Monday, August 31, 2009

No Metal for the Mouse: Disney Bans Heavy Metal Concerts!

Here's an oldie but goodie. A few years ago, Disney banned the performing of heavy metal concerts at the House Of Blues concert venues that happened to be on Downtown Disney property. It caused an uproar in the metal commmunity, and I, being a member of said community, decided to do an article about it for the Penn State Berks Collegian student newspaper. So, without further ado, please enjoy this little blast from my past.

If you are planning a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL for Spring Break and you happen to enjoy rock music of the hard persuasion, don’t book your flight just yet. Word is quickly spreading about a new Disney decree: all heavy metal music acts are banned from performing at the House of Blues nightclubs in Downtown Disney districts.

Disney officials have not openly stated why this new policy has taken immediate effect, but one can assume that it is tied to the recent muggings and vandalism at the Downtown Disney district at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL.

It is a common fact that there has been insufficient security staff during late nights in the area, as pointed out by Jeff Davis, a staffer for the popular Disney podcast, Character Breakfast. He also believes that Disney is making moves to draw in a different kind of crowd to the nightclub and that heavy metal really isn’t popular enough to keep the people coming in.

He may be right, but it is an odd rule for Disney to make after spending decades producing hundreds of films that preach ideals of tolerance and openness.

Concerts at House of Blues are always ticketed events, and most of these are ‘over-21’ shows, so people typically are not going to attend these concerts if they are offended by what they are hearing. Regardless, a press release was circulated citing “violent imagery, undesirable fans and inflammatory lyrics” as the reason behind the ban.

This type of generalization is unfortunately sad and somewhat hypocritical. As one Berks campus senior questioned the policy, “Who else are they banning? Are they allowing hardcore and gangster rap? If they are banning all acts with violent content, ok, it is a fair policy. If they are just banning heavy metal, they need to reexamine their policy because it is not fair.”

So far, no other genres of music have felt the bite of the mouse. Oddly, bands that have played the club multiple times in the pass are just as astonished to have the door now slammed in their faces.

Dani Filth, vocalist of the British shock rock act Cradle of Filth recently stated, “The cancellation of our show on grounds of inappropriate content is a joke. We’ve already played there three times in the past.”

After having two concert dates cancelled at the venue, Robb Flynn, singer of Oakland, Ca. metal band Machine Head interviewed with Worcester Telegram & Gazette and agreed with Filth’s sentiments.

“It's pretty disturbing,” Flynn began. “We are shocked that in this day and age, in 2007 America, that bands can be pressured, (and) that promoters can be pressured by a business and be removed from a venue because somebody doesn't like what your lyrics stand for or think that your fans are crazy. We've played these venues before, and there was no indication that anything was going to be different.”

While Disney remained silent on the issue, Live Nation, the company that owns House of Blues soon issued its own statement of defense.

John Vlautin, the vice president of Communications, offered the following:
“House of Blues offers a range of entertainment to match the audience at our venues. It was determined that the mix of entertainment at our two Disney locations should be different from our other venues.”

While this did not specifically address the issue of singling out heavy metal music, it seemed to appease the people. But the heavy metal music fans were still not satisfied.

A Berks senior vehemently professed, “As an avid fan of both Disney and heavy metal music, I am distraught over this predicament. While I am not going to say that there are no heavy metal bands that do reflect the [press release’s] statement, the genre is so vast that the statement can only hold water with a fraction of bands regarded as heavy metal. From my experience, hip hop, punk, and hardcore bands are more violent and unpredictable than heavy metal, yet there is no mention of cancellations for those genres.”

Another senior offered a different perspective on the situation.
“If the House of Blues is on Disney property, Disney has some input on who should and shouldn't play there.”

Filth retorts, “If Disney didn't want to see hordes of black-clad figures lurking around their jaded kingdom, then they should've thought twice about creating characters like Cruella DeVille and Maleficent in the first place.”

The irony doesn’t stop there, either. The House of Blues night club chain was formed to pay homage and honor The Blues Brothers. They were a raucous blues/rock act that became iconic on Saturday Night Live and later became the primary players in a blockbuster film. The Blues Brothers themselves most likely would not have been permitted to perform on Disney property either, due to their own lewd behavior.

While the music is banned from being performed on property, the Virgin Megastore almost across the street from House of Blues in Downtown Disney is still permitted to sell heavy metal CDs and DVDs.

And at Planet Hollywood in the Disney Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM), one could easily purchase t-shirts promoting horror films like Halloween and Evil Dead. These may not be music items, but they do possess similar “violent imagery and undesirable fans.”

While the Penn State curriculum is chock full of classes that teach and exemplify acceptance and tolerance, it seems that Disney is playing to a different tune. Students who may find themselves down at Walt Disney World this spring take note.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Interview with Horror Movie Soundtrack Composer Tyler Bates (Halloween II)

I REALLY enjoy interviewing film composers. It probably has something to do with the facts that they never really ever get a lot of press, and that I've spent the last 15 years interviewing rock/metal musicians. So it's definitely fun to crack the mold and venture where few dare to tread.

Today I interviewed Tyler Bates on the day of release of the film he just scored, HALLOWEEN II.

Here's a taste:

One of the things I really enjoy about your work is that you’re not a canned composer where all your work sounds identical. I mean, you can tell a Bates score when you hear one, but it doesn’t sound the same as another score in your filmography. And I don’t know if it is something you consciously do, but the music plays a different role in each film. In Watchmen, the music was part of the setting. In The Devil’s Rejects, it felt like another character. In 300, it took on the role of the emotions of everyone involved. With your work on Halloween II, the music seems to suck all of the oxygen out of the air and replaces the atmosphere with this really dense, palatable, metallic sensation.

(Laughs) Well each movie calls for something different. My musical tastes are very broad and are not really formed at all by film scores, although there are composers whose work I admire and get me fired up to do good work. But to be honest with you, I just look at the individual challenge. I don’t gauge a movie by something I’ve done before. Even this new Halloween movie, following the one Rob and I did couple years ago, the point really was to turn the page and approach this a little bit differently, while hopefully carrying forward some of the experience we had from doing the first one and dealing with the characters and taking John Carpenter’s pre-existing material into consideration.

On the first one, there were footprints you had to tread and, to a point, you had this built-in audience that was expecting to hear an homage to Carpenter’s work. But the new one has a very clean-slate feel to it, where it expands upon, like you said some of the character themes.

Actually, when I started the Halloween II score, I was thinking very minimalist. I wanted it to be really muddy and bassy with some gongs and random hitting of stuff that made it sound really tactile and identifiable with a room you just really didn’t want to be in as opposed to a traditional, thematic score. And it does become thematic at times, but not exactly in the traditional sense, and definitely not as much as the John Carpenter-era Halloween films. Even though that stuff can be limiting in terms of structure and that it was created for that first incarnation of Michael Myers (which is a totally different film style from what Rob is making), at the end of the day, when I’m dead, if I could have done one piece of music that is even remotely THAT identifiable, I’d be completely happy.

And like I said, this film is pretty much a clean slate in that it is not a sequel to Halloween II (1981), but it is in essence a brand new movie. So you are given a freer range of things you wanted to do and ideas you wanted to explore. That said, were there things in this Halloween II score ideas from the first film that you wanted to expand upon but couldn’t?

Yeah, I would say that it is a progression of ideas. In the first one, there was a sort of grappling with how much do we pay homage to the original Halloween and its characters and how much we employ the Carpenter themes. Really, that’s Rob’s battle. He will talk to me about what he feels is appropriate. But that said, any time I had to do a Carpenter theme, it was very difficult to drop it into the middle of what I was doing, so it pretty much negated a number of ideas I wanted to explore in the first movie.

So when Rob phoned me up and asked if I was up for it, he said, “I don’t think I want to work with the Halloween themes as integral aspects of the score. It would be kinda cool if it was somewhere in the film, but let’s do our own thing.” I thought that was an interesting opportunity or way to go back and make it our own complete destruction of a movie. (Laughs) So, yeah, sure there were different ideas and motifs that were explored, as if this were ‘Rob Zombie’s first Halloween movie'.

Read the full story here!