Of course eerie synth-rock pioneers Goblin became synonymous with Italian horror movie soundtracks. Even the name’s perfect – still. For keyboardist Maurizio Guarini, the appeal remains simple. “You get to drive the emotions of the audience, whether it’s terror, fear, suspense.”
This weekend, the cult Italian rockers bring their first ever U.S. tour to a close with two sets at the Housecore Horror Film & Heavy Metal Festival. Friday at Emo’s, they perform a greatest hits selection, then close out the whole bloody affair with a live soundtracking to Dario Argento’s supernatural shocker Suspiria.
Austin Chronicle: How did you originally become part of Goblin?
Maurizio Guarini: I joined Goblin just after they performed the soundtrack to Profondo Rosso, so late spring 1970. The reason was that once they worked in the studio, they immediately realized that they wanted to do a live band. They were not a live band at that moment. They just worked in the studio, like session musicians. So Massimo Morante, the guitar player, contacted me and we just put together the live band. Our first gig was in September 1975, just a few years ago. That was my first brush with Goblin.
AC: Must have been strange, coming into a band that was so established doing soundtracks.
MG: I don’t know if you know this, but the score for Profondo Rosso wasn’t supposed to be performed by Goblin. There was another composer, named Giorgio Gasolini, but they were asked in the studio to try to do something different because Dario didn’t like exactly what Giorgio did. On the fly, Goblin were in studio, and that was how it was created.
AC: How did you convert that studio band into a live one?
MG: We were 20-year-olds, and we found ourselves at the top of the charts with this massive success. So we were asked by record labels and agents to play this tour. The only thing we did was set up the score and write some new songs, because we didn’t have enough songs. Some of that was released the next year in 1976 as Roller, our second album, plus some stuff that’s been in our archive and never released.
I don’t even know how we managed to do that – we’re talking about almost 40 years ago – but we accepted that. To us, it was much easier than it would be now, because young guys, they can rehearse, they can move, they can do whatever – and the world was different at that time. So we didn’t pay much attention to what we did. We just put together a show and we started playing.
AC: If you look at Italian cinema in the Seventies and Eighties, the soundtracks are so pivotal to their success. When you were working on them, were you aware how much they were shaping how people saw the film?
MG: To tell you the truth, we were not really aware of this. Of course we were trying to do our best for the soundtrack, but we were just playing by instinct. Sometimes when you’re doing music you have to go by stereotypes, otherwise people won’t accept or understand what’s going on. It has to resemble something previous. In that particular period, we were copying ourselves, because we were required to do something similar to something we had done before. I worked for several movies with Fabio Fabrizi as a keyboard player. Fabio was asking me to do exactly the same sound as I had done on The Beyond and City of the Living Dead.
Now, looking after 35 years at that period, we can ask these questions, but at that time we were just jumping from one studio to another. It was just spontaneous.
AC: When did the idea arise to start working with Goblin again and bring it back as a recording and touring band?
MG: I left toward the end of Suspiria in ’77. I rejoined in 1978, and we did other soundtracks until 1983. After that, production almost stopped, so we’re talking about 30 years. Between 1981 and 2001, there was maybe one or two movies, so Goblin was dead.
I moved to Canada in 1999 and in 2003 Massimo Morante [guitars] phoned me. “Why don’t we put the band together again?” He talked to Fabio Pignatelli [bass] and Agostino Marangolo [drums], who said, “Why not?” So we started working distantly via the Internet on a new album we released in 2005, called Back to the Goblin. Since then, I tried to convince them to start playing again live, because the last gig we did was in 1976, half a century.
After so many years, it’s not easy to start again, but you find yourself the same kid you were 40 years ago. So we started playing again in 2009. We had some shows in Europe, then we had an argument, as usual – we’re always fighting – then we changed the line-up and kept going until now.
AC: Why did it take so long to come to the U.S.?
MG: We were dormant for decades, and at that time we did not have the structure to defuse our music. In a way, we are much bigger than we were in the mid-Eighties. The communication, the social network, people seeing things on YouTube. There are things that are taken from the past, and we’re part of this bunch of things taken from the Seventies.
We decided to go both for the album and for the tour without agent, without producer, without record label, because we weren’t treated very well, in our opinion, at that time. So we started dealing with the promoters directly. Time by time, we have a very good response from the public wherever we go, and we were contacted by an agent to do the U.S. tour.
AC: How did you come in contact with Housecore Horror?
MG: I wrote the score for an episode of an anthology, The Profane Exhibit, directed by [Italian special effects legend] Sergio Stivaletti. I was invited to attend as a guest because it’s going to be screened, and at that time [festival organizers] Corey Mitchell and Phil Anselmo said, “Why don’t you try to do Suspiria live, since you’ll be here?” I told them I could involve Claudio Simponetti [keyboards] and Massimo, so slowly it came from a performance by myself to the three of us, and then I bought all the band.
On top of that, we started doing concerts. For that one, I have to thank Corey, because the news diffused then the agent invited us. Any event can start a change reaction.
AC: You’re doing two sets at Housecore Horror. How do you approach playing that live? Are you trying to recreate it as it was on the soundtrack, or are you staying closer to your improv jazz roots?
MG: We are redoing the soundtrack in the same way. In the live version, we have footage in the background, and we do the score just as they were. No change, no rearrangement, just as they were when you listened to the movies. Suspiria was a totally different story. Last year we were called from Australia, and they proposed that we play Suspiria live. We had never thought of that, because to play it live you have to think with the movie, so you have to build a click that we hear in our headset and play it with the movie. We managed to do that, and it was a great success in Melbourne. We were called again to do the same thing, so we did Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and a concert at the New Zealand International Film Festival.
AC: How did the most recent tour go?
MG: Very well. We did Suspiria three times in a small venue at the Perth International Film Festival, and once in a very big venue, like 2,200 people, in New Zealand. They were ecstatic about the idea of us under this huge screen, playing live, and then we did two more regular concerts, which include the main scores and songs from other albums. We do basically all of Roller and other albums that are not connected to any other soundtrack.
Every time it’s something different, something unique. Suspiria is a soundtrack where it’s okay to change a little bit because there’s a bit of freedom with the echoes and the sounds. So it’s not as boring as it could be playing something for two hours, and waiting 20 minutes for the next scene.
The movie looks a bit dated, because the acting and effects are 40 years old. We felt like we were jumping in the past. But that’s fine. People are still a lit bit terrorized.
Goblin performs Friday, Oct. 25, 9:45pm, at Emo’s; Sunday, Oct. 27, 10:45pm, also at Emo’s, the band soundtracks ‘Suspira’ live. More info at www.housecorehorrorfilmfestival.com.
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