In film, the emotion of a scene is only as vivid as the sound surrounding it. A factor often overlooked by the average consumer, the truth is, you take away the soundtrack to any of your favorite films and the feeling is dramatically less intense. Even more pronounced in Horror, one of the most recognized names in the beloved subgenre of film is Mr. Claudio Simonetti. A leader of the top selling Italian band Goblin, Simonetti’s name is forever etched in stone thanks to his musical contributions to films such as Dario Argento’s 1977 masterpiece Suspiria and George A. Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead, among many others.
A master at his trade, Simonetti continues to compose music to this day, and thankfully for fans, takes to the road performing live with his band, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin. Recently we caught up with the terror behind the piano keys to talk his work in film scoring, working with Dario Argento, plans to tour the USA, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music most of your life. Making your mark on cinema with a list of soundtrack works both solo as well as with your band Goblin, what has your life in music been like?
Claudio Simonetti – I started playing with bands when I was 16-17 years old as a professional musician. Then I did the band Goblin and we were very lucky because we met Dario Argento, he was a very famous director. He was looking for a Rock band to write the music for his film Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) in 1975. He listened to our music and he decided to choose us to write the music. That is why I am involved with soundtracks, otherwise, I don’t know. We grew up in the Progressive Rock period in the early ’70s, I never thought of writing soundtrack music for films. Dario Argento gave us a chance to do this and it was an incredible experience. After that, I started my career as a musician and soundtrack composer.
CrypticRock.com – That is very interesting how it all worked out. Just look at all the soundtracks you have composed through the years!
Claudio Simonetti – Yes, it has been more than 40 years. We were very young when we started.
CrypticRock.com – Of your many credits, you and your band Goblin have done a list of films for Dario Argento. How did you initially connect with Dario and what has it been like working with him over the years?
Claudio Simonetti – Our record label in the ’70s was in the same label for publishers of many Italian movies. The producer was also a publisher of Dario Argento’s film. He connected us to Dario Argento, he was looking for a Rock band for Profondo Rosso, and he tried to ask for Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, etc. Our producer said to him, “Before we choose these big bands, just listen to this band I’m producing, maybe you will enjoy them.” Dario came in the studio and he loved our music and decided to let us write the music for the film.
After the big success of Profondo Rosso, it was enormous in Italy, we sold more than 4 million copies of the album over the years, he called us also to write music for Suspiria (1977). That was our second film with Dario Argento and we wrote music for one of his most famous.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, it is a good thing Dario Argento picked Goblin. As they say, the rest is history.
Claudio Simonetti – Yes! As Goblin, we did just Profondo Rosso and Suspiria, then we also did George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. In 1978, we separated and then I started my solo career with Dario. I did many films with him after Goblin.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and ask any fan, they have a favorite Goblin or Claudio Simonetti soundtrack. That said, universally, everyone can agree that Dawn of the Dead and Suspiria are two timeless classics. Let’s look at 1978’s Dawn of the Dead first, what was the creative process like behind this soundtrack?
Claudio Simonetti – Originally, George Romero did the film with stock music from libraries – it is kind of traditional, orchestral music. When Dario took the film and brought it to Italy for distribution in Europe, he said, “For me, it’s better if we change the music.” So he asked Goblin to write the new soundtrack for the film. He also cut the film by about 15-20 minutes. We never met Romero, we worked here with Dario Argento.
CrypticRock.com – The soundtrack ended up being one of the key components of Dawn of the Dead.
Claudio Simonetti – Yes, there was a new release in The States of the film with our music after the first distribution with the traditional music.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and Suspiria is quite a haunting soundtrack. What are your memories of working on this film?
Claudio Simonetti – When we did Profondo Rosso, we recorded in just 10 days, we worked very fast. After that, when Dario shot Suspiria, we had more time to work with it, we stayed more than 2 months in the studio. We did a lot of experimentation with a lot of ethnic instruments such as bouzouki, Indian tablas, etc. There were a lot of instruments. We had sense to experiment with music. I think Suspiria is our masterpiece, it is something you can really say this is the real Goblin music.
CrypticRock.com – It really is an amazing soundtrack. Through the years, you have continued to work with Dario Argento. You shifted styles to more Hard Rock as well on some soundtracks.
Claudio Simonetti – Especially in the ’80s, Dario changed the mood of the films, like Phenomena (1985). After the split of Goblin in 1978, we did Tenebrae in 1982, that was the first time we recorded just as our name, Simonetti* – Pignatelli* – Morante*. We recorded the soundtrack with Electronic Rock, without a drummer, we used a drum machine. Tenebrae is one of my favorite soundtracks. After that, I also wrote the soundtrack for Phenomena, Opera (1987), and Demons in 1985 with Lamberto Bava. In Phenomena and Demons, Dario chose to put Rock bands, you can hear Iron Maiden, Saxon, and many different kinds of music in the film. This was especially in the ’80s.
CrypticRock.com – Right, that was a change in the ’80s. Do you have any new soundtracks you will be working on with Dario Argento?
Claudio Simonetti – Not now. I have done many films with Dario Argento, the last one I did was Dracula 3D (2012). I also worked with him on Third Mother (The Mother of Tears) (2007) and the Masters of Horror films. Now Dario is not doing any film. Maybe, I was waiting to do Sandman, that is a film announced by Dario with Iggy Pop as a main actor. I don’t know if he will do it or not, I have not heard any news about it.
The last film I did was with Ruggero Deodato for his film Ballad in Blood (2016). Now, my work is especially doing concerts, many around the world. Maybe I will be coming to The States in November.
CrypticRock.com – That would be exciting to see you in North America. Dawn of the Dead is set to celebrate its 40th anniversary, and Suspiria more recently already has. You have some European dates lined up to perform these soundtracks. Can we expect to see you and Goblin return to the USA to do dates as well?
Claudio Simonetti – Yes, and I think in November in America, we will do a lot of Suspiria. I also know the new release of Suspiria will be in November in The States. Luca Guadagnino made the new version of Suspiria.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, what are your thoughts on the film being remade?
Claudio Simonetti – I don’t, I don’t know anything about it. (Laughs) I know they asked us to use the main theme from the film in the new release, so we gave them the rights to use it. The music for the new Suspiria will done by Thom Yorke from Radiohead. For our theme, maybe he will rearrange it, I don’t know. I don’t have any news. I am curious. I am like you, I don’t know anything. I would like to see it when they release it.
CrypticRock.com – It will be interesting. It will be exciting to see you come back to play shows in North America. Is it safe to say this 2018 North American tour will happen?
Claudio Simonetti – Yes, we will arrange it, maybe we will do 20-21 concerts in America. Also, 2 1/2 years ago, we did a concert in New York.
CrypticRock.com – That is great! Let’s talk about Daemonia. Tell us a little about that project.
Claudio Simonetti – Daemonia was my band before my current one. We played together for many years, but now, with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, there are 2 members of Daemonia – Titta Tani and Bruno Previtali. These musicians have played with me since the end of the ’90s, it is more than 20 years we have played together. Now, as Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, we are together with a new bass player, Cecilia Nappo.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting. With Daemonia, the songs were rearranged in a Heavy Metal style.
Claudio Simonetti – Yes, we changed the style, we did new arrangements more like Heavy Metal/Rock. Now we are doing the same stuff, but in the middle between original Goblin and Daemonia. More or less, the sound is quite similar, but not as Heavy Metal as Daemonia. The style is now in the middle of both bands.
CrypticRock.com – Great, so fans have something to look forward to in the USA. As a musician who has worked on soundtracks, you understand the importance music has to a film’s effectiveness. When you are composing, what challenges do you face capturing the music with the visual?
Claudio Simonetti – I know music is very important with film, I think it is 50% of the film. Not only in Thrillers or Horror, but every film. Can you imagine Star Wars without John Williams music? It’s not the same. Every time it is a challenge for me, because I don’t know exactly what to do when starting.
The most difficult time is to start, because I don’t know what kind of music I will do for any film. After I find the right mood, I start and I write the music. Every time I like to change it, I don’t like to do the same stuff. I try to find something new, some original music, and this is a challenge. The most difficult is the beginning, but after I start, I work easily.
CrypticRock.com – I guess you would say the visual dictates the music you are creating?
Claudio Simonetti – Of course. I write the music over the scenes, it is the scenes of the film that inspire me to write the music. Normally I always write the music after the film is edited and finished. Of course, every scene inspires me for the kind of music. Sometimes I try to think when I read the script, but it’s not the same.
CrypticRock.com – Understandable. As we said, the music is essential for the effectiveness of a film. My last question, are you a fan of Horror films, and if so, what are some of your favorite?
Claudio Simonetti – That is a hard question, every time someone asks me this, I don’t know what to say. As a musician, I love Bernard Herrmann, he is one of my favorite composers for Alfred Hitchcock’s films. He is a genius, he also did many Science Fiction films. My favorite films, there are many including Psycho (1960), Halloween (1978), The Exorcist (1973), Suspiria, Profondo Rosso, etc. I love all the Hammer Films, I grew up watching those films. I was very scared of vampires. I have always loved Thriller and Horror movies since I was very young. I never thought one day I would write music for them, it’s incredible.