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Aug. 4, 2022

Composers of the Apocalypse: Live from Midsummer Scream 2022

Composers of the Apocalypse: Live from Midsummer Scream 2022

In this episode you’ll learn about the history, process, and musical challenges behind some of the most iconic horror film soundtracks of all time. This is the full panel presentation “COMPOSERS OF THE APOCALYPSE” from the Main Stage this past Sunday,...

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In this episode you’ll learn about the history, process, and musical challenges behind some of the most iconic horror film soundtracks of all time. This is the full panel presentation “COMPOSERS OF THE APOCALYPSE” from the Main Stage this past Sunday, July 31st. This was a 90-minute presentation featuring talented musicians that have created iconic horror film scores and famous themes of films and shows that have thrilled us for decades. Also featured are the Midsummer Scream producers – David Markland, Claire Dunlap, Gary Baker, and Rick West. Subscribe to all our offerings:

Joining moderator Michael Kolence of Grimm Life Collective was:

  • John Massari (Killer Klowns From Outer Space, The Ray Bradbury Theater, The Wizard of Speed and Time)
  • Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th and sequels, The Swamp Thing, House)
  • Holly Amber Church (Open 24 Hours, Ruin Me, Dark Light)
  • Alan Howarth (Halloween 2-6, Christine, They Live)
  • Richard Band (Re-Animator, Troll, Ghoulies)
  • Christopher Young (Hellraiser, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Guillermo Del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities). 

Coming up. You're going to learn about the history process and musical challenges behind some of the most iconic horror film soundtracks of all time. Remember how I promised much more coverage from Midsummer Scream? Well, today I'm playing the full panel presentation composers of the Apocalypse, which took place on the main stage this past Sunday, July 31st. This was the final main stage presentation, and it was quite a doozy. It was a 90-minute presentation featuring talented musicians that have created iconic horror film scores, famous themes, and have breathed life into musical soundscapes of films and shows that have thrilled us for decades. Some of those include Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Wizard of Speed and Time, Friday the 13th and sequels, the Swamp Thing, Ruin Me, Dark Light, They Live, Christine, and many more. There were some live performance components that didn't fully translate into audio, but I've actually left everything in this for you. I didn't really want to cut those pieces out in case you just kind of wanted to hear what it sounded like. The first voices you'll hear are from the Midsummer Scream producers, they took the stage to kind of close out Midsummer Scream. The producers, of course, are David Markland, Claire Dunlap, Gary Baker, and Rick West. After their bit, the moderator will lead you into the panel. Enjoy.

David Markland: Hi everybody. Did you have a nice weekend? Thank you for coming out to the fifth Midsummer Scream, kicking off the Halloween season with us, and of course, since the middle of summer, and we've haven't even gotten to Halloween, we're thinking about Christmas. So, just if you haven't heard yet, our next event is going to be Season Screamings, December 2nd to the 4th at the Pasadena Convention Center, all sorts of spooky fun, Halloween horror, but for Christmas. So, thank you again for coming out.

Gary Baker: Hey everybody. Did you ask since they had a good time, did you have a good time? Yeah. All right, great. Thank you once again for coming out and supporting us. Again, five years now of doing this convention and it has grown every single year, and it's thanks to you guys, our Halloween family, really. So, just want to do a quick, special thank you to our tech team, who keeps all this working. It's Jim and Anthony Call back there. So, thanks again, everyone. Thanks for coming and have a safe and happy Halloween.

Claire Dunlap: Gosh, it's so wonderful to see all you guys. Thank you so much for coming. Thank you for enjoying the weekend. I actually got to go down and look at the show floor, just about a half an hour ago, so that's really fabulous to be able to do that. I saw some of the Hall of Shadows. How did you like the Hall of Shadows? Awesome. Didn't CalHaunts do an amazing job on that entry experience? And did you guys go trick or treating? Okay, awesome, very good. Well, again, we thank you. We thank our white bats, who are the lifeblood of our troop here, and we're just excited to bring Halloween year round. So, hopefully we'll see you all at Season Screamings in December. Thanks so much, guys.

Rick West: I ask you every show. Did we do you proud? Awesome. We're pooped. You pooped? We're haunted out. We're scared out. We're paneled out. Everything has been fantastic. What a hell of a weekend. Thank you guys for coming home. Now, we got an amazing, amazing group of composers. You're here to see them. You have grown up listening to their music and it's time for them to play Midsummer scream, 2022 to a close. Thank you guys. We'll see you at Christmas.

[Musical Interlude]

Welcome to Midsummer Scream. Please welcome the creator and host of the Grim Life Collective, Michael Kolence.

Michael Kolence: It got really quiet walking over here, it was like the most awkward thing. Welcome everybody. You have survived Midsummer Scream. You excited? Did you have a good weekend? Buy some spooky goodies? See your favorite actor? Come and see us? Well, thank you. Now, this is kind of surreal for me. Growing up a monster kid I loved Halloween and I loved horror movies, and never in a million years. Did I ever think that I'd be standing on a stage, getting ready to sit and talk with the people who scared the crap outta me. You're going to see some live performances tonight. We're going to talk about Halloween memories that they had, some stories from the industry, and well, I don't know what's going to happen. I'm just being honest. This has never been done before, and it's happening here. With that being said, do you guys remember a movie called Escape from New York? My favorite. They Live? Well, we're going to start tonight, off with the music of Alan Howarth, come on out.

Alan Howarth: The pleasure of a good scare, that's what we do. People ask you, h"ow do you make all people scary sounds" Well, we have discord and we have release. We have quiet things. And we scare crap outta you! That's how it works. So, for opening of the Apocalypse Group, I elected to play some music that I created along with John Carpenter, he can't be left out of it. He was in the room, he pushed black and white notes, I ran the gear, he said, "how about this?" I said, "how about that?" And I share the writer's credit on all the music that you're going to hear. Let's do it.

[Musical Interlude]

There is a single broadcast every second of every day through our television sets. Even when the set is turned off, look around the environment we live in. Carbons and methane have increased since 1958 earth is being aclimatized, they are turning our atmosphere into their atmosphere. We are a natural resource to them. Deplete the planet and move on to another. They want benign indifference, they want us dumb. We could be pets, we could be food, but all we really are is livestock. Our impulses are being redirected. We are living in an artificially induced state of consciousness that resembles sleep. The poor and the underclass are growing racial justice and human rights are non-existent. They have created...

Alan Howarth:  Thank you all. Thank you so much. Now we've got a great lineup. Our host will tell you what's next.

Michael Kolence:  I didn't get to see the sound check, so this was kind of cool just to sit here and watch all that unfold. I'm sure all of you agree that his music, just hearing it, you know, it's him, you know what movie it's from. We got a whole bunch of people here to come out and talk to you guys, the first one, be Holly Amber Church, who scored a movie known as Open 24 Hours, and she's got a couple others. Where's she at? Ha-ha. I didn't know which way you were coming.

Alan Howarth:  We have to keep you surprised.

Michael Kolence:  What's that?

Alan Howarth:  A good scare is a surprise.

Michael Kolence:  Right?

Holly Amber Church:Where am. I going?

Michael Kolence:  Oh, you're going to be sitting right next to me. We got Alan, we got Holly. Next. We got John Massari, who scored the music for Killer Klowns from Outer Space. I'm kind of making this up as I go. I don't know who's back there. We have Richard Band from Beyond and Re-animator, as well as a whole bunch of other crazy titles. The man responsible for terrifying us at summer camps. Oh, the music at least. Harry Manfredini. Now, I'm sure you all agree, horror movies, the visuals, you have the ones that terrified you, but it's the music that really gets under your skin. Last we have the man behind the sounds of Hellraiser, Christopher Young. Both Christopher Young and Alan have decided to dress up, well you too, John.

John Massari:As prescribed by tradition.

Michael Kolence:  So Midsummer Scream is a convention, or a gathering, it's a family of people who love horror movies as well as haunts. I figured, what better way to start this off than to ask you guys a question about Halloween, not the movie, but the tradition, the holiday, the festival, whatever you want to call it. So, I'm curious, for each of you, do you have a favorite, or what's your earliest Halloween memory? Whether it could be like a costume, or maybe something you did with your parents, or no matter what age it was. What about you Holly?

Holly Amber Church:Well, I am a child of the eighties, so Ghostbusters was kind of a big thing. But in the eighties you couldn't get cool costumes like that, like you can now, so my poor mom had to make whatever weird costumes we wanted every year. Of all the things to be in Ghostbusters, I wanted to be the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. So, I just remember this Halloween vividly because my mom made me this Stay Puft Marshmallow Man costume, and I was stuffed with pillows. We were living kind of out in the country at that point, and you didn't walk to trick or treat, you got in and out of the car and drove around to trick or treat. All my friends and my brother and my sister were in and out before I could even get out of the car, because of the big pillows or whatever. Yeah. But, it was an awesome costume, and thank you mom.

Michael Kolence:I feel like I should have had this cute up and had them each submit like a picture from their childhood.

Holly Amber Church:No.

Alan Howarth:We can do that post.

Michael Kolence:What's that Alan?

Alan Howarth:We'll do it on the video.

Michael Kolence:There you go. There you go. What about you, John?

John Massari:Well, this is a question I did not anticipate.

Michael Kolence:You're Welcome.

John Massari:And I think there's a few people here that would know, if I say a term, "the missiles of October." Does anyone know what that means? Okay. That was one of my most memorable Halloweens. I was probably five or six, and if you don't know what the missiles of October was, it was the Cuban missile crisis. Probably about a half a mile from where we lived was a Nike missile base that we did not know was a Nike missile base. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, this big empty field had all these missiles pointed to the sky and I thought, "oh wow, that's the moon project. They're all going to go to the moon." So, I was living in a different world than the adults who were stocking up on food, canned beans, toilet paper, and what have you. So, that Halloween the kids made lots of friends. I made a lot of new friends that particular year, and I didn't really understand it until I actually heard then president Kennedy's speech where he actually said, this is an act of war and the world was coming to the end. It didn't matter to me because I made a bunch of new friends at Halloween.

Alan Howarth:I think it's good to put a timeline on this stuff. It was good to give an orientation. So, in my oh four to six to seven year old experience, I lived in New Jersey and the years were 1954 to 1957. So, America was at its best, those that know about a '57 Chevy, just the finest, the '57 Stratus, just the finest. My wife was born in 1957. So, my takeaway though is of course we did trick or treat and all that stuff. But there was another thing that we got into, which was making haunted houses in the basement, Halloween wasn't enough So, we used to put the sheets up and take our friends and walk them through, put hands in cold spaghetti, and try to scare them and do whatever. So, that that's really my Halloween takeaway. So, I never gave up on Halloween. I was always there from the beginning. There you go.

Richard Band:Well, I was born a poor black child without a Halloween. No, in reality, I never experienced Halloween cause I didn't grow up in this country. Left when I was about four years old and went and lived in Europe or Sweden, and then France and then Italy. So, my experiences with Halloween didn't really exist until I was back in this country about when I was about 17, 18 years old. I thought it was fun. I was definitely into horror and fantasy comic books, you know, the Marvel stuff like Dr. Strange and all those sorts of things. But Halloween really started meaning something to me when my daughter was born, and that's what I really enjoyed, seeing her grow up, participating, and taking her around. So, my Halloween memories are very pleasant with taking my daughter trick or treating.

Christopher Young:You're really weird Richard.

Richard Band:Yes.

Harry Manfredini:I'm trying. I think my best Halloween stories. I've got a couple, some good, some bad ones. I grew up in Chicago and I'm older than most of these people here. Halloween scared the crap out of me. I was always really just afraid. I think that's why horror movies scare me, and that's why I do them the way I do, because they scare me and Halloween still scares me. So, in Chicago, I mean there were, there still are, but I mean, there were guns going off and bombs, and kids were out in the streets going like, "this is like the scariest day of the year." It wasn't, you know, like bad candy. It was just, "holy smoke. The world's coming to an end." So that's the bad one.

Harry Manfredini:The good one was on Halloween I went to the movies, at that time I had just finished Friday the 13th. it was playing in New Jersey, "Oh, we're going to go see it." There was this line around the theater, all waiting to go in, and I'm going like, "this is really cool. This is what Halloween's about." Evidently something really good happened on Halloween. I think the other good thing about it is that a lot of these conventions happen on Halloween, and we get to hang with you guys and that's probably the best part of any Halloween.

Christopher Young:Well, I would have to say that before I sort of tuned into Halloween, it so happened that I too was from New Jersey, and at the end of my street was a Quaker, and well until my parents passed on and the house was sold, there was a Quaker graveyard at the end of the street. I would have to walk down the street to catch the school bus, and so I remember even as a very young kid wanting to veer off the road to hang out in the graveyard, you know? I had memories later on of when I started singing with my buddies, my male buddies, we would go into the graveyard late at night and these old stone crypts, you could open the doors actually, and go inside and sing. The acoustics were amazing. So, you know, this attachment to at least the acoustics of cemeteries sort of lit the fuse.

Christopher Young:Now, I would have to say, probably of every symbol connected with Halloween, the one that I'm most attached to is the Jack-o-Lantern. Now, when I was a kid, back in those days, before you could buy plugin pumpkins, pre made in China, I guess, these pumpkins you can plug in, you'd have to carve them. What always amazed me as a kid was that every house, nearly every house in my town, had a at least one carved pumpkin, and no two were the same. There was that wonderful scent of the candle burning the lid of the interior of the pumpkin, and by God, I would spend many periods of time, much to my parents dismay, sort of staring into the eyes of the lit pumpkins. I kind of felt like, in a strange way, this was a conduit between the visible and the invisible world. Now, did I know that when I was a kid? No, but yet there was something really wonderfully mysterious about the Jack-o-Lantern with the burning candle inside and all that it meant, and that there were no two that were exactly the same from house, to house, to house. All over the country millions of pumpkins were lit on Halloween night, and no two were the same. There was this ability for me to be able to stare into them, and it was like I say, a window for my head to go flying out into that dark outer region.

Panelists:He's really weird. He is really strange. Very awesome.

Christopher Young: That must be where I found the notes, whatever. But, with Harry again, the wonderful thing about this convention, this whole idea of being in Los Angeles. Before I moved out, for sure, we probably, we all would account to this, we were considered kind of freaks in our hometowns. You know, I loved Halloween, I couldn't understand why, my parents were terrified that I loved Halloween. That that was their horror, you know? When I moved out here, the first thing I noticed was that, actually for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, this organization, we're not alone. We're not alone! This is a great thing to be here together tonight, to be able to celebrate the fact that there's this thing that's been inside, we don't know where it came from, but it's there, and guess what? It's never going to leave us.

John Massari:We are among our people.

Christopher Young:So, thank you. Thank you for being here tonight.

Michael Kolence:Now with the Grimm Life Collective, we travel all over the country and I do these one-question interview. So, this is like our one question interview on crack, I guess you can say that. I wanted to ask that, because it kind of sets the tone. I mean the Midsummer Scream, but from that point, your earliest Halloween memory to this, you've had years of experiences, or years of stories, we were to talk about some of them earlier today. I'm going to open this up to anybody on here. If anybody wants to share, looking back, do you have something that you cannot believe you were a part of? Like you go, "man, I can't believe I was in that room talking to that one person." Or, do you have a memory now about anything? Not just Halloween, but your work. Anybody have any comments on that? Pin drop. Pin drop.

Holly Amber Church:Good question, Michael.

Harry Manfredini:Well, I'll start. You said, do I something that made me go on? Is that what I'm understanding? Well, I was in New York going to Columbia university thinking I was going to teach at some university somewhere and a friend named Bill Ramel, he was a record producer and a writer, he took me under his wing and I did all kinds of things for him. One day we were sitting in his car and he said to me, "well, what is it you want to do?" I said, "well, I'd really like to score films." He looked at me like, what are you going to write that Henry Mancini or Jerry Goldsmith, or the entire litany of composers? What are you going to write that they can't write? And I said, "I don't know. You asked me what I wanted to do if I had my druthers," whatever druthers are, "that's what I want to do." He said, "okay, if that's what you want to do, here's five things you got to do tomorrow." And I'll be damned if I didn't do those five things, and everything changed from that point on. It was 4, 5 pictures later I did Friday the 13th. So, someone who is super mentor to you will really, you know, show you the way. I didn't even know what I was going to write, but I knew that's what I wanted to do so

Richard Band:Well, sort of epiphany moments like Harry was talking about, I grew up in Italy and my father was making, this is during the sixties when Italy, when Rome, was considered kind of the Hollywood of Europe. During that period of time they were making a lot of the spaghetti westerns and the Hercules movies, and I used to go on the sets of my father's movies, meet the actors, and see what was going on. So, I grew up in that business. On one of the films I went in post-production to the scoring session, I had never been to a scoring session, and they were doing the music for my father's film. I just fell in love, I guess I was about 12, or maybe 13 at that point. It was just an incredible moment, because I had never heard a whole orchestra at a scoring session. Now, I didn't really appreciate it until later on when I found out, quite a few years later, that the composer was Ennio Morricone. It just left an impression of something that was sort of an epiphany moment, like Harry was talking about. But I even at that point, I was very young, I didn't know I wanted to do film scoring. I was a rock and roller, I was touring around Europe at the time, but low and behold, that's one of those memories that kept coming back and coming back over the years. It was definitely one of the big influences of what I believe finally led me to film scoring.

John Massari:Well, for me would be meeting the author, Ray Bradbury. During my time at UCLA, we would have mini film festivals, we'd rent out a projector from the AV department and watch films, and out of nowhere, Ray Bradberry would just show up and read poetry, tell stories, give a motivational speech, and he'd watch the movie with us and have popcorn with us. I would talk to him for a few minutes, because I had read some of his short stories from the October country, and I didn't really think much of it. Later I realized that he had written two of his books in the legal typing room and he felt he owed UCLA something. So, if he got wind, I don't know how he did this, this was before social media, that the kids were going to show Planet of the Apes and some other crazy monster movie, and he would show up.

John Massari:Years later, I would say three years later, there's a producer that said, "do you want to work on a ghost movie? It's for this thing for cable television, there's a new cable TV channel called HBO." I go, "what the hell does that mean?" He says, "home box office. This is going to be their very first television series and you get to do it. It's about very interesting ghost stories." So, they told me the basic idea of what was going to happen, I did some music, they liked it, and they said, "the, the author and creator really appreciates the music that you created. It checked off all the boxes." I go, "great. Who is it?" He goes, "well, you're going to meet him next week." So, there I was sitting across the table from Ray Bradbury, giving me more direction on other music that we were going to do for his first TV series, based on his short stories of his books, called the Ray Bradbury Theater. So, that was one of my big moments. Nice.

Michael Kolence:Holly, so the world of horror, for the most part, it always had this feeling, like it was mainly men who were making the horror movies, they were making, the special effects, they were writing the music, and you have come on the scene. My wife and I, we saw Open 24 hours a long time ago, not a long time ago, when it first came out. We fell in love with it, and you've been making your mark in horror history. Can you tell us a little bit about, I guess you would say, some of the things you're most proud about?

Holly Amber Church:Yeah, I think definitely that movie, but I think too, I feel like I'm trying, in a way, to break some glass ceilings here, you know? These are all amazing men, and I love all of them, and they're very inspiring, but if I can inspire some young women, and be like, "Hey, she looks like me and I could write some people's heads getting bashed in. I could write music for that." Women can do that too. To me that's cool. One thing I'll say about the horror community, just, they're so loving. When I got my first horror movie with director of Patrick Reynolds, who I've done several movies with him, I remember I had a meeting with him, and I was a little nervous because it was my first horror. I thought that, I'm like, "will he not want me to do it because I'm a woman?" And also, this is dumb, but my last name's Church, I was like, "is he going to think my name's too nice? That I can't do a horror movie?" But we just met and we got along. He's like, "I love your music. I want you to do my movie." So, I always credit him, thank you, for giving me my start. But I feel like the community has embrace me a lot, everyone's amazing, men and women and everyone. But, yeah, if I can kind of be, you know, a shero, I guess, for other women in the horror community. Great. There's lots of women composers doing great things now in other genres, there's women directing horror, they're kicking ass. So yeah, let's all just keep creating. It's awesome.

Michael Kolence:Now, some of us were talking backstage in the green room about, I don't really know how to bring this up, about cop instances or ways that… do you want to talk a little bit more about this?

Holly Amber Church:So, we just had a fun little conversation in the green room, Richard Band and I discovered we had almost like...

Richard Band:Almost identical.

Holly Amber Church:Exactly. Yes. Almost identical experiences of the cops coming to our house as we were working on horror movies. I was telling him my story and he said, "mine's almost exactly the same." Where I was working on a horror movie, a particular scene with a lot of screaming on it. A few hours later I get a bang bang bang on my door, and I peek out and it's two cops, and I was a little nervous. Like, "are they real cops? Are they not? Are they, are they going to murder me if I let them in?" But I was like, "I guess I better let them in, in case they're real." So, I opened the door and they, they were like, "ma'am who else is in there with you?" I was just home alone, you know, working and I was like, "just me." They said, "no, who else is in there?" And I said, "no one." They said, "well, we got reports of screaming coming from here. We're going to have to come in." I was like, "okay, come on in." They put their hands on their gun holsters and they come in the house and they look around, and they saw no one was there, but they were still very serious. They're like, "ma'am, what's going on around here. We got a report of screaming and someone yelling this," and they said the exact line, verbatim, from the scene I'd been working on in my horror movie.

Holly Amber Church:Then I got embarrassed. I was like, "oh, I think I know what's going on here." So, I explained to them, I'm like, "I'm a composer. I mostly work on horror movies. I'm working on a horror movie today. That's a line from the scene I was working on." They still, stone faced, "ma'am, we're going to have to see this movie." I was like, "okay, I'm probably breaking an NDA or something, but come on back." So, I took them into my studio and I played them that scene and they heard that exact line and then they lost it. They were laughing so hard. They're like, "yeah, yeah, that's what happened." And then they're like, " oh, what are your favorite horror movies?" And we had a great conversation, and they were like, "you have a good day now." And they left. So, Richard had a pretty similar experience actually.

Richard Band:That's true. Practically identical. The only real difference is location. I hear the sirens and I look down from my balcony where my studio was upstairs, and there are these two cops down there and they had their guns drawn point pointing at me. So, that was a little off putting. But, from that point on, they came up the stairs and the story's identical up to the point where they started laughing, you know, and I showed them the scene, the same exact thing. Then the guy says, "well, what's your name?" I told him my name, he said, "oh, did you score Re-animator?" I go, yeah. He says, "oh, I love that movie." So, then he starts, they're both laughing, the same sort of scenario, they became big fans, and they left. So, there you, you go.

Michael Kolence:Alan, one of my all-time favorite movies is Escape from New York, and I love everything that you've scored, that your music touches, but Escape from New York, for some reason, every time I hear it, I just get down. How do you find your inspiration for making your sound? Because I was talking to you earlier, you said that you're a sonic composer and I had to ask you what that was, because everybody knows a composer, they write music, but what is a sonic composer? And how do you create these crazy synth sounds? Like, where does that come from?

Alan Howarth:Okay, well, the start. I branded myself as a sonic composer because I do sound design as well as music. I've crossed both sides. I've done the whole sound design for Army of Darkness, or The Little Mermaid, or Back to the Future, and star Trek, you know? So, there's a whole other side of me that, I'm still a composer when I do sound effects. That's the whole point. It's all music to me. Birds are music to me. Whales are music to me. The whole life is that. So, hence sonic composer, that's why I said that. I make everything from sound.

Alan Howarth:All right. Now, back to the Escape from New York. I'll give you a short, short story. I never planned to be a horror movie composer, I was just being me, and I was on this journey. Through the oddest of circumstances, a big burly biker friend of mine, he packs lemon from Cleveland. I'm from Cleveland. He was now in Los Angeles, I was here with this band Weather Report. He hears a conversation about, "Hey, we need somebody who knows about synthesizers," from these two sound effects editors, Richard Anderson, and Steven Flick. Both guys went on to win Academy Awards and all sort stuff, but we're all kids. This is said 1979. And he says, "oh, you got to talk about buddy Alan, man. He works for Weather Report." They go, "the one at seven or one at 11?" They get my number, I go down, I meet them. "What are you doing?" "We're doing Star Trek, the motion picture." My very first movie. I'm from rock and roll, and jazz, and the world of music. But, I have all these skills from the recording studio and making music that they want to ask me to do something different with it. I was like, "well, yeah, I can do that. What do you want?" So, I made an audition tape that was the sound of the Starship Enterprise, and it became the Starship Enterprise. I won the gig. I hit a home run right outta the first tape. Boop, and I did six Star Treks.

Alan Howarth:The picture editor from Star Trek, the motion picture was Todd Ramsey. His next assignment was Escape from New York. I had been given Todd my tapes and stuff like that, you know, promoting myself, and so Todd calls me and says, "you know, you should meet John Carpenter, I bet you guys would get along just great. I mean, you’re the same age, he's from Kentucky. You're from Ohio. I mean, why don't you meet him?" So John comes over to my dining room studio. I had my sets up, I had my analog stuff. I'm a gearhead. I love gear. It's a drag that it's all in a laptop now, to be honest with you, but it's a lot easier. So, to continue. John comes over and we hang out and we drink coffee and a couple things and talk, and at the end of conversation, he goes, "yeah, let's do it." That's it, I'm scoring Escape from New York with John Carpenter. Am I a blessed or what? So here's John's thing, he's John Carpenter. I mean, not only does he write the movie, he directed the movie, he edited the movie, he knows everything. So, he's going to sit down and play the black and white keys, but I'm supposed to set all this stuff up and keep it running for him. Sometimes I tell him technicals and he goes, "don't even tell me, that's your job. I don't want to know about that stuff." You know, he's just detached from the gear, obviously, as an artist, paints with synthesizer. So, that was my thing.

Alan Howarth:So, I've always been a sound designer, shaper. I integrate sound effects in the music. I mean, if you think of the 1812 Overture and they had cannons going off. I mean, it's not that odd to integrate across. So, the last tag goes into the last thing about the moment of why you were Halloween, or scare. I mean, always the person in every way. So, we're finishing Escape from New York, and we're mixing. John looks at me and goes, "Hey, man, you know, my next movie is The Thing, I'm going to be busy, and they want to make another Halloween. So, you're going to do it." Just like a handoff, like I'm too busy, you go do Halloween. Well, here we are. So, who knows where it comes from and how it gets there, but just keep your antenna up, because it's coming

Christopher Young:Also, on the topic of sound design and all of this, I'm sure a lot of you have noticed that over the years, music scoring has morphed. A lot of that has to do with incorporating sound within music, whereas it used to be you had music and you had sound. A lot of scoring these days are incorporating both, so they're becoming they're morphing as scoring evolves, especially in scoring for games and all that. Most people, they don't hire composers anymore, they hire people who will do the scoring as well as sound and all the design. So, it's changing. Some would say for the better, for the worse, but whatever it is, it is changing.

Michael Kolence:Now this might sound like a blanket kind of question, but whenever we're making our videos, we have this weird phenomenon happen, and happens all the time where if we're creating something and we think it's going to be awesome and people are going to love it, usually they don't. And if we think it's going to be horrible and it's going to bomb, that's what people relate to, and then it takes off. This is open to anybody, this is like a blanket thing, when you were scoring Hellraiser, Re-animator, Friday the 13th, creating these sounds, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, did you know at the time, or have a feeling, that this is catchy as hell and that this is going happen, that this is going to take off?

John Massari:Well, I can say for me, I have a little presentation I'm going to do, that addresses that question. But I think Chris has got a good story.

Christopher Young:Do I have a good story? I have a story.

John Massari:I can tell it for you.

Christopher Young:But no, absolutely not, at the time that I worked on Hellraiser, little did I know that this was going to paint my life, that this was going to have such a tremendous altering effect on everything that I touched from that moment on, every note that passed through my head, somehow, I was going to have to be thinking about what happened during those Hellraiser days. Now, it was a blessing, truly a blessing. I have memories of Clive, specifically, telling me, "you know what Chris? I just saw and I'm aware of the score you did for Nightmare Elm Street two." I did the second one. He said, "that's precisely what I don't want for this movie." Meaning that in the case of Nightmare Two, we're not caring so much about the characters, it's a slasher movie, I guess in essence. And he said, "my story is, and my movie, is a love story. Really at heart it's a sick love story, about a woman who allows herself to be talked into doing whatever is necessary to bring this abusive guy back to life, the brother of her husband. He said, "if we can't communicate that in this movie, through the help of your music, we're in trouble. Deep trouble. I don't want it impersonal. I want to tell the story of this woman who will do anything, absolutely anything, for love in the worst of ways."

Christopher Young:So, that sort of planet of seed in my head, and of course, as Hellraiser is, as are so many other great horror movies that involve deformed people or monsters or whatnot, stories as well, novels, whatever, they're tragedies, truly tragedies. So, this emotional element I had to tune into, and I didn't know I was doing it at the time, of course, but somehow it was just the right movie at the right time and my head was in the right place. I think Clive was probably biting his lip going, "is this really going to work with this guy? I don't know anything about him." I was recommended to him by the head of post-production, Tony Randall, who then went on New World Pictures, who then went on to score Hellbound and he created a great career for himself. But, this was a love story.

Christopher Young:Now, I can tell you this moment that convinced me, in my own kind of small way, that maybe I hadn't made a mistake being a film composer. This was back in the days when there was not enough money to project the picture on the screen when we recorded the orchestra. The orchestra played to a click and with no picture, and it wasn't until after the music was recorded that was transferred to mag and then the mag was cut against the picture, and we all sat around the flatbed in this tiny little room at New World Pictures and viewed how the music was actually playing the picture. Clive was there, and Tony was there, and the picture editor was them and me in a tiny little room. My favorite cue in that movie score actually is the scene in which Julia has these flashbacks and she remembers when she first met Frank, and then they make love, and it's cutting between them and her husband walking up the stairs holding with these assistants, movers, the mattress, and then it climaxes with them making love, and then him cutting his hand on a nail. I'd written this cue, and I was hoping Clive would like it.

Christopher Young:I just remember, we played that scene with the cue, and after it was completed, there was dead silence in the room. I couldn't figure out whether this was a good thing or a bad thing, and I remember we all stood up. There was something that caused us all to stand up, every one of us, and we started hugging each other. It was a great moment, and I think I started crying because I was surprised. I went, "wow, I actually did something magical here maybe. You know, this music is changing the outcome of the scene." And Clive was thrilled, so that was one of those great bonding moments where I went, "you know, maybe I am supposed to be a film composer after all."

Richard Band:But in answer, I think to your original question, we don't know at the time. We do our best, we use our judgment and we take gambles.

John Massari:Put our heart into it.

Richard Band: We put our heart into it, our minds into it, try to figure it out from all the different angles. I know some composed, like Danny Elfman, he'll write three cues for every scene. It's amazing he has the time to do that, I don't, but he'll write two or three cues for every scene because he doesn't know which way the director wants to go. So, he wants to have options. But we never know. We just use our best creative judgment.

Michael Kolence:Now, John, you were saying that when it comes to Killer Klowns matter space, that that's part of your presentation, right? So, tell us a little bit more about this.

John Massari:Well, you want me to just, you want me to just play it for you? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I have a whole little thing prepared for you. It's kind of like my midterm science project. Having a little setup time here.

Michael Kolence:There's that quietness again? Is that a pin drop?

Holly Amber Church:Have they seen the back of John's jacket? Do we need him to turn around?

Michael Kolence:Everything about this man is Killer Klowns. He's not clowning around.

John Massari:No. Okay. Let's see here, I've got to warm up. [Plays Piano]

Alan Howarth:Are you going to sing?

John Massari:Well, that's how it started, but that's not how it ended up. So, I want to thank everyone for being here. I can't tell you that your love for what we do is why we're even here, is why we get up in the morning and create. So, I think all of you people deserve a big ground of applause. So, let me take you back in time. Okay? This area is very significant for me. I grew up in this area, not too far from here in San Pedro. I worked at the Union 76 Oil refinery every summer to pay for my education at UCLA. When I was a kid my parents, or my aunt uncle, used to take me around the corner here to the Pike, which was one of the most terrifying experiences in my life. It was the discount Disneyland. Basically, Walt Disney took his Imagineers to the Pike and said, "please don't do anything like this for my amusement park." So, I'm going to play you a little bit. There's the Pike, there's the crazy maze, there's the laugh in the park. God. That's what a four year old kid... That was considered, "wow, let's go in there." And I'm going, it's like, I'm in a Jordan Peel movie, like Get Out. We're outside, I have this like dumb smile, but inside I'm curled up in the corner begging for the event to be over.

John Massari:So, a few years later you're going to see a 17-year-old John. That's my band crisis, and that's me on the left and in the middle is Doug and Doug, and then there's Joe. What's also significant about the area, as a band, we used to go to concerts a lot, live concerts. We used to go as a band, or we'd go individually, either here at the Long Beach Arena or at the forum, and we'd see such bands as Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Yes, The Who, Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath.

Christopher Young:Lightweights, right? Just all these lightweights.

John Massari:All these lightweights. Let me see here, that was the Long Beach Arena. There was one band I saw called Blue Oyster Cult, and it was festival seating, and I would sit right there, I was right up on stage, walking back and forth. Then I realized, there's something special about these musicians, it's like, there's no distinguishing between their instrument and the individual. They were, it was like as one. Their music was very interesting to me in that it was very classical in its form, and it resonated with me so much. I said, "there's something in here for me." As a 17 year old, I was looking for something to express myself musically. So, our band decided we were going to embark on some original music. So, I went home and I started playing with this [Plays Piano Scale] I came up with this [Plays Piano Chords] there's an evil creature here. I'll play it up here, maybe they'll activate something else. [Plays Same Chords In Higher Octave] I figured, well, who am I kidding? It wasn't that complicated. It was a little simpler than that. It was more like this. [Plays Chords] I figured replay that with like heavy metal guitars it's going to sound awesome. I'm a big fan of Launa coil and I listen to the music and I'm going, "ah, they got it." But anyways, I brought it to the band and they said, "play that second chord." They go, what's that? I go, "well, it's like a D flat major seven with a raised 11th." They go, "uh huh. That's like a jazz chord. We don't play jazz. We don't play jazz." So, I went back to the drawing board, and I messed around again and I figured,[Plays Variations of Chords] I thought, man, they're going to dig that. That's going to rock, and they said, "play that second chord again. What the hell's that?" "It's a D flat major seven chord." "That's like still a jazz chord. Yeah, we don't like play jazz." So, needless to say, we created no original music.

John Massari:So, years later I saw this, I worked on a movie, and I fell in love. So, this was from the creative minds of the Chiodo brothers. So, I sat down to work at this marvelously, creative, bizarre as hell movie, by the way, people stopped rolling their eyes in their head when I said, I worked on Killer Klowns from Outer Space around the year, 2014. If I said, "what do you know I've done this? And the other thing, and one of my favorite little films is Killer Klowns from Outer Space." And I would get this, "uh..." That doesn't happen anymore thanks to you guys. Thanks to you guys, bringing it back to life, watching it every time it's on, sending me letters, talking about it, doing artwork. So, here I was diligently working on it. And I said, when I saw that famous scene, as we all know, after the big chase and the Klowns are marching in that weird disjunctive way onto the village, I said, "wait a minute. I can pull out that thing." And I started playing it to the video at the time. [Plays Chords]"God, that sounds awful. That's not working. No, I know it's there. I know it's there. I can feel it in my bones." [Plays Around With Chords On Piano]. I come out, kind of like Michelangelo when he has a big of piece of marble, he knows the sculpture is inside. So, then I said, "maybe if I break it up." [Plays Klown March].

John Massari:So, that was my light bulb moment, and I saw, it was like, what you said. I said, "that works. That works." Ray Charles when he had a groove down and he goes, "that's it. That's it. That's it." I just knew, if they told me to change it. I think I would've said, "nah, not changing it. Oh my God. They're here." [Plays Klown March] The Killer Klowns from Outer Space kids, everyone. So, I told the Chiodo brothers, I said, "you know, I want to take this theme and I want to do it like heavy metal distorted guitars." Charlie said, "that would work perfect. However, it's got to be a guitar that a Killer Klown would play." I go, "okay, okay. I'll work on that." So, what you're going to hear, I'm going to play you an audio file that's going to have the original Killer Klown March, as it appears in the film, and right after that is going to be a manifestation of my 17-year-old psyche of what I really wanted to hear. Here it goes. By the way, thank you for having this all set up. Thank you, Alan. Anyway, so here we go. And if you want to play air guitar, stand up and just do it.

[Killer Klown March from Soundtrack]

John Massari:

Now, my 17 year old version.

[Musical Interlude]

John Massari:Now let me give credit. The performers on that second track were members of the Dickies. We had Ed, Adam on drums, Ben, and my good friends, Jonathan Padilla, and Ben Serper playing that. So, those were all live musicians and it's like, "finally, I got to band to play it!" Now, we're looking at the near future. How cool would it be to have an all-day event where the composers of the Apocalypse, where instead of us talking, I mean, we could talk about our music, but we can perform it in in all day event. I mean, we have the jazz festival at the Hollywood Bowl. How many people would be, how awesome would it be to have all your favorite all day performed all your favorite horror music from your favorite horror movies? Don't you think it's about time?

John Massari:So, I'm going to give you a rare treat. The branding department from MGM was very, very kind to allow me to play this next piece of film I'm going to show you, for that I'm very grateful to them. So this is a live performance in Hollywood. It's myself, performing with the Dickies and the Hollywood chamber orchestra, and we're performing with a thousand, very, very happy Killer Klowns from Outer Space fans. The cast and crew were there, the filmmakers were there, and they described it as quite surreal. So, if we can dim the lights and play something, this was filmed and edited by our friend, Matthew, who's out here in the audience. I really hope you enjoy this. So, if you can dim the lights and I think we have it here.

[Movie Clip]

John Massari:My friends were there. Richard was there. Chris was there.

Christopher Young:That was a great show.

John Massari:Yeah, my friend Chris was there, because he said "by gonnit, if I'm going to see this thing, whether it crashes or whether it takes off, I'm going to be there for you, John." He was there. You were there. You weren't there, you should have been there. And a few people in the audience I think have been in there. I don't know who. Was anyone here that's been in? Well, stand up for crying out loud. So, did you guys enjoy it? Wouldn't it be great if we all like did something like that, but like all day? That's awesome. That concludes my presentation. Thank you.

Michael Kolence:Well, thank you John. Sadly we weren't there. It happened right before we moved to Hollywood. So, it was really nice to see that. With that, I want to thank you guys for, for coming up here on stage, talking some music, playing some music, and entertaining these fine folks To Midsummer Scream and everybody who's involved with it, thanks for having us out and putting this on., Happy Halloween.

John Massari:Happy Halloween.

Rick WestProfile Photo

Rick West

Co-founder and Creative Director of Midsummer Scream

With more than 20 years writing experience in the themed entertainment industry, Rick West is no stranger to telling a great story. After founding Theme Park Adventure in 1994, Rick went on to become a staunch supporter of California’s haunted attraction community, forming deep relationships with pro and home haunters alike, blazing many trails in the form of media coverage for Knott’s Scary Farm, as well as many other independent Halloween productions around the state. In 2014, Rick was named one of the nation’s top 10 theme park industry bloggers by USA Today.

Rick is a Creative Director/Show Writer in the themed entertainment industry, lending his skills and robust working knowledge of theme parks and attractions. Rick West is currently a Show Writer at Rethink Leisure & Entertainment in Burbank, California and has also worked for other themed entertainment companies including Thinkwell, BRC Imagination Arts, The Producers Group, Wyatt Design Group, Apogee Attractions, and The Hettema Group.

Christopher YoungProfile Photo

Christopher Young


Christopher Young is Golden Globe and two-time Emmy-nominated composer who has scored an impressive number of films in virtually every genre. His credits include Hellraiser, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, Pet Sematary, 50 States of Fright, and the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro series on Netflix, Cabinet of Curiosities.

Richard BandProfile Photo

Richard Band


While Emmy-nominated composer Richard Band to many is primarily known as a composer for horror, fantasy and genre films, unbeknownst to most he has often stepped well outside those genres and diversified his body of work, demonstrating his ability to tackle any genre and style presented to him. During his long and impressive career Richard has had his works performed by numerous international orchestras and continues to work in film, TV, and interactive media.

Alan HowarthProfile Photo

Alan Howarth


A varied and accomplished composer, Alan Howarth is known for quite a few film soundtracks in the horror and haunted attraction industries: Halloween 2-6, Prince of Darkness, Christine, Escape From New York, They Live, Zombie Night, and Headless Horseman to name a few.

For a full list of Alan's musical career visit:

Holly Amber ChurchProfile Photo

Holly Amber Church


Holly Amber Church is lovingly nicknamed the Scream Queen of Scoring. Her work includes Open 24 Hours, Bad Impulse, Wraith, Ruin Me, and Dark Light which is now streaming on Netflix.

Harry ManfrediniProfile Photo

Harry Manfredini


Harry Manfredini has scored over 200 films. Notable for scoring the Friday the 13th films, his credits also include Swamp Thing, Wishmaster, House and Deep Star Six.

John MassariProfile Photo

John Massari


A skilled Film and TV composer, some credits that hit notes in the haunted attraction and horror industry are for Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Ray Bradbury Theater, The Wizard of Speed of Time