This may seem like a strange question, but . . .
Have you ever listened to a horror movie? Truly listened?
If you have, then you know how crucial the soundtrack—or perhaps more appropriately, the score—can be to the mood of a horror movie. It has been reported that when Halloween was originally screened without the music, those few in attendance weren’t held in suspense or fright. They just didn’t seem to “get it.” That is, until John Carpenter added his now legendary soundtrack. And then people jumped out of their seats.
Steve Moore listens to horror movies. In fact, he and A. E. Paterra don’t just listen to them—they create them, sonically speaking. Moore and Paterra comprise the two-man progressive/synth-rock band Zombi, a band that has scored two horror movies and is currently touring across the U.S. in support of their major label debut CD Cosmos (Relapse Records).
It was while on the road between shows in their hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, and New York City that we had the chance to catch up with Moore, Zombi’s keyboardist and bassist (Paterra is the percussionist). He was more than happy to describe for us Zombi’s horror soundtrack experience, their unique sound and style, and the duo’s love for classic horror movies—and horror music.
Dave Manack: Did growing up in Pittsburgh cue your interest in horror movies and horror soundtracks? After all, Pittsburgh is the home of George Romero and is the setting for such classic horror movies as Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead.
Steve Moore: Growing up in that area really exposed us to those movies and to horror films in general. There’s a sense of hometown pride attached to Night of the Living Dead and with George Romero’s films because he almost exclusively uses hometown talent and shoots locally. We’d see these movies shown pretty often late at night and on UHF; it just affected us. We developed a real love for it, but not just for the movies themselves, also for the music that went along with them. In fact, I grew up in Monroeville where (the original) Dawn of the Dead was filmed. I’m watching the movie, and there’s the Monroeville mall where I spent my Friday nights as a kid. It was kind of surreal.
DM: After listening to Cosmos, your love of Dawn of the Dead is quite apparent. When you started this band, was it your goal to pick up where Goblin (the ‘70s Italian prog-rock band which scored Dawn) left off?
SM: We formed the band based on mutual love for Goblin and what they did. When we started writing, we used that as a launch pad, but we’ve incorporated a lot of other progressive rock influences. That’s anything from Tangerine Dream to Jean Michael Jarre to Genesis.
DM: Aside from recording Cosmos (and two demos, Twilight Sentinel and Zombi), you’ve also had the opportunity to do the soundtrack for two new horror movies: Evan Katz’s and Adam Wingard’s Home Sick, which is set for a DVD release later this year, and Nick Palumbo’s Murder-Set-Pieces, which is now showing in select cities across the country. How would you describe this experience?
SM: It’s been amazing. The great thing is, Murder-Set-Pieces will be showing in Chicago next month (April), and that’s where we live now, so we’ll be home from the tour in time to see it. So obviously I’m pretty excited about it. Hearing our music in the theater will be a real trip.
Home Sick will be released hopefully by the fall of this year by Synapse Films; it’s a great movie. It’s been about a year and a half since we scored it, and I was getting a little worried that it wasn’t going to come out. But we just heard from Evan recently, and they’re finishing it up.
DM: Will you or Relapse Records be releasing those soundtracks?
SM: We’re toying with the idea of releasing the Home Sick soundtrack ourselves at some point within the next year or so, probably after the movie is released. But as far as Murder-Set-Pieces, we don’t own the rights to that music so I’m not sure.
DM: Would you have been happy simply doing soundtracks for horror movies, or was it your intention all along to get a deal from a major record label like Relapse and explore your more progressive musical side?
SM: We were totally surprised when Relapse decided to put out the album, but I wanted to do film scores since I was a kid. The whole sound of our band lends itself to the horror or sci-fi movie genre; it’s a cinematic type of sound and that’s intentional. The idea that people would want us to do their film scores is terrific because we set out to create music that could be a soundtrack to a horror movie. But it takes it to a whole other level to actually write music specifically for a horror movie. But as far as Relapse, we had sent our demo out to a bunch of record labels, many smaller than Relapse. I really never thought it would be picked up; I just though this is something we’d be doing for ourselves just to have fun. But in January 2004, on my birthday no less, we got the call (from Relapse).
DM: Despite the fact that you’ve been “signed,” do you still intend on doing more horror soundtrack work?
SM: Of course, we’d love to. I know that there are directors out there that are trying to recreate the look and the feel of the terrific movies from back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. I just hope that they want to be thorough enough to give it the right sound as well as the right look. I’m totally fed up with the state of Hollywood soundtracks to horror movies these days. It’s totally ridiculous. Soundtracks are now nothing more than advertisements, especially when you hear bands like Ill Nino or Disturbed. They’re popular bands, so the soundtrack will sell. But it really doesn’t do much for the mood of the movie. If anything it hurts it.
DM: You’re currently on tour in support of your hypnotic, seven-song opus Cosmos. When you play live, do you think audiences “get” the horror movie influence? Especially since you’re the opening act on some nights. How has the crowd response been?
SM: It’s been great so far, and we’ve played for plenty of different audiences. Last week we played at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin; we played with Pig Destroyer and Cephalic Carnage (death/extreme metal bands). I wondered, “Are these metal kids going to be into us?” But everybody was really into it, and we got a terrific response. As far as “getting” the horror movie influence, it happens a lot of times, more than even I would have thought. A lot more people know about Goblin than I realized. There are people coming to see us who have heard about us, and they already know that we’re intentionally writing music in this style.
DM: The keyboards that you use are obviously the trademark of the Zombi sound. These keyboards sound as if they’re right out of a ‘70s or early ‘80s horror movie such as those done by Romero, Dario Argento, or Lucio Fulci. Is this intentional?
SM: Absolutely. The keyboards are all at least 25 years old, and that’s important because we wanted to be authentic about it. We knew that if we were going to write music in that style, we needed to have the right equipment. As far as my key components, I use a Korg Polysix and other synths from Sequential Circuits, a company that went out of business in mid ‘80s. But they made some truly amazing keyboards.
DM: With such a passion for horror movies, have you ever thought about writing your own horror movie in terms of a plot or script?
SM: All the time; I get ideas constantly. And I think these ideas are very good, but writing is a whole new ballgame. But I look at Rob Zombie, and I think he has done quite well. He waited until he was successful and had some pull. Then he wrote House of 1000 Corpses, which I thought was a great movie. He was loyal to the old style of horror movie making. It seems like he just did it because he truly loves the genre. The music is the main focus for me right now . . . but if anyone out there wants to write a movie and involve me, I’d be totally into it.
DM: Okay, toughest question of all: Name your top five horror movies and why.
SM: Wow . . . here it goes, in no particular order:
1.) The original Dawn of the Dead. It works on so many levels, it’s such an incredible movie. It’s not just a zombie movie, it isn’t just gory, it isn’t just a horror movie. There’s social commentary and social satire. And of course, the soundtrack is amazing.
2.) An American Werewolf in London. I loved it as a kid; I thought it was so scary. Now, watching it later, I see a lot of humorous moments. It’s the perfect balance of the horror and humor elements, very beautifully shot, and it has a great soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein.
3.) Halloween. I saw it when I was pretty young, and it had a real impact on me. Not only the movie, but also the soundtrack led me to pursue the other John Carpenter movies. Now I have every John Carpenter soundtrack on CD.
4.) Messiah of Evil. It’s an incredibly underrated movie from the ‘70s. It’s sort of a zombie movie, but sort of not. It’s about a California town taken over by these people who, when the moon turns red, become cannibals. And it has one of the greatest all synthesizer soundtracks I’ve ever heard.
5.) Phantasm. I don’t even think this movie needs any comment—phenomenal movie, phenomenal soundtrack. Don Coscarelli is amazing. It’s incredibly moody with an atmosphere that I don’t think filmmakers can create anymore. I challenge anybody out there reading this to create a movie this awesome. Please do it and call us for the soundtrack!
Cosmos by Zombi (2004)
4.08 Iowa City, IA @ Gabe’s Oasis w/Pelican
4.09 Madison, WI @ Club 770 (Univ. of Wisconsin Campus) w/Pelican
4.10 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock w/Pelican
4.12 Couer d’Alene, ID @ Couer d’Alene Tea House
4.13 Portland, OR @ Berbati’s Pan w/Point Line Plane, ASVA
4.14 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon w/Point Line Plane, ASVA
4.15 Portland, OR @ Reed College w/Jonny X and the Groadies, Stovokor
4.16 Portland, OR @ Dunes w/Splatterhouse
4.17 Arcata, CA @ The Alibi
4.19 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill w/Chrime in Choir
4.20 Sacramento / Berkeley, CA @ TBA
4.21 Oakland, CA @ The French Fry Factory w/Chrime in Choir, Dura Mater
4.22 San Francisco, CA @ Thee Parkside w/Dura Mater
4.24 Tucson, AZ @ The Surly Wench
4.25 Albuquerque, NM @ The Launchpad
4.26 Tulsa, OK @ The Boulder
4.27 Lawrence, KS @ The Jackpot
4.28 St. Louis, MO @ Lemp Arts Space
4.29 Louisville, KY @ The Rudyard Kipling w/Reading, The Touched, and S/C
4.30 Chicago, IL @ The Bottom Lounge
5.03 Belton, TX @ Hero’s Rock and Roll Club w/Dillinger Escape Plan, Heads Will Roll
5.06 Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theater w/Dillinger Escape Plan, Heads Will Roll
5.07 Henderson, NV (Las Vegas) @ The Roadhouse w/Dillinger Escape Plan, Heads Will Roll
5.08 Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction w/Dillinger Escape Plan, Heads Will Roll
5.09 San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall w/Dillinger Escape Plan, Heads Will Roll