Diary - Neil Tennant
"Is this Tony Banks?" I asked James Fox. "No," he remonstrated. "Tony Blair." Three and a half years
Why doesn't anyone make silent films any more? To quote Depeche Mode ("Enjoy the Silence"): "Words are very/unnecessary/ They can only do harm". A silent film tells its story through the editing together of images, but many films rely on words to advance the narrative; this isn't cinema, it's theatre (or maybe television). I have this particular bee in my bonnet because I've watched Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin dozens, if not hundreds, of times over the past year, and still marvel at the brilliance of the editing. In April last year, Pet Shop Boys were invited by Philip Dodd of the ICA to write a new soundtrack to the silent classic and perform it as a free concert in Trafalgar Square. The scope of the project appealed to us. Writing a continuous, 73-minute piece of music - would we be able to do it? And then the excitement of the event in Trafalgar Square. There's also an unsullied purity about the whole thing, as we don't get paid and the audience doesn't pay to see it. It feels refreshingly idealistic at a time when Madonna's concert tickets can cost as much as £150 each.
Writing the music, we decided we needed strings. I remembered reading a review of Mein Herz Brennt, a new work by the German composer Torsten Rasch, performed by the Dresdner Sinfoniker. The piece was based on the songs of the cult hard-rock band Rammstein, and the review raved about its intense passion and scale. I ordered the CD. Listening to it one night, I wondered if Rasch might write the orchestrations for our Potemkin music. When I contacted him, amazingly he was interested in working with us. A few weeks later, we played him the demo of our music, and shortly after that we were sitting in Berlin discussing the collaboration, a combination of electronics and strings. Now we will perform the music with the Dresdner Sinfoniker while Eisenstein's film is projected on to a giant screen. I never really thought it would happen.
I was recently sent a letter asking me to participate in the next series of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!. When I told a friend that I didn't know whether to feel flattered or insulted, he responded: "Oh, insulted. Definitely."
Walking down Charing Cross Road one evening last week, my eye was caught by an Evening Standard placard: "Rooney signs record deal". I was furious. Which moron in the music business, I fumed, has decided that Wayne Rooney can sing and should release a CD? It took me at least five minutes to realise that the placard referred to a record-breaking deal with Manchester United rather than a record-making deal with Universal or whoever.
I was at the BBC Christmas party in 1993, talking to the actor James Fox, when a politician came up to me and said he was a fan. At that moment, the political commentator Anthony Howard walked past and interrupted him to say: "You'll be the next Labour prime minister." The politician muttered a self-deprecating reply, giving me the chance to ask Fox (who I'd been quizzing about his role alongside Mick Jagger in the film Performance): "Is this Tony Banks?" "No," he remonstrated. "Tony Blair." Three and a half years later, I was invited to the notorious "Noel Gallagher" victory party at Downing Street. Peter Mandelson wandered over and I told him I'd bought a country house in County Durham. "Why on earth would you want to live up there?" was the flippant response from the MP for Hartlepool.
Living some of the time in County Durham, I am often struck by how little people know of this part of the world. Friends often refer to my house in "Yorkshire", seemingly unaware of the existence of Durham as a county. I love the wild countryside and plain stone villages, the industrial past buried just below the surface, the hard light when the sun shines. Driving across the moors from Stanhope to Barnard Castle, you can feel like you've left the world behind. It's easy to concentrate there. Our studio is in a converted stable, and we wrote most of Battleship Potemkin there. Outside, guinea fowl screech, doves copulate and my dog barks at anyone strolling up the lane.
Pet Shop Boys and the Dresdner Sinfoniker perform Battleship Potemkin in Trafalgar Square, London WC2, on 12 September at 8.30pm. For further information, contact the Institute of Contemporary Arts (box office: 020 7930 3647) or visit www.ica.org.uk