Claudio Simonetti: Scoring Suspiria

November 9, 2018
With the remake in cinemas now, we talk to Goblin main man and score composer extraordinaire, Claudio Simonetti, about crafting the music for Dario Argento’s 1977 horror marvel, Suspiria.

Claudio Simonetti, better known for his work with the band, Goblin, is responsible for some of the most iconic scores and soundtracks in modern horror. Deep Red, Tenebre, Demons, Opera, to name but a few, are all Simonetti’s work. Dario Argento’s 1977 masterpiece, Suspiria, however, is arguably Simonetti’s most famous score. It’s a strange and striking film, scary and dream-like, with a score that has yet to be bettered to this day. Tellingly, Luca Guadagnino – the director of the Suspiria remake, which is in cinemas now – tapped Radiohead mastermind, Thom Yorke, to craft the score for the new film. The music was such an essential element of the original film, and the director knows it, getting one of the best in the business to create something new. “I like Thom Yorke as a musician, and so I hope that he does a good job,” Simonetti told The Phoenix New Times.

When asked about how such a bizarre, yet apt, score occurred, Simonetti is more than happy to explain. “After the huge success of Deep Red (1975), Dario Argento asked us to write the score for his film, Suspiria,” says Simonetti. “This was his first thriller about witchcraft and the occult, and subsequently, it was the most creative and innovative soundtrack that we had ever written. We experimented with various new sounds, in about three months of studio recording, using electronic instruments like The Moog System 100 and ethnic instruments such as the Greek Bouzouki and the Indian Tabla.”

Claudio Simonetti with Goblin

Truly a vivid fever dream, Suspiria’s soundtrack matches the hallucinatory, nightmarish imagery of the film itself. What did Simonetti draw from to create something so unprecedented? “When we wrote Suspiria, we weren’t really influenced by anything,” the composer explains. “We tried to be as original as possible, and the Suspiria soundtrack is very innovative. Listening to it today, it still feels modern and out of the norm.”

Simonetti has composed under many guises. In terms of his own work, how does he rate his favourites? “As Goblin, my favourite soundtracks are Deep Red and Suspiria,” Simonetti says. “My favourite works as a solo composer with Dario Argento are Phenomena and Dracula 3D.” Suspiria is usually described as Dario Argento’s best film, but does Simonetti agree? From the many films that he has scored, which one does he feel is the strongest overall cinematic entry. “My favourite film is Deep Red,” Simonetti states simply.

Claudio Simonetti performing the score to Suspiria live on stage.

Three of Simonetti’s finest scores are for Deep Red, Suspiria and Tenebre. All Argento films, and all great. Interestingly, there is a (seemingly) simple melody that repeats in each score. It draws you in and makes you remember the music. Simonetti agrees. “Definitely one of the reasons for our success are the repetitive melodies,” he says. “Each soundtrack written by us has its own peculiarities, especially in the choice of arrangements and instruments. In Deep Red, we used the church organ, moog, clavicembalo, acoustic and electric guitars; in Suspiria, we played the celesta, big moog, and ethnic instruments; while in Tenebre, we used the Vocoder and drum machine.”

On working with Italian master, Dario Argento, Simonetti is effusively enthusiastic. “I have worked with Dario Argento for almost 37 years,” he says. “2012’s Dracula 3D was my fourteenth film with him. In addition to our professional relationship, we are also great friends.” Fourteen films is an astonishing record. Does this entail time on the set of these features? “When I can, I go on the set to get in the mood for the film,” Simonetti explains. “This helps me in the next phase of the composition of the music.”

Suspiria is in cinemas now. Click here for our review of the film.

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