ORGASMO SONORE A.K.A Francois Riendeau is a man after my own heart - a massive Euro soundtrack fan who's made it his mission to spread the word (and the word is good) about the many splendoured joys that the likes of Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai et al have to offer.
You can stream his latest album here . Read the Active Listener review of it here.
Francois took the time to answer a few questions for me via e-mail:
You're building a career at this point on covering obscure euro film score pieces. Tell us a little bit about your passion for Euro soundtracks.
First of all Nathan, thank you for your interest in Orgasmo Sonore and your great work with The Active Listener, encouraging independent artists and bands.
I'm a long time collector of films and film scores of all kinds, particularly the euro genre because of it's never ending opportunities for discovery. I think there is something unique in the cinema of this time. I would rather watch any eurotrash oldies than the last Batman. I know there will be a new great soundtrack to discover, a surreal shocking scene or two, a nice sexy actress or a funny vile character to like and a lot of great fun - yes, it'll likely be full of flaws, imperfect, subversive, opportunist, etc...
Since I saw Dawn of the Dead (the original version with the score by Goblin) as a teenager, I have been interested in soundtracks. And now many years later, I'm still discovering new things every day. The period between 1965 and 1985 is so rich and full of talented composers, especially the Italians, it's an endless source of discovery for anyone who likes to go deep into their passion. Also, while today the goal of a soundtrack seems to be more around building soundscapes and atmospheres, in the 70s, composers were more influenced by jazz, funk, rock, pop, etc... It was more about writing good tunes with themes to fit the movies. So it makes the soundtracks far more interesting on their own.
Has this led to you writing your own material in a similar style? Any plans to release any if so?
These composers were really skillful, I'm learning a lot while doing my 2 tribute albums and it would be a great challenge to do something highly influenced by their music. I'm still learning and the next project could definitively be something in that direction. A soundtrack for an imaginary film. While I would like to work for real film-makers, I still want to enhance my techniques, have a better recording environnment and work with more musicians and collaborators. I think many composers wishing to score for film misunderstand the real challenge there is in providing music for a movie : you're not doing what you want, you're doing what the director wants. You really have to be at the service of the director's universe, not the opposite. It takes a lot of discipline, confidence and emotional objectivity over the material you will submit because the director may ask a lot for of modification. It sounds like it would be a better idea, for now, to work on my own material. But tomorrow, I'll maybe have a big opportunity for a film and I'll run with it, who knows.
What are your top five film scores of all time?
I own hundreds of film scores and if one day I had to pick only 5 of them because my house is on fire, I would probably die trying to figure which ones I should save! I'm sorry, there's too much. It would take me the whole day just trying to figure which of Morricone's scores deserve to be in this list.
And top five composers?
Ennio Morricone, Ennio Morricone and Ennio Morricone. Seriously I appreciate a lot of composers - again it's difficult to name only 5 (sorry, I'm not good at this game). I have a lot of respect for Piero Umiliani, I think he is a real modern jazzman and composer, he did some electronic music, a lot of library stuff and experimental work. François de Roubaix has a special place in my heart too, he really died too young, what kind of monster composer would he has became if he was still alive? In the horror genre, I really have a lot of respect for the contributions of Goblin, Fabio Frizzi and John Carpenter although they were not as prolific. And also...Oh wait a minute, I'm already at 5!! OK, special mention to Bruno Nicolai because I'm really into his music right now! A truly underrated composer, in the shadow of Ennio.
Top five Giallo films?
I haven't seen all of them, and the list seems endless. I saw a lot of the ones directed by Sergio Martino and particularly enjoyed Il Strano Vizio de la Signora Wardh (my favorite so far) and Tutti i Colori del Buoi.
Case of the Bloody Iris (better to give the english title for this one...) is a cool one too, with a great score by Bruno Nicolai. I also really liked A Lizard in a Woman Skin. I'm not sure if it qualifies as a giallo but it may be my favorite Lucio Fulci movie and it has a top Morricone score. Obviously, Profondo Rosso is quite a visual and auditive experience too! I recently created a live show for Orgasmo Sonore. One idea was to use a TV monitor as a close light turned on me playing guitar. I used a VHS player to play a movie from my old tape collection. The diffusion of the movie was creating all kind of random light effects on me during the show. Just to say, that because of its particularly intense visual and color, I choose to put Profondo Rosso in the VHS during the live performance. So that's maybe what we like and expect from a giallo : intense visuals and colors, plus an awesome soundtrack!
I don't imagine the sorts of scores that you're recreating are the sort of thing that you can walk into a sheet music store and find on the shelf - do you have to transcribe these yourself by listening to them? That must be a ridiculously difficult process?
Haha, I'll take this as a compliment. You're right, I do all the transcribing myself and it's really one of the most fun parts of the process. Sometimes, you listen to music and you already find it to be brilliantly executed but then, when you really are trying to reproduce it, you discover all the little secrets, key changes and clever arrangements that make the song so good. When I transcribe a song, I'm suddenly in the mind of the composer and I'm often thinking "wow, how brilliant that he choose that chord progression! I would have never thought of that myself!" I often discover, with Ennio Morricone for instance, that what looks to be a simple melodic figure, is in fact quite complicated and full of subtleties. I could go on for hours about Morricone - his ability to start with 3 or 4 simple notes as a melody then to plunge into some kind of minor territory by slightly varying the same figure and then return to the original melody with ease.
I don't have any particular foundation in music, but I think I have a good musical ear and I've built my own system of notation and I can at least write down tablature and chords. But I really work with my ears for this. And it's always rewarding to get the song right. I can't stand a cover that seems to have missed some important notes.
I abandoned two particular tracks that I wanted to do for volume 2, one was from a Kurosawa samurai movie. I couldn't fit that kind of Japanese out-of-tune/offbeat playing in a satisfactory way into my style. The other one was the main theme from the movie Dark of The Sun scored by the skillful french jazzman Jacques Loussier. It's a syncopated riff that seems to be played only on the backbeat. I've just never been able to get it properly so I moved on to something else! On the other hand, I'm quite proud of some difficult songs I have covered. You know, Goblin are never easy to cover!
You're now working on a Bruno Nicolai tribute release. Tell us a little bit about it.
AH! this is actually a great project I'm working on and I'm having a great deal of fun because I'm currently deep into the mind of a musical genius. People often say Bruno Nicolai sounds a lot like Ennio Morricone. While it's true they are not far apart musically, it's like differentiating Pinot Noir from Cabernet Sauvignon. It's all red wine, but It just doesn't really taste the same. They really are two different composers, sharing some similar techniques and sound palette and they worked together so often that they must have influenced each other for sure. But, for example, Ennio Morricone was often working with short musical patterns where Bruno liked to develop longer melodies. And I find that it's really in the atmospheric incidental music that Bruno distinguished himself. Check out the score for Tutti i Color del Buoi to understand what I mean. Anyway, this project I'm working on has a special theme of music for giallo films. It'lld be a 6 song EP with each song coming from a different movie. I'm currently in the recording phase of it.
Your last album was released on vinyl by Cineploit. How did this come about and will they also be releasing the Nicolai project?
I met Alex Wank from Cineploit on Soundcloud and we quickly realized that we shared common interests. When he founded Cineploit and invited me to do something, I suggested to do the volume 2 of my project Revisiting Obscure Film Music and he accepted. Now, I know Bruno Nicolai is one of his favorite composers and he is the first one I'd like to impress with this project. The album should be released this summer and will be part of the "Omaggio" collection on the label. So, expect some nice artwork and colored vinyl with great giallo music on it!
I mentioned in my review for your last album that your guitar playing reminded me of Frank Zappa's. Is he an influence or is this just a coincidence?
Yeah again another great compliment... I love Zappa, and particularly hiss guitar playing which has always been overlooked in the guitar hero world. You know, I've been a drummer for a long time and I'm some kind of non-guitarist who plays guitar now. There's maybe something spontaneous and natural in my playing that reminds you of Zappa. But even if he has never quite been recognized as a guitar hero, he was a very skillful guitarist. In fact, he was always working into some infamous kind of scales that only he had the key for! I'm still a long way from the mastery of the guitar that he had! I love and respect his music - that's a true fact. Ask any musician - his music is one of the most challenging to play.
Aside from the obvious, what other genres and artists have shaped your sound?
Well, we just spoke about Frank Zappa. Let's mention John Zorn, Miles Davis, Robert Fripp (King Crimson), Jimi Hendrix, Brian Eno...And different genres really. I like hardcore punk (Dead Kennedys, Subhumans), I like electronic music, retro or new (I'm currently well into electronic library stuff from the late 70's), I like labels like Finders Keepers or Soul Jazz Records (especially their Jamaican dub releases from Studio One). Everything with a good beat and groove.
There are a number of other artists who've cropped up over the last five years or so working in a similar field to you. Who are your favorites of these?
There's indeed a lot of action. Influences from the 70's soundtracks is strong right now. Label mates Sospetto are currently one of my favorites. There's a broad range of genres with similar influences. For example, there is Anima Morte in the metal prog field, with strong Goblin/Carpenter influences. We all have heard about this Italian band, Calibro 35, which is doing the jazz funk style typical of the Poliziotto. In a more electronic territory, there is Umberto doing a kind of John Carpenter meets Giorgio Moroder 80's music. I also just received a very nice little album from a band called Kramford Look which could have been out of Serge Gainsbourg/Jean-Claude Vannier's mind, with hints of Ennio Morricone. Finally, everything under the Cineploit label, whose principal mission is to put out records strongly influenced by euro scores, something Alex Wank is doing very well so far.
What are your long term ambitions or plans for Orgasmo Sonore?
I hope I can do more records and get better at doing them. I'm still building my personal studio and investing in gear and that seems to be a never ending project. I'm still looking for collaborators, but on the other hand, I like to work alone. Would there be a full band version of Orgasmo Sonore one day, doing an official live tribute of Ennio Morricone and Stelvio Cipriani music? Well, that could be some kind of dream.
Is there anything that you'd like to add?
You can follow all the news and music from Orgasmo Sonore either on Souncloud or Facebook. For any information, you can send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the new Bruno Nicolai tribute that is coming this summer, it's gonna be awesome !
Again thanks for your interest and support.