An Interview with JIMMIE HASKELL by A. OWSLEY

0
125

haskellI’m not sure if this applies as an acceptable “download” but I’m sending an image and an interview I did for an Atlanta magazine called “Atlanta Sideshow”. The interview is with Jimmie Haskell, the man who did the music
for Land of the Lost and other Krofft shows. People are welcome to download the image and text for their own pleasure but if anyone wishes to use it for any other purposes please have them consult me for permission. Both
files are copyrighted by A. Owsley and should be accompanied with a by-line. If anyone is interested in Atlanta Sideshow, you can email them at telltalepub_AT_mindspring.com

Enjoy!
Sincerely,
A.Owsley

———————————————————————————————————————————————–
An Interview with JIMMIE HASKELL by A. OWSLEY

One of the most important, yet underrated, elements of any film or media production is a well-crafted musical score. There are some producers in the movie industry who are savvy enough to know that spending a few extra bucks for a big name composer like John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner can play a big factor in a film’s success. However, most of the time this sentiment cannot be found in the television industry- especially in the field of Saturday morning children’s shows where bland, uninspired pop music often plays incessantly thoughout a given show oblivious to the action it’s supposed to enhance. Yet, the most memorable of children’s shows are those that pay the extra attention to its musical content. It would be difficult to imagine all those classic Warner Bros. cartoons without Carl Stalling’s manic orchestral punctuations. The early Peanuts animated specials became perennial classics due mainly to Vince Guaraldi’s timeless jazz piano scores. And just humming a Schoolhouse Rock tune in the vicinity of anyone under the age of 35 can quickly show what sort of indelible stamp music can have on a person’s memory.

In my childhood there was one Saturday morning tv show that I would watch with an almost obsessive devotion: Sid and Marty Krofft’s Land of the Lost. Granted, there were many elements of the show which I found intriguing- special effects which were, at the time, impressive, and mind-blowing storylines that were crafted by some of the top science fiction authors available- but one element of the show that seemed to appeal to me the most was its haunting, surreal soundtrack. Utilizing the seemingly incongruous combination of timpani, banjo and analogue synthesizers, the score seemed to perfectly reflect the show’s concept of a normal American family trapped in a harsh alien universe where none of the natural laws of physics apply.

So enraptured was I with the series and its music that I would often place a microphone to the tv speaker and record the audio track of each episode onto my portable cassette tape recorder (this being a time before home VCRs) and play the tapes back when I was alone in my room. Even as a child I remember scrutinizing the show’s end credits to find the name of the composer. His name, I discovered, was Jimmie Haskell.

Recently Haskell’s name and the memory of those tapes returned to me while I was casually browsing the Internet on a friend’s computer. I began perusing the search engines in the hopes of finding some sort of fan page with info on Haskell and his soundtrack work. To my surprise, my first search yielded a web page being maintained by Haskell himself! I quickly lobbed off an e-mail which queried him about his involvement with Land of the Lost (meanwhile trying not to get too hopeful for a reply. After all- his page revealed a prestigious 40 year career in film and television composition and I was sure he did not want to trouble himself with an inquiry about what must surely have been to him an insignificant commission completed a quarter of a century past). My fears were assuaged, however, by his prompt and enthusiastic response to my questions.
Subsequent correspondence with Mr. Haskell has revealed a disarmingly affable man whose written words can barely contain the enthusiasm he exudes for his work. Here are some highlights of our Land of the Lost conversations:

A. OWSLEY: Where did you get your start in the music business?

JIMMIE HASKELL: At age 9, in New York, I picked out a melody on a neighbor’s piano, and my mother took me to a music store. I chose accordion and took a few lessons. Then my mother and I moved to Los Angeles where I continued studying music. At age 11 I was introduced to a special music teacher named Jimmie DeMichele who taught me to play classical piano music on the accordion and also gave me a foundation in harmony and arranging. At age 14 I knew I wanted to be an arranger. At age 16 I knew I wanted to be a film composer. I studied music many hours each day.

I was lucky enough to begin transcribing Fats Domino songs from records to sheet music “lead sheets” for copyright purposes for Mr. Lew Chudd, owner of Imperial Records. I kept telling him I was a good arranger. One day he took a chance on me; I arranged and co-produced several rock records for him which turned out quite well. When he signed Ricky Nelson, Lew told me I was to produce and arrange all of Ricky’s records on Imperial, and I did. That gave me a great head start.

A. O: How were you first approached to score Land of the Lost?

J. H: I had been working with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and Danny Jansen (The songwriter, not the ice skater). They wrote and produced several records for Wes Farrell and hired me as arranger/conductor. Wes liked my work and he introduced me to Sid and Marty Krofft.

A. O: Did you score any other Krofft shows?

J. H: Yes, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (I also wrote the original theme for that), the Krofft Super Shows, and some of the Electra Woman & Dyna Girl shows.

A. O: Tell us about some of the equipment you used. I remember hearing some Moog synthesizers and what sounded like a banjo.

J. H: You’re right, I had a great banjo player, Larry McNeely, and I played mini-moog. After the recording sessions with the band, I would stay and overdub extra lines on my mini-moog.

A. O: That seems like an unusual combination of instruments, but it worked well. What was the inspiration for that?

J. H: The concept of that combination of instruments just popped into my head (I believe that good composers and arrangers get help from above). Also, one of the sounds on the show came from my bass player, Ray Pohlman. He invented a sound processor for his bass, and I occasionaly wrote cues which featured that sound.

A. O: What were the recording sessions like? Did you record an entire season’s worth of stock music during a single session, or was it an ongoing project with new music provided for each episode?

J. H: New music for each episode the first year, fewer sessions the second year- with the music editor re-using cues in appropriate ways.

A. O: I remember one L. O. T. L. episode called “The Possession” where a pylon takes control of the Marshall children’s minds. The music in that episode was a particular favorite of mine. Do you recall any episode you were particularly fond of scoring?

J. H: I enjoyed them all. I enjoy coming up with new music compositions to fit new characters and situations-such as the pylons. There were frustrating moments because of time pressures; not having enough time to complete the music and get enough sleep, but that’s a normal situation in almost every aspect of scoring music for T.V. and movies. And as each show is completed satisfactorily, the feeling of accomplishment overwhelms the frustrations, and there are more pluses than minuses.

A. O: Many years ago, I had a soundtrack album to Logan’s Run by Jerry Goldsmith and you were credited as arranging one song on the album. I also noticed that you did some string arrangements for k. d. Lang’s Drag cd. What other artists have you collaborated with? What new projects are you working on?

J. H: Yes, I arranged and conducted that disco version of Jerry’s theme, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with k. d. Lang- she’s fantastic. I recently worked with Sheryl Crow. My string arrangements appear on her new CD The Globe Sessions (Released this past September). I also did some work with a new group, Fuzz Bubble for Puff Daddy’s Bad Boy Records. I’ve been told that it is due to be released Feb. 1999.

I also recently completed scoring a really funny cartoon for Disney, Jack & the Beanstalk: the Giant’s Tale (or a similar name) starring Rodney Dangerfield as the voice of the giant, narrating the story from his point of view. It’s ony 15 or 20 minutes long, and is to be released soom either on TV or video cassette.

For more collaborations please see my web page at www.west.net/~chords1/ (that’s a numeral 1 at the end of chords and all letters should be typed in lower case). Another way to find my web page is to go to a browser like Alta Vista, Lycos, AOL Net Find or Excite, type “Jimmie Haskell” (that spelling with caps as first letters) and if my name shows up as music, blues, tc, click on it and it should link to my web page.

A. O: I recently heard a rumor that Disney is working on a Land of the Lost movie. If approached, would you be interested in scoring the film?

J. H: Yes! If you have any further info, kindly let me know.

A. O: A lot of old sci-fi T.V. shows like Lost in Space, Time Tunnel and classic Star Trek are currently getting cd releases of their musical scores. Is there any possibility of a Land of the Lost soundtrack cd being issued?

J. H: I hope so.