Danny Elfman on His Bigger, Messier 2022

“It was a year of lots of insecurity and then a lot of, ‘Wow. What the fuck? How did that work?’” Elfman says of his year

Danny Elfman Wrap Interview 2022
Danny Elfman, photo by Jonathan Williamson

    Our 2022 Annual Report continues with a wrap-up interview with Danny Elfman. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2022. You can find it all in one place here.

    For Danny Elfman, 2022 has been… a lot. Now decades into his career, the musician and composer seemingly decided, “Yeah, why not? I’ll just do everything,” and somehow pulled it off flawlessly. Three film scores, two concertos, a large-scale commission for The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, a remix album, two Coachella performances, and two Hollywood Bowl performances later, Danny Elfman is somehow closing out the year alive, well, and thriving.

    “I can’t think of when I had more crazy, disconnected, contrary things all happening on top of each other. It was very much a unique year for me,” Elfman tells Consequence. “I had two and a half years of rescheduling [because of COVID], which I thought would then happen over a two and a half year period – but it didn’t work out that way. Everything just focused into 2022.”


    And yet, as compressed as his year was, Elfman’s 2022 output was far from quantity over quality. From Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to his career-spanning, genre-destroying Coachella stage show to Netflix’s recent smash-hit Wednesday, you can find Elfman’s fingerprints all over the most talked-about pop culture this year had to offer. It’s a spinning-plate routine that spanned 12 months and multiple countries.

    “Being able to go from a World Premier Cello Concerto in Vienna to Coachella was really insane, from one extreme to the other in just less than two weeks,” Elfman recalls. “And then from the second week at Coachella right to Costa Mesa for the second performance of my percussion concerto with Colin Currie. I’m literally there still with dust in my hair.”


    The (multiverse of) madness doesn’t stop there. Late November saw the release of Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, for which Elfman composed the score, and on December 9th and 10th, he’ll be performing as Jack Skellington alongside Phoebe Bridgers’ Sally for a live performance of Nightmare Before Christmas in London.

    Elfman’s much-deserved break is coming, however. Even as projects bleed from this year into the next – including another commissioned piece for the Library of Congress and a gig crafting the music for a new ride at Universal – Elfman describes 2023 as looking unusually quiet.

    If 2022 has been any proof, though, Elfman is sure to be knee-deep in new projects before he knows it. Left to his own devices, he assures Consequence, he’ll find something to keep his interest. His plans as of now? “Looking at my electric guitars and going, ‘Hm, maybe we’ll spend some more time together.'”


    Check out the full interview with Danny Elfman below. Limited tickets for Elfman’s Nightmare Before Christmas performance can be found here.

    At least from the outside looking in, you’ve had an incredibly busy year. You had your hand in everything from live shows to film scores to remix albums. Was it as intense as it seemed?

    Yeah, it was insane, actually. Although, it was kind of a weird year, because it felt like 2022 started in October of ‘21. It was kind of from that point till now, this 15-month stretch, that has been probably the busiest year of my life. I can’t think of when I had more crazy, disconnected, contrary things all happening on top of each other. It was very much a unique year for me. I think because of the covid quarantine years, so much stuff got canceled. I imagined everything would get rescheduled one year, two years, three years later. So, I had two and a half years of rescheduling, which I thought would then happen over a two and a half year period — but it didn’t work out that way. Everything just focused into 2022.

    For example, I started out in 2020 trying to finish a commission for that August for National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and I’d also begun a cello concerto, which was gonna be in ‘21. Then, I ended up doing Big Mess instead. And then both of them ended up in ‘22, along with the one for Colin Curry, a percussion concerto, which was already scheduled for ‘22, which I assumed would move to ‘23 or ‘24, but it didn’t. So, having three world premier, classical concerts the same year is something — I don’t know if anybody’s ever had such a crazy thing! Two concertos and a major symphonic work all happening within like three months, four months of each other.


    And on top of that, of course the rescheduling of Coachella. On top of that, finishing up Dr. Strange and doing White Noise, doing Wednesday, and then the Hollywood Bowl shows. Which, right back into the fire, because I think most people have a full show that they’re touring and go to Coachella and cut it down for Coachella to make their hour. I was the opposite. I don’t know who’s ever built a show from nothing, from the ground up, to come up with an hour for Coachella, but that’s what I did, even though it seemed insane.

    What was it like to then bring the Coachella show to the Hollywood Bowl?

    When it was time to take it to the Hollywood Bowl and double it, it was like starting from scratch and building it up again. I wasn’t pulling from previous shows. It was crazy. Not to mention the Hollywood Bowl was really my first ever solo performance. Yeah, [there was] Coachella, but there’s a huge difference. For Coachella, you have a captive audience. They don’t even know when they buy their tickets that you’re gonna be there. It’s a surprise attack. It’s a whole different thing, but your audience is there to see 20 bands, you know?

    Hollywood Bowl was really scary because I’d never ever sold a solo show that wasn’t orchestra, film music, or Nightmare Before Christmas. Still, those aren’t me. It’s the film music of Tim Burton, and even that show will play with and without me. Nightmare Before Christmas is Nightmare Before Christmas. I’m not selling it as me, I’m doing Jack Skellington.


    So, it really freaked me out. I was like, this is crazy. we shouldn’t be doing this. This is gonna be humiliating to be at the Hollywood Bowl playing for 500 seats a night, you know? Or it’ll be humiliating when they cancel for lack of ticket sales. Either way it’s gonna be humiliating. It didn’t turn out that way, but that’s where my brain was at.