''Titan A.E.'''s music -- The sci-fi cartoon's composer, Graeme Revell, talks about his musical inspiration

By Tom Russo
Updated June 23, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

”You’ve had so many aliens in movies,” Graeme Revell says. ”I think everybody wonders where to go to make them sound different.” So the Titan A.E. composer looked — where else? — to Outer Mongolia, whose throat singers he sampled for the voices of the Drej, the sci-fi ‘toon’s villains. No real stretch for Revell (The Crow, The Negotiator, Pitch Black), an aural pack rat with such an affinity for the atypical that he once released an orchestral album of insect noises.

Revell’s eclectic sensibility made a fan out of Alanis Morissette producer Glen Ballard, who oversaw the amped-up Titan A.E. soundtrack. ”Some people who have the contemporary music chops that Graeme does lack the ability to do heroic themes,” Ballard says. ”But boy, he can do it right up there with John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith.”

And to think Revell used to front an ’80s industrial band at one point known as Surgical Penis Klinik. Growing up in New Zealand, Revell, 44, trained for a career as an economist. But a couple of left turns later, he became an orderly at a Sydney mental hospital, where he developed a music therapy program that eventually led to the formation of SPK with some of his patients. A subsequent incarnation of the band found cult success in Europe. ”We played oil drums and things,” he says, laughing.

Even if some of his SPK material hadn’t evolved into his debut score for the 1989 Nicole Kidman thriller Dead Calm, Revell would still remember his hospital work fondly. ”Most worthwhile job I ever had,” he says. Disney apparently agrees: The studio is currently developing The Tear Garden, a movie based on Revell’s experiences. ”It’s like a musical,” he says. ”A very strange musical.”