how suspiria became one of the best horror movie soundtracks of all time
Before Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming remake came Dario Argento’s astonishing original -- and with it one of the greatest horror soundtracks ever created. Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti explains how it came to life.
For someone who become known for creating one of the best horror soundtracks of all time, Claudio Simonetti was never particularly interested in movie scores. The Brazilian-born, Italian musician was much more interested in “songs and records”, performing in bands throughout the 60s and finding himself as keyboardist and composer of prog rockers Goblin in the mid-70s.
Of course, all that changed when he met Dario Argento. The Italian filmmaker was riding high in the country’s movie business for his work reviving the giallo genre, a kind of souped-up Italian murder mystery spliced with scenes of out and out horror. “Our music publisher introduced us because Dario was looking for a rock band for his film Profondo Rosso [Deep Red],” Claudio describes. While the director had initially envisioned British band Pink Floyd for the role -- “he wanted something something new”, Claudio confirms -- he was impressed by Goblin’s ability to step in quickly following a disagreement with the film’s original composer, Giorgio Gaslini. “He came to the studio, he listened to our music and he loved it,” Claudio says. “We had just ten days to write and compose it all.”
The soundtrack to Profondo Rosso became a huge success, shifting a million copies in eight months, and reaching the top of the charts in a market dominated by Eurovision rejects and highly dramatic love ballads. When, two years later, Dario was looking to soundtrack his next project -- the story of an American ballet student who transfers to a prestigious dance academy in Germany -- he knew exactly where to turn. “Dario said, ‘this time, I want something really different,’” Claudio recalls. “He tells me, ‘This is not a traditional thriller film like I’ve made before. I want people to feel like they’re there. I want the music to scare.”
The movie turned out to be 1977’s Suspiria; the avant-garde horror classic described by AllMovie as "one of the most striking assaults on the senses ever to be committed to celluloid”. Watching today, it's hard to imagine the film's lurid visuals without their Goblin soundtrack; a brutal, experimental work that completely flipped the idea that the best soundtracks were those you barely noticed.
“We composed this music that’s completely different to the normal baroque or gothic music,” Claudio describes. “We used things like the bouzouki [a Greek string instrument] and the tabla [an Indian drum]. I used a big Moog synthesiser. That’s why I think it’s the best thing we ever made. It’s just so different.”
Suspiria’s set to be rebooted later this year with a Dakota Johnson-starring, Luca Guadagnino remake. The soundtrack, this time round, is being handled by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, but 40 years on from the original, there’s something about Goblin’s timeless sledgehammer of a soundtrack that continues to attract disciples, young and old alike.
“I think maybe this film has something different,” Claudio suggests. “I have many generations who speak to me and tell me they’ve seen the film, fathers and sons. It’s become famous for its photography and for its special effects and, of course, for the soundtrack. But I think even now, there’s something new in our old music. This was the start of everything for us.”
Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin perform the live soundtrack to Supiria at London’s Union Chapel on Friday (17 August) and a greatest hits set the following night (18 August). Tickets available here.