Thursday, October 26, 1995
Typed in by ElizOz@aol.com with thanks to April Josephson.
Stories by Mark Brown
The Orange County Register
Get it straight: Danny Elfman's not fooling around this time. Oingo Boingo plays a handful of farewell shows starting tonight, then it's over.
"This will be the last time ever to see 'Dead Man's Party' performed," he said firmly. "We're hoping this will be kind of a nice way to show our appreciation one last time, rather than someone reading a little announcement in the paper and going '(Shucks)!' "
Elfman didn't need to make the announcement; his annual Halloween run of shows always sells out.
"It's really just to clarify any ambiguity," Elfman said from his Los Angeles home recently. "it's been unofficially rumored for at least five years anyhow. I really knew in my heart that this was going to be the last Halloween for Boingo. I know it. Why not let everyone know it?"
It's the inevitable outcome; Elfman has been whittling at the band for years. Oingo Boingo has been around since 1979.
"It's hitting 17 years. It's a decade longer than I thought it should be. A band should last five to seven years, then dissolve and become something else," Elfman said.
Originally conceived as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, all but the last two words of the title got dropped for the '80s. By the '90s the band had dropped its horn section and half of what name remained, releasing a final album as just plain Boingo.
These farewell concerts are back to Oingo Boingo, partly because the horn section is back, partly because Elfman will be giving the oldies -- "Dead Man's Party", "Only A Lad", et al. -- one last go-round.
"The thrust of these shows is going to be the whole history of the band, bringing out a lot of old material we haven't played in a while. It just felt right," he said.
Knowing it's the last time he's ever going to have to deal with these songs made it easy.
"That's the beauty. It's the first time I'm excited about playing old material in ages because I know I never have to do it again," he said gleefully. "It puts it in a whole new light. I never wanted to get cynical about performing with the band. Now it has me all excited about doing it."
Usually that excitement is saved only for new things. Rock music was fun until Elfman got good at it; then he got bored. Next were film soundtracks, including "A Nightmare Before Christmas" and the current "Dead Presidents" and "To Die For". But now that's getting stale, too. That's why he's chosen now to disengage himself from a successful past and embark on an uncertain future.
"A huge repertoire, to me, becomes a great anchor," Elfman said. "Every show has been a compromise between me and the audience. Any old stuff -- I don't really want to do that. It's always been a 50-50 thing of mixing up new stuff with the old stuff. We tried reworking stuff. We tried cutting stuff loose. Regardless, I think it's just time."
Oingo Boingo ends not only as a live act but in the studio as well.
"I respect the musicians in Oingo Boingo a lot, but I've never really worked with other musicians," he said. "Which isn't to say I won't be working with them on various projects. We just won't necessarily be doing it all together in the same configuration."
As for Elfman, "Everything's moment by moment for me. I really want to get in more experimental expressions," he said. "I'm building my own studio. I'm designing it from the ground up right now. Eventually I'd like to have my own label and this studio where I can record any time I want. Technology today makes it very easy."
What does it mean for fans of Elfman's music?
"I will be performing a solo or alternative band career. I don't know which. I've been planning on doing this for years." And a solo tour? "I can't say for sure whether it's material where I'll say, 'Oh, I want to tour with this.' I know that I'm anxious in the next year or two to go into the studio."
After the shows, his studio is going to take up much of his time.
"I plan my own place to be very strange and a bit bizarre, just like my home. That's where I'm comfortable. I'm designing a room that should be able to hold 25 people comfortably. I can do everything but maybe some big, strange overdubs."
That kind of low-key, behind-the-scenes work has kept him out of the public eye, a lifestyle he prefers.
"I really don't like being recognized or approached on the street anyhow," he said. "That was one of the more appealing things about being a film composer. It's the kind of thing where you get famous in your profession and don't get any recognition. There's no film composer that gets cornered on street corners."
Still, the low profile has some drawbacks. Despite all his years of success in music and film, "I don't have that level of independence that somebody who sold millions of records has. I think it's still going to be a good struggle in front of me," he said. "I've established a certain reputation. But that reputation is not surrounded by millions of fans. It's surrounded by hundreds of thousands of fans. There's a big difference in the industry as to how much latitude you're allowed."
Indeed, Oingo Boingo's success has been very regional. In fact, this short farewell tour is only a handful of dates in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. The show at Universal Amphitheatre on Halloween night is the last gasp for Boingo.
The shows will be recorded for an album and video, but no Boingo box set or retrospective is planned. In the live shows, "every album will be represented. We're probably going to rehearse at least a dozen songs that we haven't played in a long time. It'll be a good long show and be pretty exhausting."
And after the last encore on Halloween, that will be that.
But what happens when it's Lollapalooza 2000 and Elfman gets a $10 million offer to regroup for the tour? Would he take it?
"At this moment, no," Elfman said carefully. "none of us ever knows how we're going to feel five years later. I can't predict how I'll feel in one year. But now it is my sincere intention to put Boingo to bed while it's still in good form and not wait for it to kind of fall apart. I don't know why or what would make me change my mind in the future. I'm a pretty stubborn person."
CAREERS: Random thoughts from Danny Elfman about music, fame and why he hates 'Weird Science'.
Danny Elfman on the end of Oingo Boingo and on his own future:
Why disband? Why not just go on and do long shows -- the fans' favorites and new stuff?
"We'd be like (Bruce) Springsteen, approaching three-hour shows. He's just better at it than I am, keeping a better attitude about it. As I get older I get cynical about it, which is my nature. It's better to go down not bitter than to get to that point.
"That's a huge repertoire to be carrying around. I'm extremely enthusiastic about the idea of starting clean. I got to the point where I was envious of bands on tour who had only one or two albums."
The best part about building his own studio:
"I own an enormous amount of percussion instruments. I'll finally be able to drag them out and have them in one place. That's very exciting. I've got storage rooms all over L.A. filled with percussion stuff I've collected from all over the world. It's just my first love. I began collecting African percussion when I was 18."
On what's driving his music these days:
"I'm much more in touch with my mentality of myself between the ages of 7-11 rather than 12-18. Very often, even if I'm writing a film score, I'm actually writing what I'd like to have heard at 12 years old. I'm kind of emotionally retarded, anyhow. If one did some kind of test and found out what my emotional age would end up being, I think it would be pretty pathetic."
"I would be very happy to evolve into a solo recording career that totally sidesteps that whole pop-fame horror and everything that goes with it. I really can't think of a single positive that goes with that side of the profession except those rare moments that you get a better table at a restaurant."
On a future without the security of Boingo:
"The last thing in the world I think about is my golden goose. If I'm creating good work and I'm happy with the work and my income has taken a dip and I have to make some compromises, I'll be very happy, believe me."
On material coming up in the concerts:
"I can tell you what you won't hear: 'Weird Science'. Other than that, everything else is up for grabs at the moment."
Why that song?
"I just really burned out on it. I never liked playing it live. It's one of those things we did as a fluke and it became popular and we never knew why. I can't see that anybody's going to be really, really horribly disappointed."