John Carpenter talks new album, Halloween Kills, and why he loves pretending he's a Viking
Escape From New York director's new collection of music, Lost Themes III: Life After Death, is released Friday.
While Escape From New York director John Carpenter has only made one film in the past 20 years (2010's The Ward) fans of the beloved auteur have been able to enjoy a slew of musical releases from the filmmaker of late. Carpenter released his debut non-soundtrack collection Lost Themes in 2015 and followed that the next year with Lost Themes II. He also scored David Gordon Green's 2018 franchise reboot Halloween and is performing the same duty on the upcoming sequel Halloween Kills. Feb. 5 sees the release of a third album from Carpenter, Lost Themes III: Life After Death, on which he once again collaborates with his son, Cody, and godson, Daniel Davies.
We called Carpenter to talk about Lost Themes III, Halloween Kills, and a certain Los Angeles alleyway.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hi, is that John Carpenter?
JOHN CARPENTER: Yes it is.
This is Clark Collis, from Entertainment Weekly. I'm calling to annoy you with some questions about your new album.
Oh, thank you, thank you. Excellent. We'll have to interrupt it for about 30 seconds when my dog comes back in from being washed.
That's fine. Someone's bringing the dog back?
Yeah. It's a truck that's parked outside that's washing the dog and they'll knock on the door when he's clean!
That's beautiful. What kind of dog is it?
It's a husky.
Was the album recorded before the pandemic?
Before and during. And it was recorded before and during and after the score that we did for Halloween Kills. So, we've just been working on it for a while.
How did the pandemic affect the way you worked?
Not a bit, not a bit.
Could you talk about how you wrote and recorded the tracks?
How do we do it? It's like, how do we create? I can't explain it. [Laughs] It's a lot of improvisation. Somebody has an idea, a sketch, a bass-line, a chord, a snatch of a melody, and we just start working on it. I have a home studio with a lot of great electronic sounds and that's how we do it.
As a drummer, I'm always interested in odd time signatures, because they're hard to drum to, on the whole.
[Laughs] Yeah. They are!
The opening track, "Alive After Death," is in 7/4 time, correct me if I 'm wrong.
Nah, it's just your imagination.
Obviously, you've worked with unusual time signatures before. Where does that interest come from?
Well, it comes mainly from my son, Cody. He's a virtuoso musician, keyboard-player, he loves experimenting with different time signatures. I can only do 4/4 and 3/4 and 5/4. That's it. That's my limit. And then you have so snake it in, where I don't know.
What's the significance of the title Alive After Death?
Oh, that's what we hope our art will be.
I saw you play a show in New York a few years ago and it looked like you were having the time of you life. Would that be correct?
Yes! It's unbelievable! First of all, I'm a 73-year-old guy, I've had a career directing movies, which is coal miner-hard, and this is a joy. I get to play with the son and my godson. We have a rock and roll-type type band. A bunch of guitars and drums. This is the greatest!
I also liked the fact that you put a real show together, with film clips and you had a bit when you all put on sunglasses to play a track from They Live.
Oh, well, thank you, thank you very much. I wanted to have naked girls up there with us but that didn't work out.
Who knows what the future may hold for any of us at this point, but do you think you'll be doing concerts again?
Well, if the world comes back, and gets safe again, we might. We've talked about it. But we'll have to wait and see. Thing are so chaotic now, still.
Are you finished with scoring Halloween Kills?
We're done with that. Unfortunately, we can't score the next one (Halloween Ends), because everything's on shutdown. Hopefully things will get better next year.
Could you tease Halloween Kills for us?
It's brilliant. It's the ultimate slasher. I mean, there's nothing more than this one. Wow! Man.
How much have you been forced to adapt over the past year, if it all. You like being at home, right?
Yeah. It's not that bad. It's not terrible. You just have to get with it. Get with the program!
Have you been playing any new video games?
I've been playing Assassin's Creed Valhalla, which I like a lot. I like being a Viking.
I can definitely see you as a Viking.
Well, thank you, thank you very much. [Laughs]
Do you know what you next project is going to be?
No. It's like everybody else. We're in a holding pattern until something clears up in terms of the virus. We'll see. Just taking it a day at a time.
This isn't a question, but when I lived in L.A. a friend of mine, Jane, visited, and I gave her what I called The John Carpenter Tour. I was living in West Hollywood, so we walked up to the Halloween houses there, and I took her to the church from Prince of Darkness, and then we ended up in the famous alleyway from They Live. I just wanted to let you know that that is still a really s---ty alleyway.
[Laughs uproariously] Yeah, I know, it's terrible isn't, it?
To be honest, we were there for about 10 seconds, and somebody started a commotion, and I was like, let's get out of here.
I know. I hear you.
Well, this has been a real pleasure. I'm sorry we didn't get interrupted by your dog, but maybe next time.
Okay, you got a deal.