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Concert: Italy’s Progressive Rock Band Goblin

Keyboardist Maurizio Guarini Talks About The “Magic Period”

Maurizio Guarini at the Goblin concert last October at The Egyptian in Los An...

Credit: Beth Accomando

Above: Maurizio Guarini at the Goblin concert last October at The Egyptian in Los Angeles.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speakers with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini about the band's U.S. tour and making music for Italian horror.

In the 1970s Italian horror films were often defined by their vivid scores, many of which were created by the band Goblin. The Italian progressive rock group finally made its first U.S. tour last October. The group plays the House of Blues in San Diego on Friday night.

Back in the 1970s, horror movies had scores you wanted to buy like this creepy lullaby for Dario Argento’s "Suspiria."

'Suspiria' Theme by Goblin

Keyboardist Maurizio Guarini contributed to that score and to the unique sound that defined Italian horror. These scores do not sound dated but remain vivid and drive the operatic style of filmmakers like Argento and Lucio Fulci. Goblin made their U.S. debut last October and tickets sold so fast that the band added a second concert date in L.A. I was fortunate enough to attend that concert at The Egyptian and it was phenomenal.

When the band played its movie themes and scores, images from the films were projected behind them. The San Diego concert will also feature such footage. But what will be different is the make up of the band. Claudio Simonetti, who performed at the October concert has split off to form his own version of Goblin (for some clarity on the band's split personality read this).

The band has always had a been of a revolving door policy but the musicians playing this Friday night in San Diego represent four fifths of the original Goblin.

Goblin will play many of their movie themes as well as more obscure compositions at the House of Blues.

I had a chance to speak with Guarini by phone last month.

Goblin Discography

Profondo Rosso/Deep Red (1975)

Roller (1976)

Suspiria film soundtrack (1977)

La Via Della Droga (1977)

Il Fantastico Viaggio Del "Bagarozzo" Mark (1978)

Zombi film soundtrack (1978)-

Patrick film soundtrack (1979)

Amo Non Amo (1979)

Squadra Antigangsters (1979)

Buio Omega (1979)

Contamination film soundtrack (1980)

Volo (1982)

Notturno (1983)- film soundtrack

Phenomena/Creepers film soundtrack (1985)

La Chiesa (1989)

Non Ho Sonno (2001)

Back to the Goblin 2005 (2006)

Gamma film soundtrack (2007)

Last year was the start of your first U.S. tour, correct?

Yes. Las year in October was the first time ever we played in U.S.

What took you so long?

Actually there was no occasion before. Keep in mind we were sort of dormant for so many years, like 20 years since the '80s, and that period we didn’t have a chance to get to this side of the ocean. And after the reunion in, around 2004, we started touring, mostly Europe, we went to Japan, Australia, and last year we had just the chance to come to the U.S. because we were called by an agent that knew that we were doing an event in Texas that was the Housecore Horror Film Festival and after this we were contacted by a U.S. agent and we organized the tour, actually we never even tried coming to U.S. we were called to and we are so happy.

I went to your show last October at The Egyptian. That show sold out quickly, I think in minutes and you added a second show, were you surprised by that response?

Absolutely yes, the first impact was incredible, we saw so many sold out over U.S. so that confirmed that maybe people were waiting for us for so many years and they were passionate and at the end when they saw that we were going they rushed to buy ticket. Yeah we were a bit surprised on this rush to be sold out in big cities, yes.

So will the show in San Diego be similar to the one you did in L.A.? Will there be projections of the films?

Okay, there is some difference. Still there will be projections on the back when we play themes like soundtracks. This time we’re, in December we changed lineup. Claudio Simonetti left the band and Fabio [Pignatelli, bass], and Agostino [Marangolo, drums], that were the original rhythm section from ’75 joined. So now we are four-fifths on the '75 lineup. And there is another new, who will be joining us, a background keyboard player, Steve Moore, from Zombies band, and because our second keyboard player Aidan Zamitt is not available for this because of previous commitment, so there will be a couple of new things compared to last year in October. So four-fifths of the original band and a guest, that is the first time that is happening, a non-Italian playing in a Goblin lineup.

How have you enjoyed doing the tour?

Oh it is just incredible. Playing live is something musicians were born for so the exchange of energy with the audience from the stage is something that you cannot even describe. We are so happy and we got so much energy from public that it’s beautiful what’s happening, something magic every night that happens especially the U.S. public, they are very warm, so we totally enjoy it.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Beth Accomando

The Goblin concert in LA last October used projection of film images during the playing of movie themes and scores.

I was introduced to Goblin through movies, specifically seeing Suspiria as a teenager. That score was amazing. What is it like creating a score for films like that and working with someone like director Dario Argento? Do you come in after the film is completed or do you work as it’s being shot?

Depends on the director and the movie, the process may be different. What we normally do is watch the movie before, get some direction or what the director like about the movie and writing the music and putting it on top of the scenes, the footage. In the case of Suspiria, it was a bit different the process. The main theme was created before the movie itself. We came up with this sort of lullaby and that’s the main theme of Suspiria before seeing the movie, just based on the description from Dario Argento of what he would like to listen and what he’d like to have for that. But normally it happens the opposite. We watch the movie before.

You have worked on a number of soundtracks, so do you enjoy that? Is there a particular challenge to it?

It’s a different approach. Instead of playing music for an album, like we did several times of course where you totally have the freedom to do your music, in the movie of course, you are a little bit, you need to follow the movie, you have to boost the emotion that the movie is going to give to the audience. It’s a different process and I would say maybe compared to, I don’t know which one is the one that I most like between the two they are two different approach to the music, of course playing your album, the total freedom is more complicated to come up with solutions because maybe you have too many possibilities. Movies in a way is simple because you already have something to follow and the challenge is just matching with the director likes.

Companion Viewing

"Profundo Rosso/Deep Red" (1975)

"Suspiria" (1977)

"Zombi" (1978)

What do you remember about working with Argento?

Yes, actually, personally, Suspiria is the only film with Argento where I participate because we have different lineup changes over the years and I played mostly on the non-Argento movies and Claudio Simonetti played keyboards mostly on Argento movies and yeah I remember meeting Dario before and during the shooting of the movie. And I remember just the magic on the studio, the colors, the color that you see in the movie is totally magic, it was exactly the same when we were there in the studio. At that time there were not so many sophisticated plug ins for like Photoshop or things so everything has to be done photographically. And that was an incredible sensation seeing this thing. And I don’t remember in particular some things because we’re talking about some 39 years ago.

So do you record music to the film actually playing?

The process of composition is always in your studio or home and not with the movie. Now things are much, much easier because you can have a copy of the movie on computer and start working with the footage right with the footage on the computer. At that time, no. You have to go to the editing room, watch the movie, take the timing from the scene and then working and composing without having the possibility to interact with the footage. Now the process is much, much simpler. Thirty years ago it was much more complicated. Anyway we were playing sometimes watching the movie while playing so there was a sort of loop, so we say okay let’s do another one this one is not okay just watching with the scene. Then technology, timecode and blah blah blah helped a little bit the process of this.

You also worked with Lucio Fulci?

Yes, not directly but through Fabio Frizzi.

I just saw Fabio Frizzi at Abertoir in Wales. So what was it like working with him on a Fulci film?

Fabio and I were friends so the relationship was very easy in terms of musician and we were just understanding each other very quickly. He was coming to the studio with a theme, we were working together with the sound and the atmosphere that Fabio wanted to reach, and the process was made with Fabio mostly in studio. And sometimes Fulci was there, sometimes not. Fulci was always present at the mixing often and I didn’t have a direct relationship with Fulci because in that case of course the composer for that film was Fabio Frizzi. But I remember making good music and good sounds.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Goblin

Some of Goblin's album covers.

Italian horror films and the music Goblin created for them is just so vivid and so amazing. What do you think of that Italian horror genre and the kind of music you guys created, do you feel it did capture something unique?

I think in a way it is unique, for several reasons. I think it was a coincidence of things happening altogether. The beginning of 70s, I mean the 70s, the process of creating was much simpler than now, there was less let us say industry both in the movies and in the music, musicians, directors, everyone was more free to do whatever they wanted. So I think creativity was much much more possible than now. Now everything is a little bit stereotyped yet follows certain indication to for a production to go ahead. At that time there was more freedom to do whatever you liked. Less competition, musicians were real musicians, sorry to say that but now with computer everybody does everything and unfortunately the quality of art and I’m not just talking about music but also filmmaking, I think maybe in some cases went a little bit down. So the coincidence of the music and a director creativity and this thing met during this magic period, I don’t think it’s possible to replicate because it’s not something that you can just recreate manually. It was there because at that time, at that period, the environment, that society.

Has the music of Goblin changed or has there been a consistency? Or has there been a long progression.

The music is a result of the people that are part of the band. This lineup change, one or two people change and of course it change the sound of the music. There’s a period of Goblin that goes from 1978 to 81 or 82, The lineup was totally different and the sound was a bit different. I think the overall sound of Goblin has been the same without forcing anybody to try to copy Goblin as it was. We are just spontaneous and how different personalities contribute to the final result of the music, of course changing the lineup change a little bit the composition.

How would you describe the music.

Oh, it sounds like Goblin.

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