Utah Deseret News, April 26, 1996
Kaput. No longer alive. Asleep, deceased, defunct and demised.
That's what Danny Elfman said about his band Oingo Boingo.
"Why not?" he said during a phone call from Los Angeles. "It was definitely time. Quite simply, it's time to move on."
Elfman called to talk about, "Farewell: Live from the Universal Amphitheatre--Halloween, 1995," Boingo's final album of its illustrious 17-year career.
"I actually thought last year (1994) would be the last year Oingo Boingo would be on the road," said the Elfman in his mellow-yet-mischievous tone. "But we decided if we were to go down, we'd go in a big way instead of wimping out and having our fans read it online or in a magazine after the fact."
At the same time, deciding the fate of Boingo wasn't a sudden, compulsive thing--a trait Elfman has been known to follow at times.
"No, I've actually been thinking about it for six or seven years," he chuckled. "Everyone in the band talked about it each year but always ended up swinging up and back every Halloween."
Still, not that the band was becoming a burden, Elfman decided Oingo Boingo was on the verge of becoming a cumbersome dinosaur which, if he wasn't careful, could become a parody of itself.
"We creatively did what we wanted to do," said Elfman about his band's core members--guitarist Steve Bartek, bassist John Avila and drummer Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez. "We musicially explored each other as far as we could. If we kept plodding along, it would have been out of stupid financial selfishness. But that doesn't mean we'll stop doing music altogether. We will not, however, have a reunion in a couple of years."
Another problem with continuing the band, said Elfman, was simply the repertoire.
"Once a band surpasses 100 songs in the repertory, it becomes a major chore to choose which ones to play and which ones to leave out," he explained. "That's why I enjoy going to see club bands. They've only got about 12 songs to their name and every time I see that I say to myself, 'How wonderful. What I would give to be in their shoes.'"
With more than 11 albums and an exponential amount of tunes, Oingo Boingo's sound ran the pendulum--from rock, ska to tongue-wagging punk.
"I think 'Farewell...' is a good cross-section of our songs," Elfman acknowleged. "It's got some of our earliest stuff on it, and I'm real pleased with the way it turned out."
At first, the double CD release was supposed to only be one, Elfman said.
"That was going to be tough," he sighed. "But when they expanded it to two, I was very happy. We played a total five nights," he continued. "We recorded three nights and videotaped two. I would have loved to have recorded all five nights, but we couldn't afford it. Most of the songs were recorded the last night. That's when the mix was the best. It was strange. We were mostly oblivious to it being our last night as Oingo Boingo, but there were times when we'd look at each other and it sank in, 'Hey, this is it.'"
Oingo Boingo began its career in Los angeles during the late 1970s as the Mystical Knights of Oingo Boingo. By the time the 1980 album "Only a Lad" hit the streets, the band had shortened its name and had attracted a fierce and loyal following in the nation's underground music scene. But it was "Dead Man's Party" in 1985 that brought the band to the mainstream.
"Not once did I think the band would be a success," Elfman laughed. "I thought of it as a fluke. Confidentially, I thought we'd never last more than one year. And really, each Halloween was a surprise. Seventeen years of surprises. What's left?"
Elfman's influences are wide. And that, he said, explains Boingo's eclectic musical sense.
"I really never felt any kind of alignment with any style of music," he reflected. "It's just a moment by moment thing for me. I mean I was into the classic rock of the times when I was young--(Jimi) Hendrix, the Doors and the Beatles--but what really caught my attention was the strange, old music. You see throughout the entire '70s I detested rock 'n' roll. Instead, I was totally obsessed with late '20s and '30s compositions and music. I felt displaced because I loved that music of the Cotton Club in Harlem."
But hearing the big band swing wasn't the sole inspiration for adding horns to the band.
"I actually spent a year in West Africa," Elfman clarified. "There's a type of music there called Highlife that really grabbed my attention. I didn't realize until after I started Oingo Boingo that the music we played was actually modeled after the Highlife sound."
Now that Boingo's done, Elfman said he and his (former) bandmates can concentrate on other projects they've had to put aside.
"'Vatos' will probably drum the rest of his life," said Elfman. "Avila has become a great producer and is enjoying the other side of the soundboard. Steve and I are deep in the orchestral music world, however, I'm already looking to get out. I want to do something more than movie soundtracks (like "Batman," "Batman Returns," "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" and "Beetlejuice," just to name a few).
"The other guys--Warren (Fitzgerald, guitars) is a talented composer as well," Elfman continued. "And the horn players (Dale Turner, Leon Schneiderman and Sam Phipps) will continue being the strange interesting characters they've always been."
As for regrets of calling it quits, Elfman said there's many and that's pretty normal for his work-til-you-drop behavior.
"Zillions," he said. "Volumes, catalogs of regrets have I because of not doing more. I always want to do more. I'm frustrated with the logistics of the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and roughly 365 days in a year.
"Being a workaholic is not a philosophy of mine," he laughed. "But it's relatively accurate. I wish there were 700 days in a year and 45 hours in a day. But I still probably wouldn't get to do all the things I wish I could.
"Let's just say Oingo Boingo has been a peculiar and strange career," he said.
Then with a sly tone he added, "I'm certainly not entering retirement."