Bret McKenzie on 'Muppet'-less Oscars: 'It's a Shame'
Bret McKenzie on 'Muppet'-less Oscars: 'It's a Shame'

Best Original Song Nominee Talks Oscars & 'Muppets,' Plus Future of Flight of the Conchords

Bret McKenzie is up for a best original song Oscar later this month, not that "Man or Muppet" (from "The Muppets") will be performed live or anything. The Flight of the Conchords singer-actor confirmed to Billboard new reports that the powers that be have decided to chop the two nominated tracks (the other being "Real in Rio" via "Rio") from the telecast, calling it "a shame." That said, the New Zealander is thrilled to be going to the Feb. 26 gala and spoke to us about his "Muppet" experience, plus he reveals the beloved Conchords (his folk-comedy band with Jemaine Clement) will finally begin writing new material on their upcoming tour and says they have no regrets in pulling the plug on their cult favorite HBO show.

"I think we would have killed ourselves [if we continued] making that show," he says. "Killing ourselves is a little too harsh, we would have gone mental."

So, neither of the nominated Original Songs will be performed at the Oscars. Thoughts?

Furious! Furious! Write that! Bret McKenzie is furious!

Seriously aren't you a little disappointed your song won't be given center stage?

I know, I'm not complaining about having to go to the Oscars though. I am disappointed that we don't get to get some Muppets on stage and jam it out with Sergio Mendes (who penned "Real in Rio") and some parrots. I think it's a shame because from my experience it's good to put a few musical numbers in a show. It's an age old tradition to give people a break from talking and the ceremony is notoriously dull, but I don't care. I'll just be there star spotting.

"Man or Muppet"


Did you go to the nominees luncheon?

I went yesterday and I was seated at a table with Meryl Streep.

Were you like, 'Can you pass the salt Meryl?'

Yeah but that's how I roll now. I think you'll find a lot of press about how Meryl Streep was sitting with me yesterday.

How did you get involved with 'The Muppets' movie?

James Bobin, who co-created 'The Fight of the Conchords' and directed 'The Muppets' asked me to write songs for it. I started working on it and then I became music supervisor. James Bobin really championed me, he got me the job. At first Disney wasn't so sure, I think. They're used to working with their songwriters. It's funny because there were two versions of this song and Disney felt this was the right one to go with.

How did you get in the mindset to begin working on it?

I watched all the old TV shows and the early films, luckily I knew all the characters from growing up with them so I kind of knew the sound and knowing that I didn't find it too hard to write in that world. It was really fun, it was so different from writing for anything else but it was intimidating because it's such an iconic world, there's pressure to not mess it up somewhere. You had to stop thinking that Paul Williams was watching over your shoulder.

Describe the "Muppet" sound, if there is such a thing...

I was told Jim Henson used to say, 'If it sounds too good, it's not right,' and I think there's an imperfection to the Muppets sound. Also when in doubt, add more banjo.

Flight of the Conchords: "I'm Not Crying"


Anything in the works for Flight of the Conchords?

We're about to tour Australia and New Zealand. We haven't toured there in years. Whereas we've been in America recently and I don't want to tour America until we've got some new material.

So does that mean you're working on new material?

No, because we haven't been in the same place in months. Jemaine's been working with aliens ("Men in Black III") and I've been working with frogs.

So will you work on new stuff?

Yeah, being on tour means we'll be in the same place. It's been difficult to get things going because we've been living in different cities. We haven't developed a Skype band meeting system yet.

Well, when you are writing, how do you know if a song is funny?

Um I think you know from the very beginning. I guess I know because I'm usually laughing as I try to sing it. I work with Mickey Petralia and he's in the control room laughing as well, I think that's how I know. Actually early on when you first write a song it's funny and then it stops being funny and then it's not until you start playing it to people that it's funny again.

Were you surprised at how bummed fans were when you guys ended the HBO show?

To be honest, I didn't really care. I love all the support we have but it was absolutely the right decision not to make any more shows. I think we would have killed ourselves [if we continued] making that show. Killing ourselves is a little too harsh, we would have gone mental.