Hollywood composer Danny Elfman still has something to prove

If Disney wants to restart Toy Story as a horror franchise, take advantage of the weird and eerie collection that renowned movie and television composer Danny Elfman keeps in a recording facility in East Hollywood. recommend to.

The animator can take a tracking shot to Elfman’s studio through the enclosed loading dock and greet the man himself who introduces his little companion. The room at the entrance of the cave.

Protected by a glass display case a few steps away from a similar case containing Jack Skellington’s original doll from The Nightmare Before Christmas (Elfman Skellington’s singing voiceSit in a variety of Victorian medical devices, detached mannequin hands, clown busts, doll parts, and other spooky antiques. It constitutes a lifelong aesthetic of Angeleno.

Recently, just 68 years old, Elfman opened the studio door to a long conversation about his lifelong work as a composer. The resume was nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Grammy, but with 16 film scores for director Tim Burton, Theme song He told The Simpsons how he influenced Elfman’s first solo album in over 30 years, “Big Mess,” released on June 11th on Anti- / Epitaph. I will.

During the afternoon, Eflman variously describes himself as unstable, competitive, lively, bizarre, and obsessive. At one point, he pulled up his shirt, revealing a six-pack abs and tattooed torso.

“I grow up with negative energy,” he says. “Unsurprisingly, I was re-defeated by all the other composers. I was a weirdo of rock band,” he mentioned his punk-era art rock band Oingo Boingo. The contempt was, “It was the best thing that could happen to me because all the scores I did for Tim were all. Give me your hatred. I will imitate me with the next score. Will be. “

“I’m a bit like Godzilla,” he says. “You try to drop me an atomic bomb, but that alone makes me stronger.”

Tim Burton (left) and Danny Elfman in the making of “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

(Sunset Boulevard / Getty Images via Corbis)

“Big Mess” is Elfman’s closest work to ever making a rock album, and is as stimulating as the gloomy and captivating paintings and images by Joel-Peter Witkin, Mark Ryden, and Henry Darger. Is full of. Focusing on internal and external conflicts caused by living in a country torn by hatred, racism, ignorance and corruption, this 18-song and nearly 75-minute work is exaggerated and surprisingly meditative. It is a fiercely political work filled with valleys.

“In 2020, we felt like we were living the American dystopian novel version,” he says. “Trumpism literally says’two plus two is equal to five’because Trump says it’s five.” I didn’t think it was possible. There was a great deal of confusion around me. “

How Elfman movie fans receive “Big Mess” depends on their willingness to completely immerse themselves in the beast of such a project. The artist apologizes five times for the first song, as if to anticipate that reaction. “sorry, ”And again in the second songFor realThe opening part of “Why do I live in hell?”

In fact, Elfman lives “somewhere north of Los Angeles” with his wife and actor Bridget Fonda and his teenage son Oliver. (Recently my family Sold two homes At Hancock Park. Elfman has two adult daughters, Laura and Mali, with her married Geri Eisenmenger.

Elfman grew up in Baldwin Hills as the son of a novelist’s mother and a teacher’s father. As a college high school student in West Los Angeles, Elfman ran with revered percussionist William Winnant, new West Coast music composer Michael Byron, and former Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon. In fact, Elfman and Gordon were dating.

Elfman sat on a comfortable sofa in a room filled with drums about the size of a sequoia stump and said, “We were as different as day and night.” “She was always cool-and I don’t mean” trying to be cool. ” The type you are born with and others try to imitate. I was the exact opposite, an overactive obsessive-compulsive disorder nerd. “

At the age of 18, he and his friend booked a flight to Paris with the intention of traveling south to Africa. While in France, they met Elfman’s brother Richard. Richard starred in the traveling “Le Grand Magic Circus” by the famous French director Jerome Savary.

Enthusiastic with French Italian jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Danny packed the violinist for a cross-continental adventure. Upon arrival, Savary invited him and his friends to join a circus band traveling in Europe and Africa.

Elfman called his year-long journey “in the most extreme way, an exile from the white suburbs of the middle class … as my DNA was reprogrammed.” The idea that Elfman could get a job from 9 to 5 after returning has all become meaningless. The day after he arrived at LAX, he joined his brother Oingo Boingo’s Mystic Nights as a music director.

1981 Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo.

Danny Elfman (center) and Oingo Boingo (1981).

(Lisa Haun / Getty Images)

Founded in 1979, Oingo Boingo became known for its mix of ska, punk, jazz and zappa-inspired experimental music with the rise of New Wave. Elfman became the leader of Oingo Boingo after Richard left to produce and direct the 1980 cult classic.Forbidden zone, Danny played Satan. “In my life here, I didn’t apply to anything,” says Elfman. “It’s possible that it came from Mars. It’s this strange and surreal cabaret. Theater critics hated it. They used to have the worst reviews in their ads,” said Oingo Boingo.

Still, the band became the flagship of SoCal, releasing eight albums between 1981 and 1994, “Little girl, “”Deadman’s party“And” strange science “. That is their “Goodbye goodbyeIs playing the end credits of the 1982 teenage masterpiece “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Burton first saw the band as a student at California Arts at the early punk clubs Madame Wong and Whiskey a Go Go. “I don’t know if it’s my animation background, but it looked very cinematic,” Burton recalled on a phone call from England. “They had different instruments. More theater. It was an interesting way to be an experience and a rock spectacle. Something in the rhythm sounded like weird animated music. “

After the dissolution of Oingo Boingo, Elfman entered the world of film music and collaborated with Burton on the director’s first feature film.Pee-wee’s AdventureIs now a classic movie in 1985, starring Paul Reubens. “No old guard accepted him,” Burton recalled, explaining the tension as “a rite of passage, but a one-way street.”

Famously, Elfman was the legendary film composer and conductor Lionel Newman after the “Beethoven” session, which the ironic Newman called him “Beethoven” with a de de laugh in front of the orchestra. Dismissed (the end of a famous family of LA film composers).

Elfman’s Oingo Boingo bandmate and longtime arranger Steve Vertec witnessed Newman’s interaction from the control room: “Lionel is in charge of thinking about what the score should be. I thought, but that wasn’t Danny’s idea, “says Bartek. According to Bartek, they later learned that Newman had told the orchestra the opposite of what Elfman had instructed. “Danny is very good at saying what he wants to say,” says Bartek.

That skill has continued to draw Elfman into Burton’s world, even if both have acknowledged creative tensions in the past. When asked if his partnership with Elfman turned into a scream, Burton replied coldly, “It’s like mental torture.”

Danny Elfman Shows Beetlejuice Costume and Makeup

Danny Elfman will perform “Music From the Films of Tim Burton” at the 2014 Halloween Nokia Theater LA Live.

(JC Oliver / Wire Image)

Despite the torture, Burton has been returning to his collaborators for decades. Because his work blends into the film until it becomes an invisible character. Elfman’s score is also good, and Burton first witnessed it at the pre-release “Beetle Juice” show. The producer was first screened without an Elfman score. “The test didn’t work,” says Burton. “Then, putting in the score was like adding a character. [the movie]If there were no actors there, it was like missing an actor. That happened quite a bit. “

Elfman’s scores are the driving force behind hit films, from Burton’s “Batman” to Gus Van Sant’s “Good Will Hunting” to Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man.” He won an Emmy for the opening theme of “Desperate Housewives” and earns money for the Screen Actors Guild every time the theme song of “The Simpsons” flows in three voices. And local Halloween celebrities began to worship Elfman’s annual Hollywood Bowl performance, The Nightmare Before Christmas, accompanied by a full orchestra.

Elfman was preparing for a full-scale return to live music when the pandemic struck. Coachella promoter Paul Tollett, who had failed to drive the reunion of Oingo Boingo, booked a helicopter to fly Elfman to the premises during the festival. That year, composer Hans Zimmer brought film music to the festival with a series of popular film themes. Elfman appreciated his efforts, but was even more impressed by Janelle Monáe’s show and how her sound and visuals were connected. He performed film scores and half the band’s performance. Torret agreed, and Elfman joined a band that included Vertec and Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails and Josh Freese of session drummer.

Elfman and the band spent three months producing and rehearsing Coachella by improving the six Oingo Boingo songs. “Looking at where we are politically, he said,’Which of these old songs do you feel is relevant today? Oh, how we are already diss He was talking about topia fascism and everything else. ”Elfman also delved into his popular television and movie themes and composed some new songs.

April 2020 was supposed to be an important month for Elfman. In addition to Coachella, we were planning to start a rehearsal with the British Youth Orchestra for the world premiere of Elfman’s Violin Concerto. He had booked the dates for “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and had the premiere of a new percussion piece.

Elfman said:

When COVID came to an end in live music, Elfman fell into what he called “deep funk.” Due to the planned concert schedule, he declined all 2020 scoring projects. He was more lazy than ever. “The first year I finally stopped taking film scores altogether to focus on live performances — and it completely collapsed.”

Bridget Fonda and Danny Elfman.

Bridget Fonda and Danny Elfman.

(Mark Sullivan / Wire Image)

Despite his disappointment, he was still noisy about Coachella’s rehearsals and how the band expressed his ideas, and he continued to be sharpened in his studio.

When Elfman invited Epitaph Records owner and Bad Religion founder Brett Gurewitz to his studio, “Big Mess” wasn’t complete. Grewitz likened the meeting to “Wonka himself touring Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.” He showed me a collection of esoteric instruments and objects, and eventually took me to the studio to record. I was listening to the highlights of. ”

Gurewitz is in awe of what he hears and adds “Gothic’Sgt. Pepper.'” Gurewitz to Elfman. However, he takes everything he has learned in terms of scoring and orchestra and combines it with his innate Gothic style. “

“He doesn’t compromise,” Grewitz adds. “He has a vision. It’s a strange vision and we just want to promote it.”

“He really should have done it long ago,” Bartek concludes.

Asked why Elfman thought he had waited 30 years for the release of another solo album, Vertec lovingly replied, “His agent kept him busy.”

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