Waiting for an invitation to arrive
Goin' to a party where no one's still alive
It's a dead man's party . . .
Leave your body at the door
--from Oingo Boingo's
"Dead Man's Party"
When Oingo Boingo lead singer Danny Elfman straggled up the stairs for an interview at his manager's second-floor office in Hollywood recently, his unshaven face, tousled red hair and the dark glasses shading his eyes made him look like he had just spent the night at a "Dead Man's Party."
But Elfman's slightly disheveled appearance had less to do with trying to live up to the title of the quirky Los Angeles band's last album than with the effects of a mild cold he was trying to shake.
"I'll survive," Elfman, 31, said with a wry grin.
While Elfman's comment referred only to his cold, it could as easily apply to the tenacity and longevity--at least in the volatile rock music world--of Oingo Boingo itself, a band whose music seems to epitomize the concept of "disposable pop."
As the group's colorful, articulate and frequently outspoken leader and songwriter, even Elfman doesn't expect future generations to reverently reminisce about Oingo Boingo's percolator pop tunes.
"To me rock 'n' roll is and always has been a very temporary art form," Elfman said. "It was designed that way since day one. So I've never understood these people who look back at the 'rock classics' with all this reverence."
Consequently, those attending Oingo Boingo's concert tonight at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre shouldn't expect to find a whole lot of revering goin' on.
Neither will there be much in the way of trumped-up special effects for the Halloween night show, which has become an annual tradition for the band. But that's not to suggest the event won't have a celebratory atmosphere, given Elfman's wildly energetic delivery, the use of clever, animated film clips and the general spirit of the 1985 "Dead Man's Party" album.
"The heart of the show will be our own energy," Elfman said. "Anything else we do around that is just not that important or crucial to the show. As always, there will be little bits of visual things. But we won't rely heavily on them--as we never do."
The group will also use the opportunity to introduce several new songs from its forthcoming album "Boi-ngo," which is due in January.
Yet for all his manic effervescence on stage, Elfman is rather straight-laced in his personal life and spends much of his non-performing time with his wife and two children, ages 2 and 7, in their Topanga Canyon home.
"I don't see myself as a role model," Elfman said. "But if (fans) do look at me or any of us as role models, I think they've got a good role model.
"I don't use drugs, and I don't drink. I think that anyone who is actually doing something, has a lot of energy and is creative without the use of drugs may have a very slight effect on young people, as opposed to the classic rock 'n' roll image that you can't do what you do unless you are completely drugged out," he said.
Oingo Boingo has defied rock conventions ever since the band evolved in the late '70s out of a theatrical-musical conglomeration known as "The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo." The group remains a favorite in Southern California, capable of attracting capacity crowds to the Southland's biggest concert venues. But despite reaching the national Top 40 last year with the title song from the film "Weird Science," Oingo Boingo has yet to achieve across-the-board commercial success.
"If it happens, it's just going to happen--there's going to be a certain amount of luck involved. We don't aim for the Top 10. To do that, God, I don't know what we'd have to do, but it would be scary. The stuff that's destined for Top 10, to aim for that, for me, would be aiming for the lowest common denominator, and I wouldn't even know how to do that."
"I'd like to see us do well enough to know that we could just keep going," he said. "That's my only goal for the band right now."
Since 1984, Elfman's musical horizons have expanded substantially beyond Oingo Boingo. He recorded his first--and he now insists only--solo album and composed film scores for two hit comedies, "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" and Rodney Dangerfield's "Back to School." Elfman also recently finished the score to a new Emilio Estevez film, "Wisdom."
"Film scoring was something I had hoped to do sometime before I died," he said, "so I feel very lucky that the first two films I scored were hits. I want to learn all I can about film scoring, and, of course, the ideal way to learn is while working on films."
Elfman's foray into film scoring really dates back to 1980, when he supplied the music to "Forbidden Zone," a low-budget sci-fi comedy directed by his brother, Richard Elfman.