Legendary tuba player talks his 40+ years career as studio musician in Los Angeles and his collaborations with John Williams, including the “Voice of the Mothership” solo in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and his work on Home Alone, Hook and Jurassic Park
Tubist Jim Self is one of the true legends among both the international tuba community and the Los Angeles studio musicians. In a career spanning more than four decades, Jim has performed internationally as soloist, orchestral player, chamber musician and studio musician. He performed in more than 1,500 film and television soundtracks and can be heard playing solos on many of them. He has been John Williams’ principal tuba for 25 years (from 1990 to 2015), performing solos on such scores as Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Hook and Jurassic Park. Above all, he performed the iconic “Voice of the Mothership” tuba solo as heard in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
He’s currently principal tuba for four orchestras—the Los Angeles Opera, Pacific Symphony, Pasadena Symphony and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He still performs occasionally as a studio musician for film scores and played 2nd tuba on the recent Star Wars sequel trilogy from 2015-2019. John Williams has referred to him as “one of the greatest instrumentalists of his generation”.
In this long, engaging conversation, Jim talks about his extraordinary career as studio musician and his many years performing for John Williams. He recollects recording the iconic solo for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and his work on Home Alone, Hook and Jurassic Park, offering insightful comments and reflections about playing for John Williams, but also about the music itself. He also talks about his work for Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner, his friendship and early years playing with tuba legend Tommy Johnson, the role of tuba in film music and his life as a composer.