by Rob DiLauro
When you think of the name John Carpenter, many things come to mind. The first are the many visual journeys we recall in our lifetime, which played on his ability to venture into so many styles while showing homage and respect to so many others, even though the end result always bore his signature style. With original works, loose films that could be called remakes, and even adaptations he made it clear that he was making films for himself, and inviting everyone to go along for the ride. With classics like Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China, They Live, In The Mouth of Madness, and even more underrated works like Vampires and Ghosts of Mars, he transcended and blended so many different styles with precision. Some of his offerings were pure horror, while others were more action-oriented and maybe even comically satirical. But one thing is for sure, he has a legion of fans and his projects stand almost like religion to fans of cinema. The same thing also goes for his musical scores. His need to save money on the budget of his films not only became a passion for Carpenter, they are also the most beloved soundtracks of so many.
Last year, John toured for the first time with his band that consisted of his son and godson, Daniel Davies and Cody Carpenter, along with his backing musicians consisting of Scott Seiver, John Spiker, and John Konesky. The tour was a global road trip that was a massive success that stemmed from Carpenter’s albums of tracks from movies that only existed in his mind, Lost Themes and its follow-up Lost Themes II.
Now, Carpenter is giving fans a true gift that no one would ever expect, a full remaster of his classic tracks lovingly crafted for his latest musical career journey, Anthology, which is also a release from his record company, Sacred Bones. He is also slated to get back on the road with a smaller U.S. tour, and if that was not enough he and his wife, producer and writer Sandy King Carpenter also have a deal inked to produce two television projects, and he is Executive Producer of the latest Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis returning as the highly adored heroine, Laurie Strode.
We spoke to the musician/filmmaker about his new projects, including his much-hyped return to Haddonfield, slated for release in 2018.
Let’s start off with the last tour. Was it taxing at all or do you feel it is something you could do all of the time? Obviously you a comfortable enough experience to do it again, but what was your experience with the tour?
It was a great experience, but it is a little difficult but not impossible. You just have to get a lot of rest, and if you have to be okay with the travel. We went everywhere on the last tour. We went to Ireland, Italy, Greece, London, and then back to the United States. I mean, it was a lot of travel. That was the thing that was relentless, the travel. But once you get past that you’re all right.
And you were touring in the States and then going overseas and then coming back again, weren’t you?
Yeah, many times.
But how was the experience when it came to fan reaction, and in many ways doing what you truly love?
I really did love it. It was a blast. I got to play my son and godson which is a joy. It was a blast and I really dig it. I can’t wait to do it again.
And the coolest thing about it is when you approached by Sacred Bones to make new music you went to your children to be part of it and you have a band now. So it’s great that your son and godson are also being seen as this trio.
I absolutely agree with you.
And what really stuck out for you when it came to the tour?
It was all of it, the entire experience. And I had never experienced anything like this before. I didn’t know the rules of the road, I had no clue at all.
So, after the last album was released where did the decision come from to rework the classic work, was that the record company or the result of your experience playing them live?
That was after playing live. Fans really got off on the original stuff. I could tell that is where they really got charged up. So I thought, “Why not? Let’s remaster the scores.” We redid basically everything I had done in the past, the best parts of it. We also included other composers like Ennio Morricone.
And that is the parts that Ennio composed for The Thing?
That’s right. Yeah.
You also have Darkstar, Starman, everything really. That is incredible. So when you rerecorded, did you have any other artists join you or was it pretty much yourself and your sons?
There were a couple of new additions. We had a harmonica player when did They Live. And we also had John Seiver play drums for us, but mainly it was myself and my sons.
How long did the process take? was it a lengthy one?
It was a few months. Let’s say that, a few months.
When you play the original works do you still feel the power in them or do you feel like you would rather play original work?
I love playing the old stuff, it’s fun. I really enjoy doing it. But I also like to branch out and add in some original work, that’s really a lot of fun too.
Have you ever wanted to do anything with vocals? I think the only time was with The Coup Devilles for Big Trouble In Little China, am I right?
Yeah! I would love to do them for that particular track again. But I think we should keep it where it is for now.
Sorry to be a little cliche for a moment, but I have to ask what is one of your favorites to play and what is it about that particular piece that you love so much?
I love playing The Porkchop Express. I love the blues aspect of it.
I would also think In The Mouth of Madness would be a lot of fun. That track is just a shredder. Was there any truth to that theme being reminiscent of Metallica at the time, or is that just a weird rumor fans came up with?
Metallica? Oh hell yes! We wanted to use Enter Sandman, but we couldn’t do to certain reasons. They were really influential. We had to write something for the opening and wanted to use the song, but I went for the spirit of it, sure. Absolutely.
Let’s talk about the music video for Christine. I saw it the other day and really loved it for so many reasons. What was it like to be behind the camera again, and when it came to the visual journey of your past work why did you feel that was the movie to start with?
Let’s see. The management firm told us that they felt we should do a music video. But they didn’t think we should do a performance piece, it should be something with a story. The one that came to mind was Christine because it was about a car and a little more down to Earth. We didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend, but it was great fun to get behind the camera again even though it was hard because it was all night shoots. At my age I need my sleep. I had a great actress, and we had a great time.
What was it like sitting behind the wheel of that car? That has to be a charge.
Oh hell yeah, it was fun! Even though the piece of s*** kept breaking down. (Laughs) We had to keep repairing it to do the shoot.
How many of that model are left?
I think there was about thirty when we did the movie years back. We had them all for different things. One drove fast, one we used because it looked the best, we used many to simply blow up and set on fire, each one had a different purpose. We found one for the video which was once in the movie in Florida. It needed engine work and was a little funky, but it’s an old freaking car. (Laughs) You have to expect maintenance of some type with anything that old. It’s ancient, it’s from 1958.
But that’s probably why you can only find maybe five in the world because you destroyed so many of them back in the day.
Yeah, we did some damage.
I want to congratulate you for the new projects you have coming up. I read that you and Sandy just signed a deal to produce two projects for television, Tales for a Halloween Night and Nightside.
Oh yeah, thanks! We are working on all of that right now.
When it comes to Tales, is that going to be an anthology with many different directors like Tales From The Crypt or Masters of Horror?
We’re still working on that so I don’t know what it’s going to be just yet. Some people want to build it as an anthology and some have the idea to make it more connected, kind of like how True Detective was. It’s still being developed.
“There’s a huge part of me that just wants to be lazy. I don’t want to worry about this anymore! Then I get the siren call, and it’s like damn it. There’s a keyboard, let’s play.”
Now, there is a massive 'elephant in the room' and I am sure you know what it is. Can we talk about it?
The new Halloween?
The announcement of your involvement. What can you tell me about that?
Well, let's see. I was approached by Jason Blum to become an executive producer, and I would help out any way I can. I am going to help shepherd it through, you might say. And if things go well, and it looks like they are, I am going to be doing the music too.
That's amazing. And also, considering that the studio is coming to you before they make any moves is exciting as well because you are in some fashion due to their respect behind the camera.
Well, I didn't want to get behind the camera. That's not me now, I'm too old. And I would much rather watch basketball. There are so many other things to do. The project has a great young director and I say go to it.
But it's nice to see that you are being asked to be a shot caller to some degree. It's almost as if you are truly returning to Haddonfield in some fashion.
Well, that's true. But it's [director] David's (Gordon Green) movie and it is he and Danny's (McBride) story. It's their take on it, and I helped guide a couple of scenes. I'm just the kind uncle. I'm not going to get in the way or tell them what to do. I will guide them, but I'm nothing but a benevolent spirit.
Are you at the very least happy that they want to touch on the original and disregard everything else in the series?
I'm really into it. It's interesting what they want to do. It's fresh and I like it. You have Jamie (star Jamie Lee Curtis) still going. She's grown up and she is not well after that encounter. I mean, she carries a f****** gun with her, but you can't blame her.
And that starts filming next month?
The projected date to start if all goes well is October 31st. I think it's going to be real good.
And I wanted to ask you this. After everything you have done through the years and continue to do with your family, your wife Sandy, respectively. Could you give it all up right now and live a normal existence or would you feel like a piece of you would die if you were not creating?
That's a real great question. And it's probably the most profound question I can get from anybody. There's a huge part of me that just wants to be lazy. I don't want to worry about this s*** anymore! Then I get the siren call, and it's like godd*** it. There's a keyboard, let's play.
Be sure to check out tour information at his official website theofficialjohncarpenter.com and reserve your copy of Anthology, available October 20th at sacredbonesrecords.com