Former Opera Singer and Personal Assistant to the composer Gian-Carlo Menotti, Simon began playing around with music production technology while recovering from chemotherapy in 2006. The hobby became an obsession, and in 2017, he exploded back onto the music scene with his debut single, The American Dream? Composed in his own unique “Operatic Pop” style, The American Dream? caused quite a stir, with the BBC refusing to play it on the grounds that it was too political. You can hear The American Dream? here:
Scheduled for release in 2018 are a debut EP, followed by a full-length album Transgenre. In addition, 2018 sees the world-premiere of a setting of Ian Charleson’s poem Time, which Simon composed especially for the BBC Singers. With several small-screen credits already under his belt, Simon’s music for the Big Screen makes its entrance at The Sundance Film Festival, California in 2019. Simon is currently writing new material for artists including Kylie Minogue.
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A successful opera singer, living in Italy and represented at the time by Pavarotti’s agency, Prima International, Simon’s world was turned upside down in 2002, when a routine HIV test came back positive. A mishandled treatment course by the hospital in Bologna, resulted in his enforced early retirement from the stage, and he was grateful when Francis Menotti offered him the position as Personal Assistant to his father, Maestro Gian-Carlo Menotti, a post he occupied from 2003 until 2005, when declining health again forced Simon to stop completely and undergo treatment, this time for full-blown AIDS.
His activities in the fields of music composition, and electronic production began as a hobby and creative outlet while undergoing chemotherapy. Over the intervening period, the hobby became an obsession, and a way of celebrating his survival. A new start, a new life, and a new career. Simon was determined to make a significant impact on the music business, and succeed where many before had failed, by creating a genuine fusion between the World of Opera and the World of Pop.
He exploded onto the scene in 2017, as his musical ‘alter-ego’ Classicalbanksy, with his debut single, The American Dream? demonstrating the essence of his unique brand of “Operatic Pop.” You can hear The American Dream? here:
The track has since been remixed by no less than 3 top UK DJs. Since then, he has begun work on a ground-breaking debut album, called – ironically - Transgenre, reflecting both the musical journey and sense of humour that are his trade-marks. A couple of good examples include the album’s title-track, which you can hear here:
This track was originally inspired by a photo The Pet Shop Boys posted from a concert they did last year in Lucca, Italy - birthplace of Puccini. Immediately, Simon wanted to write something that connected the Pet Shop Boys’ music with that of Puccini’s, and wrote this ground-breaking crossover track, with the intention that it be a duet between Susan Bullock (a great friend of his, and one of the finest British Opera Singers, who has graciously agreed to sing this) and - ideally - Neil Tenant of the Pet Shop Boys.
The other example is the track Retrovirus - a Retrospective - which began chiefly as a means of finding closure at a personal level, self-reconciliation around his own diagnosis with HIV, and his struggle to feel ‘positive about being positive.’ It’s intended to be a piece of programme music that will try to interpret the story of the AIDS/HIV epidemic, using a similar technique to “The American Dream?” - contemporary media sound-bites - that highlight significant moments along the way. You can hear the opening bars here:
For the Big Screen, Simon submitted his first professional film score to director Conor Boru in October 2017, for his short film Forever Eddie. The film is due for release in 2018. In addition, as a student on the Hans Zimmer Masterclass, Simon submitted music for their Community Sundance Project. 140 composers submitted 20 secs of music each which will be montaged into a full-length film, and shown at this years’ Sundance Festival in California in 2019. More info here:
In late 2017, Simon got in touch with the BBC Singers, an organisation he used to work for just after leaving music college at the end of the 80s. Rob Johnston is their current manager, and is a close friend of Simon’s, ever since they were at college together. Encouraged by Johnston, Simon submitted a choral setting of a poem, written by the actor Ian Charleson, shortly before his death from complications due to AIDS, in 1990. The HIV clinic Simon attends in London - the Ian Charleson Day Centre (ICDC) – to whom Simon owes his life, is named in Ian Charleson’s memory. The poem is entitled Time and you can hear a ‘pre-vocal’ demo, along with the text of the poem here: