Joseph Bishara (born July 26, 1970) is an American composer, producer, and actor, best known for his work scoring films such as Insidious, 11-11-11, Dark Skies, and The Conjuring. Bishara's career began with the 1998 Biblical drama Joseph's Gift, though he composes music for mainly horror films and has collaborated several times with director James Wan. Projects by directors John Carpenter and Joseph Zito, and musicians Ray Manzarek and Diamanda Galás have incorporated Bishara's work. He has also functioned as a producer on Repo! The Genetic Opera and other projects.
After the early influence of classical music, Bishara began experimenting with electronic and experimental music, becoming interested in Tangerine Dream. He became engrossed in horror film scores after watching the silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the horror classic Nosferatu. In the late 1980s he became a member of the industrial band Yesterday's Tears, which later was known as Drown. By around 1994, he was signed to a record and touring contract with Drown.
Although Bishara's film score work began with the Biblical drama Joseph's Gift in 1998, most of his subsequent work has comprised horror films like Unearthed and The Gravedancers in 2006 and Night of the Demons in 2016.
He began to be the subject of more media attention with the James Wan film Insidious in 2011. The New York Times film critic Mike Hale remarked that Bishara's score helped the film recover from some of its negative attributes such as "pedestrian camerawork". Writing for Howlin' Wolf Records, Jason Comerford referred to the score as a "dense, bristling effort jam-packed with invention and energy". The score was performed by a string quartet accompanied by Bishara producing sounds on a rusted piano using hammers, files, and other "experimental instruments" of his design. Much of the score was recorded before Wan began shooting the film, the musicians improvising some parts as they went along but following Bishara's broad structure and concept. Bishara began sending completed recordings to Wan as he was editing the film so Wan could work the score into the film according to the structure he desired. Though film score composers are typically more involved in music placement, Bishara noted the process used on Insidious felt "free". Bishara also acted in the film, portraying a demon that served as the film's main antagonist.
Bishara went on to score the Darren Lynn Bousman film 11-11-11. In 2013, Bishara worked with Scott Stewart to score the science fiction horror film Dark Skies. Writing for Film Journal International, Justin Lowe referred to the score as "unnerving" but suitably within the background of the action. He then reunited with director Wan to compose the score for The Conjuring. He also portrays an entity named Bathsheba in the film. Wan's producers gave him wide latitude to decide who he wanted to work with him on the film, so he brought back many of the crew from Insidious, including Bishara. Bishara scored the sequel to Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013), but did not return to portray the demon.
In 2014, Bishara scored the John R. Leonetti horror film Annabelle, for which he received an ASCAP Top Box Office Films award. He next composed the score for a segment of the 2014 anthology film V/H/S: Viral, "Gorgeous Vortex", as well as the James Wan production Insidious: Chapter 3, and another horror film, The Vatican Tapes, on which he replaced Mike Patton of Faith No More.
Production and sound design
In addition to composing, Bishara has worked in other aspects of film production, providing sound design services for John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars and acting as music producer for Repo! The Genetic Opera. The Ghosts of Mars project involved programming and remixing music composed by Carpenter and determining how it would be integrated into the film. In 2015, Bishara helped produce the song "Shroud" on rapper Tech N9ne's album Special Effects.
Bishara is known to be fond of horror, and he has stated that he favors composing for the genre above others: "It is the one that had the most energy for me. There always just seemed to be something a little bit more compelling about being on the edge of everything going away." He is known for his avant-garde style and unique approach to instrumentation and composition that suits horror films particularly well. Music journalists have noted his disregard for horror film score conventions, employing "gut-wrenching string dissonance, haunting electronic sounds and sudden crescendoes" and using strings and percussion to create effects designed to evoke "maximum shock effect" in the listener.
- Joseph's Gift (1998)
- The Convent (2000)
- Power Play (2003)
- Unearthed (2006)
- The Gravedancers (2006)
- Autopsy (2008)
- Night of the Demons (2009)
- Insidious (2011)
- 11-11-11 (2012)
- The Conjuring (2013)
- Dark Skies (2013)
- Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
- Annabelle (2014)
- V/H/S: Viral (segment, Gorgeous Vortex) (2014)
- Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)
- Tales of Halloween (segments, Trick, Friday the 31st) (2015)
- The Vatican Tapes (2015)
- The Conjuring 2 (2016)
- The Other Side of the Door (2016)
Production and sound design
- Insidious – Lipstick-Face Demon
- The Conjuring – Bathsheba
- Annabelle – Demonic Figure (uncredited)
- Insidious: Chapter 3 – Lipstick-Face Demon
- The Conjuring 2 – Demon
- Barkan, Jonathan (November 19, 2012). "James Wan Confirms Joseph Bishara Back as Composer for Insidious Chapter 2". Bloody-Disgusting.com. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- Barkan, Jonathan (February 10, 2015). "Joseph Bishara's Score For 'V/H/S: Viral' Segment 'Gorgeous Vortex' Available Now". Bloody-Disgusting.com. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
- Comerford, Jason (2011). "Insidious by Joseph Bishara". HowlinWolfRecords.com. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- "Joseph Bishara Scoring 'The Vatican Tapes'". Film Music Reporter. June 20, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
- Fichera, J. Blake (2016). Scored to Death: Conversations with Some of Horror's Greatest Composers. Los Angeles: Silman–James Press. pp. 46–64. ISBN 193524714X.
- Hale, Mike (April 1, 2011). "Insidious". New York Times. p. C12.
- Lowe, Justin (April 2013). "Dark Skies". Film Journal International. Globe Media. 116 (4): 59.
- Nelson, Ken (July 18, 2013). "Interview with The Conjuring's jack-of-all-trades Joseph Bishara". GeekRoom.com. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
- Nevins, Cathy (March 10, 2015). "ASCAP Honors Top Film & TV Composers at 30th Annual Awards". ASCAP.com. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
- Schweiger, Daniel (September 10, 2013). "Interview with Joseph Bishara". Film Music Magazine. Global Media Online. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
- Smith, Trevor (April 6, 2015). "Tech N9ne Breaks Down 'Special Effects' Features, Including Eminem's 24-Bar Verse". HotNewHipHop.com. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
- Todd, Mike (July 19, 2013). "Film Music Friday: Joseph Bishara on The Conjuring". ASCAP.com. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- Turek, Ryan (May 18, 2010). "Exclusive Set Report: James Wan Talks Insidious". ShockTillYouDrop.com. Crave Online. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
- Green, Adam and Joe Lynch. "The Movie Crypt: Ep 110: Composer Joseph Bishara". GeekNation (Podcast). Retrieved July 2, 2015.