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Thrillsville's Rani Sharone On Making Music For Haunted Theme Parks

Thrillsville's Rani Sharone makes soundtracks for your nightmares.
Thrillsville's Rani Sharone makes soundtracks for your nightmares.
Nate Pennington

Rani Sharone has his fishnet-gloved fingers in many pies.

Sharone plays in the dark cabaret band Stolen Babies, a group whose energetic and off-kilter sound recalls the anarchic spirit of bands like Mr. Bungle and Oingo Boingo. He's also worked as a collaborator and performer with Puscifer, Marilyn Manson, and even film actor Bill Moseley. But in addition to being a known quantity in the world of dark music, Sharone is an in-demand composer for films, TV shows, and video game: His scoring credits include My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, season 4 of Ray Donovan, American Ultra, and Rock The Kasbah. He's also written and performed contemporary classical pieces, making him the rare musician whose music can be heard at a Manson show and at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

When Sharone isn't working on scores or performing in a band, he's working on his solo project as Thrillsville. Conjuring up tantalizing and warped soundscapes on 2017's Haunt Music, Thrillsville music sounds like it's been ripped directly from a melted B-movie VHS tape. It's ghoulish, grizzly, and just plain great.

We had a chance to talk with Sharone, who's taking his Thrillsville show on the road. He shared with us the carny origins of his music and what it's like to have the scoring tables turned on him.

One of the things that really struck me about Thrillsville is your music videos. The ones for "Lycanthrope" and "Sirens" are really eye-catching and strange. How did those come together?

The guy who did "Lycanthrope" was someone that we’ve worked with in the past. Do you know Bill Moseley—the actor? He’s kind of a horror icon: He was in The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses. Bill and I have a little side project called Spider Mountain. I wrote a bunch of songs for it; it’s just me and him. We did a couple of videos for Spider Mountain and they were done by the same guy who did the “Lycanthrope” video. Those videos were done years ago, but I liked that kid’s style a lot. And I’m a big fan of stop motion animation…. So I sent him my EP to see if any of those songs inspired him and “Lycanthrope” was the one that he really liked.

It was amazing to see how the video turned out because I didn’t give him any direction. The whole narrative of the hunter and the hunted, where the guy who turns into the werewolf is running away from the guy who’s trying to kill him—he was inspired by the music to do that. It’s a magical thing with music, the way it inspires people to come up with our narratives. Outside of my bands, I do a lot of film and TV music scoring so I’m always fascinated by where people’s heads go when they hear a piece of music. And “Lycanthrope” was interesting because I had friends and fans who couldn’t tell which came first. They thought the music was written to the video!

And then for “Sirens,” that came from my buddy who’s a 3D graphics animator extraordinaire. We met through my affiliation with Puscifer, back when I used to play with them. He was working on this really weird piece of animation and thought “Sirens” would go with well with it.

It’s funny you mentioned the Puscifer connection, because “Sirens” reminds me of another Maynard project: Tool. The creepy vibe of the video and the strange man-babies reminded me of the freaky animated videos they used to do for their earlier albums.

Yeah, absolutely. I think Adam Jones from Tool directed a lot of those videos. I know “Sober” was done by Fred Stuhr. We share a lot of the same influences: experimental animation, stop motion animation. Guys like The Quay Brothers, of course, and Jan Svankmajer.

For someone who has such a long track record as a composer of film and TV scores, is it strange to be on the other side of the equation? To have people creating images based off of your work?

I love it. What does this make you see, you know? A perfect example of “Lycanthrope”: If you asked me what narrative plays out in my head when I hear that song, or ask a dozen people what they see when they hear it, you’re going to get a dozen different answers. And that’s the beauty of it: how music can make your head go to different places and just change your perceptions.

With scoring, I’m on the other side of that where I’m seeing someone else’s images and I need to find certain emotions to bring out of that scene with music. I have to feed off of that.

What fascinates me about Haunt Music, knowing your background as a composer, is that it has a very visual feel to it. It sounds like a soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist.

Thank you! The funny thing about Haunt Music, and why it’s called that, is the inception of it. It started out as five pieces of music that I was asked to write for a walk-through haunted attraction for this big Halloween events that my other band Stolen Babies was playing at. There were five rooms in this walk-through, which is why I wrote five pieces of music. And throughout the night, each piece of music- they were only a minute long- would loop for however long they needed it to play.

Fast forward a few years later, when I started to actively pursue a solo project I thought these would be a really great place to start. Why not pick up where I left off? I extended them, I added vocals to the songs.. I added a couple of new songs too, “The Caller” and “Body Bag.” They were actually pieces of music I had written for a movie that is never going to see the light of day. I thought it’d be a real shame if these pieces never got out there.

I ended up keeping the Haunt Music title because I wanted to stay true to the reason why I wrote this music in the first place. And I’m glad how it came together, because it’s really more of an experimental thing. I mean, my new stuff is much more straightforward as far as song structure goes. But it’s nice to do something that shows off my cinematic composer side and takes you on some kind of ride when you’re hearing the songs.

So the song titles on the EP - do they represent the stuff that was actually in those rooms?

Absolutely! Like "Enter the Haunt" and "Exit Through the Vortex/Boiler Room"- those were as is. “Enter” was the foyer music- what you’d listen to as you’re waiting to get into the attraction. And “Vortex,” I called it because when you’re leaving this particular maze they had a dizzying spiral effect. Like, you’re walking on this scaffolding, this catwalk, and it feels like the room is spinning around you so you don’t know what’s up or down. So I had those as the bookends on the EP to set the mood. I wanted to have something based around werewolves, too, and for “Sirens”- I called it “Sirens” because there were a lot of sirens in that particular room. And And "In the Hall of the Chainsaw King" is a play off of Grieg because I’m kind of a classical music nerd.

Since you brought up being a classical nerd: How do people in that world respond to your work outside that realm? Do they know that you do stuff like Thrillsville and Spider Mountain when you’re outside the classical world?

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Oh yeah, it’s such a small world. They know all about my rock stuff and working with Bill Moseley. And that came together in a cool way, meeting Bill. Stolen Babies was playing this Fangoria weekend convention that used to be put on in Burbank. Bill was one of the major talents who was there to do autographs and photo ops, all that stuff. This was when The Devil’s Rejects came out.

So I casually went up to him and gave him a CD of mine and he was really cool about it. He gave me a CD of his band, Cornbugs, this project he does with Buckethead. And not too long after that, I get an email from him saying ‘Hey, really love the Stolen Babies album. It’s been getting pretty much nonstop rotation in my house.’ He said his daughters loved it. So he asked if I’d be interested in writing songs for him? He said ‘Buckethead is doing his own thing and I still want to keep this music stuff going’ because Bill’s a really musical guy. So we kind of had a punk rock spirit going into it.

It’s weird how I’m in this band world and Hollywood world and classical world and scoring. But I couldn’t be happy just being someone who just scores or someone who just performs. I love all those things but I feel balanced when I get to do them all.

Precious Child / Thrillsville. With Neuron Spectre, Dreamreaper, and Rad Dude. 8 p.m. Sunday, September 2, at The Lunchbox, 4132 East McDowell Road; lunchboxphx.com. Tickets are $8 via Ticketfly.

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