Brad Bird's Musical Movie

Michael Giacchino has a swanky workplace.

Due to the pandemic, the Oscar-winning film composer is working from his personal studio, which looks straight out of the 1950s at first glance – it’s filled with instruments, warm colors, and nostalgia. Childhood toys from Spider-Man, Star Trek, Speed Racer, and Planet of the Apes are present in his cabinets, which help keep the composer inspired.

Earlier this year, Giacchino went into his studio to produce his debut album, “Travelogue Vol 1,” along with the Nouvelle Modernica OrchestraFor his long-awaited debut, the composer crafted a throwback to old radio shows, mixing together a science-fiction narrative and lively lounge music. The album is melancholic fun. During our conversation with Giacchino, who recently released a holiday single, we talked about the album. But he also told us about his listening habits, concert experiences, the music he relaxes to, dances to, and draws inspiration from. It’s now time to share that latter part.

How Giacchino Relaxes

Giacchino unwinds and finds peace in all kinds of traditional Hawaiian music. “You can find that everywhere, which is amazing and great,” he said. “Also, Polynesian, traditional Polynesian music. That’s real, traditional music. If you want the more fantasy version of it all, then you’re looking up things like Arthur Lyman, look up things like Martin Denny, look up Esquivel too, that’s a little broader, more world music.”

Giacchino is All About St. Vincent

Giacchino lights up when he mentions St. Vincent. To be fair, he lights up whenever he’s talking about music, but he’s especially giddy when St. Vincent is in the conversation. She’s an experimental rock goddess whose name Giacchino mentions more than once. “I love St. Vincent, oh my gosh,” he said. “She’s incredible. To me, she is absolutely one of my favorites, because there’s a story in everything she does, and her voice is incredible. Her writing is incredible.” When asked whose music he can’t but dance to, St. Vincent’s name was at the top of the list.

Giacchino Jams With a Beatle

Giacchino does not have a favorite Beatle. He loves them all for different reasons. Paul McCartney, however, is the one Beatle the composer has collaborated with in the past. “I think Paul is incredible because, man, and he’s still going,” Giacchino said. “I’ve been very lucky enough to work with him on a couple of things. Getting to know him over the past seven years or so has been such a treat, because you realize, this is a man who just does this because he loves it. That is it. It’s as simple as that. He loves the challenge that music gives him, and then he loves sharing the result of that challenge with everyone in the world.”

McCartney is not only still going and about to finally release the long-awaited McCartney III, but he’s still putting on epic three-hour shows. They’re joyful experiences, especially when you’re singing along with over 40,000 people to “Hey Jude.” “Just incredible shows,” Giacchino continues. “And you listen to the breadth of work that he has done, and you’re just like, is there anyone else on the planet that can say they have done what Paul McCartney has done? I would argue, no, in the music world.”

Giacchino didn’t only sing the praises of McCartney, though, as he considers The Beatles to be the greatest band ever to walk the earth. “George Harrison, of course, is a genius,” the composer added. “I love him. And John, I love him too, for his own thing. John’s outlook on life and the world is was so special and so specific to him that his songs were John’s songs. You just knew it. You can feel that, but I love Paul’s willingness to go and try everything.”

Giacchino believes McCartney could’ve been a successful composer if he desired. “If Paul wanted to in a different life, he could have been an amazing film composer,” he added. “He’s such a great storyteller and he’s great at all different genres, and he has no problem just putting out great thing after great thing.”

Favorite Concerts

As far as songwriters go, the composer considers James Taylor to be one of the greatest. Giacchino has fond memories of seeing the Two-Lane Blacktop star more than once in concert. “I remember one time seeing him in New Jersey and being blown away,” Giacchino said. “I couldn’t believe that I was sitting in front of James Taylor. Again, I’m always drawn to people whose songs tell stories and Paul’s songs tell stories, James Taylor’s songs tell stories, in the same way, that we could flash forward to now, St. Vincent, as we talked about. I love that so much.”

Giacchino listed ACDC, Boston, and The Rolling Stones as other favorite concerts he’s attended “just for the energy alone.” “And you’re just like, how?” Giacchino asked. “Where is this coming from? That’s the thing, that’s the experience you want. When you go to see a band like that, you don’t want to walk away and go, ‘Oh, that was fun.’ You want to walk away and go, ‘What the hell just happened. That was amazing. How do they do that?'”

Time to circle back to St. Vincent, who Giacchino says keeps that rock energy alive and well. “I also love new music that took that formula into the new age, into a newer era, and not to keep harping on St. Vincent, but she definitely is someone who has done that for me, that I feel like, wow,” he added. “I’ve been lucky to see her live a couple of times. She puts on a great show.”

Another McCartney Memory 

You can never talk too much about McCartney, right? Giacchino doesn’t think so. On the subject of best concerts, he again name-checked The Beatle. “When you’re there in that audience, you can’t remove yourself from that for the rest of your life,” Giacchino said. “You’ll always remember that moment, always. I have seen him many times over the years, but I think one of my favorite shows was at the Hollywood Bowl. It was the first time he had played there since he had played there with The Beatles, which was in 1964.”

Personally and professionally, Giacchino has nothing but respect for the living legend who changed the game. “It was amazing to see him on stage going, ‘Wow, I remember being up here and then talking about what he remembered changing, there used to be a pond out there,'” Giacchino added. “And hearing those thoughts, I thought was special, because you could tell that it meant something to him. It wasn’t lip service, he does understand the importance of what he’s doing and the significance of what he’s left behind so far.”

Giacchino Gets Down at Burning Man

If you ever find yourself at Burning Man, keep an eye out for the composer dancing underneath the desert sun. “I didn’t this year because it was canceled, but I go to Burning Man every year,” the composer said. “Burning Man is not so much a music festival, it is an art festival, but you do find music there. There are nights where you just dance until five in the morning, and then you watch the sun come up and then you go to bed, and then the next night you do it again.”

At Burning Man, Giacchino lets loose to house music. “There’s actually a lot of house music that I like,” he added. “There was a lot of club music. I really like aspects of dubstep, which is crazy. I have the widest range of taste in music. I love all of it.”

He does indeed love all of it, so much so he can’t stop talking about his faves when our time is up. He had one last recommendation to share. “Oh, there’s another artist, Jain,” he concluded. “Oh my God, she’s incredible too. She’s a solo artist [pictured above]. She’s awesome. A lot of her stuff makes you want to dance as well. So, it’s a wide range of stuff, and I do love it all. I love the exploration of new music. It’s always a fun thing.”

Album Recommendations 

Giacchino could’ve gone on about his favorite albums and bands. In fact, he did go on via email when he sent us a list of artists and albums for you, dear reader, to check out:

  • Bahia (Arthur Lyman)
  • Quiet Village (Martin Denny)
  • The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter
  • The Soul of the Drums (Les Baxter)
  • The Forbidden Sounds of Don TikiEsquivel
  • Cabaret MañanaHawaii Calls
  • Webley Edwards & Al Kealoha Perry
  • And some more modern stuff:
  • Vampire Weekend
  • Billie Eilish
  • DJ Snake
  • Hot Chip (In addition to Gorillaz, St Vincent, Sigrid)
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