother to go after Roland or his representatives for any compensation. Rejected from both film and soundtrack, Roland disowned the film and requested that his name be removed, even though there was no agreement stating that his name would appear on it in the first place.
At this stage, director Nathan Punwar asked Michael Schanzlin to remedy the scenario. Mr. Schanzlin was able to rescue audio from the Bonaventure Sessions and incorporate it into his original compositions for the film. In this way, he preserved the spirit of Mr. Bonaventure's gusto, while translating the often-unintelligible direction of Mr. Punwar into music perfectly tailored to the film. Together, they worked quickly and relatively quietly compared to Roland, while making sure to polish off the remaining beer and whiskey supply he left behind. Holed up in the studios of Robot Repair, who kindly allowed them to take up an after-hours residency with their non-existent budget, they successfully completed the soundtrack heard in the film.
As for Roland Bonaventure, he is currently attempting to get his name put back onto the film's credits, either as Producer in Chief, Executive Conductor, or Comrade Music Supervisor, among others. He has yet to be properly credited for his role in single-handedly causing the 25-minute film to take one full year to complete, and delaying distribution to audiences for another year. At one point, he stole several hard drives of media and held them for ransom, demanding he be taken out to a nine course meal with wine and appetizers. He was negotiated down to tacos and a beer, but no chips or guacamole.
The filmmakers have since made amends with Roland, and are in talks to pursue future projects with him.
The Bonaventure Shouffle
After six weeks and thousands of dollars in unpaid studio time, Roland only had one recording to show for it, which he called "The Bonaventure Shouffle." He hired a small chamber orchestra to play on it, but when they couldn't sight-read his invented musical notation, he brought in a rifle for intimidation, and they quit. He pressed on, and recorded a stripped-down version the song with the rhythm section of a jazz ensemble he lured from the studio next door with his hot-boxed vocal booth. And so, the song consists only of tympani and cymbals riding a simple beat, with the occasional wood block or hand clap. On any typical night, after an hour in the vocal booth, Roland would roll out and demand that the band play "The Shouffle" while he sauntered around and waved his arms to conduct.
Somehow, one of Roland's unpaid interns snuck a copy of "The Bonaventure Shouffle" from the original recording sessions and got it back to him. Months later, one YouTube user -- coincidentally named Roland Bonaventure -- uploaded a video of a man dancing to the song. Though the copyright on the composition remains disputed, Roland reportedly pulled this renegade stunt in the hopes that it would secure him a deal for future records by becoming the next "Harlem Shake." Said Roland: "I'd bet five franks on it. Dance crazes never die."
The Lost Hallelujah Demo
The local priest at the Church of the Town of Ducan (referred to simply as "The Priest" by locals) was widely known for his electric guitar gospel, which he performed weekly at his service. When Francis arrived at the church to attend a meeting for recovering addicts, The Priest became fascinated with the strange visions he described to the group, which he then shared with the entire congregation. The Priest was so inspired by the holy visions of this newcomer, he received a message from above, giving him new words to put over a traditional hymn that told the story of this one-eyed prophet. The following week, he performed his Cyclops Spiritual version of "Hallelujah" to rapturous applause.
The Priest waiting to go onstage before a performance at the Spirit Shakers Festival.
Upon learning of the success other guitar-slinging preachers who reached mass audiences by putting their musical recordings to tape, The Priest borrowed a single-track recorder, got a small band of backing musicians together, and recorded the track one hot August afternoon. The session players included a bass drum kicker, several hand-clappers, and a hand-picked guitar over his distorted electric one. His usual backup singers were unavailable, as they were touring with another group, so he was backed only by his fellow guitar-player on the recording. Afterward, he tried unsuccessfully to market the single to record labels who were known for putting out gospel music, but all of them found the distortion too aggressive, and some thought it sounded like the devil. They complained they couldn't make out the words. The Priest argued that all they needed to make out was the essence of the words, and then they would understand the true meaning within.
Fortunately, the demo was not lost to time, and we can still listen to the original recording today, in its messy one-take glory, all instruments and singing piled on top of each other, recorded through a single microphone in the middle of the church. The lyrics are contested by music historians, but are believed to read as follows:
Glory glory - Hallelujah!
When the servant comes to town
Glory glory - Hallelujah!
He wanted to be found
Praise be he, the Highest One
When He hands his vision down
When God speaks, He speaks to me
through this strange pilgrim man
When God speaks - He speaks to me
He reveals to me his plan
When God sings - He sings to me
the son raised up from the land
The eye, it gives - eternal sight
To those who will believe
Glory glory - Hallelujah!
In darkness he sees
Still he knows what is real
Oh the answer's in the light
In the light - he shines so bright!
The shadows run scared
The shadows gone, evil done
Our hearts all call to prayer
He can't see - this fallen world But he smells the sulfur air
Give us grace. Give us grace
to pray for weary souls
those who stray. give them peace
let them never feel alone
Though they weep, though they moan
They will laugh when dust and bones
for he gave his only son
so that we may learn to sing
Glory glory hallelujah
Proposed album cover for the unreleased single.
"Snow (Instrumental)," an early demo of the song "Snow Days" by the band Real Estate, appears halfway through the film and again at the end. The melody just brought out a certain magic in the story, so why fight it? The band and their label were kind enough to allow the song to be used in the film. It can be heard above as part of the soundtrack, just as it originally appeared in the Underwater Peoples Summertime Showcase sampler in 2009. The studio recording of the song with vocals appeared as the last track on their debut self-titled album.
Real Estate, photo by Shawn Brackbill