Photo by Silvia Grav
Former Oingo Boingo frontman and famed film composer Danny Elfman today debuted his first new solo music in 33 years — and first rock music since his band’s 1994 swan song — in the form of “Happy,” a characteristically twisted song he’d meant to debut at his planned performance at this year’s Coachella festival, an event scrapped, like so much else, by the coronavirus.
The new single — released digitally today by ANTI-/Epitaph — features Elfman on vocals, guitars and synthesizers, with drums by Josh Freese (The Vandals, Nine Inch Nails), guitar by Nili Brosh (Dethklok), bass by Stu Brooks (Dub Trio) and additional synth design by Randall Dunn. It was orchestrated by former Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek.
Check it out below, via its equally twisted Aaron Johnson-directed music video.
“I originally wrote ‘Happy’ to perform at Coachella 2020,” Elfman said in a statement accompanying the song’s release. “It was written to be an absurd anti-pop song, designed to begin as a very simple pop tune that degrades into something more subversive. The cynical nature of the lyrics echo how I feel about living in a semi-dystopian world turned upside down.”
“Happy” is the first song credited to Elfman as a solo artist since he contributed another song called “Happy” to the soundtrack to the 1987 film “Summer School” (the song sounds like it could be an outtake from 1987’s Boi-ngo album. Before that, he released a 1984 solo album titled, appropriately, So-Lo that featured musical contributions from the rest of Oingo Boingo.
The song is being released just before Halloween, no coincidence to anyone familiar with Oingo Boingo.
“I always enjoyed Halloween because it was a night to let loose, to become something or someone else. (Halloween is) a night to celebrate the dead, and ghosts and monsters of all variety. A night for mutants, zombies, vampires, misfits, and miscreants to celebrate themselves and each other. And, aligned with the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos, a night to celebrate departed spirits… and for me, a night to laugh in death’s face (and feel safe doing so).”
“Halloween has always been my Big Night. As a child there was no competition. Coincidently, in my earlier band Oingo Boingo, our Halloween shows became special events and our biggest shows of the year. And double coincidently ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ also became a special live concert Halloween event, which became more successful than I’d ever dreamed possible. This really meant a lot to me as the character of Jack Skellington, who I related to quite closely, has for many years been a very special part of my life.”
The release of “Happy” comes six months after Elfman shared a video on Instagram of himself performing a newly recorded solo version of Oingo Boingo’s “Running on a Treadmill,” off the band’s second album Nothing to Fear, released in 1982. “This thing is funky!” he wrote at the time. “This is NOT my new single or for a new album that I’m working on. Just a little something that was fun to record and relaxed me, and maybe it will do the same for you?”
PREVIOUSLY ON SLICING UP EYEBALLS
- Danny Elfman re-records Oingo Boingo’s ‘Running on a Treadmill’ while in isolation
- Oingo Boingo’s Danny Elfman to perform at Coachella music festival in April
- Watch: Oingo Boingo’s Danny Elfman, Steve Bartek reunite to perform ‘Dead Man’s Party’
- Danny Elfman’s ‘So-Lo’ album reissued on CD after more than a decade out of print
- Danny Elfman brings Tim Burton-themed show back to Los Angeles this Halloween
- Video: Oingo Boingo’s Danny Elfman sings publicly for first time in 18 years
- Danny Elfman to sing publicly in U.S. for first time in 18 years this Halloween — tour in works