As a composer, Plum has worked in film, television and stage, most notably on several animated series for Nickelodeon and Disney Channel including the cult hits Making Fiends, Star vs. the Forces of Evil and the recent Harvey Beaks. A multi-instrumentalist, he has also performed and recorded in collaboration with numerous bands, musicians and composers including Danny Elfman, David J, Green Jellÿ, Black Francis, Gidget Gein, The Radioactive Chicken Heads and Genesis P. Orridge, as well has having released several albums worth of his own solo compositions under his label Ebola Music Records.
Early life and influences
Although Plum has a propensity for humorously fabricating parts of his life story in interviews and self-penned biographies in what he claims is "an extension of his performance", such as often claiming to be the grandchild of Leon Trotsky and Frida Kahlo or having once been an ostrich rider in South Africa, it is known that he was born as Ernesto Guerrero in 1975 in Los Angeles. His father, a passionate Marxist, named him in honor of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. According to Plum, he randomly conceived his pseudonym as an adolescent and arbitrarily chose to use it for his early recordings before it ultimately stuck permanently, "like a drunken tattoo in Tijuana".
At age thirteen, Plum's older brothers took him to a performance of "Cube E", a three-act stage show by experimental music pioneers The Residents, which he has frequently cited as his initial inspiration to become a performer. "I became convinced that music could be weird, subversive and meaningful", he spoke of The Residents' influence, "I knew that one day I would be doing something similar". Plum immediately began composing music on his brothers' instruments and recording home-made demos on Casio keyboards with 4-track recorders. Plum is proficient on multiple instruments and yet is entirely self-taught; his biography on the Making Fiends website claims his only formal musical training was completing a tap dance class at East Los Angeles College.
Plum traces his biggest musical influences back to his childhood love of cartoons and children's television, singling out Carl Stalling's arrangements of Raymond Scott's music for Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies and the music for Pee-Wee's Playhouse as composed by Danny Elfman, Mark Mothersbaugh and The Residents as his biggest overall inspirations. He has listed further influence from punk rock and new wave, in particular Devo, Oingo Boingo and the Dead Kennedys, as well as the work of film composers Franz Waxman and Bernard Herrmann.Musical career
After making the rounds as a drummer in the Los Angeles punk scene, Plum's first break came in 1996 when he contributed several songs to the soundtrack of Blood Slaves of the Vampire Wolf, a no-budget independent horror film directed by Ed Wood regular Conrad Brooks. The following year, Plum self-released his debut album Anthology of Infection, Vol. 1, a compilation of instrumental pieces written and recorded between 1990 and 1997, establishing a website promoting his music and offering his composing services to amateur filmmakers. A second compilation of newer instrumental material, Anthology of Infection, Vol. 2, was released in January 2000 to positive reviews, with Razorcake calling it "simply amazing" and Style Weekly praising Plum as "truly adept at songwriting".
In 1998, Plum began assembling the Ebola Music Orchestra, a ten-piece ensemble including a horn section, strings and accordions as means of performing songs from Anthology of Infection in a concert setting, with Plum serving as the musical director as well as switching off between guitar, keyboards, xylophone and various unique instruments. The original incarnations of the Ebola Music Orchestra featured numerous performers with physical deformities. "I am equally fascinated by people who are different but not because they are shocking or weird, but because they are beautiful", Plum explained, "I love talented people who embrace the things that make them different from the rest of the world". At one point, the orchestra was to be featured on the 2000 NBC revival of the human interest series You Asked For It, but NBC executives quickly pulled the plug on the segment out of concern it would be too controversial for prime time television (Plum speculated that it was "Gerome, the legless thalidomide-baby breakdancer" which broke the deal). Over time the group became less conceptual and more of a rock-oriented ensemble of Plum's "most talented friends performing the imaginary cartoon soundtracks I had in my head". The Ebola Music Orchestra released their debut album The Rat King in 2007. Critical response to the album was largely positive, including "highly recommended" praise from BlogCritics, which succinctly concluded their review with "[Ego Plum]'s got skillz".
Plum made his debut composing for the stage in 2009 with The Gogol Project, an original adaptation of three short stories by Nikolai Gogol created by the Rogue Artists Ensemble. The Gogol Project opened at the Bootleg Theater in Westlake to critical acclaim, winning Plum an 2009/2010 Ovation Award for Music Composition for a Play. Plum subsequently scored A Noise Within's 2012 adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and partnered with the Rogues again writing original songs and music for their 2013 production of Pinocchio.
In 2010, Plum joined the Grammy-nominated comedy metal band Green Jellÿ as a guitarist mere days before embarking on a brief national tour with Psychostick which included several stops on the Vans Warped Tour, though amicably parted ways with the band later in the year to focus on his own projects. In 2014, Plum joined the inaugural line-up of the McDonald's-themed Black Sabbath parody band Mac Sabbath, where he acted as drummer under the stage persona of "The Catburglar", or "Peter Criss-cut Fries". Although initially intended as a joke, Mac Sabbath gained viral popularity in late 2014 and began touring internationally. Shortly after a tour of the United Kingdom, Plum left Mac Sabbath to continue his composing career when his schedule could no longer accommodate the band's intense touring schedule.Television work
Plum made his first foray into television in 2008 when he was hired to score the Nickelodeon series Making Fiends, composing original material in addition to working with songs written by series creator Amy Winfrey. According to the show's production blog, Plum took a unique approach to scoring Making Fiends, frequently using toy instruments which were sometimes deliberately left out of tune and incorporating unusual sounds such as dripping water and goat bleats to give the score "an off-kilter, childlike quality". Although Making Fiends was cancelled after one season, the series spawned an enduring cult following and Plum continued a working relationship with Nickelodeon: in 2009, he was asked to compose the theme song to Planet Sheen, a spin-off of the hit series The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. Plum was ultimately not selected to score the series, though has since posted his original demos online.
Plum continued his work in scoring animated television with the Disney Channel original series Star vs. the Forces of Evil, composing the ending credits theme with Daron Nefcy. In late 2014, Plum announced that he had signed a contract to write songs and music for Harvey Beaks (then titled Bad Seeds), a new Nickelodeon series from C.H. Greenblatt, the creator of Cartoon Network's Chowder. Upon signing onto the show, Plum successfully negotiated the use of a 40-piece orchestra to record the series' music, making Harvey Beaks the first Nickelodeon show and one of the very few animated cable series to utilize a full orchestral score.
Over the course of his career, Ego Plum has collaborated with many independent and high-profile musicians and composers. Among one of his more prolific partnerships has been with David J, bassist for the gothic rock bands Bauhaus and Love and Rockets. In 2007, J was hired to score independent filmmaker Ramzi Abed's Black Dahlia-inspired feature The Devil's Muse when Abed introduced him to Plum's demos after Plum expressed to Abed a desire to help work on the film. According to J, he was "enormously impressed" by Plum's music: "All lush film noir atmospherics, Rotaesque strings and what sounded like the fever dreams of Raymond Scott. I had a partner in crime!". After working together on The Devil's Muse, Plum subsequently co-composed and performed on several musical projects with J, including the 2006 re-release and re-recording of J's album V for Vendetta and his 2011 stage play The Chanteuse and the Devil's Muse and its soundtrack accompaniment.
In 2009, Plum engineered and recorded drums and keyboards for the David J-produced Petits Fours, the debut album from Grand Duchy, a project fronted by Black Francis of the Pixies. In December of that year, Plum accompanied J for a five-song set with Black Francis as part of an all-star benefit show at the Echoplex in Los Angeles, performing guitar, banjo and ukulele on covers of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy", Daniel Johnston's "Some Things Last a Long Time", the Pixies' "Monkey Gone to Heaven", "In Heaven" from Eraserhead and Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes".
Plum befriended artist and Marilyn Manson co-founder Gidget Gein in the early 2000s, eventually composing original music for Gein's 2004 "Gollywood" art and fashion shows for his Use Once and Destroy Couture fashion line. Following Gein's death in 2008, Plum digitally released these compositions as a soundtrack album, also featuring snippets of an in-studio jam between Plum and Gein.
Plum is a fervent admirer of the music and electronic innovation of composer Raymond Scott, and in 2012, he worked with Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek in arranging a live tribute show held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall's REDCAT entitled "Machine Man: The Musical Mayhem of Raymond Scott," which was produced in cooperation with Jeff Winner of The Raymond Scott Archives. Bartek, himself a composer and orchestrator for film and television, had previously worked with Plum providing guitar and theremin for The Gogol Project's soundtrack release and currently produces Plum's score for Harvey Beaks.
Plum has worked on several projects with the Orange County comedy punk band The Radioactive Chicken Heads, receiving credits on their albums Growing Mold and Music for Mutants for additional guitar tracks and songwriting. He also helped produce, arrange and record the debut album from the Chicken Heads garage pop side project the Purple Mums and in March 2015, Plum wrote and directed a three-act absurdist stage play entitled The Radioactive Chicken Heads Tanksgiving Special which premiered at The Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles, featuring the band performing live music to a comedic narrative featuring guest appearances from actor Dukey Flyswatter, Mike Odd of Rosemary's Billygoat and Hunter Jackson of GWAR.
In 2012, film director and Oingo Boingo co-founder Richard Elfman announced plans to film a sequel to his 1980 cult musical Forbidden Zone, revealing that Plum would be contributing music and songs in conjunction with original composer Danny Elfman, whose commitments in Hollywood prevented him from dedicating himself to the project full-time. Plum, a lifelong Oingo Boingo fan, called the opportunity "something out of a dream". Although little is known about the current status of production following a successful IndieGoGo campaign in May 2014, preliminary music by Plum and Elfman has been used in several promotional videos.Solo releases