Q&A: Claudio Simonetti On Bringing Suspiria Back To The U.S.

Dario Argento’s Suspiria, one of the most beloved and influential horror films in history, is a nightmarish journey through lush dream landscapes, psychedelic sound and searing color. One of the standouts of the film is the Italian band Goblin’s soundtrack. Goblin also wrote the beyond memorable scores for films including Argento’s Profondo Rosso and George Romero’s zombie epic Dawn Of The Dead but Suspiria is their finest work. The soundtrack leers and crawls and pulses with almost preternatural energy and a bombastic rhythm. There’s been no soundtrack quite like it ever since; composers have tried to replicate its uncanny prog virtuosity and fallen short. Metal musicians have also borrowed from Goblin for decades.

Goblin composer and keyboardist Claudio Simonetti, now touring with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, will return to the states later this month for a three-month tour playing the Suspiria soundtrack along with Goblin classics (dates here). He talked to us about the timeless magic of the Suspiria score and how his band brings it to life 45 years after its release.

Can you believe Suspiria is 45 years old?

It’s been a long time. I was very young when I did it and I never thought of such a big and lasting success. What surprises me most is that the film is still much loved by all fans of the genre. On the other hand, it is Argento’s most famous film.

Where did the idea to perform the entirety of Suspiria live come from?

In 2009 we were contacted by the Torino Film Festival to perform the soundtrack of Profondo Rosso (the film was shot in the city). It was an incredible experience. We played in the large Piazza C.L.N. where they shot the film in front of 10,000 people and then in 2014 in Rome. Later abroad they began to ask me if I could also do this with Suspiria and from there we started doing it.

Is there a piece on the soundtrack that you love playing the most?

The main theme is the most evocative one but I also like the others very much and we even do some improvisation during the film.

Have you ever heard part of the Suspiria soundtrack in a strange or unexpected place?

We’ve played the soundtrack in various places, cinemas, theaters and big clubs but the most suggestive one was certainly in the great Union Chapel in London in 2014, an incredible location.

What kind of stories have people told you about the Suspiria soundtrack over the years?

The Suspiria soundtrack is the most particular and most creative we have ever written and the most characteristic of the Goblin sound. Many films have had similar music to ours. We’ve really influenced a lot of musicians. This very special soundtrack gave new life to the music of horror films that were usually very traditional.

I recently watched a 4k remastered version of the film and was blown away by how much it popped and how radiant the color was. Have you seen it and what did you think?

One of the characteristics of the film is Luciano Tovoli’s photography, as well as the beautiful sets created by Inbal Weinberg. Argento wanted the colors and sets to be like a cartoon, and the result is truly extraordinary.

The Suspiria remake went with a much more austere look and a different musical approach entirely. Have you seen it and if so what did you think?

Honestly, I did not like the film despite the excellent performances. I found the idea of a remake of such a masterpiece a very brave undertaking. The (new) film is too long with a sad B-movie cinema ending. Thom Yorke wrote a good soundtrack but the music was poorly suited to the film. I have always liked him with Radiohead. In this case, he did not give his best. Perhaps he wanted to compose a piece of different music to avoid dealing with our soundtrack.

What are some of the challenges of bringing this music to life in 2022?

It’s not a big challenge for us because we have been carrying it around for many years with great success. This will be our second tour in the US with Suspiria (the last was in 2018) and will celebrate the film’s 45th anniversary. We are happy to be back on tour after two years of the pandemic.

When you are hiring collaborators or musicians to play Goblin music what qualities do you look for?

I already had a group before called Daemonia. We recorded a Dario Argento tribute album in 2000 with very heavy metal and rock sounds. Later, I returned to the original sound and changed the band name to Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin. I worked with these musicians for over 20 years. They were all musicians from the underground rock scene in Rome, very good and prepared. In 2018 I changed the line-up again and I chose three new young musicians, bassist Cecilia Nappo (who joined in 2018), drummer Federico Maragoni (who joined in 2019) and guitarist Daniele Amador (who joined in 2020). They managed to enter the world of Goblin and recreate the same sound of the time even with more current sounds.

How do you decide what Goblin songs to put into a set of music after fans have already heard all of Suspiria?

We always play the great classics from Profondo Rosso, Phenomena, Demons, Suspiria, Zombi and Opera but also songs from various albums such as Roller, Il Fantastico Viaggo del Bagarozzo Mark and our new album The Devil Is Back. This year we will also present and play tracks from our 45th-anniversary album Suspiria Prog Rock Version (released in September), which contains all versions of the original soundtrack rearranged and played in the classic prog style.