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Seventeen Magazine, 1990?
You know Danny Elfman and you probably didn't even know it. He's the leader of that edgy, bouncy, LA based band Oingo Boingo. He's also the hottest movie-soundtrack composer of the moment—doing the music for such megamovies as Batman and Dick Tracy. But if Elfman had pursued his first goal in life, it's doubtful you would have heard of him at all. "When I was a kid, I was heavy into science—radiation biology was my passion. I'd spend my time injecting flies and plants with isotopes," Elfman says. As he reminisces, glasses perched on his nose, red hair unruly, I realize he doesn't look so different from the brainy little nerd he probably used to be.
Odds are, Elfman would have made a brilliant scientist. But radiation biology's loss is definately music's gain. Between Oingo Boingo and the movie biz, Elfman is always busy—he claims to work four hundred days a year—but he's committed to embracing challenges rather than churning out formula stuff. Take Boingo's latest album, "Dark at the End of the Tunnel," (MCA) which critics have called a big change from the band's earlier work.
Change, in fact, is the essence of Oingo Boingo, which grew out of an avant-garde theater group Elfman describes as "wild, multimedia performance art." The troupe transformed into a rock band—but with its eight-man lineup, emphasis on the saxophone and trumpet, and front-man Danny grinning and gyrating with an almost frightening glee (every inch the Elfmaniac), this is hardly your average rock band.
Creative creepiness is an Elfman trademark. He calls all the songs on "Tunnel" "dark: scary-dark, funny-dark, or just dark-dark." There's also a supernatural, not-of-this-earth theme to most of the movies he's scored, like the music for that pesky ghost Beetlejuice, the monsters of horror-master Clive Barker's Nightbreed, and his newest project, Tim (Batman) Burton's film Edward Scissorhands (about a boy who has, yup, scissors instead of hands, and stars Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder).
Because he's so in demand right now, Elfman rarely takes a holiday. The last time he tried to just hang out, "I had arrived at a hotel in the Bahamas to find a message that read: "Warren Beatty wants to talk to you about Dick Tracy...immediately." I finally put my foot down," he recalls. "I took two whole days off!"
From his association with movie moguls, a number of acting roles have been dangled under Elfman's nose. But don't expect to see him onscreen. "I have no designs on being a movie star," he says. "I'm not a frustrated actor." Nope. He's just an ordinary, unassuming mad scientist who got a little sidetracked.
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