INVADER ZIM Fact #9

Dingy dingy dingy dingy! BOOOOOF! zzzuuuUHHHHHHHH.

Number nine.  Number nine.  Number nine…

Hahah!  Get it?  Neither do I.

Alright, moving on.

The response these posts are getting has been overwhelming, becoming increasingly unpopular in ways I could never have anticipated!  So I’ll do my best to keep it up and you just keep slumping more and more unpleasantly in your chair until I’ve no voice left from screaming and ranting incessantly and you’re just a dust covered skeleton collapsed around that lawn chair you’ve been fusing to the past week or so.

I’ve gotta say, however, that I’m a bit disturbed by what some people are starting to say about my humanitarian efforts to enlighten some folks, that I am perhaps making some of this stuff up, not sticking entirely to the facts.

ME.  Making things up.  ME!!

I feel I should address this accusation from people who, up to this point, have known me only as a source of quality documentary materials and irrefutable reference-level publications.  Those of you who who do not count yourselves among the ranks of these finger pointers, these slander-mongers, please, sit this section out over in the pleasure lounge where my robots are serving vintage Squeeze-Its and giving out hand jobs.  Hah!  Don’t be afraid of those steel clamps for hands, they’re more delicate than they appear!

Alright, accusatory types, it’s just us now, and by the sounds of metal clamping down on flesh, and the signature sound of throats clenching and gagging on Squeeze-Its the other people are enjoying themselves.  Let’s talk about these terrible ideas of yours that I’m not being completely genuine with you on something so crucial as the cartoon shows.

I have never, ever been anything but honest and truthful in every single one of my endeavors, and I feel it would be breaking some bond of trust between you and I for me to ever think to embellish upon reality or even outright say a thing that simply didn’t happen.  It stabs at me to hear you say anything implying otherwise.

I’m beginning to think I should simply give up these constant explanations to get you to see things my way.  I think you’ll never fully trust me, no matter how often I remind you that you’ll be rewarded someday with free rides on Chiggers, my personal flying unicorn.  Chiggers’s been so excited to meet you and take you on adventures, but I’m not so sure I want to expose her to some of the awful stuff you say.  Who knows what someone as negative as yourself would say to a creature as pure and innocent as Chiggers.  The very thought it making me sick to my stomach, and I don’t mean in that same “Oh god this isn’t actually Squeeze-Its in this bottle what the fuck have you done?” kinda way.  I mean I’m just honestly sad that we couldn’t reconcile our views before things turned ugly.

Okay…look.  Let’s just drop this for now, alright.  We can decide on what to do about it later.  The rest of the guys are coming back into the room now, their stomachs laden with only the finest of whatever the man in the alley said he filled up those bottles with, their pants bloodied with robot lusts, and their minds eager to hear more behind the scenes info from INVADER ZIMS!

FACT.

Did you know that scoring a television show, even a silly cartoon one like INVADER ZIM, isn’t as easy as finding money just by walking around like a pathetic mortgage slave in Animal Crossing, shaking trees for cash, dreading the next call from one of Tom Nook’s goons?

Weirdly enough, much like in that depressing “game”, finding the right music for a show does often result in you riling up a nest of angry bees that sting the shit out of your face.  But find the right musical composer for the show I did, and I do owe that to video games, strangely enough.

Video games, by that point, had evolved from your average hipster’s 8-bit simplicity to things of as much visual and aural complication as their creator’s could wish for or afford.  Music especially had gotten to where it was indistinguishable from what you’d get in movies, which was both good and bad, depending on how you looked at it.

Where once the limitations of the older games meant focusing on a catchy melody that consisted of maybe four tracks of bleeps and ticks and bloops, resulting in some of the most insidiously memorable tunes ever conceived by mankind (Super Mario Brothers, Ghosts n’ Goblins, etc), the lack of restraints in modern games meant they could be as overproduced as anything else, melting into a very expensive sounding mush that left your head as soon as it went in.

But there are always exceptions, and at the time we were looking for a composer for the series, I knew I’d have to find just such an exception. Compiling a list of possible composers from games that I was into at the time, I began meeting with many of them, discussing what I had in mind for the show, getting a sense of just how much they seemed to understand what I wanted and how much they understood the show.  The going was slow, and though a few people stood out, I still felt miles away from a perfect match.

I drove home after one of those long days of meetings, discouraged, listening to music samples from demo reels, only driving myself deeper into a funk at the thought of having to settle.  At one point I was at a stop light just before the “Blade Runner” tunnel, the tunnel Deckard drives through in the movie just before going to investigate Sebastian’s apartment.  On rainy days, and rainy it was that day, the homeless sill often line the narrow walkway on either side of the road in that tunnel, and that day was no different, with sleeping bags and such harboring the unfortunates.  What caught my eye was one man, dirty and clearly one of the ranks of Los Angeles’ innumerable downtown invisibles.  He was standing just inside  mouth of the tunnel, out of the rain, but just barely, his pants shiny and heavy from the rain spatter.  Heavy enough that they were sagging almost down to his knees.

He didn’t seem to mind.  The man was about as happy as anyone I’ve ever seen, bopping to some unheard tune.  I saw that his mouth was moving as he bopped, and rolled my windows down to get a listen.

“BOOP BOOP DOOBEE DOOP SHMOOP!”, sang the man, the water leaving streaks of semi-clean on his face.  He couldn’t be more than thirty-some years old, but the rain ran down lines carved deep by a life I could hardly imagine.

A honk from behind brought me out of this hypnotized examination of the man, and I got my car moving, slowing and pulling over as much as I could to the side of the tunnel.  I put on my hazards and traffic flowed around to the left of me.

The man only smiled, not quite looking at me so much as the space beyond my car as he bopped, his song barely a mumble now.

An Artist's depiction of the tunnel encounter.

“Excuse me.  What is that song you are singing, good man?”, I asked, annoyed at the spatter of rain on my mustache, but too excited by I don’t quite know what to pull myself from the scene.  The man only gave me a slight glance, seeing through me, through the upholstery, and the gremlins at the Earth’s core as he sang and bopped, perfectly content.

“I say.  I say, my good man, would you happen to be a maker of music, for you see, I am in the moving pictures and I find myself in need of…”  He wasn’t listening.  he perhaps didn’t understand a word I was saying, and I decided I was being a fool, driven to fantasizes by desperation.  I began to roll my window up, then stopped.

A thought had occurred to me, a mad one for sure, but I had to try.  I rolled the window back down.

I cleared my throat, and as best I could I asked the man in song “BOOPA DOOPA BOOBY SHMOOP.  BEEDLEDEEBOOBOOP”

At this the man stopped bopping.  His eyes cleared.  I tell you it happened, the fog in his eyes cleared a little, and he beheld me with such an amazed grin, a child’s grin, a filthy, dirty, stinking child’s grin.

I could see the man working to understand something, his face twitching, eyes squinting as though it would help him see this more clearly.

After what seemed an eternity, the man responded, slowly at first, uncertain.  ”Deebeedoo.  Doodledeebooop.  FWEE FWEE FWEEEE.”

I did not hesitate.  ”SCOOBA SHMOOBA BEEP.  SKEEP SKEEP SKEEBADOOWAAAAH!?

Again, and with more confidence, the man sang back at me.  What were we saying, I wondered!  What a find, what joy what rapture, what mystery.  What mattered was that we had found a connection , had linked our souls through music, and though we used the same words, our languages were alien to one another.

I opened the door and stepped out, taking the man by the arm to take him away from this squalid place, to take him to what could be a new life for him.  Oh, how the man shrieked, batting my hands away, slapping himself in the head and smashing his head against the tunnel walls over and over, the wicked banging of it reverberating in that space.

The tunnel only works in Blade Runner. Sucks in other movies.

I could see this was going to be difficult.  One doesn’t consider the troubles that arise when working with a composer who is a howling lunatic man-child living like a troll under a bridge.  But there were worse people on the production, and I felt it was worth pursuing.

Though the man had no identification, I eventually named him ‘Kevin Manthei‘, after my beloved Cocker Spaniel of my childhood years, cruelly snatched by the Lord away from my tiny, hairy arms by an enormous chicken hawk.

An initial, tumultuous phase of learning how to work with Kevin gradually gave way to what amounted to a fairly smooth running process for scoring the show with the wonderful music you know to fill the show now.  Upon beginning work on an episode, I would stop by the tunnel and tell Kevin what sort of mood I was going for, giving him an early version of the script to prepare his mind for what was to come.  He’d crumple the papers up with glee, often chewing on some while giddily grunting sounds of delight that would sicken most men, but that only strengthened my certainty that I was onto something great, something so well-written that it was delicious to this mad musician. I’d return with the locked edit of that episode months later and, using the dvd player in my car, talk Kevin through what I was expecting for each scene.

Since Kevin was so terrified of leaving his spot in the tunnel, the best I could manage was having him peer through the window at the screen upon which my latest masterpiece was playing.  I’d stand outside with him and the two of us would communicate in our strange way as the episode played, pausing often to make sure he knew what I was thinking for this scene or that.

“Boopa boop…SKEEEEEEDOODAweeeeeeee….MEEF!”, I’d say, laughing loudly in that tunnel at how great I knew the scene would play out with the music to come.

“FLOOOO…Booba.  BeebadoobashmooobaaAAAAHHHWAHHH!”. Kevin would reply, bopping and jigging in that way he did when building upon my rudimentary composition.

We were practically of the same mind in those times, and we would laugh and jig and bop together upon reaching the end of each of these scoring sessions.

“Kevin” I would say, “You are the find of a century, and I’m proud to call you my composer.”

Kevin would begin to try to fold himself into his own pockets, and I’d laugh, understanding that I’d fallen back onto old habits.  ”I mean…BOOOOBADOOP SHWOW SHOW SHOWWWWAHHH!”

His eyes would light up and he’d come back with a rousing “DEEDEEDEEEDOO beebadooBAWWW!”  The sound of a man proud of his work.

“Doonka doonka deebeeweep.  SHMOOOOOP” we once heard coming not from either of us but from one of the homeless huddled under their rank blankets for warmth.

Kevin and I beheld a frail old Japanese woman, ancient and miniscule underneath all those heavy blankets and clothes.  Her face fractured into a myriad of lines and creases as she smiled up at us, happy to be acknowledged, happy to play along.

We beat that woman to death, Kevin and I.  We beat her to down to her brittle, porous skeleton for we were a team, he and I, and nobody understood our connection.

We continued in that manner for the run of the show,  not beating elderly Japanese women to death, but working out the show’s distinct musical style, creating one of my favorite cartoon scores of all time, if I do say so myself.

Our final session was a a bittersweet thing, a time on the verge of much deserved rest, and the understanding that we’d not have these moments anymore.  We got through it without being overly sentimental about it, dealing with that Christmas episode the way we would any other episode at any other time.  One must remain professional about these things, and that’s exactly what we did, with one exception.

It rained that day, and I was reminded of how I met this strange, wonderful tunnel goblin.  I was glad for the rain as it allowed me to step out into it, Kevin following a few seconds after.  We smiled and looked up into the sky, washing away the sadness, maybe, being silly and getting drenched maybe…but it’s possible we were out there so that the other wouldn’t notice the tears in our eyes.

Now, I’m a man secure enough in his heterosexual nature that I’ve no shame in admitting to thoughts like hugging a man, or blowing him behind the Quiznos when all that’s keeping me from a Honey Bourbon Chicken sandwich is five dollars, so I feel no qualms about telling you that I hugged Kevin there in the rain.  I hugged the music in him, hoping some of it would mix with mine for years to come.

“I love you, man.”, I said to him, holding him tightly.

“Boop.  Boopa doo.”, said Kevin.

And I snapped his neck.

His body slumped to the floor and was immediately descended upon by the other tunnel dwellers.  I walked back to my car.

Really, I hated the thought of him working with anybody else, and he knew some awful shit about me.  It wouldn’t have been at all wise of me to let him live after the show got canceled like it did, and I think Kevin would’ve wanted it that way.

The dog Kevin, not the man.  That dog made me do some terrible things.

–ZIM FACTS. Here’s why—