“We never thought Turbo Kid would be this big,” says Jean-Philippe Bernier, one-half of Montreal’s nostalgic synth band, Le Matos, who wrote the official soundtrack. Bernier, the director of photography on Turbo Kid, filmed the retro-inspired throwback starring Michael Ironside. It premiered at Sundance in January, won the SXSW Audience Award and hit wide distribution in August. For a Canadian-New Zealand indie production, it's a huge fucking hit, a tale of a superhero-loving boy (Munro Chambers) in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s gruesome, heartwarming and a pastiche of all your favourite late-70s and 80s films, “It was amazing to get funding to make an actual movie and an actual score, and then seeing the reaction to it all. Really, it’s been quite unbelievable,” says Bernier.
Tomorrow, Le Matos releases a special double-LP on Death Waltz Records, both the Chronicles of the Wasteland and the film's official soundtrack, which accompanies Turbo Kid’s release on DVD on December 8. Everything about it has been a total sensation.
“It began because, I guess, we just like making movies for fun,” says Bernier, “And music, making music for fun on weekends, not thinking that this can be a job, you know?”
Both Le Matos and Turbo Kid started as passion projects, with Le Matos drawing on 80s-inspired themes for 2011 release, Join Us, fitting into the ethos of vintage arcade-game labels like France’s Aphasia Records. Bernier is close friends with the producers of Turbo Kid, Quebecois filmmakers Francois Simard, Yoann-Karl Wissell and Anouk Wissell AKA Road Kill Super Stars. The trio produced the short contest entry “T is for Turbo Kid” as part of 2012 alphabetic horror compilation ABC’s of Death for Drafthouse Films.
For that short, Le Matos provided the soundtrack, which was a preview into the insane collective imaginations of these kooky Quebecois artists. I mean, they fucking love the 80s. And film scoring is a special kind of art that uses a visual and emotional pallet of action to create an auditory atmosphere: “Music is so important to a film,” says Bernier.
With the help of executive producer equally-80s-inspired Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun), Turbo Kid was launched into a feature film via Ant Timpson. Le Matos then had the opportunity to create a synth-based, multi-climactic, 80’s-style pop soundtrack.
“Carpenter, for sure, we all love his films. Halloween, The Thing, those two are my favourite horror films,” he says, “Giorgio Moroder’s scores, Jon McCallum who scored Miami Connection, that soundtrack is really underrated, it’s one of the best things ever made with synths. The Risky Business soundtrack, it’s also one of the best of all time.” That’s just a taste of Bernier's menu, which informs Le Matos and especially Turbo Kid.
Noisey: So why exactly is the Turbo Kid OST extra special?
Jean-Philippe Bernier: Well I’m a huge score collector, like Jason (Eisener). I buy a lot of old-school vinyl and there’s some frustration I have. When a film is scored, normally you don’t put everything on the score, so you’re gonna find that a song you really love from a film is not there. The entire score of Turbo Kid was really important to us and we didn’t want to do shorten it. There’s so many good tracks. So we decided to do longer versions from the film, which became Chronicles of the Wasteland, the first disc. It’s an actual album, the songs are longer and more dynamic on drums, the actual melodies, they’re full tracks. The actual score is then on the second disc. For us, it was important and pretty cool to do that.
How exactly did the score develop? How did you create it?
We made movies together, me and RKSS, and we all share the same inspirations, and I shot all of the short film. Right away we just knew where we were going with everything on Turbo Kid. We tried to create a vibe of the film just by reading the script, and made one or two tracks to bring with us on set. We didn’t know those would become part of the film, but it helped create the vibe of the film. Then all of the score was done a month before the film’s final deadline. We had one month. We did so much music in such a short period of time. But we knew how we wanted the film to sound while I was shooting it.
It makes sense that a nostalgic synth band would be perfect for a nostalgic film.
Yes. It’s easier for us to work with actual synths than computers. We use a lot of synths, analog synths, modern ones, old-school synths. Our classic instrument is a Roland Juno 106, it sounds so nostalgic. That’s one way we express our nostalgic vibe. We have old Moogs and newer synths from the 80s, too. We thought a lot about the sound of The Neverending Story, and it really all came from the same place. Same inspirations.
You released “No Tomorrow” on Mondo, with Pawws. How’d she get involved?
We wanted to do a remix because we love remixes, and especially one with a female voice. We wanted an a pop song that sounded like the 80s, like The Goonies, you know, a classic pop song with cheesy lyrics, a perfect attempt on 80s cinema. And we had made contact with her and she was down. We wanted the track to highlight the best part of the film, the coming of age part, which would show people that it’s not just a cheesy B-film, but there’s a good script and great acting, and so Pawws (Lucy Taylor) saw the film and loved it, and she wrote the lyrics thinking of Apple’s character. It was perfect.
Le Matos just played M for Montreal. You played the soundtrack?
Yes, and with us, we are jamming when we play, we’re actually playing live, like a normal band. Me and Jean-Nicholas (Leupi) use virtual synths, a computer with backtracks, the same thing we’re doing in the studio. But we’re just two people so we can’t do all the instruments at once but we’re playing the synths as much as we can live. To finally do a show with the new songs was amazing. And the crowd, well, we have a lot of new fans from the film. It was very retro. Playing in Montreal was amazing. It’s all been amazing.