Interview: Composer Richard Band on the Music of RE-ANIMATOR

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Veteran composer Richard Band discusses his score for Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR.

From the second we fade in on the Miskatonic University, as an intense, marching troupe of medicos and suits storm their way into a locked laboratory to surprise wild-eyed student Herbert West as he administers a green-goo to a screaming, bleeding Dr. Hans Gruber, we are listening.

We are listening to bows scrape slowly across strings, tensions methodically escalating in a dreamy swell until, after West (Jeffery Combs) turns his head to the camera and breaks the fourth wall with the words “I gave him…life!” (read our analysis of that opening here)

Those strings then explode into a familiar attack. We are watching Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR, of course, and the music blasting across that geometrically-illustrated, gorgeous title sequence is composed by the one and only Richard Band, its urgency a quote on Bernard Herrmann’s immortal score for Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO.

That aural connection of course, prompted some critics and viewers to cite the obvious nod as a kind of rip-off, failing to “get” the reverence and respect Band was paying to that source.

Saner heads did grasp this however and Band’s music is indeed one of the films’ most visible fingerprints.

SHOCK spoke to Band about his methods and his music in both RE-ANIMATOR and elsewhere…

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SHOCK: The RE-ANIMATOR score is dynamic but most certainly kin to PSYCHO. Why did you opt to quote this famous work?

BAND: You know, at the end credits of RE-ANIMATOR, the was supposed to be the words  “With Acknowledgment and Humble Apologies to Bernard Herrmann”, but basically, there was a screw up and they were left out. I was given an option that if I was willing to pay to re-shoot the end credits they would fix this, but it would add an additional 10K cost and I couldn’t afford it because I went so over budget making the film that I had to go into my own pocket for 15K to complete it. I never made a dime off RE-ANIMATOR. It was a weird situation. But getting to the crux of it, the score was an homage. I wanted it to be very obvious as to what it was, but at the same time I wanted to take a different tact. I had a very quirky main title that used themes of PSYCHO, one that  uses motifs that make it very PSYCHO-ish. But if you really examine that main title, there’s a quirky theme that goes behind those strings, a crazy drum beat going on and of course that was just one of the themes. The rest of the music has nothing to do with Herrmann and, right or wrong, most people got the joke; very few people took offense to it and had that end title been in there I don’t think anybody would have blinked.

SHOCK: Would you say RE-ANIMATOR is your signature score?

BAND: I have to say yes. I get lots of comments for other scores I’ve done, but overall, no question. Of all the films we did via Empire and Full Moon, RE-ANIMATOR is the true cult classic, the most famous film we’re all associated with. I often marvel that people still remember it and love it as much as they do and I think that the music is an important part of what the movie is and what makes it so unique.

SHOCK: Outside of RE-ANIMATOR, you’ve worked on all manner of genre films with your family and outside of it and no matter the quality, your music is almost always lush, evocative and intricately designed. Is this something you always demand? A kind of seal of quality?

BAND: That’s a very good question and there’s a history behind this. My first score was with Joel Goldsmith for the film LASERBLAST. Now, LASERBLAST had a humongous budget of $1000. We pulled off miracles to get that score done. Joel was working in a studio at the time, so we were stealing stuff, borrowing synthesizers and all of that kind of thing. While it was fun and crazy and turned out fine for what it was, I decided that one of my missions if I was to continue scoring was that I had to have some degree of quality going in. Always. So the subsequent few films I did, I insisted and talked my way into having some orchestral elements, if not a full orchestra. Most producers were like, “why would we put any money into this little shit B film?” and I was coming from a different standpoint. I wanted to do a really good score and have it mean something and they’re thinking “how can I get the score done for  $1.95”. So there were 2 totally different directions. Now, most of the horror film scores back when I started were being done with synthesizers and it wasn’t that I didn’t like synthesizers but they were cheesy and I was convinced that if the film had an orchestral, organic score behind it that it would add a lot of production value. And that was the impetus that my brother and other people I worked for started understanding: that by spending a little more money on the score you can up the value of the film. That played out in a lot of Empire films. Some were good, some were not but what Empire became famous for was how they could deliver such high quality movies for so little money. So I have always insisted to the best of my ability that the score is of the highest quality. I always will.

Note: Portions of this feature originally appeared in DELIRIUM Magazine.

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Weekend: Nov. 22, 2018, Nov. 25, 2018

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