An interview with Richard Band by Randall D. Larson
Originally published in CinemaScore #15, 1986/1987
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor and publisher Randall D. Larson
Richard Band’s recent film score for the exceedingly graphic horror/mayhem/dark comedy film RE-ANIMATOR has sparked considerable controversy in the film music community due to its prominent use of a theme obviously derived from Bernard Herrmann’s famous PSYCHO Main Title music. Some critics have even gone as far as to cry “plagiarism.” Interviewed in Nov. 1985, shortly after the release of RE-ANIMATOR, Band candidly spoke out on his approach to scoring the film and his use of the Herrmann motif.
How did you become involved with RE-ANIMATOR?
The producer, Brian Yuzna, knew of me because he had been involved on a writing project with my father. He knew of my scores, and when he produced this film independently he called me in.
At what point in production did you actually start work on the film?
Pretty much when the film was complete. It was not really anything to work with any earlier in the project.
What was your overall approach to scoring the picture? How would you describe score’s elements?
The film is so unique from the standpoint that it is so gory and so bizarre, that there was no way I felt I could approach it seriously. Therefore, I decided to use a lot of humor in the music, and beside that, do some musically outlandish things, some very weird rhythms and stuff, a lot of electronics, and really go what I would describe as overboard when it comes to a questionable musical tastes. My approach was to match some of the bizarreness of the movie but to add a lot of humor that I didn’t feel came through as much as it would with humorous music.
It seems to mix a lot of things from symphonic to pop-styles stuff to very eerie, electronic synthesis.
Exactly. It called for a kind of mish-mosh of things all with a degree of humor and obviously that’s the way I started out the picture, by utilizing a familiar Bernard Herrmann feel for the main title sequence, to start off on the footing that people should not take this as an extremely serious movie.
A lot of people have noted the similarity between your main theme for RE-ANIMATOR and the Bernard Herrmann PSYCHO music…
Would you describe the genesis of that particular piece of music. How did you happen to choose that music to use?
When looking at this movie, the nature of the character of Herbert West is a psychotic sort of maniac, and behind him he has this driving force. To me, when I saw that, the driving force that’s the main title of PSYCHO fit him perfectly. Therefore I used that as a base and modified the theme but kept that Herrmannesque feeling. I put my own theme in it, but I wanted that momentum there to create that psychotic movement that described the Herbert West character.
Did you do any studying of the PSYCHO score?
To what extent do you think the music, the actual notes, are yours and to what extent are they an arrangement of the Herrmann piece. I think there’s a lot of similarity in the note structure…
You’re talking about the main title? Well, the theme is completely mine; the structure is basically the Herrmannesque structure. Obviously I wanted no doubt in anybody’s mind that that was a Bernard Herrmann takeoff.
Some critics have not been terribly pleased by the similarity, from some of the reviews that I’ve heard. Has that caused any problems as far as any feedback you’ve received from anybody?
Just the opposite. In fact I’ve read and quoted close to forty reviews that revered the music, and especially the humorous treatment of the Bernard herrmann thing. It’s been in fact ninety-five percent very, very positive.
From the standpoint of the Herrmann purists, who would perhaps be incensed at the use of his style in that particular cue there, how would you answer some of their complaints that may arise, as far as “you’re using our revered composer and you’re taking a piece of his music ans transforming it, or ‘re-animating’ it into something totally different?
My answer would be that Bernard had a very wry sense of humor and he would probably laugh very loudly at it, and they should do likewise.
It seems to me that the humorous feel came about through the use of turning the PSYCHO thing, which was purely strings, and then adding this pop beat to it, which gives it an almost jaunty weirdness to it.
That’s true, yes, sort of an updated, modern version, pop and a sort of funny theme within.
The humor, also, seems to be brought in purely through the music as opposed to anything in the particular script.
Well, that’s true. But in an overall sense it’s so absurd and so horrific, that in itself is funny. There’s no one who can take this kind of picture seriously, and that’s the point of it. I wanted to make sure, musically, that there was no question about that.
How long did you have to compose the score?
About three and a half weeks.
And you recorded with the Rome Philharmonic?
Yes, recorded in Italy.
How large of an orchestra did you use?
The largest group, I’d say, was about forty players.
And that was supplemented with electronics. Was that live like you did in METALSTORM, or…
No, that was done after the fact, when I mixed down.
How closely did you work with the director and producer of the film on composing the score? What kind of music did they want?
Not very closely. Basically they left me on my own. I worked much more closely with the producer than with the director. He wanted me to stretch into some very bizarre directions; he did not want a conventional score. At one point, when I was about a third of the way through the writing, the director came over and I played him what I’d come up with and he loved it and that was that.
They didn’t have any input on any specific types of music or anything?
They had lots of requests and various things, but a lot of those were basically suggestions. It was the sort of picture, again, because of its bizarreness and uniqueness, that they really didn’t know what they wanted either. The main point that I emphasized was that I wanted to incorporate a lot of humor in the movie along with the other obvious elements.
Had they temp-tracked the film at all?
No, I don’t believe they did. I think they might have done a promo reel or something, but I don’t even remember if they did that.
Any other comments about this particular score?
No, not really. There was no problem working with Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon, who’s a fine director, and they’re doing another picture now, called THE DOLLS which I’m scoring, as well as another H.P. Lovecraft movie called FROM BEYOND which I’m also scoring. They were very very pleased with RE-ANIMATOR and want to use me on tvhese projects as well.
You’ve recently completed scoring TROLL…
Yes. That was a very magical sounding score. It was done with orchestra, choir and electronics, and it turned out just sensational. A very magical quality type of score with a chorus and song in the middle of it that has to do with the creatures. Stylistically, I really can’t describe some of the things I’ve done because I can’t relate them to anybody else.