Ennio Morricone:’ I don’t know the names of any pop musicians’

The composer, 87, on Napoletana pizza, his dislike of cats and being married for 60 years

Im growing more and more anxious. Even though I am more self-assured now, my need to always do better and improve myself is stronger. I must seem very worried and concerned most of the time and its because I am. My work carries great responsibility.

My childhood was difficult. I grew up in Rome during the Second World War. First the city was occupied by the Germans, then the Ally arrived. Sometimes we didnt have enough to eat. After the war objective, I detected all the terrible things that had happened elsewhere and felt quite lucky.

Im happy to have won an Oscar, at last. Tarantino didnt show me the movie when he asked me to write the music for The Hateful Eight he only sent me the Italian translation of the script. I liked it, as did my spouse, so I said yes.

Meeting my spouse Maria, and marrying her, are the most romantic moments of my life. She was a friend of one of my sisters. We have been married for 60 years. When I was 40, I told her I would stop composing cinema music and dedicate my time to what I call my absolute music. I said it again at 50, 60, 70 and 80. Maybe when I get to 90, I will stop.

I dislike cats. I like horses, some monkeys, and sweet puppies that arent too aggressive. I used to have a wonderful big cat, and one day I came into the kitchen and it was on the table, ruining all the food we were about to eat. I was so annoyed that I took it to a friends house in the country.

Sergio Leone didnt recognise me at first. We were at school together for a year when we were very young. But when he came round and asked me to write the music for A Fistful of Dollars , he didnt know I was the same Morricone as the child from primary and secondary schools. We soon realised, and I said yes.

My favourite type of pizza is a Napoletana: tomatoes, mozzarella and very few anchovies. It must have a thin base.

I dont know the names of any pop musicians. Pop music is standardised; its made to please the largest audience possible. I also compose to please a large audience, but when you listen to my music, you understand that I have analyse and applied the whole history of composition.

Sometimes I say: No Im not going to do that . Working with[ Italian director] Pier Paolo Pasolini was magnificent, but at first he asked me to adapt some classical pieces instead of composing original music. I rejected, and he said: OK, you are able to write the music you wish, as long as you set these major keys in somewhere. It was a kind of superstition, so I humoured him.

I wake up very early, and go to sleep early too. On a typical day, I start with some workouts, then read the newspaper. By 9am Ill start writing music, and continue until lunchtime. Then I have lunch with my spouse and chat to her, and resume writing until late in the afternoon.

Everyone has to die. Im not especially scared about it. What truly frightens me is that if I go before my spouse, I will leave her alone, and vice versa. The ideal would be to die together.

Ennio Morricone performs at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire on 23 June as part of the Nocturne concert series ( nocturnelive.com )

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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