[from] A look into the Forbidden Zone [featurette]

Forbidden Zone DVD feature, ca.2005
DANNY ELFMAN (2'22"): Well Forbidden Zone was the end of.. as I recall it was the last year of the Mystic Knights.
DE: Yah.
RE: As a matter of fact we started as the Mystic Knights and by the time we finished the film the band was Oingo Oingo.
DE: Yes that just what I mean, it was right at the end. It's basically, um, I decided that I'd done as much as I'd wanted to do with the theatre musical stuff and it was fun, I think it was 7, 8 years.
RE: Yah.
DE: I think.. it was around '78 that I got kindof charged up by music I was hearing out of England. Sca bands, and I really just wanted to start up a sca group; I think I was sick of lugging around so much stuff with the theatre troupe. You know, towards the end it was a big production. It was like a "semi" full of stuff..
RE: Yeah
DE: ..and that was becoming burdensome, so for me the idea of being a band that could fit all their gear into a van and set up in a club and an hour later be playing became, like, a goal.
RE: Now, the Satan character.. you did lots of Cab Calloway on the stage. How did you enjoy doing Satan? I remember you and Matthew [Bright] laughing and laughing - I had to do the take 12 times.
DE: Well I'd been doing that every night. You know, I sang every single night - in the Mystic Knights I sang St James Infirmary and I sang Saint Louis Blues.
[other material and interviews]
RE (11'44"): 25 years ago I handed you a movie that had all these old tunes in it: Cab Calloway, Josephine Baker, whatever, and I said "weave a score, and there's really no budget, we just have the Mystic Knights to use as an orchestra". How did you approach that?
DE: What I remember is.. doing the songs first. So the closest thing I could relate how I think I worked on Forbidden Zone to what I do now would be working on a musical like Nightmare Before Christmas where I started with songs and then wrote music between the songs.
RE: [This] was like a pretty wild challenge cause it was like here's a Latin number and then here's a French number and you have to weave something inbetween. And you were just pretty much winging it.
DE: Well I mean even now I'm just winging it, so that's no different.. essentially it's no different now you're looking at a picture and you're going to start here and you're going to stop here and you start winging it, so.. in that sense scoring Forbidden Zone and scoring Spider-man's the same thing, but, the way I was doing it then was very primitive to how I do it now. I think, as I recall, I had some kind [of] a little electric piano or something, and I just.. came up with little melodies and wrote them down, and then got together with the band in the studio and we just played these little.. but it was approaching almost morelike the pieces of music as if they were little tunes than score, and though there was a little Moviola or a music editing machine or something..?
RE: Yeah, yeah, upright Moviola, yeah.
DE: Yeah, just looking at the picture and writing little tunes, because writing tunes without lyrics and vocals, so.. The last three years of the Mystic Knights I was writing really ambitious instrumental stuff.
[Gamelan-style Mystic Knights music]
DE: You know rather than a little stuff and a big band jazz, started doing stuff that was influenced by Russian composers and Prokofiev and stuff like that, and that's when I really taught myself to write better, so.. by the time Forbidden Zone came, I felt comfortable writing music on paper and I'd been doing some rather ambitious pieces, so writing the pieces of music for Forbidden Zone wasn't difficult. Because I know there was a piece I did the last three years of the Mystic Knights, it's called the Piano Concerto Number One-and-a-Half, and that was as close to what was going to become Batman music or something else ten years later than anything I'd done at that point, because even though I was only writing for 12 pieces I was writing intricate parts down and it was more inspired by Stravinsky and Prokofiev than it was inspired by Duke Ellington or Cab Calloway.
And then I started a rock band [and] forgot everything, so it was a full 8 years later that I got my first orchestral score..
RE: That was Pee Wee['s Big Adventure].
DE: ..and I was trying to remember how did I do.. how did I write that stuff down for Piano Concerto Number One-and-a-Half, how did I write down that stuff for Forbidden Zone? I know I was writing everything down but I hadn't written a note for the band because in a rock band you don't write music down. And so I had to backtrack 7 or 8 years and go "s**t, how did I do that? I know I was writing everything down so I gotta like calm down and try to remember what did I do for Forbidden Zone, for Piano Concerto" and try to rewind back to whatever skills I'd developed at the end of the 70's.
RE: As a performer, you know, obviously you did the Devil number, the 'Squeezit the Moocher' and then you sang again in Nightmare Before Christmas - do you ever see doing that again in films, Danny, you know, singing as well as being the composer?
DE: Yeah, I'm doing it right now. There are Oompa-Loompa songs for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
RE: What, using your voice?!
DE: Yeah, I'm doing the Oompa-Loompas.
RE: I didn't know that.
DE: Yeah. Well, I'm not saying that I'll be the only voice doing Oompa-Loompas but right now I'm doing, like, tonnes and tonnes of voices.
RE: Remember doing the main title?
DE: Yeah, I think it was really like writing a tune. There must have been some time constraint, like writing a tune that's *this* long.
RE: A-ha.
DE: And I don't think I was thinking anything more than that. Other than writing a song, although it was one of the first times we'd ever recorded anything with electric guitar, bass and drums. So again it was getting close to that transition period of what was going to be Oingo Boingo.
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