War San aka Kim Warsen is back with short film, a soundtrack and a new single. Read our interview with him below
You have just made a short film with footage that you filmed in the Carabanchel Prison, in Madrid in 2006. A film that portrays a person painting a line from the prison´s epicenter across the walls and out. 17 years later you decide to edit the images and make a soundtrack to it. Tell us about this project.
Well, it has been quite a journey to work on this material after such a long time. Back then it just seemed like the right thing to do. The prison came to materialize any kind of traumatic historical event and to draw a line out of it, a way to represent the will to overcome that. For me it can be seen both from an individualistic and a collective perspective. I guess the fact that this gigantic prison doesn’t exist anymore gives the footage an extra value. The Soundtrack is built from the film but should also be able to stand on its own, as a journey from confrontation to relief.
Tell us about how the idea came up.
I was brought to the prison by a good friend, Jesús Martín-Gil, with whom I shared a passion for abandoned places. We used to visit a lot of weird places around Madrid back then but this one was by far the one that made the biggest impact. First of all because it was gigantic and standing in the middle of the Carabanchel neighborhood. Then it had all this history that became so present when you stepped into it. I just felt an urgent need to go back and do something with the place. The idea of breaking into a prison instead of breaking out of it has some kind of therapeutic meaning as well. Like if something was left unresolved and could be fixed. So I asked my good friend Ragnar Bey who lived in Madrid for a while to come with me, we bought a bucket of white paint and got started. We had no idea the prison was going to disappear the year after.
Was the place open to the public?
No, the place was kept locked and you had to climb the walls to get in there, but it had become a pretty well visited place for graffiti painters, junk collectors and youngsters from the neighborhood. Back then I was into metal junk as well, but not for selling it. I was building percussion and doing concerts and performances with it in a couple of bands.
What can you tell us about the history of the prison?
It was constructed by political prisoners after the civil war in the 1940’s and became the most notorious prison of Franco’s dictatorship. It was used until 1998 and then left abandoned for ten years before it was demolished. It was perhaps the strongest symbol of Franco’s regime and I guess that’s why they decided to destroy it. During my years in Spain I met people who lost relatives there, you could notice that it was still difficult to talk about.
What would you like to say to the viewers to encourage them to watch the film?
I mean, for me it is not so much about saying something about Franco’s regime or to give anyone a history lesson. But it is a fact that many cruel things have happened, are happening right now and will continue to do so. Somehow it seems relevant to face those things and find a way to deal with them. I guess that is what I have been trying to do. To find some kind of way through the burden.
How come the film is covered in shapes of streaming water?
I was struggling with the film being too explicit. Somehow it is about revisiting a difficult memory. The prison could very well represent any kind of traumatic experience and the whole act is some sort of ritual to help memories to transcend. Water for me has a healing quality. I have started working on another video and music piece that is about water streams, so I tried those images on the film and it seemed like it got a better tone. Images that are more sublime or abstract can sometimes help the mind in other directions and I hope the film also creates space for reflection. I mean, there is no closed message to consume.
Tell us about the Soundtrack
I started working on the soundtrack half a year ago and I kept wrestling with the question if you should compose music for a prison at all. Maybe it is an absurd question, but I was really obsessed with it for a while, it felt bad somehow. So, at first I just recorded noises with guitar pedals for several weeks and ended up with a light version of tinnitus. Then I recorded all the electronic sounds in my house, like refrigerators, the ventilation system, the dishwasher etc… some of those sound textures are still in there. But then it started to feel ok to work with melodies and harmonies again. It was much more difficult than I could possibly imagine to compose music to this piece. But mostly it was a moral battle, since the music creates the emotional state through which you perceive the images and I wanted to keep a certain amount of mystery to it.
You will also release a new single The Stranger in a few weeks. Are they related?
Sort of. It felt necessary to start working with my voice again. This song is almost more of a poem than a song. I like working with words, because I discover the meaning of them after the song is done. During the process I just try to find words and expressions that resonate with me and feel relevant. The final result is sometimes a bit frightening because the words don’t feel like they are mine anymore. They speak by themselves and create this feeling of being able to look at yourself from outside. I like having that kind of dialogue.
We used a pitch effect on the voice that normally appears when people want to stay anonymous in an interview. It creates a feeling of something being very intimate and still alienated. Like if you hear yourself talking and ask yourself; Who is that person? Sometimes I find myself asking that question and it is quite liberating somehow.
Carabanchel Prison – a 3 song soundtrack EP – release on all digital platforms – August 11th
Carabanchel Prison – Official film release date – August 18th
The Stranger – single release on all digital platforms – September 1st
Please contact Transnational Records or War San Music if you want to preview the film or listen to the music for promotional purposes.