Exclusive Interview with Willy’s Wonderland Composer Émoi

If you are a horror fan, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the buzz around Nicolas Cage’s insane new film, Willy’s Wonderland. Nicolas Cage plays a janitor, who gets locked in a rundown family fun center with demonic animatronic characaters, picking them off one by one before they can take his soul. The music of Willy’s Wonderland adds another level of fright to the film and it turns out the film’s composer not only created the score, but he also performed all the lyrical songs in the film including the country western-sounding Head Shoulders Knees Toes and the catchy The Birthday Song and Willy’s Jingle. Émoi also voiced the evil Willy Weasel character in the film. In the below exclusive Q&A, we spoke with Émoi about the many roles he had brining Willy’s Wonderland to life. Willy’s Wonderland is available now on VOD. Émoi’s Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is also available on iTunes, Spotify and everywhere else digital albums are sold.

-What did your collaboration look like with director Kevin Lewis?

To make a film like Willy’s Wonderland, you really have to have a director who understands the nuances of the genre. A film like Willy’s isn’t about perfect continuity, a seamless plot, or academy award winning performances – on the contrary, there is a certain level of ridiculousness that is implied. The film can’t be too cerebral, or take itself too serious. It has to take risks, be fun, create excitement, and be completely over the top about all of it. Kevin completely understood all of this. He had an incredible vision for Willy’s, because he’s a fan of films like this, and so am I. So our collaboration was that of two people who were on the same page.

-Because Nic Cage’s character doesn’t speak in the film, did you feel the need to overcompensate with the music surrounding his character? What was your stance on this?

There was certainly the discussion that because The Janitor doesn’t talk, the music needs to talk for him. So I wrote a theme for the Janitor that is interwoven through a multitude of cues in the film, each having the same notes and progressions, but reflecting a totally different mood that mirrored the emotional state of The Janitor.

-A lot of composers score their projects out of order, composing the most important scenes last, after they have been fully encompassed in the project. Did you do this with Willy’s Wonderland or did you score the film in chronological order?

The film was edited in reels chronologically, meaning the editor would deliver the film in sections (called reels) starting with the first 15-20 minutes, then the next 15-20 minutes, etc. Once a reel was delivered, I had two weeks to composer the music. So yes, on Willy’s Wonderland, I composed chronologically.

-You also voiced the animatronic character, Willy Weasel. What did you do to get in character for this?

I watched Tales From The Dark Side and Disney’s animated Pinocchio, and pulled inspiration from Christian Slater and Lampwick.

-The Soundtrack is now available too. After looking at the track list, you seem to have a track for each of the animatronic characters. Was there an animatronic that was more complicated to score than the others?

Not particularly, but I did try to give Gus a sort of jungle beat behind his confrontation with The Janitor. In doing so, I introduced some hand percussion – which took some time. Besides that, like The Janitor, Willy’s theme changes with Willy’s moods as well, and in the end, their fight is a combination of The Janitor theme, and Willy’s theme clashing. The voices are the souls of the murdered children that haunt Willy’s Wonderland.

-You wrote and performed a lot of the songs in the film. Where did you get inspiration for these lyrics? Does songwriting come naturally to you?

 The lyrics to the title track “Willy’s Wonderland” just comes straight from the film. I imagined it from the standpoint of someone trapped in there and trying to survive. The lyrics to the character songs comes from my childhood at Chuck E. Cheese and Bullwinkle’s. They are really just a satirical parody of the kinds of stuff you might hear at those places. And I snuck in some dark double entendres for subliminal creepiness.

-Without giving too much away, did you have a favorite death in the film?

I don’t know how to say this without giving it away. Spoiler alert! But I really like when Willy just whacks Lund’s torso off her hips.

-The track Head Shoulders Knees Toes is very country western sounding. What made you decide to put this sort of spin on it? If it wouldn’t have been country, was there another genre you were experimenting with?

Great question! So originally, the song on the jukebox was going to be a licensed track. And they were looking at songs that had more of a 21 and over vibe – cause there was something cool about The Janitor, Cammy, and Sara throwing down to a pretty hip track. But I thought…A jukebox in a family event center would likely be loaded with kids’ songs. In the scene you see lots of close ups: The Janitor’s feet, Cammy’s eyes, Sara’s mouth. And I thought – what if we had a hip, almost country line-dancing version of Head Shoulders Knees Toes? That would be pretty cool and fricken hilarious, and could address the desire to showcase The Janitor’s bad- ass-edness, while at the same time adding some ridiculousness and comedy.

-In a sentence or two, can you tell horror fans why they should watch this film?

Because honestly, there’s no film quite like it. And it is a wicked good time!

Written by
Ash Hamilton is not only the owner of Horror-Fix.com, but also one of its major contributors. A long time horror movie enthusiast, Ash has lent his personality to radio and television and continues to support his favorite genre through his writing and art. He also loves beef jerky and puppies... and low-grade street-quality hallucinogens.

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