Inspired by early art-rock bands like Genesis and King Crimson, Goblin started out in 1972 as Cherry Five. But when the Italian group was recruited to help score the 1975 Dario Argento film Profondo Russo, the act changed its name to Goblin before releasing an album of the music it wrote for the movie, and from then on, Goblin's name became synonymous with the great Italian horror films of the 1970s and 1980s.
In addition to working on films like Argento's 1977 masterpiece, Suspiria, Goblin was tapped along with Argento by George A. Romero to write the soundtrack for his 1978 zombie opus, Dawn of the Dead. Although successful and influential, Goblin split in 1982. Since 2000, the band has done one-off concerts, including a short European tour in 2009, but this appearance is part of Goblin's first North American foray. We recently spoke with the band's long time synth player Maurizio Guarini about how he became involved with Goblin, his second career as a computer programmer and his debut solo album, 2013's Creatures From A Drawer.
Westword: What got you interested in progressive rock? Probably around the time you were getting into it was when it was starting up.
Maurizio Guarini: Now we call it progressive rock, but then, it was just a little bit different rock with more complicated time signatures. When I started actually listening to rock, I'm talking about the very early '70s, including things like Pink Floyd and maybe Deep Purple, I started learning from friends about Gentle Giant, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Genesis.
I thought maybe there was something more interesting about that music. I don't know if I can call it an evolution, but I just liked [that music]. It was just a gradual interest. I was also listening to some jazz rock from England from that period, too.
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How did you meet Massimo Morante and come to join Goblin?
They had just recorded the album Profondo Rosso for that movie. I was not involved in that. The movie started to immediately have success when it was released in the spring of 1975 and they had to put together a live band because they wanted to play live and write new songs.
Through common friends Massimo Morante, the guitar player, contacted me. I had been playing in a garage with a band doing jam sessions and we had common guitar player friends. We played together and we liked each other and I joined the band. That was in the early summer of 1975.
Not too much longer after that but you did work on the Suspiria soundtrack. Did you have access to the film while writing that score?
Yeah, we went to the location where they were shooting. I still remember that colorful set. It was incredible. We are talking about mid-1976 at this point. I remember visiting it two or three times. Actually, during Suspiria I left the band for the first time. They were already working on the main theme when I left, the lullaby.
We wrote that thing before seeing any footage from the movie. Normally it doesn't happen in this way. Normally, you just see the movie edited and you write music for that. In that case we worked in the opposite way by writing music before seeing any of the footage. I still remember the establishment was the studios close to where we were living in Rome.
Did Dario Argento give you any feedback on what he wanted it to sound like?
Of course. As usual. He talked about the ideas, but after forty years, it's not easy to remember exactly how it went. Though in the end we had the final decision on the music. Of course we had to follow the director's suggestions and guidelines because it was his movie.
You worked with Lucio Fulci on a number of soundtracks as well.
Yeah, those were not related to Goblin. But some of us, including me, played with other musician. I had the occasion to play for several movies with Fabio Frizzi. Some of them were with Fulci: City of Living Dead, The Beyond and Zombi 2.
Sometimes sounds and arrangements were more important than the melody itself, so that's why Fabio asked me to play, just to put a sound in with the music. I wasn't directly involved with the composition, though. Just the overall sound.
How much did any formal music training was involved in writing soundtracks for those kinds of movies?
I don't know. Let's say that in that period, even just 35 years ago, everything was more given to improvisation and instinct. Less rules than now. Now it seems like everything has to be scheduled and categorized in some way.
At that time we were musicians and left free to do whatever we wanted. There was no plan or an industry putting their mark on what you needed to do. There are beautiful things and horrible things about that time but everything was more genuine.
Had you been a fan of Giallo films before writing music in that vein?
Yeah, I liked some. I'm not a real fan of the music in Giallo films. But I did love Dario Argento's previous movies. I was more a fan of science fiction movies myself. Every kind. I think my favorite movie of all is 2001: A Space Odyssey. It doesn't have to involve monsters or horror.
Have you been able to do a soundtrack for a science fiction movie?
With Goblin, we did Contamination, but just with Goblin. If you think about horror as something that doesn't exist, it could be considered a variation of science fiction, including Suspiria in a way. It doesn't have to involve spaceships.
You became a computer programmer later in life than a lot of people do getting your degree in your late thirties. Is that something you picked up along the way, or is that something you learned more through going to school?
That was my hobby since the late '70s. I bought a developer board, the one that you can program in machine language. Then I got the first version of the Apple II. I worked on that in parallel with music just for fun. I studied mathematics in school, so I was a bit more scientifically-inclined. I loved this idea of programming something, but at that time, there was nothing to program.
I started programming with a calculator TI-59 in the '70s. Around 1990, after years of working in that way, including some music software, I decided to take a Bachelor's Degree, or the Italian equivalent. I did work in computer science in the '90s. I worked between music and software doing video games and that sort of thing.
You're touring North America for the first time this year. What made that possible?
That was not a direct decision for us. I did the soundtrack for an episode of an anthology last year, the movie is The Profane Exhibit, to be released at the end of this year. For that anthology, I was invited to Austin because of the Housecore Horror Film Festival at the end of October.
Corey Mitchell, the organizer, said, "Why don't you do Suspiria since you're here?" I said, "Yes, why not? Can I bring Claudio [Simonetti] and Massimo, so we can do it as Goblin?" He said, "Sure." We announced this Goblin event for the first time in the U.S. and Windish Agency read this and asked if we wanted to tour the U.S. Nobody had invited us for years, so we said, "Absolutely."
For this tour are you focusing on any particular period of the band's music?
Concerning soundtracks, of course, all the main themes will be covered: Profondo Rosso, Non Ho Sonno, Dawn of the Dead. And concerning the rest, it will be focused in mainly the '70s with most of Roller live. We think Roller, aside from the movie soundtracks, that album is the milestone of our sound. Here and there, we do recent music like Back To Goblin from 2005, but mostly, it will be the scores with some footage in the background.
This year, you released your first solo album. What can you tell us about it, and what inspired you to put out a solo album close to forty years into your career?
That whole period I was involved with music because I started touring with Goblin [early on]. Since there was a push for producing new music, I thought why don't I do my stuff in terms of releasing unpublished material. I discovered I had around thirty songs, and I chose ten of them, and in a year, I put together what I hope is a long series of solo albums I will do. It was difficult to find a way to put everything together because the songs were very different from each other. Some were more prog, or more jazz or atmospheric.
At the end, I decided to leave them as they were. So the album is, let's say, eclectic. But I'm pretty happy with what I did. It was a totally solo production because I recorded and produced everything with some musicians here in Canada. For what I invested, which was zero, I am pretty happy with the album, and I've been receiving very positive feedback. So I will keep going no matter what.
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