The band's leader Claudio Simonetti talks about bringing cult classic horror film scores to the Edinburgh Fringe
It starts with twinkling bells and a heavy resonating bass, before you hear gargled 'la la la' vocals. This creepy nursery rhyme sound makes way for synths and galloping guitar as the theme music to Suspiria kicks in. No one makes film soundtracks quite like Goblin.
Starting with 1975's Profondo Rosso, the Italian prog rockers practically became the house band for director Dario Argento's startling horror movies. However, their collaboration came about virtually by accident. 'The original soundtrack started with Giorgio Gaslini,' explains Goblin's founding member, composer and keyboardist Claudio Simonetti. 'He's a big composer but Dario didn't like the full orchestra; he preferred a rock sound. That's the real story of Goblin. We were lucky because Gaslini left the film over a problem he had with Dario and we composed most of the soundtrack.'
At Summerhall, Simonetti's band will perform a series of very special gigs, playing a live score to Suspiria (1977) and George A Romero's classic Dawn of the Dead (1978). Both films represent the pinnacle of 70s horror cinema. Suspiria is a bizarre tale of murder and witches at a remote ballet school in Germany, a haunting and visually stunning piece of work that's arguably Argento's masterpiece. 'After the big success of Profondo Rosso, Dario decided to call us again.' remembers Simonetti. 'But he said "this is a different film so I need very particular music, not prog rock. I want the music to make people always feel the witches are there even when they are not on screen".'
The score is a disorientating and sometimes discordant mix of classical, rock, jazz and folk, and becomes integral to the film's mood and feel, heightening the terror and setting the viewer on edge. 'We did Profondo Rosso in just ten days but with Suspiria we spent two months in the studio searching for new sounds from different instruments like the bouzouki, the tabla and the big Moog,' recalls Simonetti. 'We did a lot of experimental music that I think even now sounds very modern.'
Goblin's soundtracking of Suspiria is rather uncannily timed with a remake being released later this year. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, it stars Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz, while Thom Yorke is writing a new score.
Dawn of the Dead is perhaps the greatest zombie movie of all time, a bleak satire on consumer culture in which a group of survivors seek shelter at an abandoned shopping mall. However, fans in the UK and US probably only know bits and pieces of Goblin's soundtrack which was written specifically for the Italian market. 'Dario distributed the film in Italy, and the original soundtrack is made up of library music chosen by Romero. But Dario didn't like it and he decided to put in our soundtrack instead.'
Argento also cut 20 minutes from the film for a tighter running time, making Goblin's score even more intense. Despite working on Dawn of the Dead, Simonetti hadn't met the director until recently. 'I was lucky to meet Romero before he died [in 2017], and had a chance to talk with him. I got to ask what he thought of our soundtrack and he said "I love it". I asked him why he used this very boring music and he said "I wanted to give the film this vintage sound but your music is more fitting". So I officially had permission from George.'
The distinctive Goblin sound can be heard on many cult horror films (such as Patrick, Contamination and Tenebrae) before the band split during the 80s, briefly coming together again in 2000 for Argento's Sleepless. There have been partial reunions and one-off performances but old wounds haven't fully healed, and Simonetti is fairly elusive when asked why Goblin broke up. Several incarnations of the band, numbering various members, have toured under names like Back to the Goblin, Goblin Rebirth, New Goblin and The Goblin Keys. Claudio Simonetti's Goblin features his band Daemonia faithfully recreating their classic soundtracks.
Fuelled by the explosion in vinyl and labels like Death Waltz Recording Company and Waxwork Records, there's a new appreciation for horror soundtracks. Legendary director John Carpenter (Halloween, Prince of Darkness, They Live) is now playing his synth-heavy scores to sold-out crowds around the world. 'I know him very well,' says Simonetti. 'I'm a big fan of his, and I know he's a big fan of us. There are a lot of horror movies now, but the music doesn't seem to be as important as it was in the 70s.'
One Inch Badge
Italian horror soundtrack maestro Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin perform their classic 1978 score live to a screening of George Romero's film Dawn of the Dead (celebrating 40 years). In 1975, Goblin were called by director Dario Argento to score the film Profondo Rosso. The soundtrack went on to…
One Inch Badge
The Italian horror soundtrack maestro Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin perform their classic 1977 score live to a screening of the famous Dario Argento film Suspiria (celebrating 40 years). In 1975, Goblin were called in by director Argento as a replacement for Giorgio Gaslini on his film Profondo…