Elfman at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con.
|Born||Daniel Robert Elfman
May 29, 1953
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Occupation||Composer, singer, songwriter, record producer|
|Spouse(s)||Bridget Fonda (m. 2003)|
|Genres||New wave, ska, alternative rock, film music, video game music|
|Instruments||Trombone, guitar, percussion, vocals, piano, keyboard|
|Associated acts||Oingo Boingo, James Newton Howard|
It's hard to get a film, you know, you need a very special film to be able to get that experimental. But, I would love to see that happen. I would love the opportunity to be more experimental than I am.
You have to write a good score that you feel good about. At least, you're supposed to. But, if the director hates it, it ain't going to be in the movie!
So I've learned in the past, if a company approaches me and they want something like this, or something like that that I've done and I turn them down, they're going to do it anyhow.
I don't see myself necessarily having a burning desire to write a symphony.
I would have to say I might do some stuff, but it's the film that's appealing. I was raised on film. My musical experience is all via film, it's not from classical music.
Oh see, first off you gotta realize – everything for me is a reconstruction or deconstruction. I would actually say deconstruction. Mission: Impossible would be the exception. That would be a reconstruction- deconstruction.
I'm trying to interpret the film through the director's head, but it all comes out through me. So, a composer is kind of like a psychic medium.
Sometimes I like them artificial and sometimes I like them real. And the reason is because sometimes I like a real close sound. And I like a very specific snare sound and I can't get that in the big room.
There's kind of a cool feel that happens every now and then. I guess that feel is the thing that makes the score its own score. But, I don't know exactly what that is. So, it's hard for me to answer that question.
I had to do this very aggressive, big score in a very short time, and knowing that in the beginning, middle, and end would be this very, very famous theme, but I still had to weave a score around it and make it work as a score was really challenging.
That still has to be there. And so, it's kind of an interesting question you brought up. Because, on the one hand, yeah, it'd be lovely. I certainly don't see that happening. In fact, I see the opposite happening.
I think that's one of the things that has always put me in kind of an odd niche. It's that all of my understanding of orchestral music is via film, not via classical music like it's supposed to be. To me it's the same, it doesn't make any difference.
I really liked doing a number of the projects and directors, and etc., etc., I knew about half-way through that I would never be doing that again. It's just not me. I really am happy as a part-time film composer, not a full-time film composer.
Doing Tim's film is always going to be the most pleasure. Let me just put it that way. So, without drawing favorites one way or the other, getting back with him and doing Mars Attacks! was certainly a special treat.
I like creating these rhythmic patterns. These interlocking rhythmic things are really fun.
You have to nail the right tone because sometimes when you just see his films cold, you're not quite sure. It's the same in – I'm trying to think of other directors with a similar sense – David Lynch's films, Tim's films, some of Cronenberg's stuff.
Most often the music does end up in the movie, and sometimes there's a point where I wish that it wasn't, just because I think the score would be more effective if there was less of it. But, again, that's not my call.
I think that there's a lot more freedom in the low budget, the independent films where, unfortunately, you don't have the money, necessarily, to get the orchestras in there to play a lot of stuff. But, you have a lot more freedom, very often.
Or certainly I would need time – which I would love to have but there almost never is on a film – to just spend a week with a roomful of guys laying down these patterns.
It's just hard. I wish the studios felt there was more value in these themes and these pieces of material – that they're worth protecting more. Because then it just wouldn't happen. If the studios cared, the stuff would be stopped in a second.
The first thing I do is lay out that melody and figure out how it has to hold here and then finish to land here, because you know in advance you're going to want the melody to catch four things in the action.
You're allowed to rip-off another score so close that it's ridiculous. In my opinion it's ridiculous, how closely one can just rip-off a score that happened a year or two earlier.
In some types of music I'm working out all the chords one bar at a time – the whole structure, because it's about that. And there are other pieces which are really about – okay, the melody is going to start here and play through to here.
It sounds really stupid, I hate making cosmic comments like this but, I just let it do what it wants to do.
So, it becomes an exercise in futility if you write something that does not express the film as the director wishes. It's still their ball game. It's their show. I think any successful composer learns how to dance around the director's impulses.
I'm looking for a feel and I have to find what that feel is before I can move on from there. I'm not necessarily catching stuff in such a simple way – I don't need to. So, I'm going for something else.
The beauty of a main title is that you establish your main theme and maybe a bit of your secondary theme. You plant the seed that you're going to go water later in the score. And so, having that removed just made it so much more difficult.
In Tim's films, more than most, if you miss the tone, you don't get the film.
I'll look back and I'd be better to answer that in about three months from now. Or when the movie comes out and I see it. I don't even know what it is yet. I've still been in the middle of it.
I can't get that live and I don't have the time to take the tape, after I've finished recording it, into a little studio somewhere else where I can get a different kind of percussion sound.
I'll just start laying out the melody exactly where I want it to fall. And then I'll go back and fill it out. Whereas, in other pieces I'm really just going a couple bars at a time.