Jim Kates is a man of many talents. His surf footage features in movies by Noa Deane, Craig Anderson and Shaun Manners. His photos fill the pages of Surfing World, and he plays in three bands… the Pinheads, Shining Bird and now, The M1. In between all this he’s been working on a side project, merging it all. Aural Canyon is a live score of an edit of his best unseen footage, and it recently made it’s live debut. SW talked to him the week after the show.
SW: What is Aural Canyon?
Jim: It’s more or less a condensed version of some of my best footage in an attempt to construct a pretty hi-fi/well rounded surf flick to an imaginary soundtrack. When I press play the band have no idea what they’re about to see and they attempt to live score the soundtrack in front of the audience.
Where did the idea for the show originally come from?
I’m not entirely sure. It’s been fermenting for a while now. I held an art show pre-Covid and tested it out. It felt like a no-brainer, merging my love of shooting with live tunes and the improv element made it something new and unpredictable that seemed to resonate with the audience. It didn’t have a title at the time. I might keep changing the film title to fit the theme of each unique screening. That’s probably absurd from a ‘branding’ point of view, ha.
Where does the raw material for AC come from? What were you shooting and what were you looking for at the time?
Most of it was shot whilst filming for each rider’s individual projects. This iteration of AC was mostly shot around Oz and primarily the South Coast during Covid but that’ll evolve over time. I feel like a lot of the feeling of ‘being there’ gets missed in those profile edits. They’re very performance-based and are usually montages of their best surfing. Which is sick, but it’s just cool to see the clips in a different context. This way you can throw in bung air attempts around the hammers and get away with copious amounts of slo-mo without getting too agitated.
Is it purely a live experience? Does it only work with the band?
Yeah that’s what I’m going for. I want to direct the consumption of surf cle’ (clips) onto bigger screens in the hope of a richer experience. It’s analogous to print in that way.
Could Aural Canyon exist digitally on a phone?
I rather it didn’t, ha. I can only speak for myself but I just feel nothing when I look at clips on my phone so events like this offer a good alternative.
How improvved is the live soundtrack? Would the show ever be the same, twice?
Entirely improvved. Each screening will be re-edited and the soundtrack re-interpreted every screening. Plenty of possibilities to experiment. I reckon it’s scalable in terms of different musicians and different cinematographers. For me, the next step is to get a program where I can edit live to have some kind of visual dialogue going with the tunes.
Tell us about the night at The Servo.
We ended up selling it out so that was a big surprise, especially in Port Kembla. The M1 (the band) nailed it. It was Pauly (the drummer’s) last show so he went out with a bang as per. I reckon I learnt a few tricks regarding editing and flow for the next screening whenever that will be.
How does this sort of pure creative outlet fit into your life?
I try to make my creative pursuits a priority, so for now it’s just another thing I do.