THE PROCESSES OF THE RITA
Sound: The Rita | Video: Mike McKinlay | Text: Kier-La Janisse
Reading time 6 Minutes
Spiked Heels and Black Nylons
The Rita is the noise project of 45-year old Vancouverite Sam McKinlay. A pioneer of harsh wall noise (or HNW) who began in the late 1990s with Italian horror-influenced releases like Crusty Etruscans (1998) and Possessed Nun Sleaze (1998). After a brief hiatus to finish a fine arts degree, he returned with a vengeance in 2004 with Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence, which would kick off a highly prolific period that hasn’t let up since, and has taken him (and his audience) in a variety of surprising artistic directions.
McKinlay’s cinematic obsessions – which become quite literally the foundation for his sound pieces – have followed a fascinating trajectory from giallo and krimi films, to sharks and Italian frogmen to his greatest love: the classical ballet. We asked McKinlay to create a sound piece inspired by the 1960s B&W roughies and he zeroed in on Whit Boyd's Spiked Heels and Black Nylons (1967), featuring beehive hairdos, black nylon worship and 1920s-style heavy black makeup. Here, the Rita translates the film’s visual aesthetic into a crackling analog soundscape by mic'ing and overdriving vintage black nylons themselves as they stretch and move over participating women's thighs.
To accompany The Rita’s sound piece, McKinlay’s brother—documentary filmmaker and professional skateboarder Mike McKinlay—has created the 30-minute documentary Tights Worship. The film traces Sam McKinlay’s early days as a punk skateboarder through his academic development as a conceptual artist into a highly esteemed noise practitioner whose work bridges the gap between the gallery world and the sleaze of exploitation film imagery. It documents the physical processes of his work and the distillation of visuals into sound, most notably addressing the appeal of abstraction—from the cheap effects of old monster movie makeup to the ‘masks’ created by the heavy cosmetic makeup of 1920s flapper culture and actresses like Pamela Stanford in Jess Franco’s Lorna the Exorcist (The Rita has albums or EPs named after several eurotrash actresses, including The Nylons of Laura Antonelli (2009) and Monica Swinn/Pamela Stanford (2016)).
Various obsessions have guided Canadian harsh noise project THE RITA into different paths of rough, abrasive and textural constructions of live and recorded sound since 1996. From genre cinema sound sources, to cage diving with great white sharks, to women's nylons, the various deconstructed elements of the live and pre-recorded sources lead to a heavily directed and immersive listening experience. Over the last five years, physical elements of the classical ballet have acted as a culmination of obsessions for THE RITA as the audio project continues to grow via pantomime and neoclassical ballet during international stage performances and the recording for a myriad of LP, CD and tape releases for various record labels.
For over 15 years Mike McKinlay has worked as a Director/ Director of Photography within the documentary genres of verite, drama, historical, and wildlife production. In this time, Mike has carved out a respectable niche as an award winning cameraman in the Canadian documentary scene - taking part in some of the top documentary stories spanning the west coast. Recent clients include National Geographic, Netflix, National Film Board of Canada, CBC, and the Knowledge Network.