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Friday, March 29, 2024 | Exclusives, Interviews, Music


Recently, Pittsburgh prog-rock duo Zombi unleashed their seventh full-length album, Direct Inject (on Relapse Records) – and every new Zombi release is a reason for celebration. Ever since their very first record (Cosmos turns 20 this year), all sorts of music lovers have become fans of Zombi’s hypnotic instrumental sound. 

Heavy AF yet always melodic, Zombi’s banging compositions feature the best relentless, perfectly complex beats out there, thanks to drummer A.E. Pattera, coupled with groovy bass lines and/or synth magic from some sort of pulsating VHS-tinted dimension, powered by maestro Steve Moore. In a nutshell, it’s as if the luminaries from King Crimson, Rush and Goblin all went on a psychedelic trip to the dark side of the moon and came back changed, speechless, but inspired as hell. And yes, if you haven’t guessed already, they did name themselves after the original Dawn of the Dead’s Italian moniker, which is more than fitting because they hail from the same infamous city of the living dead that the mighty George A. Romero called home.

Zombi on stage. Photo by Matt Dayak.

In addition to being half of Zombi (and a contributor to several other projects, including Lovelock, Miracle, Titan and Microwaves as well as a solo artist), Moore is also a prolific film score composer. Over the last few years, he has worked on features from filmmakers like Joe Lynch (Mayhem, Suitable Flesh), Joe Begos (Bliss, VFW, Christmas Bloody Christmas, The Mind’s Eye), Adam Wingard (V/H/S/2, The Guest) and the late Ryan Nicholson (Gutterballs, Star Vehicle). RUE MORGUE sat down with Moore for a very relaxed chat about film scores, heavy metal bands, and the two tours he did with Goblin. 

Last year, you came to Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival to attend the Canadian premiere of Suitable Flesh, a feature you scored. I guess it was a totally different experience for you as a composer. I mean, when you perform a concert, you get feedback from the crowd, with fans grooving to your melodies and rhythms. Writing a score for a movie must be quite different than playing live.

You’re totally right. You nailed it. When you play a show, you’re getting instant gratification from the crowd. When you’re working on a score for something, the only feedback you’re getting is from the director or the producer saying, “This part is good, but this [other] part doesn’t work.” You’re only getting critical insight. So, there is no gratification until that movie is played in front of a room full of people. Then, they can decide whether it’s worthy or not. I never know.

And you never know if the audience will connect with the movie, right?

That’s what I mean. Maybe the movie won’t even be popular, or people won’t like it. But it seems like Suitable Flesh is definitely doing pretty well. It’s streaming now on Shudder.

And it’s out on Blu-ray for collectors to own. Are there plans to release the soundtrack on vinyl perhaps?

We’re working on it. I’m definitely pushing for it.

Fingers crossed! Growing up, when did you realize the power of film scores?

Zombi’s Steve Moore with the tools of his trade. Photo by Nathaniel Shannon.

I really focused on scores very early on. It’s kind of generic and played out at this point, but when I saw the first Star Wars movie, John Williams, that score – it’s part of how I became very focused on soundtracks. Back then, there was no VCR, no DVD, no streaming services; You had to go to the theaters. At that point in time, the only way to reconnect to and reexperience those films was through buying soundtracks on vinyl! My parents were into so many different things… I also want to mention that I think that Bill Conti and his scores for the Rocky movies are as important to me as John Williams.

Yeah, Rocky‘s theme, “Gonna Fly Now,” is so funky. But back to prog rock. When did it come into your life?

I grew up with bands like Pink Floyd and Rush being played very pre-eminently on the radio. And [the band] Yes. But it took a long time to percolate. And then, I found my drummer, Tony, whom I met in college. And our upbringing and influences were so similar. In addition to those bands, we both also loved Van Halen, which was a very important band in the formation of Zombi.

Wow! That’s an influence that I wouldn’t have guessed. What would be your favorite Van Halen record?

My favorite Van Halen record is probably Fair Warning. That’s the album that has Sunday Afternoon in the Park, which was the first time that Eddie just was like, ‘Fuck the guitar, I’m just gonna play keyboards.” Tony definitely loves Alex Van Halen. A lot of times, I feel like maybe we are what Van Halen might have been, had they chosen a different route.

Even if Zombi isn’t considered metal, there are many metallic connections. You played on a few tracks off Municipal Waste’s The Fatal Feast, Zombi has been on Relapse Records from the beginning and the band played at Housecore Horror 2015, the film-and-metal event that Pantera’s Philip H. Anselmo used to do in Austin, Texas. Any cool memories from that fest?

Yeah, Phil is a Zombi fan … I remember Tony telling me that he came up to him after we played and [Anselmo] was just like, “You guys are fuckin’ sick.” He’s a super-cool dude. I don’t know if Tony is a Pantera fan, but I definitely am. But it was just a fly-in, so we didn’t get much time to hang, unfortunately.

And Anselmo is a huge Italian horror buff. That same year, he also booked Goblin to perform their Dawn of the Dead score during a screening of the movie. I interviewed him for that very fest, and he asked me if I had seen Pupi Avati’s The House With Laughing Windows.

Oh my God, fuck yeah, man! Dude, the score for that movie is totally proto-doom! I can’t remember who scored it (it’s Amedeo Tommassi), but the score for The House With Laughing Windows is incredible. The movie is good, but the score is phenomenal.

This leads us to talk about Goblin, an important band for you. To me, this legendary Italian prog-rock band is the undisputed king of horror soundtracks. Plus, Zombi once toured with Goblin (the version without Claudio Simonetti) right before you actually got to play in the band, too! That is amazing. How did that come about?

In my estimation, the version of Goblin we were opening for was the real Goblin because there were four out of the five original members. Claudio [Simonetti] does his thing now, and that’s fine, but I was working with every other member who played on Suspiria, who played on Roller, and on all these records… To be honest, it was sort of the pinnacle for me. When I was touring with them, not only did I play keyboards, I also played saxophone on a song, and I got to sing on a song (A Suono Rock, off Roller). It’s all gonna be downhill from there! [Laughs] For them to reach out to me after that tour, it was the equivalent of Led Zeppelin … You know, they are my favorite band, hands down.

Horror and prog-rock fans should give Zombi’s Direct Inject a spin now. Be sure to buy a ticket (or two) for one of the band’s upcoming North American East Coast concerts, as they will be on the road for a few weeks with Overcalc, beginning April 4. Or you can go watch actual zombies do their shopping in a dying, suburban mall. It’s up to you. But beware! The second option is sure to be the boring one, y’all.

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