Richard Elfman founded the theatrical troupe The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. In 1978 the remnants of the Mystic Knights formed together under lead singer Danny Elfman as the band Oingo Boingo. The hyperkinetic ska-flavored New Wave band is characterized by their manic live performances and eclectic range of songs; Elfman and the band performed for a remarkable twenty years.
The band from Los Angeles, California, USA, a pared-down version of the theatrical troupe The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, released eight major albums and two live compilations, each containing songs that varied from fast-paced ska to soulful jazz to emotional rock to off-kilter pop.
Starting in 1980, Oingo Boingo spent their first three albums establishing themselves as a band with quirky, bizarre, sarcastic, and anti-conformist vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation, among other things lambasting "normal" society and politics for their many hypocrisies and encouraging people to think for themselves. The band made a change toward a different sound when frontman Danny Elfman recorded So-lo in collaboration with the band and a new label, beginning a trio of "new wave"-ish albums containing ballads and songs about life and mortality, including the famous Dead Man's Party. The band went on to record Dark at the End of the Tunnel, a change toward a sort of Boingo-esqe "spirituality", and finally recorded their last album: dark, guitar-driven, hornless, influenced by the Beatles and Pink Floyd, eponymous with the new band name Boingo.
Now mostly known for their frequent contribution to movie soundtracks (including their most successful song "Weird Science"), Oingo Boingo formally broke up in 1995 after their last Halloween live concert, the reason being that 'it was time.'
Throughout the years, the following joined Elfman and Bartek as members of Oingo Boingo:
Leon Schneiderman - baritone and alto saxophones, percussion, backing vocals
John 'Vatos' Hernandez - drums, percussion
Kerry Hatch - bass, bass synthesizer, percussion, backing vocals
Sam 'Sluggo' Phipps - tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet, percussion, backing vocals, flute
Dale Turner - trumpet, trombone, percussion, guitar, backing vocals
Richard Gibbs - keyboards, synthesizer, trombone, percussion, backing vocals
John Avila - bass, bass synthesizer, percussion, accordion, backing vocals
Michael Bacich - keyboards, backing vocals
Carl Graves - keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals, electronic percussion pad
Warren Fitzgerald - guitar
Doug Lacy (aka Doug Legacy) - percussion, trombone, accordion
Marc Mann - keyboards, samples
Since the band's dissolution, frontman Danny Elfman has continued to find success in his career writing film scores, particularly in collaboration with director Tim Burton; he almost exclusively employs Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek as orchestrator. His film scores have included Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Good Will Hunting, Men in Black, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, Big Fish, and dozens more. Elfman also wrote the themes for more than a dozen TV series, including The Simpsons, Batman: The Animated Series, Desperate Housewives, Tales from the Crypt, and Sledge Hammer!.
Steve Bartek, besides working with Danny, has composed music for various TV shows, including Tales from the Crypt and Desperate Housewives, and movie scores, such as The Art of Travel, Meet the Deedles and Cabin Boy.
Vatos formed a concert show along with Sluggo, Bartek, and Avila in California. The concert show features performances of Oingo Boingo's most popular songs. This has led to speculation about a reunion. In early 2007, Danny Elfman said there would not be a reunion. He has irreversible hearing loss and is worried that playing live would exacerbate it. He stated that some members may also suffer from the condition.
The Oingo Boingo spirit is kept alive by tribute band Dead Man's Party, which performs regularly in Southern California - occasionally with original Boingos Steve Bartek, John Avila, and John Hernandez. Lead singer Robert Elfaizy sings quite impressive "Danny Elfman" vocals.
John Avila and Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez were two members of the trio Food For Feet. They also formed the rhythm section of Tito & Tarantula, a Los Angeles band fronted by Tito Larriva of The Plugz and the Cruzados. Avila and Hernandez also joined Larriva and guitarist Stevie Hufstetted in a one-off project band called Psychotic Aztecs. The Aztecs released one album on the Grita called Santa Sangre.
After the break-up, John Avila, guitarist Steve Bartek, drummer Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez, and saxophonist Sam Phipps (along with Doug Lacy and other musicians) formed a band called Doug & The Mystics. They recorded one album, New Hat, which included a cover of the Oingo Boingo song "Try to Believe," original songs, and covers of songs by Frank Zappa and other artists.
During the Halloween 2005 season, Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez put together a tribute to the band (and to Halloween itself), joined by former Oingo Boingo members Steve Bartek, John Avila, and Sam "Sluggo" Phipps which took place at the Grove of Anaheim. Standing in for Elfman was Bt4, a young man whom many fans call "the Danny byproduct." During the Halloween 2006 season, there were two Johnny Vatos Tribute to Halloween shows, one in Los Angeles and one in Orange County, with Vatos, Bartek, Avila, Phipps, Legacy, and Bt4 once again on vocals. "Vatos" has announced his intentions of hosting yet another concert along these lines in the 2007 Halloween season, this time at the House of Blues branches on the Sunset Strip and in Anaheim.
In 2005, John Avila, Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez, and Steve Bartek joined the list of performers on the soundtrack of the 2003 re-imagination of the classic sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica. Richard Gibbs joined at this time as well, but is credited as both a performer and composer. Their performances can be heard in seasons two and three, and will likely be heard on subsequent seasons of the series as well.
•The studio recording of "Goodbye, Goodbye" appears on the soundtrack to the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The song can only be found elsewhere on Boingo Alive and Best O' Boingo as a live recording.
•"Bachelor Party" and "Something Isn't Right" appear on the soundtrack to the 1984 film Bachelor Party. These songs can not be found on any Oingo Boingo albums. The soundtrack also includes "Who Do You Want To Be" from the album Good for Your Soul.
•In the 1984 John Hughes film Sixteen Candles, the character of Farmer Ted dances spastically to "Wild Sex (In The Working Class)" from the album Nothing To Fear.
•"Hold Me Back" and "Only A Lad" are featured during the opening and closing credits, respectively, of the 1984 film Surf II.
•"No One Lives Forever" can be heard during the bridge scene in the 1986 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
•"Not My Slave" can be heard on the car radio during a scene in the 1986 film Something Wild.
•"Happy" appears on the soundtrack to the 1987 film Summer School. This song cannot be found on any Oingo Boingo albums.
•"Better Luck Next Time" appears on the soundtrack to the 1982 film The Last American Virgin. This song cannot be found on any Oingo Boingo albums.
•"Who Do You Want To Be" appears on the soundtrack to the 1987 film Teen Wolf Too.
•"Try To Believe" (performed by Oingo Boingo under the alias "Mosley and the B-Men") can be heard in the 1988 film Midnight Run, which was scored by Danny Elfman. This version of the song is different from the version on the album Dark at the End of the Tunnel.
•"Same Man I Was Before" can be heard in the 1988 film My Best Friend Is a Vampire.
•The studio version of "Winning Side" appears on the soundtrack to the 1989 film She's Out of Control.
•"Flesh 'N Blood" appears on the soundtrack to the 1989 film Ghostbusters II. A short snippet is played as background music during the film.
•"Skin" can be heard on the radio (though not performed by Oingo Boingo) during a scene in the 1990 Clive Barker film Nightbreed.
•Susanna Hoffs covered "We Close Our Eyes" for the soundtrack to the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The song can be heard during the closing credits.
•"No One Lives Forever" can be heard in the 1997 television film Casper: A Spirited Beginning.
•"Home Again" appeared in the John Hughes film Home Alone 3 in 1997.
•A slightly altered version of "Forbidden Zone" was the theme song to the animated television show Dilbert (1999).
•"Stay" can be heard in the director's cut of the 2001 film Donnie Darko.
•"Violent Love" can be heard in the 1990 film The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.
•"Capitalism" appears on the soundtrack to the 2005 film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.
•"Dead Man's Party" can be heard during a costume party in the "Witch Hunt" (2006) episode of the television show NCIS.
•The live recording of "Who Do You Want To Be" (from the album Boingo Alive) appears on the soundtrack to the 2005 video game Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. It is also featured in the 2005 Nintendo DS version of Tony Hawk's American Sk8land.
•"Dead Man's Party" is a selectable song in the 2006 Xbox video game Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 4.
•"Only A Lad" was featured in the 2007 video game Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the '80s.
•"Weird Science" made an appearance in Beavis and Butthead as a music video. However, the duo disliked the song because Butthead believes that "this guy (Danny Elfman) thinks he's smart." Beavis disliked it because he said that "college music sucks." The duo decided to change the channel.
•"Home Again" can be heard at the end credits of the 1986 film Wisdom, written and directed by Emilio Estevez. The soundtrack to Wisdom is also the first all electronic film score that Danny Elfman created for the film.
•"Not My Slave" plays during the 1987 film Like Father Like Son starring Kirk Cameron.
•"Dead Man's Party" is also performed by Oingo Boingo in the movie back to school staring Rodney Dangerfield.