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Claudio With A Chance Of Pain: Simonetti On Profondo Rosso
Mat Colegate , January 17th, 2015 10:01

Mat Colegate talks to original Goblin Member Claudio Simonetti ahead of his live soundtrack performance of Dario Argento's Profondo Rosso in February

Say 'Dario Argento' and people think 'Goblin'. Say 'Goblin' and people think 'Suspiria'. Say 'Suspiria' and people think 'Dario Argento' again. But all that is just a small part of a more baroque and twisted history; a fragment of an association that begins with the 1975 release of the maestro horror director's Profondo Rosso, and a hardworking group of young hairies called Cherry 5.

Suspiria's enormous cult reputation is down to a lot of factors: it's lashings of honey-thick gore, its sadistic, blank-eyed dwellings on its squirming female characters, its drenched pallet of migraine inducing primary colours, and, almost more importantly, Goblin's livid, terrifying score; a baroque mix of scalp-tightening whispers and shrieks, clanging bouzouki and welts of scalding electronic noise. The band's Profondo Rosso soundtrack, however, is a more streetwise affair. The influence of contemporary progressive rock is in evidence, but tempered with a raw funkiness that seems just as informed by John Barry and James Brown as it is by Tubular Bells, and which perfectly suits the film's portrayal of a sleepless David Hemmings reeling from atrocity to atrocity in a damned and forsaken Turin.

Last year Goblin's keyboard maestro, Claudio Simonetti, together with members of his long-term band Daemonia and operating under the name Claudio Simonetti's Goblin, performed a series of live shows, playing along to screenings of Suspiria to wild acclaim. This year, to coincide with the film's 40th anniversary, Profondo Rosso is getting the same treatment. The Quietus caught up with Claudio Simonetti to discuss these upcoming shows and the genesis of one of the greatest working relationships in cinema history.

Profondo Rosso is the first soundtrack you did for Dario Argento. What do you think he saw in your music?

Claudio Simonetti: When Dario started to record the soundtrack for Profondo Rosso the composer was Giorgio Gaslini. He started recording several parts with an orchestra, including the lullaby of the girl ('School At Night'). But Dario said “I want something more rock in the film” so he asked the producer to call bands like Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake And Palmer and Deep Purple. At the same time we were recording our album, Cherry 5 - although at that time the name of the band was Oliver, not Cherry 5 like it said on the record - on a label that belonged to Argento's publishers, and the producer said “Before you call these big bands maybe you can listen to this band I am producing?” Dario Arrives in the studio and says “I like these guys, lets try it.” So we had to arrange Giorgio Gaslini's music. However Gaslini had problems with Dario and he left the film. Dario arrived and said “Gaslini will not be with us anymore, so we need the main themes for the film - you try!” We were lucky - we were a very young band; very young boys.

Did going from a more progressive rock sound to composing soundtracks change the way you were making the music?

CS: With any album, including my solo works, I always try to change. For example if you listen to Suspiria it's pretty different from Profondo Rosso. If you listen to the album Roller, which was our concept album and not for a soundtrack, it's completely different. Every album has a different sound. The same happened with Phenomena, Opera and Tenebre. I think that every record has its own life and a different sound.

The Profondo Rosso LP was an enormous success, wasn't it?

CS: Yes! It was unbelievable. Just ten months after the release of the film the album had sold one million copies. I'm still surprised.

The soundtrack is very unique. It's totally different from, say, Suspiria. What is it that makes it stand out?

CS: Even if we have a Goblin sound in Profondo Rosso you can hear that we've grown up with the prog bands of the '70s. We were influenced by Gentle Giant, King Crimson, ELP, Deep Purple... I think that the real Goblin sound is in Suspiria. In Suspiria we created something really new - never heard before. If you listen to Suspiria and then Profondo Rosso there is nothing to compare one to the other. It sounds like two different bands. I am the composer, so I can't tell you exactly why the soundtrack had such big success. Maybe because of the film? Profondo Rosso is my favourite Argento film. I think maybe among the ten best Horror films.

You've written a lot of different types of music – progressive rock, soundtracks, and you did a lot of disco stuff throughout the '70s and '80s – writing soundtracks is very different from composing a more standard release. What attracts you to the process?

CS: I think if you write music for soundtracks then sometimes you do something that you could never do if the film did not exist. If I wrote something just for a musician and not for a soundtrack I would have no inspiration from scenes or from the story. It's like if a painter sees a beautiful scene and he paints it. If he's in his home it's not the same. It's very strange what happens when I start working for a film. In my life I've done a lot of stuff – I did a lot of dance music, a lot of TV shows and lots of different types of films – and every time it is a new experience.

You've performed Suspiria in this way before, but Profondo Rosso is a very different piece of work. Are there any particular challenges when it comes to performing it?

Yes, Suspiria is completely different. When we play Suspiria, for example, the guitar player plays bouzouki for the entire thing and there are no drums - just timpani and electro pads. The only real electrical instruments are the bass and the keyboards. We also played Dawn Of The Dead last year which is better because we play a lot of rock in it. But Profondo Rosso is a mix between rock, jazz and a lot of interesting music. It's beautiful to play live, even if sometimes it's a little difficult, because to play exactly in time with the parts of the film takes a lot of practice.

Have you made any changes to the original score?

CS: The sound will be exactly the same as on the original except on some new parts, because Profondo Rosso has a lot of parts without music. The longest part without music is almost 20 minutes, and that's too much, you know? So then we improvise and we do something new. In Suspiria we also did a lot of new music composed in the moment.

That's a very different discipline from just playing a live score...

CS: It's something in the style of the film but completely new. It's our favourite part to play. This band has been playing together for 15 years, so I know them very well and they know me. We just watch one another and we know what to do. It's important to have this.

Goblin are renowned for the richness of their analogue sound. Are you going to be using analogue instruments or digital?

Except for the Moog I use it is all digital. The Moog Voyager is an exact replica of the same Moog that I used to have but without the troubles! Sadly I can't bring the Hammond organ or the church organ, but I use instruments that have exactly the same sound as the ones from the '70s.

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin perform Profondo Rosso at the Barbican on the 21st of February. More information here.