I am sitting on the tarmac at LAX and was just told that my already two-hour delayed flight to Hawaii was going to be delayed another hour. Try explaining that to a six-year-old.
What is your earliest memory?
My memories pre-five are spotty, but I can remember my first day of kindergarten. It was like being offered an adventure that I had no interest in participating in. I recall watching in terror as one boy was forcibly dragged into the classroom by his parents while he was clawing at the walls and screaming at the top of his lungs. I thought to myself, “What kind of horrible world am I being dropped into?”
If you weren’t a composer, what other profession would you choose?
I would probably choose to be an old-fashioned special effects guy. Not the new-fangled computer type, but the kind that blows up miniature aircrafts and buildings for monster movies. Which means I probably would be out of work these days, huh?
Describe a typical work day.
I wake up and eat. Eating is always the first thing I do right out of the gate. Then, maybe or maybe not, work out. Then composing begins. Usually I write nonstop from 8:30 a.m. (small lunch break) and stop at 5:30 p.m. That’s it. I don’t like working at night or on weekends if I can help it. That time is sacred and is for family and friends.
Is there a time you wish you’d lied?
Hmmm, hard to say. I can’t recall a time where it would have turned out any better if I did lie. However, I do know a time when I wished I hadn’t lied. I accidentally set my backyard clubhouse on fire and then tried to blame it on the sun. It was October. In New Jersey.
What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?
I would say, “In most respects, Mike, just keep doing what you’re doing. However, when you get to high school and Lori Serfass asks you to the homecoming dance, do yourself a huge favor. Listen to Harry’s advice, and just say yes.”
If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?
Beatles – Revolver. However, in high school I’d have said anything by James Taylor.
What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?
Aint It Cool News, NPR, and Shorpy.
From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?
I draw an immense amount of inspiration from my kids, friends, and the people I work with. When it comes to being creative, I only like to work with individuals who inspire me to be better. I feel very lucky to say that in my life I have that in spades.
Name three books that have impacted your life.
John Lennon, A Life.
Travels with Charley.
A Prayer for Owen Meany.
If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?
That sounds torturous, actually. I don’t mind revisiting the past once and a while, but I’d hate to have to live there.
How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?
I’m two degrees from Mr. Bacon: Me, Tom Cruise, Kevin Bacon.
What makes you feel most guilty?
Well, I was raised Catholic, and my parents’ best friends were Jewish. Everything makes me feel guilty. But I guess living so far from where I grew up can be hard. You hate to miss the more normal family events that go on from day to day.
How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?
Throughout the centuries, I believe artists have inspired other artists to create something of their own. I like to think that all of the art that I watched/read/played while growing up plays a small part in everything I do today. That goes from looking at a Monet to watching The Muppet Show.
Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind the John Carter score.
Adventure, friendship, romance, and loss – all themes that I look for in the work that I do. These feelings are basic human emotions, and they are what drove me as a child. And they still drive me today.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?
Don’t listen to my advice.
List your favorite in the following categories: Musician, Comedian, Author, Actor.
Musician – Too many to choose!
Comedian – Albert Brooks or Victor Borge.
Author – John Steinbeck or John Irving.
Actor – Harrison Ford or Jim Henson.
If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?
I would probably make some film that would be the big budget equivalent to the films I made as a kid. You know, really emotional space/monster action dramas.
What do you want to know?
Two things. Is there an afterlife? Are there aliens?
What would you like your last words to be?
Hopefully I am telling someone (in a very peaceful setting) “I love you.”
Please explain what will happen.
What will happen is that once my currently delayed flight arrives in Hawaii and the trip comes to an end, I will inevitably want to return for a much longer stay. I love it there.