Interview: Claudio Simonetti
Edwin Arnaudin: How did the opportunity for this live-score tour of Suspiria come about?
Claudio Simonetti: Yeah, are many years that we are doing Suspiria live. We started with the first gigs of Suspiria maybe five years ago and we play live anywhere, but never in the States like this. So this is the first tour of Suspiria played live.
EA: Are there any adjustments you’ve made for this tour to change or improve the performance?
CS: Actually, we play Suspiria, I remember the first time they asked us to play Suspiria was in Ireland and then we also play also in Australia and many places in Europe as well, but we decide just to play live the music exactly the same way like the film is. So, we just put something new during film, just improvising, doing something that where there was not music originally. But the music, we exactly play with the same instruments like original. We use Greek bouzouki, we use Moogs. So, the soundtrack is exactly the same of the original, just the difference that it’s played live, of course.
EA: What are the most challenging parts of this score to perform live?
CS: You know, the problem with the film was that we didn’t have any separate tracks for the film. We had just the original soundtrack, so the difficulty was to arrange that we can play over the scenes where the music exists, especially when they talk. So I did a lot of work for us to let us play the music exactly like the original. Sometimes we play over, but it’s the same. Normally, now, when you have a film, you have a…
Phone connection lost. Interview resumed a week and a half later.
CS: Where are you?
EA: I’m in Asheville, North Carolina.
CS: Oh, yes. OK. OK.
EA: Yeah, home of Moog Music, whose synthesizers you appropriately enough used on the Suspiria score. Which ones exactly are those?
CS: Oh, of course. We use the Moog. The Asheville Moog. [laughs] Yeah, the city of the Moog, yes, and I use the big Moog System 55, the same that Keith Emerson used normally in the ‘70s. It’s a big one. But I also use my Minimoog.
EA: What made you decide to work with a Moog?
CS: You know what? Because in the ‘70s, there weren’t really any synthesizers besides Moog. Maybe just the ARP, but the biggest, the only one was always Moog. After arrived other synthesizers, like Roland and Kawai and others, but in ’75 and ’76, we can just use [unintelligible] or Thunder Piano and Moog. Moog was the first and I think the best synthesizer ever made.
EA: Have you ever visited the Moog factory or store here?
CS: No. Never, never. I’ve played in Asheville once, but I never visited the store. I really would like to meet someone from Moog because, you know [laughs] it’s a dream for every keyboard player. But I don’t know anyone there. That’s why.
EA: It’s not too far from The Orange Peel. I’m not sure if you have time, but I’d be happy to connect you.
CS: It would be a real pleasure.
EA: You’ve played a decent number of shows on this tour. Have you found that American audiences react to your Suspiria score or certain parts of the film in ways that are different from other audiences?
CS: No, it’s the same wherever we go to play because it’s a very well known film. We play Suspiria in Australia, New Zealand, and England — everywhere, you know? Even in America, not on tour, but we play one or two times. We play Suspiria live in Chicago and another one or two cities about two years ago, not on tour. And what I think is the thing that surprised me is that people know very well this film. It’s the most famous film of [writer/director Dario] Argento’s in the world. And I see during my concert young people and older people mixing together. I’m really surprised. Why do different generations love this film? Because it’s kind of an old, vintage film. I think that maybe there’s something…Suspiria is a special film, for the colors, for the music, for the story, for the first Dario film about witches. So, I don’t know. I have to ask to the audience why they love this film. [laughs] I can’t tell you.
EA: And then you’re playing an additional live set at these shows. What’s been making it into those sets so far from Goblin’s catalog?
CS: So, actually I play not only Goblin music, because after the split, when we separated in ’78, I started my career solo with Dario and other directors, so with Claudio Simonetti's Goblin, I play also of course the Goblin famous soundtracks like Dawn of the Dead and others, but I play mostly of my other films like Demons, Phenomena, Opera, and The Third Mother [aka Mother of Tears] — the films that I made with Dario, not with Goblin. So I make some from Deep Red, but we do this after, in the second part of the show. Not the entire concert, because it’s too long, but we play almost three hours a day, including the film. The film is one hour and 45 [minutes], so we play another hour and 15 minutes more.
EA: What does it mean to you for your score to still be so beloved 40 years after it was released?
CS: When I listen to this music, I think it’s still kind of a mother music because we mix electronic instruments like the Moog and we use also instruments like the celesta and harpsichord, and I use a Mellotron as well. But we use the Greek bouzouki and Indian tabla. We mix a lot of ethnical instruments, so that’s why Suspiria is so special because it’s a mix of rock and electronica and ethnic music. I think this is the most representative sound of Goblin.
EA: A lot of movie fans consider Suspiria one of the all-time great film scores, so I’m curious if you have some favorite film scores, horror or otherwise?
CS: Oh yes, of course. I love a lot of musicians, even not the horror movies. Of course I like John Williams. I like Bernard Herrmann, he’s one of my favorites. I like also John Carpenter for the electronic music he does. There are many, many. Those are the best three, but there are many, many musicians that I love.
EA: Those are three good ones, for sure!
CS: [laughs] Yeah!
EA: Now, the timing of this tour lines up well with the release of the new Suspiria. Is that a coincidence?
CS: No, actually I play Suspiria, now it’s five years I play Suspiria everywhere. So, maybe it’s a coincidence that we play Suspiria on tour in America. In the beginning, we had to do a tour with Dawn of the Dead. That was the original idea because this year is the 40th anniversary of Dawn of the Dead. Not of Suspiria because Suspiria has 41 years anniversary. But we didn’t have the rights to do the tour with Dawn of the Dead. I hope maybe next year. I don’t know. So we changed to Suspiria, but this was good because the Suspiria tour is together with the releasing of the new Suspiria. It is a coincidence, yes.
EA: Did Thom Yorke contact you at any point while he was working on his Suspiria score?
CS: No. I haven’t seen film. I haven’t heard the music. I can’t tell you anything about the new Suspiria. I was not contacted. When we were leaving Italy for the tour, because before States we went to Japan to do concerts, so I don’t know anything about the film, I just see on TV before we leave, one interview with [writer/director Luca] Guadagnino where he explained why he did a new Suspiria and why he decide to do the remake. But the funniest thing was that during all this interview documentary, they put the Goblin music, not Thom Yorke. [laughs] It’s funny! Yeah, yeah. So, I don’t know how is the new music. Anyway, I like Thom Yorke. I love Radiohead and know very well, but I’m sure he did good work, but otherwise it’s not easy to compose music for a new remake of one film that had modern music like Suspiria. It’s not easy, so you have to change all of it completely. But I don’t know. Have you seen the film?
EA: I have. I don’t like it. It’s creepy in some spots, but is actually pretty boring. It’s an hour longer than the original and they don’t really do much to justify the extra time.
CS: Oh yeah, for sure. I’m sorry about that. Yeah, someone told me that it’s too long.
EA: And what’s really bad is that, other than one excellent vocal track at the beginning, I could barely hear Thom Yorke’s music.
CS: Ah, yeah. I’m sorry about that. Yeah, yeah. This happened the same when I saw the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Zack Snyder, he did. I love this film. I like the remake. I don’t like remakes, but Dawn of the Dead was one of my favorites — except for the music, because the music was not strong like the original one. I don’t remember anything about the Dawn of the Dead new remake music. It’s a typical Hollywood style, you know?
EA: Lastly, what’s next for you and the band? Do you have any upcoming film projects?
CS: No, not now. We are doing a new album with new music. For the first time after many years, I do something new and starting again to do concerts around.
IF YOU GO
Who: Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin performing Suspiria
When: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m.
Where: The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave. theorangepeel.net
Tickets: $25 standing/$38 seated
(Photo courtesy of ACTION! PR)