Interview: Harry Manfredini (Composer, Friday The 13th Films)

Writer Steve De Roover of / has been steadily collecting interviews of Friday The 13th alumni over the years and has agreed to let publish these interviews for fans to read and enjoy. Below is Steve's interview with Harry Manfredini (Composer, Friday The 13th Films). Big thank you to Steve for letting us share his interview with Harry!

Harry Manfredini Interview
(Steve De Roover) How did you get involved in the scoring-business and of course in Friday the 13th?

(Harry Manfredini) I always wanted to score films from when I was very young.  There was something about it that just fascinated me I guess.  It took a long time for me to even get there.  When I was going to school in New York, the opportunity came up for me to do some film music and I was on my way.   Started with doing many short childrens films which were quite successful.   One of my directors, Gary Templeton, was connected in some way with Sean Cunningham who was doing some films, and I got to meet him, and did a couple of films for him before we hit on Friday the 13th…. And the rest is history I guess.

(Steve De Roover) Recently, Friday The 13th celebrated its 30th anniversary. What is the enduring appeal in this film and the following franchise?

(Harry Manfredini) I guess it is just our enjoyment of fear and the unknown.  The films were simple, but they worked on the level of the fan base I guess.  I think fans would go, and then bring their pals, and watch their pals get scared. I don’t think there is any kind of secret as to how it worked.  Jason is kind of like having a visit with an old friend who stops by now and then.. a crazed killer Friend, but still an old pal.

(Steve De Roover) Were you aware at the time that you were working on something special?

(Harry Manfredini) No. I don’t think anyone envisioned what it has become.

(Steve De Roover) Did the huge success of Friday the 13th open doors for you?

(Harry Manfredini) Friday the 13th opened doors. And I suppose closed some as well.  At the time it surely put me on the map, and it opened other film offers. At the same time, it stereotyped me into being a horror guy.  It was early on in my career. So as a film composer I have had to find ways to get other genres into my resume.  All things being said, it opened doors, and gave me the career I wanted for so long.   I am grateful.

(Steve De Roover) You did write the famous ‘Ki Ki Ki – Ma ma ma’-sample and the iconic score for Friday The 13th. Every Friday-fan does now by now what the sample means, but it always struck me as if you were influenced by Bernard Hermann of Psycho-fame. Am I right about that and if not what are your biggest influences?

(Harry Manfredini) Well, first of all, it is almost impossible to write almost any film score and not be influenced by Bernard Herrmann.   His fame and musical stature goes far, far beyond Psycho.   Of course I know his music and have studied numerous scores he has written. At the time of writing Friday,  I was studying Jerry Goldsmiths Score to COMA, and also the music of Kristov Penderecki, both of whom influenced the score to Friday the 13th as well.   The Penderecki being one of the main influences of the so called “jason sound”  to which you spoke.

(Steve De Roover) You also did the soundtrack for the following parts except Part 8. I personally love the score for parts III and VI, because these have a different vibe then the others. Can you explain how those scores came about?

(Harry Manfredini) Well, I also did not do the score to VII..  I think they reused some of my earlier scores in places, but I did not do the whole score.  I was doing another picture at the time of 7, and I think the same on 8.   So that was one reason.  I also seem to remember that these films had a Canadian content contract and so it was to their advantage to use a Canadian composer.   I think Fred Mollin did the scores.  Nicely done, I might add.

And Thanks for those nice words about III and VI..

(Steve De Roover) You also were involved in other classic horror films like Swamp Thing, House, The Hills Have Eyes II, Slaughter High and Deep Star Six. Some of these are also from Sean S. Cunningham. What is your relation with Mister Cunningham and how is it to work with him and Mister Craven?

(Harry Manfredini) These are two very smart and talented people.  I think many fans would love to know that even though they are horror icons, they both have amazing senses of humor.  I blesses to know each of them...

(Steve De Roover) Explain also your experiences of working on these classic genre films?

(Harry Manfredini) It is nice to have that backward perspective.  I don’t think any of these were classic genre films when I was working on them.   They may have become classics, but not at the outset.  Every film has its own journey.  I think my approach is the same for all films, to find the character, and subplots, the form and textures, the shape and substance, and the intentions of the director.  If they become classics, then I guess we all did our work properly.  I enjoy every film I score.

(Steve De Roover) Do you have affection for the horror genre? And if so, why is that?

(Harry Manfredini) It may or may not surprise you, but I am not huge horror fan.   Don’t get me wrong, I like a good horror film.    What I do like about horror films, or should I say, scoring horror films, is that it is a wide-open palette of musical possibilities.  All bets are off, and you can write and go for anything that crosses your mind, or ear.   From the farthest out aleatoric music, music concrete, to just silence.   Yes, silence is a big part of a score.

(Steve De Roover) After Friday The 13th Part VIII the franchise went to New Line. You composed totally different kind of scores for Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X. Why this departure and what were the differences to work under New Line instead of Paramount?

(Harry Manfredini) As far as New Line vs Paramount, there was no difference at all.  The differences in the scores should be pretty obvious in that they were both pretty different films from the previous films.

(Steve De Roover) Why weren’t you involved on Freddy vs. Jason and the Friday The 13th reboot? What did you think of the scores of these new movies?

(Harry Manfredini) I don’t know the answer to this question. This is something you should ask the producers or directors of those films. I did not see or hear either of them, so I cant honestly comment on either scores.

(Steve De Roover) You did also other well-known movies like Kickboxer III and Iron Eagle III. What is your favourite movie on which you worked and what is your favourite score?

(Harry Manfredini) Every film I do is a fav.  I know that is a cliché, but I think it is true to some extent. Every film has its own fun for me.  Iron Eagle, had its big military march and action, House and House 2 had baby pterodactyls and worm dogs, old cowboys, a gun, a car, a blonde and of course Aztecs. Let me play my sax in a film noir setting!  Many of the Lifetime films I have done give me a chance to be dramatic and tender.  So you see they all have their qualities.

(Steve De Roover) What will the future bring for you? Can you enlighten us about some of your upcoming projects?

(Harry Manfredini) I have a number of films in the future.   A couple of horror films,  a psychological thriller and a horror comedy.   I just finished something called The Black Waters of Echos Pond. Kind of a Jumanji meets Psycho.

(Steve De Roover) Thanks for your time!

(Harry Manfredini) Thanks for asking me for the interview.  I hope these help

Let me know when it all comes together..