Known for his creepy musical scores for horror fare such as the Insidious franchise, 11-11-11, Dark Skies, and The Conjuring, composer and music producer, Joseph Bishara, is so steeped in the horror genre that he often plays an otherworldly creature on screen too. In Insidious, he was the “Lipstick-Face” demon that acted as the film’s main antagonist. In The Conjuring, he portrays an entity named Bathsheba, and in the sequel, The Conjuring 2, his character – the “Winged Creature” – is equally menacing. Set in 1977, The Conjuring 2 is directed by James Wan (Furious 7, Saw), with stars, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, reprising their roles from the first film, playing real-life paranormal investigators and authors, Lorraine and Ed Warren. In this follow-up, they travel to North London to investigate poltergeist activity at a council house in Enfield. There they meet a single mother (Frances O’Connor) who is raising four children in a house plagued by malicious spirits.
Bishara incorporates musical elements ranging from classical, to punk, to industrial noise to create his distinctive aural soundtracks. Additional credits include producing the soundtrack for the cult film, Repo! The Genetic Opera, and its musical successor, The Devil’s Carnival. In 2014, Bishara scored the John R. Leonetti horror film, Annabelle, as well as a segment of the 2014 anthology film, V/H/S: Viral, “Gorgeous Vortex.” Bishara started off as the guitarist and keyboardist for LA industrial metal band, Drown, and then moved onto soundtrack work for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Heavy Metal 2000, and John Carpenter’s Ghosts Of Mars. He has contributed to remixes for many notable artists including Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Danzig, and Christian Death, as well as programming and production work for the likes of Jane’s Addiction, Bauhaus, Megadeth, Rasputina, 16Volt and Prong.
How did you start working with James Wan?
“I’d met James through a group of local horror filmmakers. It’s a fairly tight circle, that community, of people that all get together and see each other’s projects. He was doing a short film at the time and putting Insidious together, and he asked me to work on that. Here we are, a few movies later.”
How does James approach you about the creature that you are to embody?
“It’s always a little different. With Insidious, a lot of it came from the fact that he knew that I was very comfortable with a lot of make-up. I had the right build and I’d already shaved my head, so we were halfway there. It seemed to go well the first time, so they invited me back.”
How did it come about that you played the creature in the first place?
“We were on set helping out a friend who was doing a short. I was helping out with make-up, splattering blood on people, and James told me that I seemed to be the right fit for what he was looking for. There happened to be a demon in the script. I read it but when he first asked me, I didn’t realise that it was such a substantial part. I thought that it was just going to be a passing character, another ghost.”
Are there any physical challenges to playing the creature in The Conjuring 2?
“It definitely has its own challenges. There’s an element to it that’s very different to anything that I’ve had to deal with in the past.”
How do you begin to create the score?
“With horror movies, in particular, which I naturally gravitate towards, it seems that finding the core of the horror of it is really the key. I start with talking to James about the ideas behind the film – what is the haunting case, what happened – and then listening to original recordings of the possessions and finding out what it all sounded like. I try to find the energy behind it all. Then reading the script and finding the ideas behind that, talking to James, being on set…there’s an endless source of information and inspiration. It’s anywhere. In this film, particularly, it’s a haunting that’s driving it, so for me, it’s really all about pulling the energy out of the haunting. Where that is coming from and what colour that is. In this story, it’s a very ‘male’ threat. A heavy, male presence, so that guides my entry into it.”
How will this score compare to the one in the previous movie?
“There will definitely be a sense of continuity between the two films, musically speaking. Even Annabelle was a different branch of the same universe. This music definitely has its own colour…it’s a little different than the last one. There’s a different energy behind it.”
Have you ever drawn inspiration from a personal paranormal experience?
“I’m having one right now! Just being conscious and looking through eyes – that’s as paranormal as it gets. For sure, it seeps into my dreams. You’re stirring up these energies, wherever it’s coming from. When you spend all night thrashing around in a chair spitting up blood and then go home and try to go to sleep, it’s not like you can turn it off like a switch. It’s gonna come out somehow, and it does. So I find it all very inspiring.”
Do you ever feel scared?
“Every now and then, I will get a hint of, ‘Oh, that’s kind of creepy,’ and then I know that the average bear will find that as scary as fuck. It takes a lot to really scare me. I’m like an old junkie who can’t get high any more. It’s just where I’m comfortable. When a scare scene is really working, honestly, it’s really hard for me to tell what people are going to find scary. Sometimes people will comment on what I thought was a passing moment in the film, and tell me that it gave them nightmares. And I’m like, ‘Really? Okay, cool!’”
The Conjuring 2 is released in cinemas on June 9.