John Carpenter isn’t just one of genre cinema’s greatest living directors, he’s also one of its most cunningly capable composers.
Throughout his career, the master of macabre behind sci-fi/horror classics like “Halloween,” “The Thing,” and “Assault on Precinct 13” pioneered a fusion of innovative camera techniques and minimalist, synthesizer-driven score work so distinct it became known simply as “Carpenter-esque.” Today, much of genre cinema remains informed by his artistic vision; everything from “Stranger Things” to “Green Room” bears his stylistic fingerprints.
But at 69, Carpenter isn’t content to merely fade into retirement, his legacy assured. On the contrary, he’s in the midst of igniting an unexpected second-act career, transitioning from Hollywood helmer to bona fide rock star. Backed by a heavy metal band, Carpenter is hitting the road for a national tour playing the movie themes he composed for some of his most enduring works.
Ahead of his stop at Royale Wednesday, Carpenter spoke by phone about the tour, the upcoming “Halloween” reboot he’s executive producing, and the state of modern horror.
Q. Many of your audiences know you as a director, not a musician. What can they expect from seeing you live?
A. You can expect me to play mostly movie themes, and you’ll see clips from these movies behind us as we play. We’ll be playing brand-new stuff, and what I mean by that is that we haven’t performed some of these themes live. We’ll play material from the movies you remember, and I’ll play music not composed by me but by others, like Jack Nitzsche and Ennio Morricone. Performing it live is different from the album, because in addition to my son [Cody Carpenter], who plays the synthesizer, and godson [Daniel Davies], who plays the guitar, we have the rhythm section from Tenacious D playing with us. We’re like a rock ’n’ roll band.
Q. Are there any themes you’re particularly excited to perform?
A. I’m really fond of the theme from “Vampires,” named “Santiago.” I really like that one, and I’m happy about that. There was a movie called “Rio Bravo,” years ago; I saw it when I was a kid. In that movie, the bad guys played “[El] Degüello,” which meant “no quarter,” to send a message to John Wayne and his guys. “[El] Degüello” was a piece that was rerecorded by Dimitri Tiomkin, and I loved it. It was beautiful. So this is my “[El] Degüello.”
Q. What was it like to rerecord themes you composed decades ago with modern technology?
A. It wasn’t a challenge, really. We updated a couple of early efforts, like the “Dark Star,” we made that a little more complex, and we orchestrated a couple of things more. But God, this was easy, and fun. The totality of it is interesting. I get to look back and say, “Wow, I really came up with all this stuff.” I’ve never paid particular attention to the musical scores before; they were just part of the job and something I was supplying to make the movies work, but I know there are certain musical themes and motifs that repeat themselves.
Q. Horror has been blowing up at the box office this year. As someone whose films are considered some of the genre’s most influential, what do you make of that?
A. I think it’s great there’s been this recent resurgence — I think the movies are good, and that’s why people want to go see them. Just good stories. I enjoyed “Get Out” — I thought it was all right. Good movies usually have thematic concerns in them; they don’t have a message but they have themes, and I love it when the themes are well-thought-out.
Q. And you’re not out of the genre by any stretch, with a “Halloween” reboot on the way. How did that project come about for you?
A. I was asked to executive produce “Halloween” by Jason Blum, and I decided it would be fun to try to make a good movie out of it. The script is good, the director’s good, the project’s good, Jamie Lee [Curtis] is in it, and I may do the music for it. I’m pretty close to confirming that last part.
Q. Between that project and the tour, you’ve got a lot going on. Are you one of those Hollywood types who’s happiest working?
A. Hell, no. I’m the laziest person you’ll ever know. I’d rather sit around and watch television, are you kidding? I don’t want to work. I’m watching the news right now, but I’d rather be watching NBA basketball, rooting for my Lakers.
JOHN CARPENTER: ANTHOLOGY TOUR
At Royale, Boston, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets $55, 617-338-7699, www.royaleboston.com
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