One Halloween, Australian director Michael Rymer discovered himself surrounded by 1000’s of vampires. He’d signed on to direct a film primarily based on the second and third books of Annie Rice’s gothic fiction sequence, The Vampire Chronicles, and had travelled to her hometown to fulfill her.
“Warner Bros flew me to New Orleans and put me in a resort, after which Anne despatched an outdated hearse she’d transformed into a transparent glass limo, and took me to the monastery she’d purchased,” he recollects. “It was adorned with rooms of mannequins and dolls. I stayed there, and the following day I used to be picked up and brought to a giant, outdated home within the Backyard District in New Orleans – perhaps three, 4 storeys tall, with an enormous, stuffed wolf trying down. And the limo door opens, and there’s this man with slicked-back hair and a ponytail and a gun holster, and he says, within the thickest Louisiana drawl, ‘Welcome to New Orleans.’”
It was October 31, the day of Anne’s annual vampire bash. Michael ascended the steps of the home, knocked on a door, and was greeted by a 17-year-old boy carrying a frilly shirt and angel wings. Anne, not in costume, entered the room.
“She was mainly a miniature model of Diane Keaton. She had little spherical glasses, a hat, an extended waistcoat and an extended shirt – kind of San Francisco hippy stylish,” remembers Michael. “After which we went to the ball, and there have been about 6,000 vampires wearing all kinds of loopy outfits. Anne got here onstage and launched me, and talked in regards to the movie. That was a fairly trippy weekend to get issues rolling.”
The movie was Queen Of The Damned, an adaptation of the 1988 novel of the identical title and former instalment The Vampire Lestat (1985). It will observe Neil Jordan’s luxurious model of the primary guide, Interview With The Vampire, which was the Tenth-highest grossing film of 1994 within the US and landed two Oscar nominations.
The premise for Queen Of The Damned was easy: the vampire Lestat awakens and reinvents himself as a rockstar. His music wakes Akasha, the queen of the vampires, who needs to make Lestat her king. Regardless of the OTT gothic units and costumes, on launch in 2002 the movie was largely derided by critics – however almost everybody recognised the brilliance of its soundtrack.
That includes authentic steel songs and an accompanying orchestral rating by Korn frontman Jonathan Davis and movie composer Richard Gibbs (Dr. Dolittle, Massive Momma’s Home), alongside a handful of current nu steel dancefloor classics, it was moody, evocative and captured the zeitgeist. Upon its launch, Neil Corry from Movie Evaluate journal described Queen Of The Damned as: “A pile of nonsense, however great-looking nonsense at that with a phenomenally loud soundtrack.”
It got here at a time when Hollywood was flirting with heavy music: the likes of The Matrix (1999), action-horror movie Resident Evil (additionally launched in 2002), and slasher Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) featured artists equivalent to Rob Zombie, Rammstein, Slipknot, Lamb Of God and In Flames. In early conversations Michael had with the studio, somebody proposed that Queen Of The Damned’s music needs to be ‘romantic’, within the vein of Echo And The Bunnymen – however Michael was frightened it could come throughout as tacky.
“My pitch to them was, ‘Take a look at the soundtrack Warner Brothers have executed for Batman [& Robin],’” he says, which included The Smashing Pumpkins and Underworld. “Batman’s a fairly simple business film, they usually had very edgy needle drops on there. That labored effectively, and it gave movies a kind of speedy edge and vitality they hadn’t earned on their very own.”
Enter: Jonathan Davis and Richard Gibbs, who’d already fashioned a partnership through Korn’s writer, Zomba. Jonathan had expressed an curiosity in movie composition and Richard, beforehand the keyboard participant for offbeat musical troupe Oingo Boingo, wished to see what the Freak On A Leash singer might do. He let Jonathan have a stab at scoring a scene for a TV film.
“The piece of music he wrote was actually, actually terrible! Ha ha ha! And I razzed him about it,” Richard laughs. “But it surely was good in a technique. And it was the one factor I actually wished to see: would he be capable to subsume his ego, would he know how you can write in assist of the scene, in assist of the characters, and never be a rockstar writing rock songs? And he instantly did that.”
“He wished to see if I had the ear for it, if I might paint emotion whereas watching an image,” remembers Jonathan. “So we did that, hit it off, and I used to be stoked – like, OK, let’s do a film!’”
The pair unsuccessfully pitched for Jerry Bruckheimer’s heist movie, Gone In 60 Seconds, however fortunately Queen Of The Damned was lurking across the nook. Assembly with Michael, they stipulated that they didn’t simply need to write the songs Lestat the rockstar would sing – in addition they wished to put in writing the orchestral rating.
“I believe the second once I really feel like we actually received the job was… within the books and the film, the vampire Lestat performs violin, and within the script, it even talked about ‘Paganini-style violin’ – a classical violinist. And I checked out Michael and I mentioned, ‘That’s sort of been executed to loss of life, and we will actually try this, however I’ve a unique pitch for you.’ And Michael mentioned, ‘What’s that?’ And I mentioned, ‘Properly, I do know this man Shankar.’’
Indian composer and virtuoso violinist Shankar had labored with Peter Gabriel on the Grammy award-winning soundtrack for 1988’s The Final Temptation Of Christ, and attracts on a variety of Jap traditions. “I began explaining who Shankar was, and I simply noticed Michael’s face mild up. He was an enormous fan.”
Getting the music proper was such a precedence that the one actor who’d been forged by this level was rising R’n’B star Aaliyah, as Queen Akasha. Michael had auditioned her in Vancouver, the place she was capturing Romeo Should Die. “By the tip of the method, I had her crawling round on the bottom, rolling her Rs with an Egyptian accent, like a cat, reciting Oscar Wilde’s [one-act tragedy] Salome,” he remembers. “In order that’s kind of how she received the function. She was not a star, she was somebody who was a comer, and wished to show herself – as was I.”
Jonathan Davis relished the possibility to embody the persona of Lestat, one thing that got here naturally to the self-professed night time owl. “I needed to grow to be Lestat, and I learn the books, and wrote lyrics about being a fucking 400-year-old vampire, and it was so fucking enjoyable,” he smiles.
Richard joined him on the street with Korn for a month; after every present, they might write till daybreak. As soon as the songs have been executed, with Jonathan on vocals, they drafted in Limp Bizkit’s Sam Rivers on bass, Head and Munky for some guitar work, Terry Bozzio (Lacking Individuals) and Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting, Frank Zappa) on drums, and Shankar on violin. From the eight songs, Michael picked 5 forward of manufacturing: Not Meant For Me, Forsaken, System, Redeemer and Slept So Lengthy.
Queen Of The Damned was distinctive amongst movies of the time; not solely have been these songs authentic, they have been written for efficiency segments moderately than simply background music. A brand new band of musicians have been forged in Melbourne, to mime the songs on digital camera, and Richard was despatched to rehearse with them, to ensure they appeared convincing. There was one downside: Stuart Townsend, who had been forged as Lestat over potentials equivalent to Wes Bentley and Heath Ledger, refused to conform. At an earlier assembly, he had condemned the songs as “area rock” and “too American”, and through apply he’d flip his again to the band. Richard didn’t even know if he knew the lyrics.
The primary day the cameras rolled on Stuart, they have been filming a stay efficiency video for the track System, to be proven on a tv behind the bar at The Admiral’s Arms vampire membership. Stuart was late to the stage as a result of he was arguing with the crew about carrying a blond wig, in order that they let him have brown hair as an alternative. Then, he opened his mouth.
“The track begins, and that fucking man had sandbagged us!” exclaims Richard. “He knew the songs inside out, he had clearly been rehearsing, and he appeared like someplace between Mick Jagger and Tina Turner and David Bowie, doing all the standard rock’n’roll strikes, and simply blew us all away. We couldn’t consider what we simply noticed!”
In considered one of Queen Of The Damned’s most memorable moments, Lestat performs an enormous live performance in Demise Valley, California, the place Akasha reveals up and immolates a bunch of vampires. The group have been comprised of 1000’s of goth extras bussed to a chilly, distant quarry outdoors Melbourne. Richard figured that actual followers would know the lyrics to Lestat’s songs, so he received onstage and faked a cellphone name to Jonathan in an effort to educate the extras the phrases for the scene.
“I used to be mendacity by means of my tooth: ‘Jonathan needs to listen to you guys sing the track!’ So I gave them the road from Slept So Lengthy: ‘Did you assume it’s cool to stroll proper up / to take my life and fuck it up.’ They have been kidnapped and lied to, and underpaid, and fed crap meals! However, they have been wonderful.”
Midway by means of capturing, the forged and crew had a ‘half wrap’ get together. It was right here that Aaliyah revealed one thing stunning. “She walked as much as me on the bar and mentioned: ‘Richard, I simply need to let you understand, I like the songs you and Jonathan wrote.’ And you would have picked my jaw up off the ground. Actually? This lovely R’n’B pop songstress? She noticed the shock on my face and mentioned, ‘Oh, I like Korn.’ After which she hit me with yet one more shock. She mentioned: ‘I’d adore it in case you and Jonathan would write a track for me.’”
Throughout post-production, Aaliyah flew to the Bahamas to shoot a music video, and was planning to return to LA to do her computerized dialogue substitute and report a track for the tip titles. Tragically, she died in a aircraft crash on August 25, 2001. “It’s so terribly, terribly surprising,” says Michael. “No less than I received to make a movie together with her, and I believe she’s the most effective factor in it.”
In tribute to Aaliyah, Richard and Jonathan are planning to lastly write the track she requested, on digital camera, for an episode of a brand new sequence referred to as The Woodshed Revelations, named after Richard’s Woodshed Recording Studio. “It’s a homage to her,” he says. “Jon and I have been heartbroken.”
With the soundtrack accomplished, a proud Jonathan was dealt a blow when his label, Sony, gave permission for his voice to seem within the movie however not on the OST launch. “Oh, that fucking pissed me off!” he exclaims at the moment. “I used to be so fucking mad, like, ‘Are you kidding me? You understand how laborious I labored on this, proper?’”
Jonathan and Richard auditioned substitute singers – Richard remembers Elijah Blue, Cher and Gregg Allman’s son, being within the combine – however they didn’t really feel proper. Because the movie was being made by Warners, they solved the issue by recruiting visitor vocalists from the label, together with Orgy’s Jay Gordon and Disturbed’s David Draiman, plus two icons we’ve since sadly misplaced: Wayne Static and Chester Bennington. The recordings happened throughout two night periods at The Village studios in LA.
“I mentioned to them, ‘OK, you do you, don’t attempt to emulate me,” remembers Jonathan. “I used to be proper there after they did the recordings, I produced it with them, and it got here out good. I imply, they’re good, however my voice sounded greatest, as a result of that was the actual fucking shit proper there…
“Chester is available in together with his spouse, and he was a beautiful, beautiful soul,” remembers Richard. “His spouse was actually candy, and she or he confided in me. She says, ‘You realize, Chester by no means curses on report. That is the primary time anyone’s ever recorded him cursing’, which gave Jon a specific amount of pleasure!”
“All of them killed it,” Richard provides. “The one who was probably the most problematic was the man from Orgy. Finally he did a superb job, nevertheless it took a minute to get; his head was elsewhere.”
“Drawback is, once I confirmed as much as the studio, I had a golf ball in my throat,” remembers Jay, who shared administration with Korn, had toured with them on Household Values, and sang on Slept So Lengthy. “I had a extremely sore throat. I don’t know the way we even received by means of it, however we have been like, ‘We’ll go for it, we’ll strive it’ – after which all of it got here collectively.”
Virtually 20 years later, Orgy debuted it stay on the 2020 Los Angeles Vampire Ball on the Globe Theatre. “Vampires adore it, apparently!” he laughs. “Individuals would at all times ask me if we’d play it, and I assumed, ‘Properly, perhaps it’s just a little too sluggish,’ however opening up with it on the Vampire Ball appeared to be a extremely cool factor to do, as a result of it’s actually moody.”
Elsewhere on the soundtrack, Warners chosen timeless nu steel songs. Papa Roach’s Lifeless Cell performs throughout a road scene, whereas Disturbed’s Down With The Illness rings out because the digital camera pans over the Demise Valley live performance. “Considered one of my favourites is [Deftones’] Change (In The Home Of Flies) on the lovemaking scene,” says Michael, referring to the half the place Akasha and Lestat are in a shower scattered with rose petals – a teenage goth’s dream.
The movie was launched in February 2002 within the USA and April within the UK, however for all its darkish imagery and rockstar glamour, it was not effectively acquired. On Rotten Tomatoes, it sits at 17% on the Tomatometer, with a 66% Viewers Rating. Michael agrees with the evaluation. “There are a lot of great issues about it, however as a horror film, as an execution of a well-known novel that folks love, it was not a hit,” he concedes. “Anne Rice was well mannered, however she was horrified once I confirmed it to her! We have been cramming two books into one film.”
He’s most pleased with the soundtrack, which went gold, promoting half one million copies in a yr. For Jonathan, it was a leap outdoors his consolation zone that paid off. Did it give him extra confidence in his talents? “It completely did. It gave me the boldness to achieve out and begin doing extra,” he says. “My solo report, [2018’s] Black Labyrinth, is in that slot too. That’s simply what I write; I write darkish, vampiric music.”
For Richard, too, the soundtrack stays a excessive level. Just like the vampires within the film, the songs are immortal. “It’s a kind of touchstones in my profession. If I see anyone of a sure age or in a sure context, I do know that Queen Of The Damned touched them,” he says. “That soundtrack album offered very effectively and I’m pleased with it. I believe it aged effectively; it doesn’t sound dated to me.”