A Look Back on John Carpenter as Composer


by Cliffhanger

Last Friday marked the release of Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998, a collection of re-worked theme music from the films of John Carpenter. To celebrate, we’re looking back on the musical legacy of the Master of Horror himself.

Though filmmaking was his first love, director John Carpenter had music in his blood. His father, Howard Carpenter, was a music professor at WKU, and headed the department from 1965 to 1975. John spent his formative years in Bowling Green before moving to Los Angeles to study film.

Carpenter made his early films on low budgets, opting to score them himself to save money. Despite coming from a musical family, John had no classical training and had never learned to read sheet music. Therefore, he created his films’ soundtracks in the most primal way possible: by sitting in front of a keyboard and seeing what sounded good.

There’s perhaps no better example of John Carpenter as composer than his 1978 masterpiece Halloween. Following the cult classics Dark Star and Assault on Precinct 13, Carpenter’s third film Halloween became his breakout success, and influenced a slew of similar “slasher” films to follow. Central to the movie is its famous main theme, a dissonant, repetitive piano riff in 5/4 time and performed by the director himself. During Halloween’s credits, Carpenter lists himself as “The Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra,” in a tongue-in-cheek shout-out to his hometown.

Carpenter continued to score his own movies throughout the ‘80s and well into the ‘90s. The dark, atmospheric vibe of his themes became synonymous with ‘80s cinema. From the bleak dystopia of Escape from New York to the fast-paced action of Big Trouble in Little China, no Carpenter film was complete without a well-crafted soundtrack.

John Carpenter went on hiatus from filmmaking in 2001, returning to the director’s chair just once in 2010 for The Ward. More recently, his time off from the film industry has allowed him to focus on his music in a whole new way. In 2015, at the age of 67, Carpenter released Lost Themes, his first album of non-soundtrack material. A year later, he returned with Lost Themes II, and even began touring festivals with a live band.

Alongside his legacy as a filmmaker, John Carpenter’s impact on music has grown more prevalent in recent years. Two of Carpenter’s biggest fans are Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the synth band SURVIVE. These two producers are best known for their original score to Netflix’ Stranger Things. In a 2016 interview, Stein discusses John Carpenter’s influence on modern music: “People refer to things as John Carpenter-sounding when they’re synthy or a certain way. . . There’s a way he plays and a dissonance that was adapted in a lot of rap. Especially modern stuff is very influenced by the Halloween thing.”

Today, John Carpenter is celebrating the musical side of his career with the release of Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998. A “greatest hits” of sorts, the album features new versions of 13 classic Carpenter themes, all performed by the man himself with help from his son and godson. In addition, Carpenter and his band will embark on a U.S. tour from October 29 through November 19.

Tickets for John Carpenter’s U.S. tour go on sale today and are available on his website.

Blink-182: A Retrospective

by Lil Nugget

The alternative rock band Blink-182 produced hit after hit during the 1990’s. They have sold over 13 million records in the United States, and over 50 million worldwide. Their music spans over two decades and don’t seem to show signs of slowing down anytime soon. Let’s take a look at the catalog and career of Blink-182.

The band formed in Poway, California in 1992 and consisted of three members: drummer Scott Raynor, bassist and singer Mark Hoppus, and guitarist and lead singer Tom DeLonge. The band played at local venues and various competitions to get notice. They recorded a trilogy of demo tapes to shop around the industry until the band was picked up Westbeach records.

The group released its debut album Cherish Cat in 1995. The album sold well for an independent alternative rock band and was backed by two singles, M+Ms and Wasting Time. The drummer, Scott Raynor left the group and was replaced by Travis Barker. In 1997 the group released their second album Dude Ranch. The album received moderate reviews and success, like their debut album, but is now hailed as a classic.

 In the year 1999 the group released their third album Enema of The State. The album was the first recording featuring Travis Barker as the drummer. The album was backed by three smash hit singles that played on constant radio rotation and heavy MTV circulation. The album received rave reviews and praise from critics.

Their fourth album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was released in 2001. The album was a success and received good reviews. It debuted at number one on the charts and was a commercial success.

Their fifth album was self titled and released in 2003. Like the past two albums, the record received position reviews and did well on the charts. The next album titled Neighborhood was released eight years later in 2011. During the time the band had split up and gotten back together.

The band’s final album up to the date of this writing is California released in 2016. The album was the first to feature a new guitarist and lead singer Mike Skiba, who replaced Tom DeLonge. The band is still touring off of the success of California. They are planning to start writing for their next album later this year in 2017.