Chances are, when you think of Italian horror, the first name that comes to mind is Dario Argento. Like all great filmmakers, the director is often complimented with a collaborator who helps bring form to their art. Kurosawa had Mifune, John Woo had Chow Yun Fat, Scorcese had DeNiro and Dario Argento had Claudio Simonetti. Yet, unlike the aforementioned directors, they worked with actors and while Argento certainly has his actors and actresses, one of the strongest characteristics of an Argento film is often the soundtrack, Where most Italian filmmakers got in line to have Ennio Morricone score their films and for good reason, Argento took a decidedly sharp left turn and instead employed the synth heavy sounds of one of Italy’s premier progressive rock bands, Goblin. Cinema Suicide’s Tim Fife speaks with Claudio Simonetti about his realtionship with Dario Argento and his career in soundtracks that spans over four decades.
Claudio Simonetti was born in February 19, 1952 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. His father, Enrico Simonetti, came from Italy to have a successful career as a composer and became a popular TV host in the 1960’s and 70’s. Around the age of 8, Claudio wanted to walk in his father’s footsteps and began to play the piano. Claudio says that his father never pressured him into being a musician, but stressed that he should study classical if he was interested. “Even though my father played a genre completely different from mine, I think he influenced me especially in the way of playing the piano,” says Simonetti. “I was very lucky to have a father like mine; he was also a great friend.”
When Claudio was 12, his family moved back to Italy and Claudio decided he also wanted to become a professional musician. Around the same time he learned to play the guitar so he could learn Rolling Stones and Beatles songs for local cover bands. At the age of 14 he went to Rome to study composition and piano at the Conservatore Saint Cecilia. There Claudio began to learn about the latest in experimental rock music and began to play with like minded musicians in the burgeoning underground Italian progressive rock scene.
In 1971, Claudio formed his first professional band Il Ritratto di Dorian Gray (named after Claudio’s deep interest in Oscar Wilde) which was made out of people he met through the conservatory. The band was made up of Simonetti on keyboards, Roberto Gardini and Fernando Fera on guitars, Luciano Regoli on vocals, and future Goblin member Walter Martino on drums. “At that time we were very influenced by the prog rock bands of the 70’s” Claudio says, “like Genesis, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Gentle Giant, Yes, Deep Purple and many others.” The bands lineup changed in 1972, and became a trio dropping the two guitarists and vocalist and adding Massimo Giorgi on bass. Claudio says it was very influenced by Emerson, Lake and Palmer and unfortunately there is no known recording of the band.
In 1973, Claudio formed Oliver, another band with students of the conservatory. This lineup included future Goblin members Fabio Pignatelli on bass, Massimo Morante on guitar, and Martino once again on drums. The band recorded some demo tapes, and headed to London where they hoped to break into the British progressive rock scene and get a record contract. In London they managed to play their demo for Yes producer Eddie Offord, who showed great interest in the band. He persuaded them to move to London, where they replaced Martino with Carlo Bordini, and added a man from England named Clive Hayes for vocals.
Their efforts unfortunately did not work out in England, and the band had to return to Italy after they had run out of money. In 1974, famous Italian producer Carlo Bixio showed interest, and signed the band to his label Cinevox; the band also replaced Hayes with Italian singer Tony Tartarini. When the album was released Claudio says the “album of Oliver was released subsequently with a strange name: Cherry Five, (which was) not chosen by us.” Cherry Five was apparently supposed to be the name of the album, but somehow the band’s name, Oliver, was omitted. The band had begun to attract attention in Italy; famous film director Dario Argento (who also had a love for progressive rock) dropped in on the recording sessions for the Oliver album. “Our producer, Carlo Bixio, was also a publisher of the soundtracks of the films of Argento,” recalls Simonetti, “and he asked Dario, who was looking for a rock band for his film Profondo Rosso, to listen to our materials.” Argento agreed.
“At that time, Dario was a very famous director and we were very honored and a little scared to have been chosen to realize the soundtrack for his film,” says Simonetti. He claims that in the beginning they were only supposed to play and arrange the compositions Giorgio Gaslini created for the movie. “But after two weeks,” says Claudio “Gaslini argued with Dario. He asked us to finish the film, composing the missing music. So we composed the main theme, Death Dies and Mad Puppet, all included on the A side of the original album. On the B side we play and arrange Gaslini’s music.” The band brought back drummer Martino, changed their name to Goblin, and released the soundtrack to Profondo Rosso which went on to top the charts for 15 weeks in Italy and sold over 3 million copies.
Right after the success of Profondo Rosso, Goblin went on to provide the rhythm section for Enrico Simonetti’s score for the 1975 Italian mini series Gamma. “I think that Gamma is one of the most beautiful songs written by my father and we were very happy and honored to have played the rhythmical background of the song.” Claudio says. The Gamma soundtrack put Goblin in the #1 position on the Italian charts for the first time, and established themselves as superstars in their country.
Goblin worked on many different soundtracks, all for Italian produced films. In 1976 they scored some of the soundtrack for Perché Si Uccidono with Fabio Frizzi under the guise Il Reale Impero Britannico. Around the same time, the band released their first non-soundtrack album, Roller, in an effort to show themselves as an actual band, that they were not just created for composing soundtracks. But in 1977, Goblin scored possibly their most influential and acclaimed score for Argento’s Suspiria. The band experimented with ethnic instruments, and even rented a giant modular Moog synthesizer, the same one that one of Claudio’s heroes, Keith Emerson, had used. Claudio says it may be the band’s masterpiece.
In 1978, Goblin released their second non-soundtrack work, the concept album Il Fantastico Viaggio Del “Bagarozzo” Mark, and the band went on a small tour to promote the album. That same year Dario Argento influenced George Romero to have Goblin score Dawn of the Dead, his sequel to Night of the Living Dead, giving Goblin more global audience for their music. However, the band began to dissolve by this point and by the time their work on Antonio Bido’s 1978 thriller Solamente Nero (aka The Bloodstained Shadow) was completed, Claudio left the group. “I didn’t leave Goblin during our success period, I left the band in 1978 when were at the end of our story,” Claudio explains. “We were arguing too often and we were in disagreement on the management of the band, so I decided to leave the group. We didn’t have great success any more because the audience’s tastes had changed.”
While Fabio Pignatelli and Augustino Marangolo decided to continue composing under the name Goblin, Claudio became interested in the new disco inspired Dance movement that was about to take over Europe. “When I left Goblin in 1978 I met record producer Giancarlo Meo who spoke to me about a dance project. I had never done that type of music until then; however as a Brazilian, I immediately felt as ease with the work. So I went in the studio to record the first Easy Going record which had great success.” Claudio then went on to produce records for artists that would be the innovators of a new style of dance music called Italo disco; Vivien Vee, Crazy Gang, Capricorn, and Kasso. Claudio was one of the first people to create disco music in Italy, and eventually it became one of Italy’s great exports in the eighties; “I think I have been a pioneer of Italian dance music” he admits.
Claudio returned to film scoring in 1981 with the obscure interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Comoedia. In 1982, he used elements of his dance music to create the futuristic sounding soundtrack for Enzo Castellari’s The New Barbarians. In that same year Simonetti, Pignatelli, and Morante (the group could not be called Goblin due to contractual reasons) regrouped to score Argento’s next thriller Tenebre, which also used a decidedly dance influenced sound for the project. “Influenced by years of dance music, I used many of these sounds for soundtracks at the time. I always proposed to the directors this new style and they enjoyed it.” Claudio remembers. However, Claudio is skeptical of how his early eighties influenced works have aged through the years; “Today, listening to them, I always find them fascinating but they sound a little bit….dated!” After scoring Dario Argento’s 1985 Phenomena (which was billed as Goblin), Claudio decided to return to solely writing soundtracks and working on more rock related projects.
Throughout the eighties Claudio worked steadily composing for Italian genre films. He worked with all the infamous directors of Italy; Lucio Fucli, Ruggero Deodato, Sergio Martino and Umberto Lenzi. Possibly his most famous soundtrack of this period was for Lamberto Bava’s 1985 horror Demons, which utilizes both dance and classical music in its composition. Throughout the eighties, Simonetti was also performing his soundtrack music live for concerts and on television.
After scoring music for Ruggero Deodato’s 1993 film The Washing Machine, Claudio took a long sabbatical from soundtracks, possibly due to the crumbling Italian film industry. During this time, he recorded several successful records, rerecording his soundtrack work in a style that was complementary to the sounds of the nineties. In 1998, he returned to soundtracks, scoring the controversial film The Versace Murders.
In 1999, Claudio decided he wanted to appease fans of Goblin and start a new band; “I knew there are so many Goblin fans around the world, but it was impossible to reform the original band. So I thought of creating a new band that could give the same feeling and emotions. That’s why I created Daemonia.” Daemonia’s first album is a collection of songs from Argento’s films, and not necessarily just the ones Claudio helped compose; they also do Keith Emerson and Ennio Morricone compositions. “I absolutely don’t consider this a tribute to Goblin,” Simonetti explains, “it’s a real tribute to Dario Argento and the soundtrack of his films.” In 2003 the band released Live… Or Dead which includes interpretations of songs by John Carpenter and also his father’s composition Gamma.
In 2001, Goblin regrouped for the Argento film Sleepless and their work for the soundtrack brought them much critical acclaim, as well as cementing them in history as important composers in the world of soundtracks. Claudio went on to work with Argento almost exclusively in the nineties scoring The Card Player (2004) and Argento’s two installments for the US TV series Masters of Horror (Jenifer and Pelts). Simonetti’s sound has also changed in his newer compositions, using more orchestral sounds than electronic ones. “I always try to change, I do not like repetition. (Lately) I have not used many keyboards or synthesizers; I preferred to write the soundtrack with orchestral scores as I did recently for the Masters of Horror films.”
In 2007 Claudio composed the music for Argento’s long awaited third installment of the Three Mothers Trilogy (which includes Suspiria and Inferno) called Mother of Tears. For the soundtrack, Daemonia plays the theme with Dani Filth of the British metal band Cradle of Filth on vocals. “When I wrote the song I sang on the demo instinctively with a voice similar to Dani’s,” Claudio explains. Dani is a fan of Argento and Goblin, and he agreed to sing and write the lyrics for the song.”
Claudio says his collaboration with Argento is still strong throughout the years, and he feels a good amount of freedom in composing his movies. “We have a meeting to discuss the style of music and then I begin to write. When I’ve almost finished the score Dario comes to listen and approve it before the final mixing. I have proposed for the Third Mother classical music with a great orchestra and choir and Dario immediately agreed with me. Dario also gives suggestions for some special scenes.” Claudio also says he tried to make the music for Mother of Tears unique from the others in the series; “Only in some parts of the film is there a reminder of Suspiria, for example the scene in the taxi along the streets near the end of the film. But for the rest I tried as much as possible to stay away from the music of previous soundtracks in the trilogy.”
Simonetti’s most recent work is included in the upcoming feature Frat Party Massacre. Made by Screamkings Productions out of Boston, Massachusetts, it is Claudio’s first soundtrack he has work on exclusively in the United States. Claudio is unsure of when it will be released but says the people who made it are fans of his music and Italian Giallo films. “The film takes place in the 70’s in a college where a fraternity of exalted and violent students kill and torture many of their colleagues. I think it’s a true story…”
Currently Claudio is working on Argento’s latest film Giallo, a US/ Italian co-production starring Adrien Brody which is slated for 2009. He is also planning on releasing a CD of his music from the Masters of Horror series and a double CD of all of his famous work during the Italo disco period, which he hopes will be released by the end of the year. Claudio is also glad to have had all the fans he has had over the years. “I am very pleased to have so many fans worldwide. There have been many covers and samplings of our songs, including the Justice “Tenebre” one. With Goblin we created a single genre that has become a cult, although we had no idea it would become so popular over time and imitated everywhere.”
A very special thanks to Claudio Simonetti and Siliva at Cinevox for all their work on making this possible.
CLAUDIO SIMONETTI SELECTED SOUNDTRACK DISCOGRAPHY
Claudio’s first proper soundtrack record, and the first recording of Goblin. Absolutely essential for the lover of 70’s soundtracks or progressive rock. Recently reissued by Cinevox with a bonus disc that includes 29 bonus tracks, some exclusive to this release.
Enrico Simonetti’s score to the popular Italian TV mini series. Not only did it give Claudio his first number one, it also gave him the opportunity work with his father professionally. In 2007 Bella Casa issued the soundtrack on CD for the first time. Claudio excited about the CD; “at last after many years the CD of Gamma is finally released.”
What many consider to be Goblin’s best work, and a fitting score for what many consider to be director’s Argento’s best work. Reissued in 1997 with 4 bonus tracks, one being the lost introduction theme which is an amazing lost treat for Goblin fans.
Claudio’s last soundtrack with Goblin until their 2001 reunion. Written by soundtrack maestro Stevlio Cipriani, the score is possibly one of Goblin most bizarre and diverse works. The soundtrack wasn’t released until 1995 with only 500 copies produced; Digitmovies reissued it last year.
Possibly Claudio’s last soundtrack with that seventies sound. Another Cipriani composed soundtrack, with Claudio playing synthesizers. A truly amazing score which was released by Digitmovies in 2006 and is now out of print.
Claudio’s second solo score, and what a great score it is. It captures the feel of the post apocalypse genre possibly better than any other score, and has the essence of his Italo disco work. It was issued for the first time by Digitmovies in 2000 with Walter Rizzati’s Bronx Warriors soundtrack.
Simonetti regrouped with Goblin bassist Fabio Pignatelli and guitarist Massimo Morante for this Argento score. The drummer is replaced by a well programmed drum machine, and the sounds are obviously influenced by the then current European dance movement. The album could not be billed as a Goblin effort due to contractual reasons with drummer Marangolo.
Simonetti scored a fun score for Lamberto Bava’s most famous feature, and incorporates classical styles with modern rock and dance themes. The original soundtrack included tracks by Motley Crue, Rick Springfield, and Billy Idol amongst other as well as seven Simonetti compositions. A 2003 re-release omitted all but Simonetti’s music, and included five bonus tracks and two video clips.
Great, tense orchestral work by Simonetti. Two soundtracks were released, one with tracks by Brian Eno, Bill Wyman, and various classical pieces. Another was released with Simonetti’s compositions and songs by Steel Grave. It was not released in the US until 1991.
Compilation of Simonett’s tracks for Demons, Nightmare Beach, Rage, and Love Threat. All the tracks are from eighties horror films, and have a very dark atmospheric sound. Released in 1991 on RCA and is amazingly still in print.
A superb compilation of Goblin’s work. Includes most of their main themes, as well as their rare 7” for the Chi? TV show, the rare end theme from the European version of Martin (which is reportedly an outtake from Dawn of the Dead), and much more.
Goblin reformed after 22 years to score this Dario Argento film. Critically acclaimed and gave Goblin a new appreciation and a new fan base.
Claudio’s most recent work for Dario Argento, and it is a great release. Superb orchestral arrangements, and the title theme was performed by Claudio’s band Daemonia and sung by Dani Filth. Includes forty six tracks.