Kishi Bashi performs in Red Bull's New York recording studio.
Kishi Bashi performs in Red Bull's New York recording studio.

How Violin Virtuoso Kishi Bashi Added Drama to ‘The Fourth Phase’

How an indie pop writer changed the tone of the decade’s most ambitious snowboarding film


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In 2011, Travis Rice redefined the action sports genre with The Art of Flight. The film is generally regarded as one of the best action sports film of the decade. The Fourth Phase, out October 2, is Rice’s second feature film. In it, Rice and a posse of boarders spend a year following the water cycle in search of the best snow around the globe. 

“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t feeling the pressure [following up The Art of Flight],” says Ben Bryan, the film’s executive producer. “Our expectations are super high.” While they’re continuing the tradition of big mountain, boundary-pushing snowboarding from the first film, the team focused on adding a more compelling narrative and embracing the riders as people, not just action heroes, in The Fourth Phase. “There’s a greater human and creative element than in any of our other films,” Bryan says. 

Their other big creative secret weapon: indie pop artist Kishi Bashi (pseudonym of Kaoru Ishibashi), who recorded a custom score for the film. Kishi Bashi’s music, a unique blend of orchestral music and synthesized tones, carries the viewer between scenes. 

“K,” as he’s known, wasn’t in the original plan. Bryan and the rest of the team were all fans of his music and used one of his songs, “In Fantasia,” during the initial cutting. “We reached out to see if they could use the song and ended up getting him to record an entire custom score,” Bryan says. K’s unique sound can be heavy and dramatic at times, but also fun and playful, lending itself well to a film that is trying to be different and present a full narrative. “This film is about about emotion and K’s music embodies that,” says Bryan. “I don’t think there’s another artist out there that sounds like him.”

Outside recently spoke with K in a brief moment between recording the score for The Fourth Phase and the release of his new album, Sonderlust

OUTSIDE: What was it like to work with people in the action sports industry?
K: They’re all really young, excited people. And they really, really care about this movie. That was exciting; I hadn’t see that before. They were also so collaborative. We would bounce a lot of ideas off of each other and they were always open to my ideas. Justin Taylor Smith, the film’s editor, is a musician so he knows that language. That helped a lot. 

What’s the difference between making music for an album versus a film?
An album is pure music. There’s nothing to go against. When making music for a film, you have to keep in mind that the music could be rejected. Ultimately it’s their film and the director's decision is final. You put your heart into it, but you try not to be too attached in case it doesn’t work out. It’s a different mindset. You also don’t spend as much time on it [as you do on an album]. 

How much of the movie did you record?
About half the music in the movie is mine, including the title sequence. They told me how many cues they needed and where they needed to go. I set myself a five-day week and then worked for a few hours each day, picking away at each cue. I watched a lot of the movie to get a feel for it. My job is to fill in the spaces between action sequences; it’s the glue that hold everything together. They were really trying to tell a story in the film, and my music helps create that larger narrative. But it wouldn’t necessarily stick out to you that, ‘Oh, that’s Kishi Bashi’s music.’ 

You’re a classically trained violinist, but your music is anything but traditional. 
I took a roundabout route—I was in a rock band when I was younger. I love music from the seventies, like Pink Floyd, which uses a lot of synthesizers. A few years ago I started improvising by adding orchestral tones to pop music. I also play guitar and keyboard, so I have a lot of different influences. It helps when writing music because I can pick up any instrument and play around with it. When you’re a producer you have to do a little bit of everything. 

Do you snowboard? 
I can shred, but nothing like these guys can do. I go for a few weekends each year. This movie inspired me, actually. Travis sits for four weeks in a cabin just waiting for the right snow. This film took them three full winters to film. It’s inspiring to see how much they depend on nature to create. It changed my thinking. When I’m recording in a studio I don’t have those types of restrictions. 

What was the hardest part of recording for this film?
When you score a movie you have to go into the mindset that it’s going to get stressful. No matter how much you plan for it, things aren’t going to go as planned. In the beginning I could sense that they had two separate visions. One was to create the craziest snowboarding film ever made. That was for their core audience, the people who expected something like The Art of Flight. Then they had an artistic film vision, which was totally different. There was this internal battle. Was it going to be an art film or a core film? In the end, I think they found a happy medium. It has some of the most incredible snowboarding, but it’s also really beautiful.

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