John Carpenter delighted fans at Beyond Fest in Los Angeles last year when he revealed that he was working on an entire album of new music that would be released in the near future. Shortly after that reveal, a release date and first single titled “Vortex” was announced. It’s hard to believe that Carpenter, best known as the director of Halloween, The Thing and Escape from New York, has never released an album. His scores have been loved by fans for decades and his theme from Halloween has become an iconic piece of music in the company of John Williams theme for Jaws and Bernard Herrmann’s work in Psycho.
Nerdist had the opportunity to talk with Carpenter about how his album John Carpenter’s Lost Themes came to be, how music has always been an important part of his life, and if he’ll be returning to direct horror anytime soon.
How is it that after a career spanning all forms of media like film, television, music, and video games, that this album finally came about? Carpenter reveals, “It’s a little bit of a story but here it goes. Two or three years ago my son Cody and I would play video games for an hour or so and would go downstairs to my Logic Pro music setup and improvise music for an hour or so and then go back to the video games then go back to the music. This went on for quite a while until I had about an hour’s worth of music between us. Then my music attorney aske, ‘Do you have anything new?’ And I really didn’t expect for this stuff that Cody and I had done so I sent it to her and a couple of months later I had a record deal! That’s how it worked.”
When one listens to Lost Themes, it’s hard to not hear similarities to the anxiety-inducing music of Carpenter’s previous cinematic work. Even though these songs were created independently of films, I couldn’t help wondering if “The Horror Master” had images of Kurt Russell running around in his head while composing his eerie new tracks. Carpenter chuckled and told me, “Well, it doesn’t exactly go like that but I’ve always had images in my head since I was a little kid. Some people might say that’s insanity, but I don’t; I say it’s because I fell in love with movies and I saw the way movies were made and on and on. My approach to making movies is always the story. That’s what counts first. I try not to sketch in the characters because the actors bring all that. But the storytelling, that I can imagine in my head.”
When I remark that it’s a bit of a surprise that Carpenter has a career in film and music that spans decades and yet, somehow in 2015 we’re getting his debut album, the director laughs and says, “Well, you know my scores have been released on records and continue to be but this is the first original music and this is the first music done without an image. This was all done just as an improvisation. That’s what was so much fun to do. And it’s a throwback because I’m an old guy! That’s why. I’m a throwback kind of guy.”
John Carpenter’s Lost Themes is available on February 3, 2015 via Sacred Bones Records.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our conversation with John Carpenter, which goes live tomorrow!