Making All The Right Noises
♦ This week on the guardian website, they just spoke to horror movie legend John Carpenter about writing film scores, why he doesn’t watch his own films and more…
You recently said “… there aren’t a lot of things that scare John Carpenter, but [playing music live] is one of them”. Does the thought of your upcoming tour scare you?
It’s not that frightening now. I overcame my stage fright. That started in the 60s when I was doing a play in high school. I got up onstage and I forgot my lines in front of the entire school. That’s what my original scar was, but I’m doing much better now.
Are you going to play any music from your 80s synth-pop group the Coupe De Villes?
[Laughs] Well, no, I don’t think so. We’re promoting my Anthology album, which is music from my career from the 70s to now. We’ll be playing that mostly and a couple of tunes from the Lost Themes albums.
Is it true you had a John Wayne bumper sticker on your car in the 70s?
I did. I had it to irritate my friends. I really loved John Wayne as an actor; his politics were not mine, but as an actor I grew up with him. He was our symbol of masculinity. I love irritating my friends. It’s a bad thing to do.
Well, what I do in a movie is carpet the scene so that you watch them and my music supports the sequences – so it’s like a carpet in that sense. I come in and I’m like a guy who carpets your house. I put down carpet on the floor, and you walk across it and it’s very comfortable.
Is it true you never watch your old films?
Oh God, no. Don’t ever make me do that.
But your films are widely viewed as all-time classics, John.
I don’t want to see them again. I see the mistakes. That’s all I can see. It’d be torture. Are you kidding? I don’t want anything to do with them after I’m done.
The horror mogul Jason Blum recently gave us his rules for the genre, which were essentially a John Carpenter template. Why do you think your approach is still the go-to for new horror directors?
I have no clue. My attempts at self-evaluation are doomed to fail because I’m terrible at it. All I do is go off instinct. I don’t have the rules that Jason Blum has. He’s much smarter than I am. I’m just a poor director trying to get by in this terrible world.
No. I don’t miss working. Working is hard because you have to get up in the morning. I just did a music video for the single from our new album Christine. I had to work all night and, my God, I forgot how rough that is. Stay up all night? Wow.
Robert Rodriguez is set to remake Escape From New York and there’s another Halloween project coming in 2018. How do you feel about people remaking your films?
I love it, if they are going to pay me money. If they pay me, it’s wonderful. If they don’t pay me, I don’t care. I think it’s unfair if they don’t pay me. I think everyone should pay me. Why not? I’m an old guy now and I need money. Send me money.
You’ve spoken about how contemporary film-makers give up creative control and the final cut too easily. Would you like to be starting out now?
It was such a different time back then and the kind of movies were different. I started when you could actually make an exploitation film, a low-budget exploitation movie and get it into theaters. Nowadays it’s so ridiculously expensive. Could I succeed if I started today? Probably not. I’d be rejected.
You grew up a huge fan of comic books. Do you think the modern adaptations do them justice?
The older I get, the less interested I am, because they’re movies about things that can’t happen. I just don’t care.]
You’ve said that “Horror’s always been the same. It’s flexible. It changes with societal changes.” What do you think today’s horror films say about contemporary America?
There are a lot of different things. Horror films have modernised along with our culture – Get Out, for example. Some genres can die, but I don’t think horror ever will.
What did you think when you first heard neo-Nazis were trying to claim They Live was about Jewish media control?
It happened on my Twitter feed where these idiots came along. I just thought: “You’re kidding me?” I thought about it and I can see why they think that. It isn’t the intention. That whole thing is just the biggest lie. It’s really terrible that that’s happened. What a world we live in.
You recently paid your respects to Harry Dean Stanton. What made him so special?
He was an accomplished character actor and a unique man. He would come absolutely prepared for his part and ad-lib things that weren’t in the script, but which were hilarious. He did that especially on Escape From New York, he made that character his own. He saw that character as a sort of poet, like Lord Byron. I hadn’t thought of it, but it was great.