Introduction by Kat Ellinger.
It seems fitting that as I sit here and write this introduction I am listening to Fabio Frizzi’s absorbing score to Fulci’s The Beyond, a soundtrack I often revisit when I am writing, being one of my personal favourites of all time. For those familiar with the soundtrack in question I am sure I do not need to tell you the power and the magic at play here, a perfect accompaniment for Fulci’s otherworldly vision of the visceral and haunting fantasy landscape which is evoked in the film. It also seems appropriate that it should be this score in particular given that despite having a current 78 composing credits listed on IMDb; working on films, TV, and even ballet, Frizzi’s music is perhaps remembered for his work with the Italian Godfather of Gore the most. Frizzi’s often haunting and always inspired multi-layered electronica based music has featured on some of Fulci’s best and most loved films. Adding to this over the last 30 years Fabio has worked extensively in the Italian film and television industry composing for other directors such as Sergio Martino, Enzo G. Castellari, Umberto Lenzi to name but a few.
Things could have been a very different story for Fabio, born in 1951 in Bologna Italy, had he followed his Father’s intended career path for him and gone into law. However, and thankfully so, his passion for music was too strong and after playing in bands from his young teens he met his publisher Carlo Bixio, and formed the three-piece Bixio (Franco brother of Carlo)- Frizzi- Tempera with an intention to create music for the film industry. This formation was to set about Frizzi’s 15 year long collaboration with Fulci. Initially working on Fulci’s Western Four of the Apocalypse in 1975, the trio went on to compose music for his Seven Notes in Black (The Psychic) (1977) and Silver Saddle (They Died With Their Boots On) (1978). The memorable score for The Psychic has since found its way to a modern-day audience when it was used in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume One.
Following on from Silver Saddle it was at this point that Frizzi took a 24 year hiatus from the trio and moved onto working solo. He began this new period by composing one of the most memorable soundtracks in his career for Fulci’s epic 1979 video nasty opus Zombi 2 (Zombie Flesh Eaters); thus cementing their partnership and making Frizzi’s name synonymous with the work of the Italian horror legend. Frizzi says ‘Lucio had a special relationship with music. He had a clear idea of what he wanted and a great way of walking me through it, something that every director should be able to do. He would explain to me what he wanted, telling me scene by scene how the music was going to support the picture. It was with Zombi 2 that I enjoyed a more direct and exclusive relationship with Lucio for the first time’ (sleeve notes for Death Waltz Recordings Co. Limited Edition Zombie Flesh Eaters Vinyl). Continuing with Contraband (1980) City of the Living Dead (1980) The Beyond (1981) Manhattan Baby (1982), and returning in 1990 to score for A Cat in the Brain.
Testament to the enduring admiration for Frizzi’s work he has recently played to a sold out crowd in London’s Union Chapel (Halloween 2013) when he played a special show organised by Death Waltz Recording Company and Paint It Black, adapting his music to an ensemble affair with use of a band. The success of the show stands as proof that people still continue to connect to his work, being timeless, and never more popular. Incidentally Death Waltz have reissued a special edition vinyl edition of Fabio’s score for Zombie Flesh Eaters, which you can check out here. Gav Ellinger caught up with Fabio following on from his show to ask him about his career, working with Fulci, and his journey into live performance. We would like to thank Fabio for taking the time out to talk to us during such a busy period.
Interview by Gav Ellinger.
Fabio, firstly, how was your concert on Halloween in London and could you tell me a bit about how all that came about?
FF: One of the best nights of my life. A successful concert, great complicity between me, the musicians, and all the staff involved, great chemistry with all audiences, a collective enthusiasm that made us spend two hours in a mental time of 15 minutes. When I gave the starter of last suite, The Beyond, I said to myself, we have already finished? And then an extraordinary location, the Union Chapel, the ideal venue for a concert like this. A magical night.
Were the band familiar with/fans of your music already and how long did they have to learn the music?
FF: The group is formed by a band of 7 fabulous musicians, that I selected in Rome, and a string quartet from Royal Academy of Music, that we met in London. More or less everyone knew this repertoire and some of Fulci movies. One in particular, Riccardo Rocchi, who plays acoustic guitars, was a collector of music and films, especially the films of Lucio and my soundtracks. The first time we met for rehearsals he took me many CDs and DVDs, and I was pleased and a little surprised. To write these arrangements it took me a year. To reach a good level of preparation we worked hard with the band for a little less than 5 months. It’s a kind of music not very easy to play. But very exciting for everyone.
How did your career as a composer begin and what attracted you to synthesized music and who do you draw your influences from?
FF: I have been a lover of music since I was a child and I had my first band at the age of 16. After high school, starting university studies to become a lawyer, I tried the path of music, in the meanwhile. I met the right people and, day after day, the music has become my profession. These were the years in which new electronics in music were borning, Moog, Roland Jupiter 8, Solina and many other, were tools which I was fascinated by.. They gave a great deal of autonomy in composing and recording, and synthesizers became my friends. Although the guitar has been my first love. Influences, many, so many, like all composers. I like to summarize everything in Bach & the Beatles, but that just means that I have always loved all the good music, whatever genre it belonged to. And I got swayed very willingly.
You wrote the scores for many Lucio Fulci films, most notably The Beyond and Zombi 2, what inspired the music for these and did you get to see the movies before they were scored?
FF: The Beyond and Zombi 2 are two of the most interesting movies among those I scored for Lucio Fulci. Two projects very demanding in the musical aspect, two films in which music plays a leading role. In all the works I’ve done for the cinema, even in these cases I started writing the musical themes after reading the script and after seeing at least some scenes at moviola. And in any case, the recording of the soundtrack is always performed after the film is finished, and after working long time with the director on each single choice. I see the scenes and I do move to a parallel dimension where I can find the ideas to amplify, with the music, the flavors suggested by the images.
Was Lucio a personal friend and how was your working relationship with him?
FF: When I met Lucio, on the occasion of I 4 dell’Apocalisse I was a little more than a boy. When I wrote the music for A Cat in the Brain much time had passed, I had grown up. The relationship with Lucio had changed and I was very proud to be able to count Fulci among my friends. On the work I did not discount anyone, had clear ideas about the result he wanted, in every aspect of his film. He demanded the most out of each of us. He was direct, demanding, but also ironic. Capable of making his crew a big family. And was ready to lavish appreciations on those if they deserved.
Are you a fan of horror movies yourself and what are your favourites?
FF: I like horror movies, because they are probably the type of work in which I express my best musical sensibility. Horror movies are incursions into our deeper world, in those underground tunnels that are part of the psychological baggage of each of us. And drive with my music audiences in these mysterious spaces is a privilege for me. Titles I do prefer? I am very fond of Fulci horrors, it could not be otherwise.
What do you think made Fulci different to other directors and why do you think his films have gained such a cult following?
FF: The years in which Fulci directed this movies were not wonderful years for the Italian cinema. The budgets were very tight and the productions were not pharaonic. His great technical skills, artistic expressive accompanied by a group of collaborators and actors, talented and accomplices of the projects, have allowed him to successfully overcome the problems and package products credible and fascinating. I think Lucio was able to give a very personal touch to his films, a figure that, as a bloodstain of his scenes, has enlarged in the world and has picked up, immediately and more and more, the consent of a very transversal population of cinephiles. And I think it’s a devotion that he richly deserved.
Any plans for more stage shows in the pipeline and what other projects are you working on at the moment?
FF: The “Frizzi 2 Fulci” show started well, London was the right place. Now it is time to carry it around the world in 2014. And then we are working on the assumption of a DVD or CD and Vinyl with live we recorded at the Union Chapel. We’ll see. I just finished the soundtrack of “House of the forbidden secrets” a film by Todd Sheets, a horror of strong colors, which is coming out on the CD label Beat Records. Among other things, at the national premiere in Las Vegas, at the PollyGrind Film Festival on I was awarded for best soundtrack!
For more news on Fabio check out his official Facebook and Twitter pages here:
Fabio’s Tribute Facebook Page to Lucio Fulci here.