Pat Irwin helped make songs like “Love Shack” and “Roam” a global sensation and also scored the childhood to most of the Monkeys Fighting Robots reading audience. Don’t believe me? Well, did you grow up with Tales from the Darkside in the 80s? Yeah, Irwin worked on that. Captain Planet or Rocko’s Modern Life? Irwin’s sonic superpowers made those possible too.
Monkeys Fighting Robots talked with Pat Irwin about touring with one of the most inimitable bands ever and making music for cartoons and The Good Cop.
Taking it to the Darkside
As a huge fan of Tales from the Darkside, that’s where this all begins “I basically scored some episodes. The show was shot around the corner from where I lived. Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz from the Talking Heads lived around the corner. Ernie Brooks from the Modern Lovers lived in the same building. There were a lot of artists and musicians living in this obscure industrial neighborhood. I was walking down the street and the director of the show recognized me from the Raybeats and asked me if I felt like scoring for the show.”
Tales from the Darkside featured a lot of cameos from pop culture kings and queens of the time “One of the episodes I scored had Deborah Harry [aka Blondie] in it.”
For Pat, the show sort of started it all “It was my very first television show I scored in my lifetime.”
Pat did not work on the legendary and terrifying into to the show but agrees “It was a really good theme.” He adds, “It was a cool show.”
About Tales from the Darkside, Pat says “It did a really good job of mixing humor and horror; tongue-in-cheek. But still scary. And that theme song, man, just amazing.”
About Making Music
Music, unlike other forms of art, doesn’t get absorbed just one way, it hits your ears, but it also hits your body, vibrations running through you “It touches you in your soul in ways that it digs its hook into you and it doesn’t leave.”
From on-stage rock idol to theme song creator for animated shows, what has more impact? “I’ll tell you one thing, playing in a band like the B52s which had massive success … the impact is huge, but it’s almost nothing like … Rocko’s Modern Life … that music really resonates with people, especially at a young age. I’m lucky to have done both.”
The Road to The Good Cop
Irwin’s musical career is thanks, in part, to a lot of persistence “I took clarinet lessons. I really didn’t study music. I picked it up as I went along. In college, I was studying English and History, and I never really thought I’d become a musician, but I always played music. It was so far out of my reach. I didn’t get it. I guess I would say I stuck with it.”
In the 80s, Irwin also played with a band called The Raybeats and adds “There were times when it didn’t seem like it was going to work out. You know, around the time of Tales from the Darkside, The Raybeats wasn’t playing anymore, and I got this offer and said ‘hell yeah!’”
Another aspect of Irwin’s career is due to a teenie bit of BS that followed the idea of faking it until you make it “They asked, “Have you ever done this before? And I said, sure!’ Of course, I was lying.” By that point, Irwin’s musical training-on-the-go was complete, and he was up to the task.
The Good Cop
How does the process start for Irwin when facing a new project like The Good Cop “Getting into the story, being a part of it. You want to be in that fabric … in the moment of the show. It takes work.
Irwin elaborates “In the case of Rocko’s Modern Life, I stared at the drawings and felt the kind of fun, the goofiness of the show. It came about naturally for me. In The Good Cop, it didn’t happen immediately. The creator of the show Andy Breckman, he wanted piano … I wasn’t a natural piano player. I was okay, but he was quoting things like the soundtrack to The Firm and Dave Brubeck, and I had to really study for the show. It took me a while, but I fell into it … I got excited about the idea of doing Peter Gunn, Henry Mancini, Elmer Burnstein, there’s a legacy in that kind of music.”
I’m hoping The Good Cop gets picked up for a second season. I’d love to do more work on that show. The musicians I worked with are just phenomenal. They made the soundtrack shine.”
Josh Groban didn’t get involved with the music for The Good Cop, likely to stay focused on delivering his strong performance. However, “I did some work with Tony Danza. We did the theme together. Tony sang. He was a pleasure to work with.”
Taking off with the B52s
There’s really only one way to describe the B52s for those who don’t know them “The B52s were pretty far outside the box.”
Irwin met the B52s way back in the 70s and became a member later on “When I started playing with the band was around the time of “Love Shack” and “Roam.” I was a big fan of “Rock Lobster,” “Planet Claire” … but they were also my friends.”
And the band’s success was phenomenal “There’s nothing like playing soccer stadiums in Chile and having 40,000 people screaming back at you ‘Planet Claire, has pink air!’” Irwin continues “The B52s, they broke all the rules. That’s why I love that band so much.”
Irwin points out something special about the B52s that is often overlooked but was made possible by the band’s expressionist mentality “You know what’s cool about that too, is that you’re playing in front of crowds of people that have a license to be themselves. To dare to be crazy. Dare to be different. You look out, it’s not all people dressed in one kind of outfit, it’s a sea of individuality.”
The B52s were wild but brilliant, which keeps their music fresh even today “The band really grew. You could never imagine Roam being on the first record. I think the band always tried to get outside of what they would regularly do.
Irwin kind of sort of answers the question of who some of his influences are “I would say, the pop side is kind of fluid. I would immediately say I grew up with the Beach Boys and the Beatles. At the same time, I loved the soundtracks to James Bond movies, Goldfinger, all of it. I love instrumental rock and roll. But, my tastes are pretty eclectic so you might get a different answer tomorrow.”
He’s more sure about another set of influences “… I love Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Their music really spoke to me. I was lucky enough to work with Philip Glass and see him write music by hand. To be able to see him work … I can’t say enough about how generous he is, not only as a composer and performer but as a person.”
What’s next? “Good question. I’m waiting for the phone to ring,” Irwin laughs. “There’s a Rocko’s Modern Life movie coming out. I also have a band called the PI Power Trio … and also a band called Suss. We have a record coming out, we’ll be doing some concerts. Both those bands are on Spotify.”
Creating is the pure driving force for Pat “I just keep going. I can’t stop.”
Thanks to Pat Irwin and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.