Kino Club Background
(as told by David Leister, Host and Projectionist)
The Kino Club started as a performance platform for live music and film in an upstairs room of the Two Eagles pub near Elephant and Castle, around about 1985. Previous to this, I used to invite friends around to my co-operative house that I was sharing at the time, and squeeze as many people into my bedroom/studio at the top of the house, and show a selection of the 16mm films that I had started to collect in the previous few years. I would provide a rolling commentary on what was being projected, in an attempt to keep my captive audience amused. I knew I had to find a more suitable space when, after everyone left, my partner and I would have to clear the bed of ashtrays and beer bottles before we could get in it. When I found a cigarette burn on my pillow, I know it was definitely time to move on.
It was also a time when I was trying to get my own 'hand made' 16mm films screened at the London Film Co-op in Camden, where there seemed to be an eternal cycle of the same films being put on month after month. Secondly, I had been attending live improvised music gigs, since having been invited by my friend Aleks Kolkowski to a performance at Goldsmiths, where we were studying at the time. I remember at this first gig, distinctly experiencing simultaneous embarrassment and then wonder at the various sounds emanating from instruments, and especially Phil Minton's vocal antics. From then I was hooked and sought out these strange events, but it was one in particular that had me wanting to get more directly involved in the improvised music scene in London.
I was at the Old White Horse in Brixton listening to a collection of musicians on stage producing an extraordinary mixture of sound, and realized how much dialogue and communication was taking place in the midst of all the aural chaos that was flying around that room. What made me sad with wonder was that there were actually more people on the stage than in the audience at the time. It was here I decided to try and bring a wider audience to this music and construct some sort of performance platform from where all of this could be easily accessed. I decided to combine my love of the projected image with music in a relaxed and informal setting, where there could be something for all comers.
The Kino Club evenings were deliberately structured to cater to a crossover audience. It was a mixture of my own films and selections from my 16mm archives, plus improvised music, peppered with the cabaret qualities of quizzes and raffles, and telephones on tables (only 1 worked and it was linked to me..!) And more specifically and uniquely, the verbal introductions via microphone of the 'host and projectionist' (myself of course) delivered the running order while commenting on the musician's performance, and on the reaction of the audience. It was described as 'irritating voice over smarm' in an early review of the club, but this was precisely the point that was somehow overlooked by the po-faced journalist attending.
Punters would climb the long stairs from behind the bar at the Two Eagles, up to the 'function' room, to be initially greeted by the host and projectionist (me) and my partner at the time, Amanda Moss. Without her, the event would probably never have gotten off the ground, as she was ticket seller, technical manager, roadie, mail out facilitator, candle lighter, and deliverer of beer from the bar to us thirsty lot.
The evening's entertainment would begin with a single 16mm projection, such as an instructional sound film from the 1950's or 60's and shown straight. This would be followed by a short music only set by the invited duo or trio of musicians. Both elements of the evening were thus introduced in order that the audience could adjust to the setting. I then would screen a composite reel of bits and pieces of 'broken' films that were incomplete, or duplicate titles, from which appropriate sections were extracted. These reels would follow a nightly theme, ranging from such simplistic groupings as 'Food', 'Outer Space', 'Electricity', or 'People', edited together for amusing effect.
Additional or substitute soundtracks would be mixed into the background of these films using a collection of pre prepared cassette tapes (!) containing a mixture of sound effects and music tracks. These were played and mixed in live during the film projections. It really should have taken place in the front of the room, as it was something of a performance in itself! A reel known as 'Kinotes' took random found clips of 30 seconds or less in numbered segments of one to eight. In the brief time they were on the screen, the musicians of the night had to come up with a 'musical snap' to play along with the clip, with often amusing consequences. Their performance was then 'graded' by me after each clip in stern tones.
From this point the combination of film and music would become more and more intertwined. With the sound of the film turned off, live manipulation and projection distortion would take place using prisms, mirrors and lenses to make the film into an eventual abstract canvas to which the musicians would react to (or not!) as the film progressed. The evening would traditionally end with a 3-projector overlap of 3 different films played simultaneously one on top of the other. Colored gels would enhance this separation with variable shutters (and hands!) placed in from of the lens to vary the intensity of each image and mask different sections at different times. This was all done in reaction to the music being played at the time, and vice versa. The Kino Club evenings were billed as the 'place where film and music collide'..!