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    Best Elfman interview we’ve had in a while. You need to be a subscriber to read it.

    He elaborates (for the first time?) on why he didn’t like working on The Frighteners. Reveals he got hired for Dolittle because of The Circle (?). Really good and candid interview.


    thank you! agree this article was super illuminating. starts off with the usual and then BLAM! all that stuff about DePalma and Fran Walsh come out of nowhere. And it was revelatory that he doesn’t feel he’s ever done a true horror score (which is kinda accurate when you think about it).

    I was actually able to access the article on my iphone using the safari browser. There’s a little icon that looks like either a sheet of paper or two different sized A’s side by side. If you click it and choose “Show Reader View” it pulls just the text from the article.

    For this group, this was some of the best bits. (Already shared on FSM but should have come here first – please don’t doubt my allegiance!)

    FANGORIA: Speaking of synthetic scores, how well are you able to anticipate the trends or transitions that scoring seems to go through? Those in particular have become tremendously popular over the last few years.

    Elfman: Which I’m also so happy for. I mean, it’s always going to go through these surges of changes. Like something will come back in a way. I must’ve in my career seen at least three times when studios go, no orchestral, let’s get it more rock and roll sounding orchestral’s getting old. And then like the biggest film of the year will come out with a big orchestral score and suddenly it’s like, “it’s back again.” And so they keep announcing its death, and there’s been this constant desire to get more rock and roll-y, which generally I think is a real bad idea. I won’t tell you what film, but there was a big film about 12 years ago-ish in the genre for which we’re speaking. And I met with the director and he was like, “when he goes into such and such mode, electric guitars…,” and it’s like, oh boy. And we’re in the 2000s. And I was just thinking this is so ironic because not only is this outdated, what he’s asking me to do, which in his mind is more contemporary. But when I rescored Mission: Impossible in the nineties, Brian De Palma was saying “electric guitars make it sound so old, and outdated.” So the mid-nineties, it was already to his ear sounding outdated, that bad-ass kind of electric guitar and I kind of balked. And then I got a lecture from my agent that the director thought you were really arrogant. And maybe I was, but at any rate, that desire to kind of rock and roll-ize scores usually fails dismally and dates it terribly unless it’s the right film. I mean, I love playing bad electric guitar on films as much as anybody. And I don’t know if any composers have more bad electric guitar playing in their films as me because it’s all over a lot of stuff. The really nice acoustic stuff is always a guitarist I’ve been working with for years. But the nasty electric stuff, especially if it’s out of tune, is always me. You hear that everywhere. Feedback, I love doing that kind of stuff. But I try to integrate it in a way that doesn’t ever try to sound bad ass or as that director was saying when he asked for that power chord and I said, I’m all for electric guitars in scores, but orchestra and electric guitars is a dangerous combination if you do it the wrong way because the Superbowl has defined that – sports scoring, Wrestlemania, big wheels, all of these is orchestra with power chords.


    in hindsight, my career is what it is and it was what it was, but they found me and I was most eager to comply. And the results were mixed. The Frighteners was a difficult film. It was kind of hard to nail down the tone. And in the end, Peter’s mate Fran [Boyens], who’s his collaborator, was not happy with the way things went down with me. And so I got the boot after that. I tried to move the schedule along a week early because I really wanted to do Mission: Impossible with Brian De Palma. And it just meant like a week overlap, because he was also on that list. And I don’t think I was ever quite forgiven for that, but I enjoyed it. And I enjoyed working with De Palma. He was a trip.


    I’ve literally had directors tell me that they’re unhappy with a piece of music – can you make it more ‘Danny Elfman’?

    FANGORIA: Do you know what that means now?

    Elfman: I don’t know what the fuck that means. It means like something that they’re thinking of that I’ve already done. And that’s hard. So if that means Beetlejuice, it’s like, well Beetlejuice was Beetlejuice, this film isn’t Beetlejuice. So you kinda try to do the best you can, but it’s not always helpful. Sometimes what people hear in your music is indefinable. But one of my favorite moments was De Palma talking about themes. He goes, “you did this great theme for Dead Presidents.” And I realize what he’s talking about was three bass drums, that essentially was the theme. It wasn’t even a melodic instrument. So you never know what’s going to stick in somebody’s head. It’s funny how people will hear things you never would have guessed.

    Ryan Keaveney

    Strange that DOLITTLE is labelled a retro/synth score… huh?

    The story about the electric guitar – is that Real Steel?

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