Cody Carpenter is the son of director and composer John Carpenter. A third generation musician who was introduced to instruments around the age of three years old, he has contributed music for two of his father's films, Vampires (1998) and Ghosts of Mars (2001), and also composed and performed the full length score for two episodes featured in Masters of Horror - "Cigarette Burns" and "Pro-Life" (2005). Along with Daniel Davies - John Carpenter's godson - Cody has co-composed, co-performed and co-produced his father's first solo album, LOST THEMES, a "family affair" that jumped straight to number one on the electronic charts worldwide upon its release on February 2015.
Cody has been creating music for his project LUDRIUM since 2008, and has been collaborating with an international array of musicians to bring his original creations to the live stage. After listening to his solo efforts, I promptly decided to get in touch with him for an interview. Cody graciously agreed to answer my questions and we couldn't be happier to have him featured here on NEONVICE.com!
You're an accomplished multi instrumentalist, competent on drums, bass, guitars, piano, and you're also a singer. When did you first start playing music, and what would you consider to be your main instrument? did you take any lessons, or are you self taught on all of these?
As a child I was introduced to a variety of different instruments. At my dad's house there were always guitars and synths for me to mess around with. I had guitar lessons at one point, but for whatever reason I always preferred the keyboard, which I would consider my main instrument. I am self-taught on the drums.
Left to Right: John Carpenter, Daniel Davies, Cody Carpenter during the LOST THEMES sessions in L.A. (Photo by Sophie Davies)
What gear do you use? Is there any instrument you record and play with that you're particularly attached to?
For the heavy duty recording stuff I generally use my dad's gear. He uses Logic with a massive amount of plugins, pretty much anything and everything one might need! He also has some amazing vintage guitars and basses.
For my personal stuff there are a few synth lead sounds that I tweaked slightly which I basically use all the time. I also am very fond of the classic Hammond organ. (I used to own a Hammond C3 but sold it many years ago).
Which was your very first album ever, and what were your early influences starting on? Did you have any composer or musician you particularly admired? was there any film, soundtrack or visual artist that inspired you along the way?
I'm not sure if it was my first album, but The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack from 1986 was without a doubt my biggest influence, and I think continues to be my biggest influence even today. I've probably ripped off moments of that soundtrack a million times unconsciously, (or perhaps consciously). Vince DiCola is an amazing composer and musician. Other than the Transformers, I listened to a lot of stuff growing up, from Devo to Jesus Christ Superstar, but without question, the music from the video games I played as a child had a massive influence on me.
You've released a full length LP for your LUDRIUM project titled ZEAL that came out in 2012. Those tracks feature a very particular sound that could probably defined as a crossover between progressive rock and soundtrack music: layers of piano and synths dueling with lead guitars, intricate structures, perfectly executed vocals coupled with some very interesting lyric work. Would you agree with that definition? What is the concept behind the album, and how long did it take to put it all together?
Exactly!! Progressive rock and soundtrack combined. You described it perfectly. I had actually recorded those songs in 2008 after another project from 2003-2006 which never came to fruition. I was heavily into groups like Genesis and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer at the time, and I think it shows! I recorded the drums at Tin Drum Music, which is the studio of awesome Burleigh Drummond. I had written the songs over a number of years, but I think it took about 2 weeks or so to record everything. There really wasn't an overarching concept I had in mind, though some themes seem to reappear frequently in the lyrics.
An amazing F-ZERO - Big Blue 'rock medley' from Cody's YOUTUBE page
The more recent works featured on your SOUNDCLOUD profile for LUDRIUM are a clear evolution of the sound developed on ZEAL, leaning towards a more electronic sound with some elements that reminded me of videogame soundtracks from the early 90s. where those an influence at all? Did you play videogames growing up, do you play now and if so, what type of games are you into? ...And while we're on the subject, have you ever heard of a game called SPLATTERHOUSE?
Yes! The game soundtracks of the late 80s and early 90s have a huge influence on me. They always have. I played way too many games growing up! NES, SNES, Genesis, arcade games, computer games...Everything. Nowadays I don't play as much, although I do play when I go over to my dad's house. He's more into games now than I am! It's a funny story about SPLATTERHOUSE - for whatever reason I owned the TurboGrafx-16 port of the game, but I never had a TurboGrafx-16 console to play it on! So I could only stare at the cool art on the box.
That is awesome! You should check it out one day, I'm sure you'd love that SPLATTERHOUSE soundtrack! Moving on, you've worked with you father and his godson Daniel Davies on his first solo album, LOST THEMES, which recently came out and has been peaking on #1 in the electronic charts around the world. Congratulations! How do you feel about the album? Can you describe how the recording process unfolded and what was your role into it? Was it a relaxed atmosphere? How much did it take to get it all done? Did anything funny or particularly trippy happen while working on it? Also, was it easy for you to be working on music with your dad?
I'm surprised and happy that people are enjoying the album so much. It never started out as something we took seriously, as we were just sort of having fun with my dad's recording gear. We recorded quite a bit of music over a good deal of time, but then I moved to Tokyo for work. Sometime later my dad e-mailed me saying they were going to release the music. Yes, it's a very relaxed atmosphere when I do music with my dad and Daniel. It's a family project. My dad and I also have a very similar work method/style, so it's very easy to work together.
After my dad knew that the music was going to be released, he asked me via e-mail to send him some more music, as I was still working in Tokyo. I wrote some new stuff, but the gear I was recording on, and the way I had to transfer it into my computer, was so old and outdated, that you can actually hear a hiss on one or two of the tracks! See if you can hear it! I won't tell which tracks though...
Do you have a favorite track off of LOST THEMES?
Either Abyss or Vortex.
VORTEX from LOST THEMES
Is there any track from your father's scores that you're particularly attached to? and while we're on the subject, is there any movie from his body of work that you're particularly fond of?
I'm particularly fond of the score for Big Trouble in Little China. The way it moves gives the movie such a great feel! Likewise, I think Big Trouble is my favorite movie that my dad has done. I love the fantasy, love the action, and the dialogue is so much fun! After Big Trouble, I would say The Thing and They Live are my other favorites.
Did you ever think about shooting a movie, and eventually, do you think you ever will? Eventually, what type of story would you bring to the screen if you had the chance to do it?
To be honest I never did, and I'm not sure why. I never really had any desire to be a director like my father. I've always been more focused on music for whatever reason.
WRAITH from LOST THEMES
Are you familiar with the synthwave phenomenon and, if so, what do you think of it all? What is your current playlist, what is currently inspiring you, and what are some of your most recent musical finds?
It's funny, both myself and my father were completely unaware that this sort of stuff was having a resurgence in popularity. I think it's great! I have a great love of 80's synth sounds. I also get very nostalgic about my youth so it's a wonderful thing.
I've been listening to a lot of the Dixie Dregs recently. Steve Morse is just mind-blowingly amazing. I've also been listening to the English group Level 42 a lot these days.
Are you aware of the influence of your father's works on the synthwave scene, and on several generations of music makers? How do you feel about it? In what ways would you like to influence listeners and in what ways would you like to, eventually, influence producers or music makers around the world?
I am more or less aware of my father's influence, but I have a feeling that he doesn't really know how much his music has had an impact on so many other people who make music. Of course I think it's great! I have since seen many bios of musicians who list my dad as a major influence. I personally would just love to find people that enjoy the kind of music that I make. I know it's not something everyone can take pleasure from, so it's always nice to hear someone that connects with it.
TRACKER, from LUDRIUM's SOUNDCLOUD page
I personally think there's a whole lot of people out there who's going to really enjoy your works! What are your current plans for the future? Any collaboration in sight? Are you going to play more live shows with LUDRIUM, or are you going to focus on the studio work?
I'm back doing more music with my dad and Daniel, jamming out and recording it. We'll see what happens with it. I am also going to put up an album's worth of Ludrium material sometime in the next few months or so on Bandcamp. Keep an eye and an ear out for that! Additionally, there might be some scoring opportunities for me in the near future.
I would love to play more live shows with the Ludrium guys! Unfortunately, my comrades are in Tokyo, and I'm in LA, at least for the time being. I'd also love to get a band together with my dad and Daniel to perform the Lost Themes stuff!
The live LOST THEMES line up sounds like an amazing plan, please keep us posted! Have you been spending a lot of time in Tokyo? How do you like it over there? Who else played in LUDRIUM while you were there?
Yes, I have lived over there off and on for about 5 years in total. I love it over there! I'm hoping to go back when I can.
The rest of the Ludrium band was: David Rambeau on guitar, Jason Cho on bass, and Shuntaro Innami on drums. With David being from France, Jason from Canada, myself from America, and Shuntaro from Japan, we were truly an international outfit!
Do you think your travels to Japan have had some sort of an influence on your compositions?
I wish I could say that living in Japan influenced my music, but honestly I was so tired from work that, if anything, it weakened my musical creativity. I also didn't have any good recording gear over there, so I would just jam out on the guitar to get my creative fix.
While we're on the subject.... playing keytar live: yay or nay?
I've never actually held a keytar before but it looks like it would be a little difficult to walk around and play vertical at the same time. I would say go for it though!
You have been creating music for quite a long while, do you have any advice for upcoming & aspiring songwriters & producers that might be reading this?
Hah, I'm not the guy to ask for advice! I should be asking them!
Cody, thank you very much for taking the time to do this. Much appreciated! Let us know what's on your mind as we say goodbye!
I'm pondering what I'm going to have for lunch... Thanks much!!!!