December 4, 2019 Interview – Fabio Frizzi
When thinking of some of the greatest Horror film music composers in modern times, chances are John Carpenter, Charles Bernstein, and the Progressive Rock outfit Goblin are a few of the names which come to mind. A representative short list, you would be remiss and short-sighted to exclude Italy’s Mr. Fabio Frizzi. A frequent collaborator with legendary Italian Horror Director Lucio Fulci, Frizzi crafted the scores for 1979’s Zombi 2, 1980’s City of the Living Dead, 1981’s The Beyond, as well 1982’s Manhattan Baby, just to name a few.
Creating eerie soundscapes that amplify the intense unfolding on screen, Frizzi is a master of sound which continues to find inspiration all these years later. Speaking of which, the maestro has been thoroughly active in recent times with various soundtrack works, H. P. Lovecraft’s I Notturni Di Yuggoth, plus the recent release of The Beyond: Composer’s Cut. If that were not enough, he in the United States bringing the music of The Beyond to life for a very special tour. An exciting time for the composer, he recently sat down to chat his work in movie scoring, working with Lucio Fulci, his USA tour, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music professionally for over four decades with an extremely long list of film soundtracks to your credit. Making a legendary name for yourself, how would you describe your journey in music?
Fabio Frizzi – A wonderful journey that never ceases to amaze me. Life is a beautiful thing but also very demanding, and being lucky enough to turn your passion into work makes it fascinating, always different and exciting. Often my activity forces me to intense periods, long sessions of recording and rehearsals, but I realize that I face it with the enthusiasm and joy I had in my early career. In short, I owe a lot to music.
Cryptic Rock – You certainly have accomplished a lot in music. As stated, you have provided scores for countless films. A great deal of your work has been in Horror cinema. How did you get involved in composing for the genre, and is it something you enjoy?
Fabio Frizzi – I have always loved challenges. The first time I worked on a score of a real Horror film it was with Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (1980), and every first time has its question marks. Since then I have understood that if it is true that music in every cinematographic genre has a fundamental importance in the “reading” of the film, in the Horror genre it is absolutely decisive. That time it was a cyclopean undertaking; finding the right key within me was very demanding but Lucio encouraged me and everything went very well. Then, film by film, I found my idea of music for this genre and eventually it became one of my strongest expressions. I’ve loved cinema since I was a child, and a good Horror movie excites me a lot.
Cryptic Rock – You are right, the soundtrack is essential in Horror. Involved in what some consider the golden age for Horror cinema in Italy, what do you think made Italian Horror so unique and special during the ’70s and ’80s era?
Fabio Frizzi – The craftsmanship. I believe that Italian directors and all their collaborators have understood the great fascination of telling extreme fairy tales and have made their abilities, their inventiveness available to this genre.
In a certain sense we all experienced the lack of budget as a great opportunity: we all worked as artisans, in love with the products we dealt with. When I talk about our memories, for example with Sergio Salvati, the director of photography of many films of that period – The Beyond above all – I realize that the enthusiasm, even for him, is still the same. Passion always pays, sooner or later.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and the passion put into those films is evident. Of your works, you were a frequent composer for the aforementioned Lucio Fulci including 1980’s Zombi 2 and City of The Living Dead, as well as 1981’s The Beyond. How did you connect with Fulci, and what was it like collaborating with him?
Fabio Frizzi – A meeting as many we have, in the perspective of doing the music for the Four of the Apocalypse, with my trio of that time. After that appointment so many things happened, 15 years of great things. There are decisive encounters in the life of an artist, and for me meeting Fulci and working with him was fundamental. A demanding man, a great connoisseur of the subject, always with very clear ideas about projects, he made me understand what the connection between image and music should be, but also the importance of the final layout of the movie. I am very grateful to him for his extraordinary artistic heritage.
Cryptic Rock – Fulci certainly had a talent for creating an atmosphere with imagery that was quite effective. Like we spoke of earlier, in film, especially Horror, the soundtrack is an essential aspect to creating fear, suspense, and tension in a scene. How do you approach composing music to match, or more so amplify the emotion on screen?
Fabio Frizzi – My approach, today more than ever, is essentially instinctive. I need to get ready on the subject, so the script is the Bible; the meaning that production and direction want to give to the project must be more than clear to me. Then I immerse myself in the vision of the first assembled material, and at this point I begin to understand how to relate to the film, to the story, to the characters. The ideas come out still basic but effective, then there is a great deal of development and orchestration. But the departure, for me, is the most important thing.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting to hear your process. In recent years, you have continued to compose for films including 2018’s Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. In addition, you offered your talents to the recently released H. P. Lovecraft’s I Notturni Di Yuggoth release. What was it like working on this compelling piece of work?
Fabio Frizzi – Yes, Fangoria gave me the good chance to go back to writing scores for cinema. Behind the brands there are always people, and Dallas Sonnier has been and is a friend and a great producer. With him we are moving forward on another high quality remake. Speaking about people, the meeting with Cadabra Records and his boss Jonathan Dennison was important and stimulating as well.
With I Notturni Di Yuggoth by H. P. Lovecraft, I returned in a certain sense to a real contamination, the poems of the father of Horror scored with compositions for solo guitar; my first instrumental love. The expressive freedom that was granted to me from Cadabra allowed me to move with ease in the fantastic and restless world of these verses. Accompanied by an excelling staff, including Riccardo Rocchi, who performed the Notturni; Andrew Leman’s beautiful and authoritative voice; Jeremy Hush, first-rate painter who worked on the cover and everything else. A very strong team!
Cryptic Rock – The results are fantastic, it is really a must listen. Now fans are in for a real treat, because you are set to tour the USA in November to perform the legendary score for The Beyond. What inspired this tour, and what can those looking to come out expect?
Fabio Frizzi – Beyond‘s Composer’s Cut is an act of love for a film I’ve always adored, and I wanted to bring it to concert. In the last few months I have produced a double LP (a Cadabra Records release), a studio version of this, in a sense, a new version of the score. So The Beyond, the film, which can be read musically in a new way, preserving all the original music but spectacularized – and in a sense made even more up to date – that the audience can enjoy with me and my band live music. Then, to finish with a flourish after a brief interval, an hour in concert with all the themes of Fulci’s films, shot one after the other at man’s height. I think it’s worth getting out of the house.
Cryptic Rock – It is absolutely worth leaving the house for! Any fan of these films and your music should come out. A highly accomplished composer in your own right, what are some of your personal music influences?
Fabio Frizzi – Many influences, as for everyone I believe. I can tell you that at the beginning of my “Horror” period I went crazy for Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and I often tried, like him, the solo recording “sound on sound.” But I often find, in my ideas, reminiscences of the Baroque or maybe of King Crimson. In short, those who say that they have no references shamelessly lie. (Laughs) Ah, for some time now I sometimes realize that I’m inspired by myself, maybe I shouldn’t, but my old music is not so bad. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock –Your music has inspired many others as well. Last question, what are some of your favorite Horror and Sci-Fi films?
Fabio Frizzi – There are many beautiful films that I am unable to rank, apart from my cult film, Blade Runner (1982), which I must remember – as I said before I like good cinema. So, I can’t forget Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. Then the list of works and directors would be long and I could forget someone important. So I add just two: my friend Dario Argento and the late Wes Craven.