Interview with Joseph Bishara

Joseph Bishara is the composer for films like “Insidious” and the upcoming “11-11-11”.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Joseph about working in the horror genre and about his recent projects.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about what was your inspiration for working on “Insidious”, which is one of the creepiest score since “Halloween”?
Joseph Bishara: Well thank you for that, “Halloween” is quite high company to be held in.
The inspiration for the film really came from the film itself – those were the things I was hearing when looking into the world. James and I talked about some harsh string sounds, extreme dynamics, and I know Leigh sometimes writes with music in mind – but when it comes down it I try not to reference existing music. I wrote a lot and recorded some before the film was even shot, started from the script and was giving James music to edit to early on.

MG: You also have a role in that film as the Lipstick-Face Demon, tell us about that as well?
JB: Yes, James also asked me to be the demon. I had the build he had in mind, already shaved my head, and the temperament to sit in makeup for 5 hours a day. I went in and took a series of pictures with Aaron Sims, who designed the demon over the images. Spent a fair bit of time learning to walk in the hooves, which were built onto 9″ platform heels and strapped to my legs. It was very physical, just standing upright required being fully engaged. I was pretty beat up by the end, but absolutely worth it.

MG: Tell us about working with Dante Tomaselli on his latest film “Torture Chamber”?together
JB: Working with Dante for me is a totally free process in that I just read the script, respond musically and send it off to him.I haven’t seen a single scene; only some stills. He makes music himself, and works with a couple of other composers, then edits it all into a ‘soup’. I do look forward to seeing the film though.

MG: You are currently working on “11-11-11” with Darren Lynn Bousman, tell us the sound that you are creating for this score?
JB: “11-11-11” was written for flute, clarinet, cello and a chorus of voices. Worked with writing and translating Sumerian chants… there’s darkness and devils within.

MG: How are you planning to top your score for “Insidious”, which set the bar high?
JB: Thank you again, I don’t really see it in terms of topping things. I see each world of every project as a different sounding place – they all, even in subtle ways feel different to me.

MG: You also worked with him on “Repo! The Genetic Opera”, tell us about that experience?
JB: “Repo” was dense, a ton of music to keep track of through various stages. Projects like that really don’t come around often, so out of the box as to be completely polarizing… love it or hate it, it’s different. Just to get to work with that many great musicians was such a reward in itself.

MG: How was it getting to work with master horror director and composer, John Carpenter on “Ghosts of Mars” & “Masters of Horror: Pro-Life”?
JB: John is awesome. I was very excited to just get to meet him, but yeah… got a call to come by the studio and a couple of days later was working away. He seemed to be enjoying the process at that point, to be able to sit back and just listen to and make music… very relaxed in the studio. On “Pro-Life”, he asked me to mix his son Cody’s score… again, very relaxed and enjoyable. One of our cooler filmmakers for sure… no bullshit is a great understatement.

MG: Your work is primarily in the horror genre, is that where you feel the most comfortable?
JB: Yes, I’ve always loved the genre, and it seems a good fit for what sounds most natural to me. Certainly darker genre are the films I’m most interested in as a viewer.

MG: After “11-11-11”, what are you planning on working on next?
JB: Have a handful of projects in different stages, not sure which happen next.

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