Joseph Bishara’s score to The Conjuring is full of gut-wrenching string dissonance, haunting electronic sounds and sudden crescendoes – in other words, the perfect accompaniment to the film’s supernatural horrorscape. While we wouldn’t want to listen to Bishara’s score late at night, we were intrigued to ask him about it.
What is it about horror and sci-fi that have attracted you to those genres so often in the past?"
It's just what I've always been drawn to, the darker things. There is a truth present in the acknowledgement and even celebration of things concerning death and horror that just seem to be what captures my attention. To see more extreme worlds depicted, whether visceral or just ideas that push boundaries conceptually.
How did you land the job to score this film? Did the producers of The Conjuring seek you out?
James (Wan, director) asked me early on about it while the film was still coming together, and the studio and producers were very supportive in allowing him to bring along who he wanted, with many of his longtime crew from Insidious and even earlier returning.
Your unique voice covers such a broad range of melodic writing, in contrast to the more dissonant performances that sometimes even cross-over into thriller sound design. Was there anything about scoring this film especially different compared to the others you've scored?
A larger palette, a longer process, a lot more people involved… I was fortunate to start early as with Insidious, to have time to explore and develop the palette before there was heightened focus on details of the film. To once again have the perspective of a lot of time on set, soaking it up from the inside. And the aspect of the real people's stories involved. I had the opportunity to spend time with Lorraine Warren and later went to visit her home, and the museum of haunted artifacts in the basement.
What was it like to collaborate with guest vocalist Diamanda Galás - a true legend in avant-garde music?
Diamanda is an incredibly powerful artist. I've seen her perform many concerts over the years, so it was amazing to stand next to her while recording these vocal figures. In an afternoon session in San Diego, we recorded a series of multi-tracked vocals over initial brass recordings done at Capitol. Much of it was about following the brass motions, and once she had heard some of the material and talked about direction, we would start with a raw improvisation then shape the takes from there. There is truly no artist like her.
Having cemented yourself as a composer for the horror/thriller and sci-fi genres, do you have interests to explore other genres?
I work in the genre because I like it. It's a choice. My interests lie in the darker and more experimental flavors. I think there's a lot to explore there. It doesn't have to be purely horror necessarily, just the right combination of sensibility and vision.
How has ASCAP made a difference in your music career?
ASCAP, from my perspective, has always been a truly supportive place for musicians, from hosting showcases for bands at clubs to the excellent yearly scoring workshop, which I was a part of in 2000. I learned perspectives there I couldn't really see at the time. I still feel it to be an invaluable resource, always helpful when any industry related questions arise. Great people and just a clear love for music there.
JOSEPH BISHARA is a composer and music producer who assembles unique scores combining elements ranging from classical, to punk, to industrial, all which inform the unique aesthetic evident in his work. His effective style of composition has been applied to horror film scores that include 11-11-11, Night of the Demons, Autopsy and The Gravedancers. In 2010, he not only composed the score for James Wan’s Insidious, but also performed in the role of the Lipstick-Face Demon. His work will next be heard in the sequel, Insidious: Chapter Two, in theatres in September. His additional works include producing the soundtrack for the cult film Repo! The Genetic Opera and its musical successor The Devil’s Carnival.
Bishara began his career as the guitarist and keyboardist for LA industrial metal band Drown, followed with soundtrack work for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Heavy Metal 2000 and John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars. He has contributed to remixes for many notable artists including Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Danzig and Christian Death, as well as programming and production work for the likes of Jane’s Addiction, Bauhaus, Megadeth, Rasputina, 16Volt and Prong.
For more info, visit Joe’s website and record label, Void Recordings.