Kool Kat of the Week: Josh Robins of the Invincible Czars Gets Cozy with Count Orlok at the 100th Anniversary Screening of NOSFERATU at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse Oct. 7

Posted on: Oct 3rd, 2022 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Austin-based experimental rock ensemble, the Invincible Czars will be creeping into Atlanta for the first time on Friday, Oct. 7 during The Springs Cinema & Taphouse’s Fright Nights film series. The Czars, touted as “one of the best silent film orchestras in the nation” by Alamo Drafthouse, guarantees a fangtastic time will be had by all as they horrify the masses with their haunting live score to the world’s first feature-length silent vampire movie, F. W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922). Atlanta is one of many stops along the way on their 2-month Nosferatu Centennial Tour, which bleeds into 49 cities across the US and Canada by Halloween. Information on this exciting and deadly event can be found here!

The Springs’ Fright Night Film series runs through Oct. 31st and their killer line-up can be found here!

ATLRetro caught up with Josh Robins, founder of the ensemble, to chat about the tour, about what inspires the Czars’ wickedly weird tunes, and what it is about film scoring that makes him tingle! And while you’re taking a gander at our little Q&A, why not check out their killer Nosferatu Tour teaser trailer here!

ATLRetro: We’re super excited that Atlanta is one of the many stops on the NOSFERATU CENTENNIAL TOUR 2022, running through Oct. 31! What can our readers look forward to during the Fright Nights film series screening of NOSFERATU at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse on Oct. 7th?

Josh Robins: We like to get the audience involved and we like to joke around.  So, there will be some interaction and humor. They’ll also see the world’s first vampire film with our soundtrack performed live by 5 players on violin, keyboards, flute, bass clarinet, guitar, bass, piano, drums, and sound effects. We also have great pants.

Can you tell us a little about the tour? We see that there have been regular band line-up changes throughout the years. Which band members will be participating in the tour?

Yes, we’re more of a collective than a band with permanent players these days.  We’ll have Phil Davidson – violin, keys, glockenspiel; Skunk Manhattan – piano, bass guitar; Louis Landry – drums, sound effects; Josh Robins – guitar, bass guitar, sound effects; Zelda Younger – flute, bass clarinet, synth.

How did Invincible Czars come together? What inspired the band’s inception?

The original line-up is LOOOONG gone. I started the band in late 2002 to try to play some of the music I’d been creating on 4-track tapes in my bedroom. I wanted to combine rock and classical instruments. The first line up didn’t last long. In 2004, the first really cohesive line-up came together. By then we were much louder and heavier, and we’d dropped a lot of the Eastern Euro influence leaning more toward metal and prog rock.

What exactly is “Czar-ified classical music?

Classical music played the way we play it — usually with some humor, weirdness, and a lot of rock.

How long have you been playing music? What did you do before? Still have a day job?

Everyone in the band has played music since childhood. We’ve all had various day jobs over the years. Most of us teach. Some are just pro musicians. I take day jobs as needed and run the band. Sometimes I go for long stretches with no day job. Otherwise, I build decks, nanny, edit video, etc. etc. between tours.

We see the band began doing silent film tours back in 2012. Can you tell us what inspired the band to start accompanying silent films?

The Alamo Drafthouse began hosting silent films with live local bands in the late 90s. I was a fan of those shows but I thought I could do a better job than most of the bands who just seemed to play their usual rock music with the movies as a backdrop. Some were great and I thought the entire concept was something that people could get into even outside of Austin. I asked the Alamo if we could do one and they said yes. We started with AELITA, QUEEN OF MARS (1924) back in July 2006.

Care to share a little about your composition process?

Hard to nail down a single process. It usually starts with one person’s idea that gets bounced around and changed by everyone either in person or by sharing files. I like to plug in my guitar and record ten ideas quickly. That’s how I came up with several of the NOSFERATU themes—just by improvising based on how I felt about images from the film. We also tend to refine through workshopping or just performing.

Which silent film is your favorite to accompany? And why?

These days it’s NOSFERATU because we’ve put so much work into it!

Are there any films you’d like to compose scores for that you haven’t yet?

HAXAN (1922), THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED (1926), METROPOLIS (1927), FAUST (1926), SHERLOCK JR. (1924) and films made by modern day filmmakers who need music.

Which artists do you consider your influences? Have they changed over the years?

We tend to like metal, post-rock, punk, classical and prog. I love Mr. Bungle, NoMeansNo, Louis Armstrong, Neko Case, Tchaikovsky, Rev. Horton Heat. We all seem to like bands like Primus, Fantomas, Faith No More, etc. And of course, film composers like Bernard Herrman, Ennio Morricone, Wendy Carlos, and Danny Elfman.

It seems many musicians are influenced by particular musicians or a particular type of popular music (the art being the whole), but a film’s score tells a different kind of story, as accompaniments or pieces or carriers of the whole. Can you tell our readers what it is about film scores that influence you and the part they play in carrying a film?

Music can set a tone for a scene the same way dialog can and because it doesn’t necessarily clutter dialog, it can do so with or without actors talking. In real life, we feel various emotions but when you’re watching an actor (onscreen or in person) it may not be clear what the character is feeling. The music can help the audience understand how the character feels and that helps put their lines or actions in context.

Is there any particular film score that influenced you the most before you began composing your own?

It’s hard to pinpoint one. As a kid of I loved John Williams scores for STAR WARS, EMPIRE, and RETURN OF THE JEDI. I loved BEETLEJUICE and PEEWEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (both Danny Elfman) and started really paying attention to soundtracks when I was a tween back in the mid-80s.

What are your top five favorite film composers and the film scores they composed that moved you most?

Bernard Herrman (PSYCHO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST); John Williams (STAR WARS); Danny Elfman (PEEWEE’S BIG ADVENTURE); the various composers from Twlight Zone episodes from the 1960s; Henry Mancini (PETER GUNN)

What are your top five favorite RETRO films you’d recommend to our readers?

ROSEMARY’S BABY – still one of the best and surprisingly Satanic for the 60s; THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE; THE CAMERAMAN (Buster Keaton); ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Disney version); THE STING

Any other music you’d recommend to our readers?

Opposite Day – the best band in the galaxy!

What are you looking forward to most during the Fright Night Film series screening of NOSFERATU?

It’ll be our first time to play in Atlanta so I’m very excited to meet some new people and finally spend some time there!

And last but not least, what are the Invincible Czars currently working on? Anything coming out soon (after the tour of course)?

We’re finally releasing our Iron Maiden tribute “The Gospel of the Beast” this winter.  It’s been sitting unreleased for over a decade! In the spring of 2023, we’ll release a reimagined version of Modest Mussorgsky‘s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for which we combined forces with an Austin band, Bee vs. Moth! And we’ll also bring our soundtrack for DR. CALIGARI back to cities in the US and Canada in the fall of 2023.

 

 

All photos courtesy of the Invincible Czars and used with permission.

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