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Danny Elfman on Going Shirtless at Coachella: “Yeah, I’m an Old Man. Fuck It.”

"I just wanted to come out exactly like if you saw me 30 or 40 years ago," the legendary composer explains

danny elfman coachella shirt off quote
Danny Elfman, photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella
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    Danny Elfman’s set at Coachella on Saturday might very well go down in history as one of the festival’s all-time defining moments. The legendary composer performed a career-spanning setlist that included standards from the Edward Scissorhands and Nightmare Before Christmas soundtracks, some Oingo Boingo hits, and a rock remix of the Simpsons theme song. Before too long, he took his shirt off, and for good reason.

    “To anybody who saw me in the late ’80s or ’90s, that’s exactly how they saw me,” Elfman told Variety. “The only difference is that back in the ’90s, I would have been barefoot on stage, and they made me wear a pair of shoes at Coachella because with all the acts going on and off, they just didn’t know if there’d be nails in the stage, or splinters. But other than the shoes, I just wanted to come out exactly like if you saw me 30 or 40 years ago, and here I am now. And to not be embarrassed or ashamed by that. It’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m an old man. Fuck it — here I am.'”

    The 68-year-old continued: “And so that [taking the shirt off] was kind of spontaneous. The sixth or seventh song, I just remember going, ‘The hell with it. I’m just going to take it right back to, if there’s somebody who saw me in 1990, this is what they would have seen,’ and just go for it. It was just part of putting myself out there. That was the last layer, I guess, of protection, of armor, and I decided to give that up too. That was kind of a surrender of the last tiny bit of protection I had between me now and my past and what I am and what I was. And it was just not something I thought out in advance.”

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    Elfman’s live appearances have been few and far between as of late, with Coachella marking his first performance as “himself” in nearly three decades. The festival was the perfect opportunity to reflect on his indelible legacy — and only someone of his status could make taking a shirt off so symbolic. See on-stage photos of him below.

    The set came six months after Elfman put on a live-to-film concert version of The Nightmare Before Christmas at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, with Coachella headliner Billie Eilish as Sally. Next up, Elfman will reunite with Tim Burton to compose the music for the upcoming Netflix series, Wednesday.

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