Transcending A Score: A Conversation With Michael Cashmore

A film score has the power to elevate a scene, drive the story forward, and heighten a film's impact beyond the visual medium. The sonic landscape provided by a score helps create a mood, convey the psychological state of the characters, color the scenery, and deliver a collective emotional tone. It is no wonder that the winner of our Make Your Feature Competition, Mars Roberge sought out English composer and musician Michael Cashmore to design the score for his feature film Stars. Cashmore has been a longtime staple of the underground progressive folk and industrial new wave scenes, well known for creating music under the moniker Nature and Organisation (since the 80's), his own namesake (since 2006), as well as as his extensive contributions composing for Current 93 (for over 20 years).

Currently living in Berlin, Cashmore is respected as one of Britain's most influential and inspiring composers. His signature sound is rooted in melody and classical instrumentation, and enhanced through experimentation and electronica. Various cult camps have hailed this eclectic approach and poignant expression and impression Cashmore leaves with his music. He has repeatedly collaborated with poet David Tibet (founder of Current 93), avant-garde phenom Anohni (aka Antony and the Johnsons), Marc Almond (delightful frontman of the famed duo Soft Cell), unparalleled luminary Nick Cave (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), new wave fave Rose McDowall (Strawberry Switchblade), industrial pioneer Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound), neo-folk artist Douglas P. (Death in June), pianist and song-writer Bill Fay, celebrated producer Tony Visconti, and punk renegade Little Annie, among many others. 

Prolific and diverse, Cashmore's work spans over 40 years, his two latest full albums being back-to-back; The Doctrine Of Transformation Through Love II (2020) and The Night Has Rushed In (2121). WMM had the privilege to dive in a little deeper on what makes this introspective artist tick, what resonates with him in this current cultural climate, and how he is humbly adding his aesthetic stamp to the feature film Stars

Cashmore with Egle Tamulyte playing Wave Gothic Treffen, Leipzig in 2019. Photo taken by Nikolai Drozdov. 

WMM: How did your early life shape your artistic sensibilities and what has your journey as an artist looked like?

MC: The first time I really noticed music was in around '74 when I saw David Bowie performing "Starman" on the English music show Top of the Pops. Britain was pretty grim in those days, we had Thatcher, the miner's strikes, and then suddenly on our TV sets at 7:30pm drops David Bowie out of The Sky looking like an Alien. We had Never seen anything like it before! Glam rock I really Loved, but then when I was around 13 we had The Sex Pistols and Punk and this is when my interest really Exploded! This was totally fresh, new, and above all, exciting. It was evolving daily almost and the scene exploded with so many great bands; The Clash, The Jam, The Stranglers, Buzzcocks, the list is pretty endless!

Around three years later punk had lost its edge and I was on the hunt for something new. I discovered Psychic TV, who were far more Subversive than anything punk had to offer retrospectively. Then I discovered Throbbing Gristle, then later Coil and Current 93, which I became a member of in 1990. This is really how my journey began, but I never considered or called myself an artist as it's a word I don't really like. People labeling themselves as artists as if they are more special than other people somehow. I have always just considered myself as someone who is creative and who uses this creativity to simply survive.

WMM: Who have been your most profound artistic influences in music? Visually? In any medium?

MC: Interesting question, I have already mentioned a few but musically I also really Love Rush, Budgie, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Eels, techno music, and some rap music. I also Love listening to contemporary pop music - The Weeknd, The Chainsmokers, and Dua Lipa in particular I really Love. Then visually, I guess The Surrealists, movies particularly Sci-Fi films, and I really Love brutal architecture and architecture in general. I've read very little. In the 60's television was the new Miracle in every working class household, and I was never encouraged to read particularly. Sometimes this I regret a little, but at the same time what I express when I write is at least not plagiarized.

WMM: How did you come to score Stars and what drew you to the project? 

MC: Well, Mars. I had noticed him in my Facebook feed for many years. His red carpet pictures always looked full of such interesting, eccentric and fun people. Scoring films has always been an area that interested me, but Mars' previous films have been comedies. One evening I sent him a PM congratulating him on winning something for Mister Sister and then he told me it was a huge coincidence as he was just about to PM me about scoring his next film Stars. After reading the screenplay I really jumped at the chance, as this is an area of Creativity that I've never been involved in before and I simply Love new challenges. Mars has been really fantastic, very kind and understanding to me, and it has been a real pleasure to have a glimpse into the world of filmmaking. I Love his ambition and I am so in awe of what he and other directors achieve, pulling together such a diverse team of people to help in one single creative project. It's been really humbling and inspiring, simultaneously. When I make an album I simply sit alone in a room, which is nothing in comparison to what a filmmaker has to do. I find it really an honor to be included in the team responsible for creating Stars, and I have learned very much.

Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth (1984)

WMM: How is your process similar to and different when scoring a film as opposed to composing a song or album? Is there a specific approach?

MC: I scored the majority of Stars simply after reading the screenplay. It was obvious to me that there needed to be melancholy themes, bittersweet, and also hopeful themes. Piano is my favorite instrument to work with as I have no idea what the names of the notes are when I touch the keys. I have no musical training so I am really able to compose from what I hear and feel.

WMM: What artists, moods, and philosophies inspired the music of Stars and what would you like the viewer to feel through your work on the film?

MC: The only inspiration for the soundtrack of Stars was actually just the screenplay itself at the beginning. Then later I was sent early cuts of the film to write directly for specific scenes. I would really like the viewer to be moved as intensely as possible.

WMM: Your sonic landscape is so rich and complex, blending classical orchestral sounds with the technology that electronica has to offer. What does this experimentation afford you and why are you drawn to this space (as opposed to traditional acoustic execution)? How has technology transformed what music is conceptually?

MC: Occasionally I try to write about my working process just for my own reference really. It is usually quite rough and unfocused, but here is my last attempt:


I want to Create a new Form of Working with Sacred Audio Frequencies, a Form with Great Intensity, but not something like Industrial music but something that is Formed from Beautifully Brutal Frequencies. It will Contain Intensity from Melodies and Bass lines that will Create Brutality. This Concept Appeared Instinctively during the Creation of a Future Work of mine called Shadow Transformation of the Yellow Warrior and was Developed Further in my next Work after this called Before the Light has Gone. To Increase its Intensity it will be Contrasted by Brutally Beautiful Frequencies that are used to Create Extreme Beauty, both of these Entities are Exact Opposites that will Create Extreme Intensity.

I use the Formula; Beautiful Brutality + Brutal Beauty = Intensity

I am Constantly Discovering New Revelations about the Way in which I Need to Work with Frequencies. It is Simply Essential for me to Only Work with Both Brutality and Beauty to Create The Greatest Intensity. This Makes my Creativity very difficult for me but this is The Way in which I Believe I will Produce my Most Intense and Moving Work in the Future. This will also Cause very Uncomfortable Intensity for The Listener too of course, but Much Benefit also as this will Increase Endurance of Intensity which will in turn Increase The Listener's Experience. I will Continue using this Principle in all of my Work in the Future, and I Hope that there will be those Courageous Enough to Follow This Path with me.

I've been thinking about why my Work causes very uncomfortable Feelings and now I Understand why, it is because of over Stimulation of Consciousness. Imagine how you would feel after sitting in front of a strobe Light for 50 minutes. You would probably feel very unwell - a headache maybe, and also the need to lie down. Well, I am causing this same Experience,  not with Light Frequencies but Audio Frequencies, and this causes a similar affect. Of course this is not my Intention, but simply a side effect of what I am doing. My work is Teaching me how to Endure over Stimulation of my Consciousness, how to endure Intensity in some way. With repeated Listening I am able to do this. The Ability to endure Greater Intensity means that I am able to Enjoy Greater Stimulation of my Consciousness, which Results in me being able to Enjoy Greater Intensity of Experiences.
I am Striving to Create and Endure Severe Intensity to help my Personal Transformation into an Intuitive Mystic. I am Working with Divine Audio Frequencies through Divine Love and Intuition with both Science and Mysticism Simultaneously. I am Beginning a New Journey without Ending to Home through Beautifully Brutal Divine Audio Frequencies and Brutally Beautiful Divine Audio Frequencies Before the Light has Gone.

Transience is Permanent and The Great Mystery is Revealed Permanently through Transience Forever...

WMM: How would you describe "the transformation" within The Hidden Throne, and how is this a departure from your work on Nature and Organisation, Current 93, or your other numerous collaborations?

MC: Several years ago I went through an Intensely difficult and painful time, and after a few days I Realized that this Event could really damage my Personality and Perspective and make me cynical, Negative, and bitter. I then Formed an Idea about not only restoring myself, but to use the suffering caused by this Event to Help me Become an even Better person and to Reach my Full Potential as an Individual. Over the weeks I began to Realize that I was Able to Transform myself through Divine Love and to not remain passive. This Idea, I called Transformation through Love. I didn't research this Theory as I knew that this Path must be made through Personal Intuition and my own Personal Path, which I called The Hidden Throne 434. It was an Honor for me that my dear friend Genesis P-Orridge encouraged me and endorsed The Hidden Throne during their final years.

So I simply began to try different Intuitive Methods of Thought and Behavioral Patterns to Re-Program my Consciousness, not only to Reclaim myself but to also Expand and Develop my Consciousness. Evenings, I Began to document my Progress in my Transformation by writing Texts and Poetry that Reflected this, and over the years I realized I was able to Escape my self made prison and to Release myself from shyness, self-esteem issues, and depression. I had Simply woken up from the distractions of Physical Consciousness. These Texts then began to Form an Elaborate Puzzle of my own Personal Transformation, which I then realized could Help and Inspire others to do the same and to Help them to also Reach their Full Potential as Individuals. For my own Personal Transformation I also used Sacred Frequencies as a way of Expanding my Consciousness, which is the main difference to my Previous Work with Current 93, Nature And Organisation and so on, where I was simply Expressing myself through music. The Hidden Throne is now integral to my work with Audio Frequencies.

WMM: Is there a difference in what you like to experience as a consumer of art as opposed to what you prefer to make as an artist?

MC: Definitely. When I work I am trying to Create as much Intensity as possible using the Contrast of Brutality and Beauty next to each other, and when I Listen back this is really difficult for me. So when I simply wish to relax I Listen to things that are more light - contemporary pop music for example, or old songs that I've know since my youth.

WMM: What do you wish people understood about music? Life? Creation? Art in general?

MC: Firstly, that music is an incredibly Powerful tool. That it is not simply entertainment, but that it is capable of causing true change within the Individual and therefore Collectively causing True Positive Change in society. What I Wish people to Understand about Life is that we are continually bombarded with Negativity from the media, which intentionally or accidentally, causes manipulation and control of who we Truly are as Individuals. We are constantly surrounded by distractions in this Physical Realm of Consciousness, and I wish people to Wake Up from these distractions and to realize their Full Potential as Individuals.

WMM: What three songs would you like played at your funeral and why?

MC: That really is something that changes daily but I would have to say "Starman" by Bowie because of this being the first thing that drew my attention to music, "Firestarter" by Prodigy just because it is amazing, and lastly my favorite contemporary song right now which is "You" by Regard, Troye Sivan and Tate McRae.

Photo by Maya Zeiter (2017)

Written by Sapna Gandhi

Sapna Gandhi is an actor, singer-songwriter, and content creator. In addition to TV credits such as BOSCH, SHAMELESS and SCANDAL, she has appeared in numerous shorts, features, and series, including festival darlings IN ABSENTIA (Raindance) and THUMPER (Tribeca). Gandhi has produced several series and films under the umbrella of her production company Elegant Grotesque (most recently SCRAP, starring Anthony Rapp and Vivian Kerr, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ STRANDED ON THE EARTH, directed by Mike Bruce). She is also 1/2 of the musical duo, VATAVARAN, was born in England, raised all over the states, studied English and Women’s Studies, and trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in SF.




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