Danny Elfman tells Noise11.com that the origins for what is now his ‘Big Mess’ album started because of the Dark Mofo festival in Hobart, Tasmania.
“I did start out with the song ‘Sorry’,” Danny Elfman tells Noise11.com. “I wrote it intending it to be an extended instrumental piece for orchestra and rock band. I wrote it to be performed in Tasmania (Australia), actually at a festival called Dark Mofo. I really loved Dark Mofo and said I’d love to do that. I ended up not being able to do it because I wasn’t able to put together a whole show. I had a piece of music that was 10-12 minutes long and I needed to come up with another 45. I just couldn’t do it in 2018”.
The idea expanded when another festival, Coachella approached Danny. “Then when Coachella popped up I had this interesting offer and I was going to do half old/half new, half film/half not film. I’m going to mix it all up and I had this new song ‘Sorry’. I thought ‘I can’t wait to open the show with my own fans with this crazy piece of music’. I’d get the pleasure to see a bunch of people go ‘what the fuck is this’. How often are you going to get the pleasure to see your own audience going ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ I was really excited that”.
That started the created juices flowing. Danny was creating “pop music” again. “Before Coachella was supposed to happen I came up with ‘Happy’,” he says. “It was the counterpoint to ‘Sorry’ and then the whole thing imploded. We were already deep into rehearsals, it was all exciting putting together this whole thing. I kind of went back to what I could be doing and started on an orchestral position for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain but also with the knowledge that The Proms in London where it was debuting was never going to happen”.
Danny was creating new music but then a pandemic set in and he had nowhere to premiere his first creative effort in contemporary music in decades. “It was very depressing. I’m in the middle of what I think was going to be another era of American Trumpism, which is like living in a George Orwellian world that I never could have anticipated. And now we have a pandemic, and now Coachella, which all three months of energy has gone into, was cancelled. I was not in a good mood. But I did not intend to make a record. I actually started to write orchestral music. I thought, you know what, I was feeling so frustrated I thought I’d just do a couple of songs just to go with it.
By this stage the drive to create an entire album set in. “When I put lyrics to ‘Sorry’ before Coachella I realised I had so much venom in me needing to get out,” Danny says. “Even ‘Happy’ was a divisive pop song that wasn’t a pop song at all. I thought it would be very subversive and funny to start with the song that sounds like the poppiest pop song ever, like Bubblegum pop and end with something that is so fucked up”.
He set to work at home in a room with a writing desk. “I had these two pieces and I just started writing myself in my little writing room. It’s a little room with a writing desk and only one guitar and a microphone. I didn’t even have a pair of headphones that worked. And its like ‘fuck it, I’m just going to go’. And after two or three songs I realised I had opened a Pandoras Box. There was no closing it. This was April in May 2020, by late summer I thought I had to stop. I called my manager and said ‘I don’t have a deadline here’. She said ‘how many songs have you written’ and I was already up to 16 but I’m not quite finished yet. She said ‘oh yeah, we better start getting a plan around it. It wasn’t going to stop. I finally had to force myself that when I got to song 18 I said ‘that’s it’.”
‘Big Mess’ was finally released through Epitaph Records on 11 June, 2021.
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