Umberto is an artist whose work is distinctly cinematic. Composer Matt Hill’s performances and delicate compositions taken together have the cumulative ability to surprise. Hill, whose Umberto moniker is an homage to director Umberto Lenzi, is an experienced and active film composer, most recently scoring the film All That We Destroy. In addition to film and commercial work, Umberto has released a number of lauded solo recordings. Hill’s compositions stand apart as beautiful as they are impenetrable, with pulsing synths that hint at 80s slasher films while pensive string passages evoke emotions without being sentimental. On Umberto’s Thrill Jockey debut Helpless Spectator, his haunting music is otherworldly and affecting alike, leaving the listener with an unsettling and profound air of mystery.
1: Umberto is the solo project of LA composer Matt Hill.
2: The project is named after cult Italian film director Umberto Lenzi.
3: Hill is an experienced and active film composer, most recently scoring the film /All That We Destroy/.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
I don’t really have one. I get inspiration from all sorts of things – books, articles, films, experiences, dreams, etc. Something will give me a vibe and I’ll try to create it with music.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I started learning to play the piano when I was seven years old. When I was twelve, I got an electric guitar. I then got a band together and started writing songs.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Michael Brook & Pieter Nooten – Sleeps With The Fishes
Michael Nyman – Peter Greenaway Film Music
Nico – Desertshore
Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician
Harold Budd & Brian Eno – Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
The Egyptian Theatre.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Probably try to make films.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Michael Nyman – Decay Music
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I enjoy working alone. When I do collaborate with someone it comes about organically.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Years ago, I got a full band together for an Umberto show. We covered that song “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits on a nonstop loop. It got pretty crazy. The crowd was really into it. We performed for about an hour until someone turned the power off in the building.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Hard to say. Depends on what I’m wanting to do or get asked to do. In general, I’m trying to make it less important.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
Umberto’s new album ‘Helpless Spectator‘ is out now via Thrill Jockey!
Photo © Viktoria Gokun