Danny Elfman: From Boingo to Batman to Big Mess and Beyond!

It was July of 1993 that I first met Danny Elfman. He was kind enough to let me into his home in Topanga Canyon. I was working on a feature about the relationship between composers and directors. At that point, he and Tim Burton were beginning to hit their stride with Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, etc. This was long before composers were 'in'. I had also done interviews with Hans Zimmer and James Horner. And just a few years later, composers would become literal rock stars; they would enjoy the same fame, fortune, and popularity once reserved for those in leading roles.

Like many on Instagram, I saw Danny perform at the Coachella Music Festival. His shredded physique was more reminiscent of his days in Oingo Boingo than that of a seventy-year-old man. But he pulled it off, so much so, he became one of the hottest trending acts at the festival, and on social media. This renewed my interest in Danny - mind you, I've always been a fan, but this renewed my passion for his unique sound and lyrical prose.

Within minutes of receiving the press release of his pending concerts in San Diego and Irvine I reached out to his longtime manager and friend, Laura Engel.I remember dealing with Laura back in the 90's and remember her to be really cool and helpful. She handed me off to Maxie Solters at Scoop Marketing who was handling the press for the concert. Maxie got Jacob and I into one of Danny's rehearsals at his private recording studio in East Hollywood.

Steve Gregory interviews composer Danny ElfmanPhoto: Steve Gregory

I have to admit I was a little nervous for this interview. I've interviewed Presidents, A-list actors, and high-profile newsmakers, but composers and chefs are my weakness; there's a certain passion, creativity, and personality they possess that I gravitate towards. Danny walked me through his new concert and how it differs from those he's done before. He says it's not a film score concert, a Coachella repeat, or even the Tim Burton films concert but rather a "mash-up" of everything, plus some new material he created during the pandemic.

Danny Elfman's work space inside of his private rehearsal studio in East HollywoodPhoto: Steve Gregory

Danny told me he's a recluse and prefers isolation but at the peak of the pandemic he grew angry with the world around him. He said he couldn't believe what was happening and he needed to vent, so he put pen to paper and created what would become his latest album, Big Mess. Danny told me to make Big Mess he reached into places deep inside of himself he's never been before and that the music was his way of venting.

Danny Elfman rehearses with the Big Mess BandPhoto: Steve Gregory

After the interview Danny invited us to stay and watch a little bit of the rehearsal with the Big Mess Band featuring Stu Brooks on bass (Dub Trio, Lady Gaga), Nili Brosh on guitar (Dethklok), Robin Finck on guitar (Nine Inch Nails, Guns N' Roses), and Ilan Rubin on drums (Nine Inch Nails, Angels & Airwaves). Danny wouldn't commit to telling me whether he plans on taking the BTBTBMAB concert on tour but he says at 70-years-old he has no plans to slow down. In fact he says he wouldn't know what to do if he ever retired.

Producer Jacob Gonzalez, Danny Elfman, Steve GregoryPhoto: Steve Gregory

Once again Danny was gracious and genuinely giving of his time. For all things Danny Elfman go to his website, https://www.dannyelfman.com/

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