Peter Murphy and The Lady ParaNorma by Vincent Marcone
Vincent Marcone, a.k.a. My Pet Skeleton, is a multi Emmy award winning graphic artist and film maker. His latest short film, “The Lady ParaNorma”, is currently doing a world tour on the International Film Fest Circuit.
An idea can sometimes take you on a fantastic and very unexpected journey. One of my adventures started this way about 7 years ago on a rainy Sunday afternoon…
I was in my studio fussing over the details and finishing touches for a series of etchings I had created for an art show. On one end of the studio, my dilapidated paint covered television (I called him “Frank”) was offering up various black and white cartoons. His inner speakers had died years ago, so he was technologically mute, but I kept him around because he still provided company while being less of a distraction.
On the other end, my stereo system “Mildred”, who had seen better days (as it turns out it was a rather cruel idea to place candles within flames reach of her plastic speakers), was randomly choosing a particularly schizophrenic mix of music. Bjork was crooning about her “army of me”… then passed the the sonic baton unto Mister Reznor who was fucking something “like an animal”… in a moment my idea would begin to take shape.
I had flopped myself onto the nearest couch and focused on “Frank”, who began to play a new black and white cartoon for me. It was one of the very first Disney cartoons (known as ‘comics’ at the time) called “The Skeleton Dance”. As if queued, my dear “Mildred” began to spin one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands, a band that I could easily blame for turning me on to gothic culture and alternative music when I was a just a wee wriggling larva… Bauhaus.
“Hollow hills” eloquently faded into the room as the cartoon flickered into place. My state of exhaustion may have gotten the better part of my perceptions, but it seemed that the the black and white skeletons were waltzing in perfect time with Peter Murphy’s haunting vocals. It was an incredible happenstance to witness Bauhaus soundtracking a Walt Disney short about an undead troop of boney dancers. When does THAT ever happen?!? This strange pairing elicited the vision of a warped cartoon of my own coming to life, and that was when I imagined the birth and demise of “The Lady ParaNorma”.
Throughout the next few years I took time in between art shows and projects to refine the sketches and work on the writing, which essentially became a long poem. The idea was to create a short that felt like it could settle quite nicely circa 1930, while maintaining a slightly juxtaposed feeling. The imagery needed to feel odd and unsettling and I wanted the story to feel creepy and personally authentic. My band mates in Johnny Hollow stepped in to take hold of the music and created a wonderful sonic backdrop. It took a few years to get the right people to make the project happen, but I eventually found the perfect team to help me create the film. I was also fortunate enough to have the right government funding in place. (Thank you Bravo!FACT)
And so, the last piece of the puzzle, who would be the voice of the film? After years of putting this all together, who would be the narrator? The producers of the film, Rodrigo Gudino and Marco Pecota (creators of Rue Morgue magazine), posed the question to me: If we could get anyone to perform the narration, who would be on the top of your list? Immediately the flickering Disney skeletons took shape in my head and began their ridiculous waltz.
To make a long story short. They found him. They got him. And he agreed to do it. I had the wonderful opportunity to direct an idol of mine to perform the poem that had originally been inspired by his voice. It was a mind blowing synchronicity that to this day, I just can’t wrap my head around. He was a charmer and a gentlemen to meet in person. I think I am one of the lucky few people who does not have the archetype of an idol smashed to bits when meeting the real life flesh and blood version.
Here’s a clip of him doing his thing at the studio • Note ~ this was recorded with an ipod, and what was captured barely does justice to what we heard…:
I asked Peter to add some vocal touches to the soundscape when we were recording his narration to the final edit of the film. The entire room fell silent as he began to orchestrate what he described as a “white tribal choir”.
Peter layered a collection of what I can only describe as primal screaming, ghostly moans and angelic sweet nothings into one beautiful monstrous sonic ribbon.
Keep in mind, that this was recorded without any fx on the board and it was done in one take.
“Was that ok?’ he asked politely when he was done.
The lot of us sat there unresponsive for a more than a moment, paralyzed by our own goosebumps.
“Yes Peter, that was ‘good’….”