Composer Fabio Frizzi talks art, Genesis and being scared of King Crimson

A portrait of composer Fabio Frizzi
(Image credit: Floriana Ausili)

From Zombie Flesh Eaters to City Of The Living Dead, Fabio Frizzi’s music has played a crucial role in bringing to life some of the most acclaimed horror movies of the past four decades. His multiple collaborations with director Lucio Fulci, which started in 1975 with Dracula In The Provinces, created a series of films where Frizzi’s soundtracks were in harmony with the gruesome scenes and evocative action on screen.

Like Goblin, who also made their name in the Italian horror genre, Frizzi has built a firm reputation as a unique composer. His recent live shows, though, have begun with In The Court Of The Crimson King, showing his clear prog roots. But where did his love for this music begin, and where will it take him next?

How did prog inspire you in your early years?

When I was young, I loved classical music, especially Bach. Then I got into pop rock like The Beatles. What changed things for me was when I visited Fabio Pignatelli, Goblin’s original bassist and a friend of mine, when he was in the studio working on his own album. He told me how Yes had influenced him, and as soon as I heard that band, they made an incredible impression. My younger brother [actor Fabrizio Frizzi] was a big Genesis fan, and it was through him that I fell in love with them. I realised that prog brought together classical music and pop, the two musical styles I loved most.

Did you play in a prog band during your formative years?

No. I was in some bands before I became a soundtrack composer, but these were always pop ones. That’s why it means so much to me to be able to play In The Court Of The Crimson King live now, because I can show people where my true roots are. Although I’m always very nervous about doing it!

How did you start working with Lucio Fulci?

I was in a trio with Fabio Bixio and Vince Tempera, and Bixio was also my publisher. Through him we got the chance to work with Fulci on the music for his 1975 spaghetti western Four Of The Apocalypse. That’s how I met Fulci. We got on very well, and he decided he wanted to work with me regularly. Of course, most of what came later was in the horror area.

Are you a fan of horror films?

Well, all I can say is that there’s good and bad in every movie genre. If a horror film is well done then I love it. But if it’s badly made, then it’s just nonsense. For me, good horror has to have a strong storyline. Otherwise it’s just about special effects, and that doesn’t interest me. What I love about Fulci is he always knew how to get his ideas across in a consistent and effective way.

What was Fulci like to work with?

We became good friends [Fulci died in 1996]. He had a very clear idea of what to give the audience, but he almost always let me do the music the way I felt it worked best. However, I accept that he was never an easy man to work with, and he could be very tough on you when he felt it necessary. I think the actors got this side of him more than I ever did. But I do recall one incident when we clashed. That was on what I composed for the opening of City Of The Living Dead [1980]. I had come up with something romantic, which I believed fitted the mood. But Lucio went crazy when he heard it!

Is it easier or more difficult to work to someone else’s vision?

I think it’s easier. Music is a crucial part of what makes what you see on screen work. It brings out the emotion in a story: the suffering, the love, the hate. For me, the music doesn’t just follow the visuals, but brings them to life. So it’s not just about another person’s vision, but as much about yours as the composer.

You’ve been touring for a few years now with the Frizzi 2 Fulci show. Do you have any plans for a studio album?

I’m fortunate enough to have a really good band around me. They’re smart and enthusiastic, and it seems the next logical step is to go into the studio with them and do something completely new. We’re trying to find the time in a very busy touring schedule. Our hope is to do this before the summer and have it released by the end of 2017.

Goblin have taken part in several acclaimed performances where they’ve played the score from a film live while the movie itself is being screened. Will you ever do that?

Funny you should say that, because right now I’m going through the score for The Beyond [1981] and getting it ready to do exactly that. The plan is to be able to play this live next year, while the film is shown. What I’m doing is expanding on the original music, which only lasts about 30 minutes. I think what myself and the band do will be fully in touch with the way things sounded when the movie was first released. This is an exciting project.

Do you have any regrets about being known as a soundtrack composer rather than as a musician in your own right?

There’s a part of me that wishes I’d had the chance to work in a band like the one I have now when I was 25 years old. But I was too shy back then to have made it work. I’ve been fortunate to have had a career as a composer. It’s been very fulfilling, and if I had become a band member, that would never have happened and I’d have missed the opportunity to work with some amazing people. So it’s not a case of regretting how things have gone, but being thankful for what’s happened. Really, I’m in love with music!

For news and updates, follow Fabio Frizzi on Twitter: @FabioFrizzi.

Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009. He died in 2021