In a purely practical sense, how do you go about making a score sound scary? Well, there’s many, many ways to make something sound scary.
The classic, traditional way is low strings - since the 20th century they’ve been used to convey ‘spooky’, but there’s many sounds one can use if it really is a scary movie. In ‘Alice in Wonderland’, there’s nothing actually scary for real, it’s all fantasy, so for the weirder side I try to use an influence, actually kind of a George Martin thing with the strings, so slightly conveyed a bit of a psychedelic thing, so he’s influenced some orchestration with some of the early Beatles tunes.
When you’re writing, do you still work in that same way? Some movies with Tim [Burton] are a little more roundabout to figure out how to get to it.
Do you notate much at the computer, or is it by hand? In hindsight, I’m not sorry that for my first ten years writing we didn’t have that luxury, because I did work 18 hours a day. Properly intimidating and scary, tons of theremin, but basically for a really silly film about an alien invasion. The first time I saw the film there was what they call an animatic of the opening sequence.
Well, definitely thematically all the themes are there, plus a new theme for a new character, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. When you’re writing something like that, a theme for a new character like that, how do you go about it? You look at the entire tone of a score and you go ‘How can I fit this character in? It’s not like just a seventh melody out of six others.
It was kind of tricky, but I just knew that whatever it was, it had to find its own identity, not to just get absorbed, because “Alice’ is a pretty thematic score, melodically it keeps cycling between different themes and it’s like ‘uh-oh, gotta put another one in, gotta make it stand out.
‘I am the Walrus’ comes to mind, and a couple of the others.
The first music I ever learned to write down was Duke Ellington music that was written probably in 1933, so it was just kind of an obsessive infatuation with things of that period.Originally termed the more controversial “rape gaze,” witch house is influenced by the TV show Twin Peaks, cult horror films from the 1970s and 1980s, and Unicode symbols (think Illuminati triangles, crosses, and pentagrams).Lyrically, witch house covers rape, murder, drugs, cutting, and self-harm, although the witch house band CREEP claims that the subject matter is meant more as a joke than literally.I’m glad I don’t quite have to do that seven days a week anymore, but it was still really good experience having to scribble it all down in pencil. It’s not finished animation, it’s a primitive animation, but the feel of it was there with the first few spaceships, and then more and more and more spaceships, and I actually heard the opening title music in my head right while it was playing.I had to stop the screening and go out and make a bunch of notes and then go back in because I didn’t want to forget it.
It’s not so much that it’s scary, it just gets weird. People don’t believe me when they’re playing a song and I’m going ‘I don’t know what that is’ – ‘of course you know what that is’ – ‘I really don’t know what that is!