There are bands, and then there are icons – musicians or bands that at a particular time in their lives happened to be doing the right thing at the right time in the right place and changed everything. This particular right place was Italy in 1975, and Giallo director Dario Argento had just fired the composer of his latest film Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) and was unsuccessfully attempting to woo Pink Floyd to complete the job. They declined and instead he turned to a little known Italian progressive rock band Cherry Five. This decision changed film composition forever. Suddenly here was a hysterical, somewhat bombastic, prog rock score that didn’t so much evoke a mood as assault the images and in turn play havoc with the audiences senses. Cherry Red changed their name to Goblin and the soundtrack was so well received that it made it into the Italian charts and continues to sell a ridiculous amount of copies today. More importantly it was the beginning of an extremely fruitful relationship with Argento that included classics like Tenebre and Phenomena. Their most acclaimed work is the gory occult masterpiece Suspiria, where Goblin’s heightened, almost operatic rock music mixes baroque, prog and strange atmospheres, to merge seamlessly with Argento’s bright woozy images, taking on a feverish hallucinogenic quality. Film music had never called attention to itself in this way before, it’s never been this hysterical, this overblown, this terrifying.
I spoke to keyboardist Maurizio Guarini on the eve of their second Australian tour.
Are you aware at the moment there’s a resurgence of interest in Italian horror soundtracks from the 70’s and 80’s?
Yeah. I’m aware. I think that it’s thanks to the Internet. It’s really great that it starts introducing things that were a little bit forgotten.
It must be good to see your own work revalued again. It’s been given a new life.
Yes in some ways.
I saw Goblin Suspiria in Melbourne, I think last year maybe October or November. For me it was amazing. I never thought I’d get to see you do that. Did you think you’d ever do anything like that, perform the score live?
Absolutely not. We never thought about this. But if you go back 38 years ago we could never imagine in any way that after 38 years someone would ask us to play that live. So things just happen that you never imagine before. And we enjoy too because that was the first time that we played live on the movie. It was a lot of preparation because people outside listen to our music played in sync with the movie, but in our headsets we have all the clicks just to start at the right moment in the movie. It was quite an interesting experience for us as well.
I understand you guys composed the music to Suspiria prior to the filming. What did Dario Argento give you? What did he have to say to you to help you out with the moods? What parameters did he give you?
It was a long long long time ago. I just remember going to Dario’s house and he was talking about this movie. From what I remember he told us what he needed, and about the movie. The fact that the soundtrack was composed before the movie footage, that was different from the way he would normally shoot. To tell you the truth I can’t remember exactly what Dario said. Remember it was 38 years ago. For sure he gave us the right message to write the right score for the movie, because after that something magic happened. Because after that the image and the music just worked so well together.
I’m sorry to ask you questions about music that’s 38 years ago. I’m interested that Goblin did quite a few soundtracks with Dario, but not music for quite some time. Did something happen? Or did he just change his interest in who he wanted?
I’m not sure about this. Lets first of all say that the two keyboard players in Goblin are myself and Claudio Simonetti. Most of the Dario soundtracks were done with Claudio Simonetti. I did other soundtracks when Claudio wasn’t there but mostly non Dario movies. Saying that recently Dracula 3D was just Claudio and Dario used Morricone too. I don’t know exactly the reason but it’s definitely not a choice of Goblin not to do a Dario soundtrack. There’s not necessarily a marriage between Dario and Goblin, we’ve done it several times with good results but life is good because its different things change.
What happened with the Patrick Soundtrack? Was it a last minute decision to involve Goblin?
Well going a little bit back on the Goblin history, I stayed with them until while we were recording Suspiria, after that I left for a couple of years and then Claudio and Massimo left again and the band I joined while the other version of Goblin we were working on other soundtracks like Patrick and Buio Omega, Contamination. To tell the truth I can’t remember what happened with Patrick. It was a long time ago and things disappear in our memories.
How do you see this new version of Goblin? Do you see it mostly as a live performance or do you plan on doing recording, or even soundtracks?
This latest version of Goblin has been alive since 2010. On board is Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante Titta Tani and Bruno Previtali. Now we just work on live concerts. We did plan to do some studio work, but for some reason, maybe we are busy, we haven’t accomplished anything yet. That might be a future goal to do studio things, but not yet. For now we are a live band and we play all the repertoire from the beginning to the end.
So that’s what we should expect when you come to Melbourne?
For sure. We will do things from 75, Deep Red, and a lot of songs from Roller, and of course the main scores, and something from the last album we did in 2005 Back to the Goblin.
There has been quite a lot of movement of band members in Goblin. Is there any reason for that?
I think talking about internal problems is always true when you’re talking about bands. We’re not the only one. Especially in a band like us, we’re so different musically sometimes. Some are lets say jazzy, or funk or rock or classical, so we have different influences. The reasons, we can start arguing about something musically, that’s the richness of Goblin I would say. So many different people together to make the music, but its risky, but it might happen that it creates problems and that creates a change in line up. Actually we change a lot of time our line-ups.
But different new people coming in must also keep it interesting?
Of course, every person who comes in brings their own experience and tries to push the sound in his direction even without trying; you play in your certain way and the sound of the band changes. So the band is not pretending to have a sound. The sound is just the ensemble, the total sound of all the musicians. It’s always exciting playing with new musicians and exploring new ways. Even a small detail can bring you somewhere else some times. There’s always a positive experience in the exchange of ideas of playing in a band.
Do you find it hard that so many people, myself included are very much focussed on what you were doing 30 years ago? Do you ever want to say listen to what we’re doing now as opposed to what we’ve done?
If it’s my opinion I would say yes. I would like to go very high continuously. Not just say ‘no’ to the past because I think we need to innovate every once in a while. But on the other side I understand that people are so attached to what we did at that time and I have to say that throughout there is some magic that you can’t just sit around the table and say lets create some magic and we are fixed to that thing, we can’t do anything about it. We cannot avoid it. Not that we aren’t happy about this. This is something that keeps us glued to the past in some ways. I don’t like 100% this but on the other side I feel lucky and happy to be part of a band that has this history.
Can I ask the difference for you in working with Goblin compared to working with someone like Fabio Frizzi?
Goblin of course is a band, everyone has influence or composes or playing, it’s more involved than the first person. Frizzi for example was like let’s say composing the melody and such things and we were just creating the sound, and the other notes. The relationship with the director, devising the music it’s a whole process that when you work with someone else you don’t go through. You just take care of the sound. It’s a limited support you give, working for another musician. It’s not just Frizzi, it’s any other composer, you just work on the arranging and creating the sound in a certain way.
Is that part of the reason there have been some of the issues with Goblin in the past? Everyone has had the compositional role and people have butted heads?
Oh yeah, of course, its part of the reason we had issues. And not only us, other people too. When you’re living with other people, you have to go through all the problems including the artistic problems. I like to go more in this side, I like to go more rock, I don’t like this because it’s too metal. It’s always something like that. If its too far from what you like you might decide, alright guys I’m taking my road somewhere else because I want to be creative. Then there’s always time to go back after a few years.
What keeps playing in Goblin innovative and exciting for you? What keeps you going?
Now, the most important thing is just the exchange with the public, with a live audience, the incredible energy we can not only give but receive from the audience, playing live is one of the most beautiful things you can do in your life, because its an exchange of energy. Seeing all the people that like what we do, this keeps us glued, very together in the moment. We want to play live to show all the world what we do. We didn’t have occasion to do it in the last 20 years. We are very happy to be doing it now. It’s very exciting.
Goblin Australian Tour 2013
with special guest Miles Brown (The Night Terrors)
SUNDAY 14th JULY Billboard The Venue, Melbourne