A Sound Decision: an interview with Álvaro G. Plata.

 

Followers of The Nostromo Files Blog (TNFB) know we enjoy spotlighting individuals across the globe who bring something new to Alien fandom, and this post is no exception.

TNFB has previously written about the work of Álvaro G. Plata, and his professional website has content on the remastered soundtrack (which we’ll be discussing here today), his other audio and video projects, tech specs on his musical gear…and even a bit of Aliens Versus Predator 2 content.

I first found Álvaro G. Plata online, when I discovered his soundtrack project entitled, REMASTERED: A Soundtrack for the Film ALIEN, on his YouTube page over a year ago.  I contacted him about it and as we traded emails, discovered that he remembered the old Nostromo Files website, with its blueprints and deck plans.  It soon became obvious that I was dealing with someone with an avid interest in the movie.  Someone who, as a fellow film score fan, added something priceless (for me) to my collection.

(How cool is that?)

At that time, I proposed doing an interview with him.  In the context of his project, describing him as a fan is simply not adequate.  If you are very committed to recreating your favorite aspects of a movie — whether it be music, film, cosplay, model building, or writing — I think you’ll find that you have something in common with Plata.

That kind of artistic passion is well worth writing about, despite any language or cultural barriers that might present themselves.  And, since his English is better than my Spanish, it was much easier than either of us imagined.

I have corresponded with Álvaro long enough to realize that he prefers to talk more about his projects than himself.  He was kind enough, though, to give us some personal context so we can better understand his artistic perspectives.

We begin…

THE NOSTROMO FILES BLOG (TNFB):  Welcome aboard.  It’s wonderful to finally get together for an interview.  Won’t you tell us a little about yourself, please?

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ÁLVARO G. PLATA:  I am the founder of A Lesser Fate Studios here in Madrid, Spain.  I am a self-taught audio enthusiast and occasional bedroom musician.

TNFB:  Sorry; what do you mean by “bedroom musician”?

PLATA:  It’s just slang, referring to the phenomenon where amateur musicians and small audio producers build their home studios in the living room — or even in their bedrooms — thanks to the current selection of “prosumer” products in audio technology and acoustics treatment.

TNFBAn apt description.   And I think you’re right that the quality and output of the products blurs the line between professional and consumer lines.  Anything else you would like to add?

PLATA:  Oh, and I’m single and unattached!

TNFBWell, then!  Tell us, please: how did you become interested in music as a performer, and as an engineer?

PLATA:  Both my father and my brother played classical guitar in a local orchestra.  Unlike them, I always considered myself as a dead loss at music.  But at the same time, I dreamed of being able to play an instrument, too — using it as an interface between the sounds that I pursued inside my head, and the world — and finally find a way to preserve them.  A Jean-Baptiste Grenouille of sound, I would say.  [Ed. note: Grenouille is the protagonist of the novel Perfume (Patrick Suskind, 1985), an orphan born with an exceptional sense of smell.   He lived obsessed with capturing and preserving the scents he loved.]

TNFBThat’s a vivid characterization.   Were you influenced by your parents?  Did they listen to music?

PLATA:   My father had a vinyl collection and the thing I most enjoyed doing as a child — when I was left home alone — was play his records furtively, discovering new music and sounds.  When I grew up, I ended up as a Computer Systems Engineer, but my vocation was always related to sound and music production, and it’s what I try to do in my spare time.

TNFB:  How long have you been doing this?

PLATAI was eighteen when I first grabbed a guitar.  I am left handed, so I had to figure out for myself the way it was played.  In those days, there were no computers with Internet, no information, and of course, no music software within my reach.  So I used a regular tape recorder, maybe with an average microphone as input.  I had to learn to record myself with those tools, as I also learnt to play, but it was funny and exciting.  This was in 1997.

TNFB:  But obviously you persisted?

PLATAYes.  A few years later I could afford a Roland BR-8, my first digital multi-track recorder.  I remember that as one of the most thrilling days of my life!  Nowadays, I am dealing with a purely digital, software-based environment, with some guitars at my side remaining solely as hardware vestiges.

TNFB:  Thankfully your passion for music encompassed movie soundtracks.  Let’s talk about the movie, Alien, if you don’t mind.  When did you first see it?

PLATAI was about… nine years old?… when I first watched the movie at home.  In those days, TVs were cathodic, small-sized and monophonic.  I also remember a heavy storm that night.  For a moment, the power was off due a lightning strike, so I missed a fragment.  Even so, it had a dramatic impact on me.  Never before I had watched anything like that on the screen.

TNFB:  I can’t think of a more appropriate setting for watching a horror movie.   What impressions did you take from the film?

PLATA:  This so-violent combination of humongous, dirty hardware, and biological aberrations in a hostile environment.  A human body as a parasitized host.  Greedy corporations and a hideous A.I… you name it.  Most people will say it is just a horror movie — indeed the director himself stated it — but each time I watched it again, I discovered a new, disturbing facet.

TNFB:  Wow!  I think you mentioned almost every significant theme in the film.  It is amazing how Ridley Scott and his creative team managed to put together such an enduring and multi-layered piece of cinema.

PLATAI was always fascinated by the visual strength that Scott imprinted in his movies, as would occur later with Blade Runner.

TNFB:  I agree.  It is exactly his re-use of some visuals from Alien in Blade Runner that has many fans of the films believing they take place in the same fictional universe.  As I’m sure you know, Ridley Scott is directing Alien: Covenant, expected to release in 2017, and there is an untitled Blade Runner sequel on the horizon for that year also.  Between those two films, and the untitled Alien project in development by Neill Blomkamp, many fans are hoping to see some more official connections between Alien and Blade Runner.  When was the last time you saw Alien?

PLATAHonestly, I have not watched it since the 2003 ‘[Director’s] Cut’ re-release in theaters.  I guess that I’m too afraid that it might ‘age’ badly, preferring to keep it in my memory as I saw it through the eyes of the child I was once.  But, from these childhood memories, I will always remember Ripley’s last run towards the shuttle in complete chaos, doomed by that synthetic voice that sets a countdown to disintegration with aseptic indifference.

TNFB:  An evocative and poetic description.  What part of the soundtrack most impressed you?

PLATAThere’s a leitmotif scattered through the score… I mean the atonal breath that was created with that echoplexed Indian conch.   This is the first thing you can hear as the credits appear, and it’s by itself enough to chill your blood for the next two hours.

TNFB:  Obviously a powerful memory.  You began the Alien soundtrack remastering project over ten years ago.  As we turn to that topic, tell us what drove you to take on the project?

PLATA:  Through the years I bought every piece of media I could find related to Scott’s film, and at that date (2003), none of them seemed complete or faithful to the film’s score, either incidental, diagetic.  Not even Hanson’s theme (Symphony No. 2 in D-flat major, Opus 30, W45, “Romantic”) on the end credits.  I just got tired of waiting for this unlikely commercial release and decided to build it by my own, with the skills I had at the moment. I was young enough and naive enough to think this!

TNFBFortunate for Alien fans that you made that decision!  Why was it important to you to assemble a soundtrack that included all of the incidental music and other bits often omitted from the official releases?

PLATAThe (1987) Silva Screen Records release I own omitted too many critical episodes.  That wasn’t respectful to the film, nor was it honest at all to this buyer.

TNFB:  Could you clarify?  What specifically displeased you?

PLATA:  The CD had little to do with the movie, because it basically contained the rejected score.  I always had the need to listen to the movie soundtrack on stereo  —  anywhere, anytime, without needing to watch it on my TV — rather than inside my head while I was doing other tasks.

TNFBWhich track of your remastered soundtrack is your favorite?

PLATA:  The track titled ‘Into Eternity’ is still one of my favorite moments.  Goldsmith really captured the crew’s mood here, after witnessing Kane’s atrocious end.  You can also feel the cold vastness of the cosmos, where the Nostromo seems to submerge like a vessel adrift.

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A screen cap from Álvaro’s YouTube playlist page.

TNFBA chilling sequence that underscores the shock and isolation of the crew.  How well was your project received when you made it available?

PLATA:  Honestly, I did it for the sake of completing my music collection. When A Lesser Fate studios website was eventually launched, I decided to upload it as a single work among many others.  For several weeks, the collection hardly had appreciable impact over other releases, when suddenly, it begun to reach hundreds, thousands of daily views.  I also started to receive messages from people all around the world. For me, it was truly unexpected.  However, I am really glad so many people enjoyed it too — it’s the best reward.

TNFBAs you interacted with fans of the soundtrack once your project gained notoriety, do you have any particularly interesting stories that stick out in memory?

PLATA:  Well nothing in particular… except one guy from Louisiana, who insisted on interviewing me!

TNFB:  Thankfully, you agreed without too much ‘insistence’.

PLATANo, seriously, I wasn’t aware at all how much people are really devoted fans of this movie and the whole universe around it.  From artists, graphic designers, scriptwriters, musicians, prop modelers, toy makers… to regular people who just enjoy the movies or feel nostalgic about classic horror.  I have received really emotive messages and acknowledgments from people such as these from all over the world.  It would be unfair to highlight any from the rest, and sincerely I’m flattered by all this gratitude.

TNFB:  It is well-earned praise.  Do you enjoy the soundtracks from other Alien movies?

PLATAYes, I also enjoy listening to the works from James Horner (Aliens), Elliot Goldenthal (Alien 3) and even John Frizzell (Alien Resurrection). They all contain excerpts that delightfully come together with the respective sequences in the films, even transcending them…

TNFB:  …what about the Prometheus soundtrack?

PLATA…except perhaps Prometheus.  It sounded insipid, reiterative and too conventional to me.

TNFB:  There has been a lot of negative comment about the film’s narrative, but yours is the first specific to the soundtrack.  Since soundtracks are so vital to cinema, I have to wonder if that might have contributed to the overall lackluster reception by some fans of the franchise.

Could we talk now about the layout of your website?  It is very graphical and user-friendly.  How did you develop it and decide on the layout?

PLATAI am not a front-end developer and therefore it was my first incursion into the HTML/CSS thing… and I hope it was the last!  I’m satisfied with the current state but I hate investing my time in those kind of tasks, rather than focusing on the content itself.  But to answer the question:  it was a very organic process, not so technical.  Trial-and-error.  A series of accumulative changes until we acquired the desired style and ergonomics.  It happens that we usually don’t know what we search for, until we see it for first time.

TNFB:  True, that.  Your logo for alesserfate.com seems inspired by the Weyland-Yutani Company logo as seen in Aliens.  Can you tell us about it?

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PLATA:  The “YY” logo was designed about a decade ago.  It stands for a former abandoned musical project, that I am trying to reactivate now.  I am also sure that the Weyland-Yutani logo was present in my head when I drafted it.

Regarding its meaning, it has more to do with Fincher’s universe in Alien 3:   the prison inmates were all double-Y chromosome, a common genotype among the most primal and violent individuals.  One of my guitar builds (the one called F161 from the F Series) is also a tribute to the dystopian world shown in the movie (the Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161 planet).  As so with the Aliens Versus Predator 2 gameplay series.  There are many references spread throughout the website.

TNFBAnd the name itself: “A Lesser Fate”.  Care to share where that came from?

PLATA:  When I was registering the domain, I had not chosen a name yet, so I had to think of one quickly.  I remembered that there was a level, in the video game Aliens Versus Predator 2, with that name.  It had been many years since I had played it.  It may sound absurd, but I like it because it was reasonably short and it has special meaning to me.

TNFB:  It is always interesting to hear about the back story and there are plenty of readers who will appreciate that connection also.

What does the future hold for A Lesser Fate Studios?  Do you plan on doing remasters of any other of your favorite films?

PLATAWhen I worked on this remastering project, I was young enough to have enough spare time and resources for doing that with no profitable purposes.  Unfortunately, nowadays I just can’t invest such amounts of time and effort on something aside my professional activity… unless it becomes my professional activity itself.  I am trying to take this direction, but here in my country (Spain) it isn’t an easy turn.

TNFB:  Let’s hope that changes for you soon.  Your “about” page includes this inspiring — and peculiarly paraphrased — quote from Mark Twain:

“Life is short, break the rules, djent quickly, chugga slowly, ooomph truly, shred uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made your amp growl.   Twenty frets from now you will be more disappointed by the riffs you didn’t do than by the ones you did.  So throw off those skinny strings.  Sail away from the safe standard guitar tuning.  Catch the trade bar chords in your stumps.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

― Mark Twain

You included some heavy metal music references.  How did you come to write it this way?

PLATA:  I can’t remember where I read it, but it had to impact my subconscious because when, so many years later, I needed to quickly think of a single description for my profile, it quickly emerged.  Anyhow, I stripped it from its original meaning, paraphrasing the whole quote according to my own mental disorders and fixations, as can be read now.

TNFBYou are my kind of people.  Speaking of that, do you interact with fans of your favorite movies, television shows, or music groups?

PLATAThis is something I touched on in the last post from the blog.  My tastes on music and other arts are not very common in my everyday environment, so I tend to appeal to the net.  I’m registered in some forum boards dedicated to music production, audio technology and guitar-wise, but my main tool for sharing my works is my own website, and the social networks linked to it.  It was specifically created for this task.  Although I’m somewhat hermetic and self-sufficient in my routines, now I am willing to find local musicians with similar tastes and maybe start a project.

TNFBThis has been an interesting time together.   Thank you for sharing your stories so that we can know a little more about you and your music.  Good luck with your projects and with getting closer to making them your main effort.

—–

You can find more about Álvaro on the web:

The Official Site

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You can listen to REMASTERED: A Soundtrack for the film ALIEN at alesserfate.com or you can check it out on Álvaro’s YouTube channel playlists.

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3 thoughts on “A Sound Decision: an interview with Álvaro G. Plata.”

  1. Hi. I am trying to contact Alvaro Plata re his remastered soundtrack for Alien. I cannot find an email address for him on his website.

    any assistance you could give me making contact with Alvaro would be much appreciated.

    best regards

    Paul Scarrott

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry to hear you’re having trouble getting in touch with Álvaro. The comment you sent to me has just been forwarded to him at contact (at) alesserfate (dot) com. He is normally very responsive. I am sure he will be happy to hear from you.

      Best regards,
      Darrell Curtis

      Like

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