Henry Mancini Interview
(A Tribute)

You talk about musical geniuses, Henry Mancini fit the bill. In a career that spanned 40 years, Henry Mancini scored the music for more than 80 films, collecting 20 Grammy’s in the process. Mancini is probably best known for "The Pink Panther Theme" and the Peter Gunn Theme song.

Henry Mancini died recently at the age of 70.

I interviewed Henry Mancini on April 13, 1981. That interview is being published here for the first time.

Q: Is it true that you only write music on assignment? Wouldn't you write a song just for the fun of it?
A: Well you know, I have to have a reason. I don't have time just to sit down and write for the so-called fun of it. I mean, I write on assignment for the fun of it too. (Laughs). No, I just have too many things to do, and one assignment goes into another one. I just have done very few things that haven't been for a purpose of one sort or another.

Q: You say as a writer that you have to keep an open mind, and you have to have the ability to absorb new ideas. Do you hear anything new in the music today?
A: No, not really exceptional, nothing that hasn't been coming around I like the country spill over into pop. But, that's been coming around for a long time. I don't really see anything that spectacular, nothing that's hit like Elton John did.

Q: I see films like Thief with James Caan are using Tangerine Dream's music as the soundtrack, or the "Flash Gordon" film is using Queen's music. Do you see that as a trend?
A: No. I see in addition to that, a lot of new writers coming in, like the one that did Dressed to Kill, and of course George Corgliono did Altered States. These are new names. So, I just think there's new people and there's enough to absorb any new kind of thing. I don't see any kind of trend. I don't think Fame was an especially traditional score. It was just actually a string of songs. So that's been with us for awhile.

Q: You compose in the den of your home. How do you avoid being bothered while you're in there by phone calls or someone knocking at the door?
A: Since that bid was written that you have, we just finished building a house and for the first time I have a room that's off on its own, off by itself, and I'm not bothered as much as I used to be.

Q: Do people write and ask how they can become another Henry Mancini?
A: Well, I get a fairly good number of letters asking for various pieces of advise. I must confess that when somebody writes and wants to form a pen pal kind of thing, I just can't get into that. There's so many that come in asking questions of that kind that if I can, I answer. If they get into too much detail, I just don't have the time to answer it.

Q: Now, after getting a haircut, you just happened to bump into Blake Edwards. What would've happened to you if that little incident had never occurred? That was a fateful meeting was it not?
A: Oh yes. I couldn't answer that. I was in a position where I had a good amount of experience behind me and I think I eventually would've gotten into something else. I mean as far as music goes, in a different direction with different people. But, I can't even speculate about that. But I know I would've been doing the same thing.

Q: Isn't it odd that being in the right place at the right time is still more important than all of the education and experience in the world.
A: Yeah. Right exactly.

Q: How did you get accepted into the Music Department of Universal back in 1952?
A: I went in with a vocal group. I used to do arrangements for a vocal group my wife was with, called The Mellowmarks. They used to do one reel shorts at Universal at the time. All the big bands that came through would go in there, and that would be part of their thing. They would do one reel short and play some numbers, and then have a vocal group, and then have a variety act or something. I just went in there doing the arrangements for the group and they liked what I did. There was an opening for someone who could do that kind of thing. So, I went in and did that plus everything else they had.

Q: How do you score music for a film you've never seen? Do you see the daily rushes?
A: No. I never see rushes. I wait till it's all finished. Then I sit down and see it. Usually once I decide to do it, they'll make a video cassette for me and I have a setup in my house where I can just put the cassette on and look at it, at my own place, and I don't have to go near the studio again.

Q: What are you working on now?
A: Well, I have two pictures coming out this summer. One is S.O.B. It's a Blake Edwards picture with Julie Andrews, Bill Holden, Bob Mulligan, Robert Preston. A whole bunch of people, Larry Hagman. Then the other one is my first experience with a Disney picture which will be called Condor Man, and that one comes out about the same time. It's kind of a romantic fantasy type of thing. So, they'll be both out this summer.

Q: What do you do to relax?
A: Well, we have a place in Vail, Colorado. I like to ski. I have an art collection. I'm very much interested in wines. I read all I can on that, and just travel too, is quite a relaxer for me, to concerts, you know.

Q: How many concerts do you do each year?
A: I think about 3 months worth.

Q: All over the world?
A: Wherever it goes, yeah.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved