The Mythology Of Ragnos
Fri, 10/08/2004 — Fasteriskhead
"With Marka Ragnos, I think George really tapped into something primordial in the human unconscious. To see a skeletal figure with antlers emerge from a stone statue and then possess someone's body... well of course the situation is totally ridiculous, totally fantastical, and yet it is also somehow familiar. What we see is a world we've never even imagined before, and yet because Marka Ragnos behaves in a certain way we immediately understand him. His story has been repeated thousands of times in mythology from all around the world, so we know his character almost instictively. And that, I think, is really what makes him such a powerful villain."
"The original conception of Ragnos was actually very different from what you see on the screen. In the first few drafts he had been written as two foot midget; getting further along he changed to a killer robot as the story elements were being shuffled around. Finally we figured out that the character really demanded a gigantic ghost with horns, and so that was what we went with and I think it translated to the final product very well."
"Oh, the big companies hated Ragnos! They just didn't understand what we were doing at all... we'd get production notes like, 'Consider removing the ghost with the goofy voice (won't sell at all!).' But that was the one issue upon which George refused to compromise. The blue skeleton with chains and big teeth had to be there or the story simply doesn't work."
"Creating the sound of Marka Ragnos was actually one of the biggest challenges I encountered. Eventually what we did was to record the sound of my son's motorbike engine, which had broken the day before and was making some just spectacular noises, and then pitch that down and ring modulate it to create a new effect. That still didn't sound ominous enough, though, so I took a two-second loop taken from Coltrane's A Love Supreme (which was my favorite record at the time), ran it through a noise gate and then four or five layers of reverb, and combined it with the bike. The third sound was from a street lamp outside my house that had a very unique buzz, which I was able to record; in one of the tapes there were some crickets also, and we used that one because I thought it added an interesting timbre. We then pitched this up a little, used a bandpass filter to accentuate the mids, and put all three together. Afterwards we went to a very sound-rich episcopal church in L.A. which had a wonderful little balcony. I stood up there and played the basic Ragnos effect while my assistants rerecorded it down below with the church's acoustics, and this gave the sound the organicism that it needed. Actually uh, they didn't use the effect in JA as much as I thought they would... I mean I think you can hear it for about a quarter of a second right as Ragnos is showing up. I'm pretty sure it's in there somewhere. And uh, I think it accentuates his status as an archetypal figure from mankind's deep subconscious."