Goblin Interview 2013 – with Maurizio Guarini

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

TUESDAY 16th JULY The Metro, Sydney 

 

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GOBLIN perform the Soundtrack to SUSPIRIA – ACMI 2012

Winning the award for the most unexpected tour in recent years are over the top Italian prog rock maestros Goblin, who made a name for themselves via their excessive soundtracks for the likes of Dario Argento and George A Romero in the 1970’s.  They’re responsible for Argento’s golden period and the crowning achievement is of course Suspiria.

The beauty of Suspiria is its hysterical nature. The music comes in loud, in strange inappropriate places, way too excessive for the moment.  The film itself is colourful, outlandish, demented, at times nonsensical and even horribly kitsch, where exposition occurs with the subtlety of a chainsaw. But this heady brew when combined with the insanity of the music creates a strangely hypnotic, slightly woozy effect.

So out comes Goblin to rapturous applause from the sold out audience. From the opening keyboard arpeggio’s it’s on, as this five piece, seated underneath the screen offer up their chiming feverish sounds, and its incredible. They have banks of keys, an epic kit, some kind of bouzouki and bass, and everyone mutters, whispers, and breathes into their mics, “witch.” It’s spooky as hell, suddenly we’re back in the 70’s, their ability to effortlessly tap into the darkness and the fever to reconstruct their iconic score in front of our eyes is a rare kind of gift. Standing ovation.

Bob Baker Fish

Fragmented Films March 2012

 

In cinema lore when a horrible gut-wrenching act of depravity occurs to some poor victim, the partner has the right of revenge, and anything goes. No amount of sadistic violence is too much when your cause is righteous. It’s torture porn as an expression of grief and loss, the more brutal and depraved the actions the greater the love. So when a secret agent’s pregnant fiancé is brutally murdered by a rampaging serial killer in Korean Kim Jee-Woon’s I Saw The Devil (Beyond), our hero wants to make the murderer suffer, and he wants to prolong it. So as he slices an Achilles heel or batters a groin in with a hammer, appearing suddenly out of nowhere cat and mouse style, it’s really an expression of how much he misses his beloved. It’s vicarious and unapologetic, making us complicit in his depravity and though this incredibly stylish thriller does eventually stretch the boundaries of credibility, that’s part of its bloodthirsty charm.

1991’s Sex and Zen received a certain degree of renown thanks to its imaginative use of two women and a flute, though subsequent sequels quickly descended into plotless dry humping and calculated nudity with little to no artistic merit. Sex and Zen Extreme Ecstasy (Eastern Eye) attaches jumper cables to the nipples of the franchise with a knowing eye towards both the erotic, and the ridiculous. We’re talking giant penis fountains, erotic mist that render even pious monks as sex crazed as us viewers, phalluses that can lift and spin a wagon wheel, and a gorgeous beauty with a mans voice. It’s a wholesome orgiastic assault on the senses, the most sumptuously shot sexploitation you’ll ever see. Despite the excess its message is surprisingly romantic. Sure orgies with 10 women using your recently attached donkey phallus are fun, yet it wont hold a candle to true love. Watch it with your special someone, or if not your right hand will suffice.

Italian gore maestro Dario Argento always placed style above substance, taking a concerning delight in the mechanics of murder, devising meticulously sadistic methods for characters to be dispatched in films like Suspiria. But times have changed and he’s foolishly reigned in the more hysterical aspects of his filmmaking in an attempt to compete with the current crop of torture porn schlockmeisters. Giallo (Eagle) is Argento lite, without his customary excess or inventiveness, and even the presence of Adrien Brody isn’t enough to resuscitate this turkey. He does himself no favours by calling this flick Giallo, not only drawing direct comparisons to his earlier work, but also implying it’s a definitive statement on the seedy slasher genre that he helped create. It’s not.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Madman) is a strange film. It’s David Lynch’s prequel to his television series, yet it dilutes the soapier elements in favour of a darker more absurd feel. There’s real bleak brutality in Laura Palmer’s final self-destructive days, making it a little more difficult to enjoy than his other bleak brutal films. In particular there’s a scene in a seedy backwoods nightclub barn where the grinding music is impossibly loud and they have to resort to subtitles. It’s nauseating, near intolerable to watch, primarily due to the bombastic use of sound. Ditto for Lost Highway (Madman), also released on blue ray, the first 20 minutes are pure domestic terror, before it descends into a confusing meditation on transformation; yet again it’s the sound that does the damage. “Dick Laurent is dead.”

 

Fragmented Films Nov 09

There’s something very wrong about a guy who gets his daughter to star in his latest film and then shoot a nude shower scene, adding a further layer of perv, to what is equal parts kitsch and creepy. We’re talking Italian horror maestro Dario Argento here, finalising his supernatural trilogy of Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) with 2007’s Mother of Tears (DV1). Argento has always loved excess, overwhelming and confusing his audience with vivid colours, baroque imagery and insanely loud prog rock music. The plot in his hands is just a convenient way to connect the elaborately staged hyper gory murder scenes. It’s murder porn but it has style. Here the murders are crueler, more abrupt, the art in the gore, not the staging. With Asia Argento (Transylvania), Udo Kier (Suspiria) and a bunch of folks that look like they just stepped out of a Human League music video, it’s as insanely excessive as the other two, but somehow it doesn’t quite connect. That’s despite the joy of Claudio Simonetti‘s (Goblin) music and the opportunity to witness someone being strangled with their own intestines.

Sauna (Asylum), is heavy on the atmosphere, gorgeously shot, bleak and menacing. It’s set in 1595 after the bloody and brutal 25 year war between Finland and Russia. It begins with this awful sense of dread and doesn’t let up, following the weary battle scared warriors who have devoted their lives killing and defiling, now charged with marking the border between Russia and Sweden. In the middle of a swamp they find a mysterious uncharted village filled with the elderly and one solitary child. Nearby is an imposing concrete sauna that is said to wash away all your sins. The soldiers of course have more than a few they wish to offload. This is a grim kind of horror, about the weight of sin and the costs of redemption. It’s creepy, tense and scary as hell, the kind of horror that seeps into your consciousness until the narrative evaporates and all you’re left with is raw emotion.

Journey Among Women (Beyond) is Lord of the Flies with 70’s feminist ideals set in Australia’s convict past. In the generous extras director Tom Cowan speaks of taking 12 half naked inner city girls, including members of ghetto lesbian feminist rock band ‘clitoris,’ out into the bush and roughing it for 6 weeks, “there was almost a mutiny,” he explains calmly. And you can see this reversion to savagery on screen. It’s loose, heavily improvised and posses a dangerous feel, as a band of female convicts escape their shackles and create a utopian existence in the bush free from the abuse of men. It’s not entirely successful as a convict film thanks to the urban qualities of some of the girls , yet as a provocative (read heavy nudity and lesbian activity) study of power and gender issues in 1977 it’s a fascinating, not in the least because it manages to avoid the sexploitation tag, despite brimming with all the right ingredients.

When the hitchhiker beheads his driver, sews it back on and then sends the confused victim on his way, you realise that The Committee (Dark Horse) is a very strange film. This surreal murder is used as a catalyst to explore ideas of freedom of choice and bureaucracy as a means of maintaining control. By having the victim up and walking, the focus moves away from the violence of the act to the arrogant motivations behind it. Written by a professor of economics and with an obscure unreleased Pink Floyd score, this is provoking English intellectual surrealism from 1968.

The Land That Time Forgot (Madman) is a boys own adventure story from the writer of Tarzan, with hyper cheesy special effects of dodgy looking plastic dinosaurs, pink smoke and ludicrous plot developments. Yes the crap plot is a dodgy special effect. Put simply, former foes are forced to band together when they are marooned on a mystical island trapped in the past. They then decide to shoot everything. It was made in 1975. You can tell.

Sex Galaxy (Arkles) is a green movie, created solely with recycled footage from z-grade science fiction from the 60’s and re voiced with the maturity of a horny 14 year old schoolboy. At one point Billy gets attacked by a vaginasaur. “Talk about being pussy whipped quips one astronaut,” “does anyone have any yeast?” screams another, “you were lucky Billy 10 seconds longer and you would have been a human pap smear.” That’s one of the more intelligent exchanges in this proudly puerile film about a planet filled with female sex slaves who are protected by a jive talking Forbidden Planet robot pimp. It’s stupid and rude. You’ll love it.

Bob Baker Fish