John Carpenter is widely known as one of the most celebrated genre filmmakers of all time, directing classics such as Halloween, Escape From New York, The Fog and so many more. What some might not realize is the filmmaker is also an accomplished musician, who actually composed the scores and theme songs for most of his movies. The filmmaker hasn’t directed a feature since 2010’s The Ward, but over the weekend, the filmmaker took to the stage for a live retrospective of his music, performing several of his iconic theme songs from his hit horror movies.
The concert took place this past Friday at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, where the director performed the theme songs live for hits such as Halloween, They Live, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13 and Christine. In case you couldn’t make it to this event, videos of these performances recently surfaced on YouTube, which you can check out below. The performance was part of a nationwide tour to support the release of his album Lost Themes, which includes his iconic theme songs and new recordings as well.
On Halloween 2014, the director and composer John Carpenter introduced the world to the next phase of his career with “Vortex,” the first single from Lost Themes, his first-ever album of non-soundtrack material. In the months that followed, Lost Themes rightfully returned Carpenter to the forefront of the discussion of music and film’s crucial intersection. Carpenter’s foundational primacy and lasting influence on genre score work was both rediscovered and reaffirmed. Lost Themes achieved numerous international milestones, including NPR First Listen; features in dozens of press outlets including the Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Guardian; three magazine covers; and Top 200 chart success in the U.S. and the U.K. The album was also a milemarker in its label’s catalog being one of the best selling albums in Sacred Bones’ eight-year history. So widespread was the acclaim for Lost Themes that the composer was moved to embark on something he had never before entertained – playing his music live in front of an audience.
Carpenter’s Lost Themes was released on April 15th via Sacred Bones. The follow-up album brings quite a few noticeable changes to the process, which result in an even more fluid and thematic record. Lost Themes’ cowriters and musicians Cody Carpenter (John’s son) and Daniel Davies (John’s godson) both returned. Unlike their first album, when they often worked over the internet exchanging themes over the course of several years, this time all three brought in sketches and worked together in the same city, a luxury they weren’t afforded on the first Lost Themes. The result was a more focused effort, one that was completed on a compressed schedule – not unlike Carpenter’s classic, notoriously low-budget early films.
During this time, the three of them also composed and recorded the main titles theme for the CBS drama, Zoo, and Daniel also scored the feature film, Condemned. Cody was previously known for his work on the Masters of Horror series and Daniel provided music for Lakeshore Entertainment, MTV and Warner Bros. television. The musical world of Lost Themes II is also a wider one than that of its predecessor; more electric and acoustic guitar help flesh out the songs, still driven by Carpenter’s trademark minimal synth. This manifests itself brilliantly in songs like the lead single “Distant Dream,” which hitches a familiar Carpenterian beat to an expressive drum performance and rides it to a thrilling conclusion. The eerie “Angel’s Asylum” lets an ethereal synth line command the first three-quarters of the song, before turning over the melody to an acoustic guitar, and “Virtual Survivor” delivers a blast of the sci-fi menace that characterized his great scores for films like Assault on Precinct 13 and They Live. Lost Themes II delivers eleven compelling new tracks with which fans can continue to score the movies in their minds. Take a look at these videos below to watch the horror master John Carpenter perform his iconic theme songs before a live audience in L.A.