More than four decades af­ter its orig­i­nal re­lease, Goblin’s score for Dario Ar­gento’s mas­ter­piece, Sus­piria, is still be­witch­ing the hor­ror and heavy metal worlds alike

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: DOM LAWSON

These Ital­ians rewrote the hor­ror rule­book… and in­vented death metal.

As we be­come in­creas­ingly de­sen­si­tised to the grotes­queries of mod­ern life, very few things re­tain the abil­ity to send a shiver of pure ter­ror up our spines. But even in the midst of hu­man­ity’s slow-mo­tion col­lapse, the main mu­si­cal theme from Dario Ar­gento’s 1977 cel­lu­loid mas­ter­work, Sus­piria, has never lost its power. Per­formed by Ital­ian prog rock sound­track wiz­ards Goblin, the Sus­piria sound­track is an un­de­ni­able bench­mark for the en­tire hor­ror genre; just as the film it­self is rou­tinely cited as one of hor­ror’s great­est atroc­ity ex­hibits. More per­ti­nently, per­haps, Goblin’s mu­sic has long been em­braced and hailed in the metal world, the ground­break­ing at­mos­pheres and macabre al­lure of their movie work prov­ing a con­sis­tent and per­fect fit with heavy mu­sic’s ne­far­i­ous in­stincts.

Forty one years on from Sus­piria’s orig­i­nal re­lease, Goblin founder and mu­si­cal mas­ter­mind Clau­dio Simonetti still sounds mildly per­plexed by the enduring pop­u­lar­ity of mu­sic he made more than four decades ago. As he ex­plains, when Goblin formed in 1972 (ini­tially known as Oliver and then Cherry Five), they had no plans to ven­ture into the movie world. In­stead, af­ter spend­ing 1974 in Lon­don, record­ing demos and play­ing oc­ca­sional gigs in the hope of gate­crash­ing the UK’s thriv­ing prog scene, Goblin re­turned to Italy and signed a deal with Cinevox – a la­bel that just hap­pened to have a side­line in pub­lish­ing movies. When es­teemed direc­tor Dario Ar­gento came look­ing for a band to help him with his new film, Pro­fondo Rosso (‘Deep Red’), Clau­dio Simonetti and his fel­low prog hope­fuls were first in line.

“We were lucky. We were in the right place at the right mo­ment!” Clau­dio chuck­les. “When Dario shot Pro­fondo Rosso, he’d de­cided to have more of a rock sound in his film, al­though he had asked some­one else to write the sound­track, Gior­gio Gaslini. He’s a jazz player and was a very big mu­si­cian of that time, but Dario didn’t like or want that kind of mu­sic and he wanted some­thing heav­ier, more gothic. We first had to play the mu­sic that Gior­gio had writ­ten, so we started to record his mu­sic in our style, but dur­ing the record­ing Gior­gio had a few prob­lems with Dario and they were ar­gu­ing and so he left the movie. Dario told us, ‘He’s not here any­more, so you have to com­pose and record the main themes that are miss­ing!’ So in one night we recorded the main theme for Pro­fondo Rosso and the day af­ter we ar­rived with the demo. Dario loved it.”

A dark and twisted but wild and ex­u­ber­ant slab of odd­ball prog rock, the Pro­fondo Rosso sound­track proved a deeply sat­is­fy­ing ven­ture for all con­cerned and es­tab­lished a work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween Dario Ar­gento and

Clau­dio Simonetti that still en­dures to this day. For Goblin, the re­al­i­sa­tion that mak­ing mu­sic for hor­ror movies was more inspiring than sim­ply join­ing the prog rock cir­cuit proved the


defin­ing mo­ment of their ca­reer. For Clau­dio, a life­long fan of scary movies, it was a per­fect storm of creativ­ity.

“I’ve loved hor­ror movies since I was a lit­tle kid, you know? I loved them even when I felt re­ally scared! Ha ha ha! When I was young I saw a lot of the clas­sic Ham­mer Hor­ror films, those movies with Vin­cent Price and Pe­ter Cush­ing. But I re­mem­ber when I saw my first Dario Ar­gento movie, it was The Bird With The Crys­tal Plumage [1970], and I said, ‘Wow, this is a great Ital­ian direc­tor!’ I never thought I’d be work­ing with him just five years later. It was in­cred­i­ble.”

This au­tumn, as a con­tem­po­rary re­make of Sus­piria hits our cin­ema screens, Clau­dio takes his cur­rent en­sem­ble to the US for an ex­ten­sive tour per­form­ing the film’s orig­i­nal score in its en­tirety. Much im­i­tated but never bet­tered, the orig­i­nal Sus­piria movie is an undis­puted hor­ror clas­sic, but Goblin’s blend of spi­ralling keys, warped grooves and abyssal am­bi­ence is fun­da­men­tal to its death­less ap­peal. Clau­dio re­calls that Dario Ar­gento in­structed the band to write mu­sic that was in­trin­si­cally mys­te­ri­ous and that would im­ply the pres­ence of dark, su­per­nat­u­ral forces, even when noth­ing un­to­ward was vis­i­ble on screen.

“We had to write mu­sic so that peo­ple felt like the witches were al­ways there,” he grins. “I think that Sus­piria is our real mas­ter­piece.

It’s real Goblin mu­sic. For Pro­fondo Rosso, we played a lot in the prog rock style of the 70s, be­cause I’d grown up lis­ten­ing to Yes, King Crim­son, Gen­tle Giant and ELP, but not for Sus­piria. It was com­pletely dif­fer­ent from any­thing that had been made be­fore. That’s why the sound­track and the film are so fa­mous to­day, I think. That’s why [direc­tor] Luca Guadagnino de­cided to do the new re­make.

He is a big fan of Dario’s and he loves our mu­sic, too, of course.”

Sus­piria’s leg­endary sta­tus is partly due to the ex­tra­or­di­nary depth and in­ten­sity of colour that Dario Ar­gento brought to the screen. Com­bined with Goblin’s un­set­tling mu­sic, it turned Sus­piria into a true work of art, al­beit one with more than a few screws loose.

“Dario used spe­cial cam­eras to achieve that ef­fect. I think the cin­e­matog­ra­phy is pure

magic be­cause of those colours in the film. It’s a dark film, of course, but the colour is a lot more like… well, Walt Dis­ney, you know? That makes it unique. It was very inspiring to see the fi­nal movie.”

Cu­ri­ously, while putting the fin­ish­ing touches to Sus­piria’s iconic main theme, Clau­dio found him­self ac­ci­den­tally in­vent­ing death metal vo­cals. No, re­ally.

“As we worked on the mu­sic, we were given the lyrics of a lul­laby that spoke about ‘three witches sit­ting in a tree’. I imag­ined that the mu­sic of witches could be some­thing like a lul­laby, which is why I wrote that re­peated arpeg­gio. But when I recorded it, this loop,

I thought, ‘It’s not quite good enough, maybe I can put my voice over it…’ and I sang that [adopts raspy screech] ‘La la la la la la laaaaa!’ part. Some­one told me I was the first per­son to do ex­treme vo­cals like that! Ha ha ha!”

Af­ter Sus­piria, Goblin con­tin­ued to pro­duce idio­syn­cratic hor­ror sound­tracks for a few more years, most no­tably the mu­sic for Ge­orge A Romero’s nonemore-sem­i­nal Dawn Of The Dead and sev­eral more col­lab­o­ra­tions with Dario Ar­gento, in­clud­ing cult favourites like Tene­brae and Phenom­ena. The band split in 1982, but there have been nu­mer­ous re­unions and al­ter­nate in­car­na­tions of the band over the last 18 years, rang­ing from Clau­dio Simonetti’s cur­rent live band to Re­lapse Records signees Goblin Re­birth (fea­tur­ing orig­i­nal Goblin mem­bers Fabio Pig­natelli and Agostino Marangolo). In 2001, Clau­dio even formed his own heavy metal band, Dae­mo­nia, to per­form beefed-up ver­sions of the Goblin cat­a­logue (with, it has to be said, vari­able re­sults). Just like the evil spir­its in those sem­i­nal movies, Goblin’s mu­sic keeps de­fy­ing death, grow­ing stronger by the year…

“These days I do a lot of con­certs, cer­tainly more than in the 70s and now it’s ev­ery­where in the world,” Clau­dio beams. “It’s mostly thanks to the in­ter­net, which has de­stroyed the mu­sic in­dus­try but it has also cre­ated a dif­fer­ent means of dis­tri­bu­tion and pub­lic­ity for bands like Goblin. Thanks to the in­ter­net, peo­ple know me bet­ter ev­ery­where and they can find me eas­ily and they can still watch the movies. But I’m al­ways still sur­prised, be­cause when I play live now, the au­di­ences are not just peo­ple that are my age but young peo­ple, maybe 20, 30, 40 years old. It’s in­cred­i­ble.”

It also still blows Clau­dio’s mind that his most re­li­able au­di­ence, one that is still grow­ing, comes from the world of heavy metal, with high-pro­file en­dorse­ments from the likes of Opeth, En­slaved and Cra­dle Of Filth [Clau­dio collaborat­ed with Dani Filth on the sound­track to Dario Ar­gento’s Drac­ula 3D in 2012] help­ing to spread the word.

“It’s very strange be­cause we don’t play heavy metal mu­sic. When I play the shows at heavy metal fes­ti­vals, I meet a lot of the bands and they al­ways tell me that they grew up lis­ten­ing to Goblin. It’s just strange to be at the same fes­ti­vals as all the metal guys, but it’s beau­ti­ful, too, be­cause peo­ple love our mu­sic, even if it’s not real metal!

It’s amaz­ing to know that peo­ple like

Mikael Åk­er­feldt

[see Dread Fel­lows, right] and Dani Filth are big fans of

Goblin mu­sic.”

Goblin’s mu­sic is dark, strange, un­nerv­ing and timeless: a suf­fo­cat­ing rush of alien sound and jar­ring tex­ture that ruth­lessly taps into hor­ror’s blis­tered, creak­ing core like noth­ing else be­fore or since. The strangest thing about Clau­dio Simonetti, how­ever, is how cheer­ful and down-to-earth he is. It seems that you don’t need to be a drool­ing, swivel-eyed ma­niac to scare the shit out of ev­ery­one else. But does any­thing scare him?

“Oh, I don’t know… I’m scared about re­al­ity! Ha ha ha! When I see the news on TV, that scares me much more than films, you know? Some­times this re­al­ity is worse than the stuff of night­mares.”


harper, Sus­piria, star­ring Jes­sicatipped the scales of hor­rorGoblin (left to right): titta tani, ce­cilia Nappo, Bruno Pre­vi­tali, clau­dio Simonetti

Simonetti Dream team: clau­dioar­gento and Dario

clau­dio Simonetti: still mak­ing non-metal for metal fans

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