Established by producer and director Charles Band in 1983, Empire Pictures quickly became notorious for the horror-comedy classics made during its brief but legendary lifespan. With wild special effects, outrageous humour and over-the-top horror action Ghoulies, Troll and TerrorVision were three of Empire Pictures finest works, and each movie featured an unforgettable score by Charles’ award-winning composer brother Richard Band.
Now, these scores have been carefully remastered and made available for the very first time in lovingly crafted packages and on limited edition coloured vinyl. With the soundtracks available online now and in stores worldwide on 20 November, legendary horror soundtrack composer Richard Band has shared the method and madness behind some of his top horror soundtracks from his own career and some of the work that has inspired him.
Without question, one of my favourites, one of my top five soundtracks is still Troll. There’s not a question about that. I’ve always loved the movie as well as the soundtrack itself. Generally speaking I like fantasy, I’m certainly most known for horror soundtracks and so forth, but my personal preference has always been fantasy films. And what I really like about Troll, is that it’s a true fantasy. I like the fact that it plays in modern times, but goes back to the whole sort of witchcraft, good versus evil type scenarios. I’ve always liked that. And I also really like the fact that it is not, and was never designed to be, a scary movie. It’s more of a family kids movie. If you think about it, you know it’s about the kids and you’ve got the good witch, the bad witch, the trolls.
But what made Troll a bit unique as far as how I went about it, is that in a lot of cases when we’re scoring a film, a composer isn’t really brought in early on, it does happen in some cases, but usually, the composers are brought in later when the film is either near completed or completed. And that’s the reason we’re usually given relatively little time to do any scoring. And that’s also when they’ve usually run out of money. But Troll was very different. Because to begin with, I had to write the Cantos Profanae song months before they ever shot the film. So this was a scenario where I had the script that I read, obviously the blueprint, and I sort of had carte blanche from the beginning as to the approach that I would take. So that one song and the whole feel of it had to represent what the score was going to be. So it was one of those circumstances where I was literally imagining, according to what I was reading in the script, I was using my own imagination to come up with what the score would sound like and what it would project for the film. And so if you listen to Cantos Profanae by itself, you realise that was the one element that ended up influencing the whole feel of the music for this movie and the score.
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1991)
The Pit and the Pendulum was a little bit similar in the sense that I knew well in advance that I would be starting with the scoring. And, again, I like things that have to do with period pieces. So that film took place during the Spanish Inquisition, and that was very enticing to me. And I knew I was scoring that somewhat in advance, but there was nothing to pre-score, to control where there was the song. So I basically had to wait till the film was done to really begin scoring, but I had a very good idea of the general feel of what it would be. And I realised that on this one I wanted some very classical style singing, mostly choir, so if you listen to the main title not only does it have a choir in it, but also it has a bass solo and baritone singing so there’s a counterpart going on between a solo singer as well as the choir and of course the orchestra. Again along with fantasy, I love period films as well. So I felt very inspired on that movie for sure, it was a fun film to score. And to me, just from a preferential standpoint, the whole end of the movie I think is one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever written. The whole finale, where you have a solo trumpet playing against the orchestra and choir and how it goes into the end titles and the whole sequence. And that’s why I created it as one eight-minute sequence, so it was kind of a suite unto itself.
THE OMEN (1976) – Jerry Goldsmith
There’s no question that I think one of the great soundtracks and scores is The Omen by Jerry Goldsmith. Fantastic. It also happens to have won an Academy Award, that always helps, but I think it’s just unique and sort of set a standard for the way certain things were scored. Even though I absolutely adore the movie The Exorcist and I think the music used for a good deal of it was very, very good, I just was very partial to the way the music was handled on The Omen by Jerry. Both incredible films but very different approaches and in scoring, and I’m just very partial to the way that Jerry scores certain things. One person who was the most influential to me was Jerry, not only because I knew him personally, but I also worked numerous times with his son Joel, on various projects over the course of 35 years, including our very first score for a film called Laser Blast. In The Omen the use of a choir was fantastic. And since it had to do with religion and the devil and all of this sort of stuff, the way that Jerry used the choir was what stood out most to me. It just brought such a gravitas to the whole vibe of the music of the film. Sometimes I try to imagine that movie without that score, and it’s unimaginable. And so I really feel that ultimately, the real success of a film score is how it maintains itself over time. And it’s one of those scores that is timeless, it plays musically as well today as it did when it came out.
PUPPET MASTER (1989)
In the Puppet Master case, it’s interesting as when I did that I was not well versed at all with electronics, So that was for me a transitional period, because up to that point I had pretty much only done orchestral stuff. But since my previous 12-years had been orchestral, my thinking was still orchestral. So the approach I took was still an orchestral approach but using electronics. Of course, in those days, the samples and things that existed were nothing like they are today, we’re talking really at the very beginnings of that whole technology. So since I wanted to maintain a sort of orchestral feel, I had to come up and create sounds and things that were somewhat orchestral. But I had to do it in a way so that what was emphasised is more the intent of the music itself. And therefore what was crucially important for me was the theme, even if the samples and all these sorts of things electronically weren’t, you know, really what I wanted, what was really crucial was the themes and the motifs. Therefore, since Puppet Master started in a time period during World War Two, the Nazis and Toulon who was a Puppet Master, and the tragedy and the mysticism of these puppets, who actually used to be real people and their souls lived in the puppets, all of those ingredients.
The theme had to have an ingredient of that period. That’s why I came up with the waltz sort of feel, the 1-2-3, 1-2-3 sort of feel, that was a very German-Austrian type of thing. Then the second part I found was needed was there had to be a sadness to it. Because after all, these puppets used to be real people. It had to be a waltz but it had to be sad or ironic. And as importantly, I didn’t want it to project evil. Because the puppets, again, having been real people, even though they did nasty things right they were always killing for the right reasons. The puppets were the good guys even though they may have been using harsh puppet killing methods, but they were the good guys. And also, something had to project the puppets themselves and that’s why I gave it a little bit of a circus feel in parts of the title when it goes but the main theme, there’s a little more circusy part of it. Who would know at the time that it would end up being one of those scores that would end up being a franchise. People have always said they cannot separate the music from the movie, they are so intertwined and that’s why that theme has survived the test of time.
When Re-Animator came out, I had realised early on, that the film was pushing the envelope so much in so many ways, that it had to have a little bit of a sense of humour. And that was crucial for me, because when I sat and looked at the film originally, the producer Brian Hughes, Stuart Gordon and I, had a month long battle as to the approach because originally, they both felt that this really had to be treated as a real straight-laced super hard, scary film. And I kind of saw it differently. Some of the stuff… today it doesn’t mean anything, but back then it was really pushing the envelope. So I felt that the score needed a release valve of some kind, that would help the audience sit through some of the goriest stuff that they had ever seen. And that’s why I fought very hard to give it that element, that release. I wouldn’t say it was funny, but it just was done in a way I would describe as a quirkiness, so that people weren’t just simply horrified. I used certain motifs so that you could sense something coming, very much in the way that John Williams treated Jaws, when you heard those dum-dum-dum-dum, when you heard that you knew what was going to happen, right? I used that kind of device in Re-Animator, these little ticks, little motifs that weren’t scary unto themselves, but they let the audience know, “Get ready, get ready for something, get ready for Herbert West to do another insane thing!”
WRWTFWW Records presents Ghoulies OST on limited edition pink vinyl, Troll OST on limited edition yellow vinyl, and TerrorVision OST on limited edition blue vinyl in stores worldwide 20 November.
Order vinyl and apparel direct from WRWTFWW Records now