In 1972, the legendary Italian progressive rock band Goblin was established under the short-lived name Oliver. The band then changed their moniker to Cherry Five, releasing a self-titled album. Eventually they settled upon their more famous name, Goblin, and collaborated with filmmaker Dario Argento on a number of iconic film scores, including Profundo Rosso (Deep Red), Suspiria, and Tenebrae. Other notable horror films utilizing their music include the Italian recut of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (released as Zombi), Patrick, and Martin.
Over the years, Goblin has disassembled numerous times and reassembled with different line-ups or in fragmented versions. Only part of the band was present for the recordings of projects like Tenebrae (on which the musicians were credited separately) and 2001’s Sleepless. The band would reunite two years later and take to the road touring and recording new music.
On December 17th, Goblin released a new studio album Fearless. It was released exactly forty years after their score for Dawn of the Dead (Zombi) was released. Fearless is a commemorative album and contains reimagined versions of songs from the Dawn soundtrack, as well as two songs from Suspiria.
Diabolique sat down with keyboardist Maurizio Guarini to discuss the band’s storied career, their most beloved music, which continues to influence horror scores today, and the details of their newest album.
Diabolique: You joined Goblin after they had just scored Deep Red. Is that right?
MG: Yeah, that was in the late seventies, like 1979.
Diabolique: How did you become a part of the group, and what did you think about their music prior to joining them?
MG: I was playing with a band before that. We were rehearsing in a studio near Rome, and then I met them through common friends and other musicians. A guy introduced us to Massimo Morante because they had this score they wanted to perform. They wanted to put together the band, but Claudio Simonetti wasn’t available. That’s why they searched for a different keyboard player. So I joined because Claudio wasn’t there. Then I later rejoined the group when he left the first tour at the end of 1995. That year they were playing music that was close to jazz rock. Something like experimental. Jazz rock, with a little bit of prog.
Diabolique: Since you would ultimately become known for scoring many great horror films, I wondered if you liked horror films prior to this. Were you a fan of horror?
MG: Not really. Actually, what I always liked more was science fiction, not really horror. I liked going to see horror movies with my friends, but it wasn’t my favorite genre to watch. And then, with Goblin, I started scoring those.
Diabolique: As musicians, you guys were a very essential part of some of Dario Argento’s greatest films. I can’t imagine those films without Goblin. What was working with Argento like?
MG: Argento is a very particular person to work with. We’re very similar in that way. He’s very emotional. He likes a lot of the music. He likes to see or imagine the movie with the sound. Argento left us a good degree of freedom in terms of doing things. And, if you think about the music that was going on at that time, Argento’s was very different. What we were doing was risky and different. Not standard. That’s why there’s a particular identity of our music in those movies. Most other musicians were doing things at that time that were very stereotypical.
Diabolique: Did you guys ever bump heads with Argento?
MG: Oh no. There was no problem at all.
Diabolique: What do you prefer between working on original material for an album and working on a film score? And what are the differences between those processes?
MG: They’re totally different things. If you’re working on an album, you have more freedom. And that can be a problem; maybe you can do too many things, and you start arguing. “Let’s do this song,” “let’s do rock,” “let’s do blah, blah, blah.” With a movie, the director will tell you what he likes. So you’re not totally free and you have to follow the scenes. You have to follow the directions from the director, and you have to match the music to the images. You have very little freedom—a lot of limitations. I enjoy recording an album in the studio more than writing for a movie, but it’s also more difficult.
Diabolique: Is it possible that in some ways, working on a film could actually cause a musician to come to a concept he would not have come to otherwise? Do you think this process ever inspired you guys to go somewhere you might not have gone otherwise?
MG: Absolutely! Yes. Totally yes. This is so true. When you want to make something that’s not related to a movie, one way to find inspiration is to make a movie in your head. Maybe the description of anything, a tree, a mountain, a car, or whatever… Then you try to create music that describes that thing. Movies can definitely influence our way to make music for sure.
Diabolique: Suspiria is regarded as a cinematic masterpiece. It’s not just regarded as a horror masterpiece, but as a masterwork of cinema in general. What do you remember about working on that?
MG: With that one, because of the budget, we created the music before the scenes were shot. The same thing was true with “Lullaby,” which the band did for Profundo Rosso (Deep Red). We created that before the scene, before the action, before it was shot. We came up with the melody before there was a movie. Normally that doesn’t happen. You usually compose a scene to a temporary edit of the movie, but not here. We went to the studio to record this. Dario then used the music we recorded while he was shooting, and perhaps it influenced the way he shot the scenes. I don’t know.
Diabolique: That’s interesting considering how well the music seems to married to the visuals. The first time you saw the completed film, what were your thoughts?
MG: That one was different from the rest, because Dario started to change what he was doing on that film. That was not really horror. And the color was incredible! Just incredible. When I saw the film, I told the producer this was something very good. We had not been aware of what we had done with that, and I’m not sure Dario knew either. It was some special, and I was pleased it came out this way. I don’t think we deserve a lot of credit, because we were just a part of the process. But you can’t plan success. If you say, okay, I want to make this a success, it won’t happen. It takes a series of sequences to make something like that happen, and we were just a part of those sequences.
Diabolique: Did you watch the remake this year?
MG: Yeah, I did.
Diabolique: What did you think?
MG: I liked it. I know a lot of people didn’t and they said, blah, blah, blah… I think the filmmakers did this the right way. It’s not just a copy. It’s not really a remake; the story here is something new. Everything was different, including the music. I think it’s very well done. The guy from Radiohead did a good job with that. They weren’t exaggerating, and they weren’t trying to copy what we did. I think they did a great job. It was maybe a bit long, but it was good.
Diabolique: You left the band right after you guys finished Suspiria. What caused you to leave?
MG: The group wasn’t agreeing on things. I actually left after we recorded the first bit of music for the film. Then the rest of them went into the studio without me. I don’t remember what exactly it was. It was forty-one years ago. I’m not sure what happened, but we weren’t really getting along that year.
Diabolique: The timeline concerning the band’s line-up is difficult to keep track of, considering there were members coming and going and then returning and whatnot over the years. When Goblin scored the European release of Dawn of the Dead, were you already gone?
MG: Yes. I was gone from the band then. That year I was working on similar projects with Lucio Fulci. Those were the same kinds of movies, but I didn’t work on that one.
Diabolique: You worked on several Fulci films, including The Beyond and City of the Living Dead. What was Fulci like to work with, and how was working with him different from the work you’d done with Argento?
MG: I can’t really make a direct comparison. With Fulci, the music was made by the original composer Fabio Frizzi. Even if we did change and rearrange the music, those songs were created by Fabio Frizzi, so I didn’t participate in the pre-process of what to do and where to put the music. For me, that was mostly following rather than doing the actual composing.
Diabolique: Did you enjoy working with Fulci?
MG: Most of the time Fulci wasn’t in the studio with us. My relationship with Fulci was less involved than it was with Dario. This was mainly because I was there to assist rather than to create or make the decisions.
Diabolique: You worked on George Romero’s film Martin. What do you remember about that?
MG: Well, really Martin was just music reused from other things we had done. We didn’t work directly on the movie. They just used our music from our albums to make the soundtrack.
Diabolique: Did you meet Romero at any point?
MG: Yeah, but not then. I didn’t meet him until years later. Now I live in Canada, and George Romero moved to Toronto a few years ago. I met him and we spoke. We had talked about some projects we were going to do together, but those never happened because, unfortunately, he died.
Diabolique: You worked on another interesting film, an Australian production, Patrick.
Diabolique: When we made that, I had just returned to the band. That was the first movie we did after I came back. Since Claudio Simonetti wasn’t with the band anymore, he wasn’t taking care of the keyboards. They had a completely new sound at that time. I don’t remember anything specific, because at that time we were producing a lot of music for a variety of stuff—movies, albums, and so on. And every film was maybe three or four days of recording, and maybe a week of preparation. So after we worked on things, we kind of moved on and forgot about them. But now, with the Internet, everything has come back to our minds, all this work we did. Before that, if we wanted to know about the work we’d done, we had to go back and look at our notes and diaries.
Diabolique: Since you weren’t really a big horror film early on, I wondered what your thoughts are about being associated with so many classic horror films. I’m assuming you never thought that would happen. What do you think about that now, looking back?
MG: I’m still completely surprised by all of it. We were just going with the flow, taking the jobs that came along. We never planned that, but then we never planned for anything. When you’re young—in 1975 I was twenty years old—you don’t know what you have a realistic chance of accomplishing, so you’re open to anything. But now, looking back, I’m surprised I did all that. I never planned or even hoped for any of this. But I’m very happy to have been a part of it. I think we should all consider ourselves lucky for having had the opportunity to be a part of all this.
Diabolique: Do you have a favorite score that you’ve worked on in your career? Or is there any film you’re most proud of having been associated with?
MG: I don’t know. This might be a changing answer over time. Sometimes you love something you did, and then later you don’t. Suspiria is of course very important. It’s very simple. Look at the structure of what we did. There’s no matching in the work we did there.
Goblin reunited in 2000 to work on another Dario Argento film, Sleepless. What was that reunion like?
MG: I actually wasn’t there for Sleepless because I had moved to Canada. Basically, the story of Goblin ended in 1982 or 1983. And then in 2001 there was Sleepless. I wasn’t there for that, but then we reunited the band in 2003.
Diabolique: I apologize. Like I said, the timeline is difficult to discern regarding what band member were present at what times. There were so many different line-ups.
MG: It’s complicated. You aren’t the only one; nobody knows the line-ups. We barely know. At the time of Sleepless, Goblin did not exist as a united band. They actually put together four bands to record Sleepless.
Diabolique: So how did everyone end up reuniting in 2003? What caused that to happen?
MG: Massimo Morante, the guitar player, called me here in Canada. He asked me, “Why don’t we pull the band back together again? We could make a new album.” This was after twenty years in which we hadn’t done anything. So I said, “Yeah, why not?” So we started back to work on this project, and we called it BackToTheGoblin. We started writing this in 2005. We spent a couple of years rejoining each other, and getting to know one another again. Then we started fighting again like all bands do. [Laughs.] And we put together this album that we are very proud of.
From there, I went back and forth to Rome several times. But we weren’t yet an ongoing band. We weren’t performing live shows yet. The first show we did together since the seventies was in 2009. And we’ve been playing ever since.
Diabolique: You recorded your first solo album in 2013. Is that more enjoyable to put your own expression out there as opposed to a combined group effort?
MG: It’s a completely different experience. I thought, why don’t I put together an album? When you work in a band, you give your experience and music to the band. But I had other ideas. You might hear something of Goblin there, but it’s not Goblin. It’s me. It’s something different. I actually titled the album Creatures from a Drawer, like something sleeping in a drawer for years that I put back to life. These are the kinds of things I want to feature with my composition. With the experience, I found a lot of people loving what I was doing, and that was very positive. I’m proud of it. I am working on two solo projects right now, but I can’t tell you about them. One is almost ready. I don’t want to reveal what it’s about, but it’s totally different.
Diabolique: What can you tell me about the new Goblin album, Fearless?
MG: It’s basically a celebratory album of the forty years of being together from Dawn of the Dead, 1978 to 2018. We decided to do this because it was a lot of fun. We tried to keep the same atmosphere of that earlier work, but we have added some orchestral flavor on it so there’s some orchestra sound going on. It gets heavier in some parts. There are some big songs from Dawn of the Dead, and also a couple of other tunes from Suspiria, including “Suspiria” itself.
Diabolique: When you perform with the band today, as opposed to forty years ago, does it feel different? Does it still feel comfortable?
MG: First of all, we have a lot more experience on the stage. We have a very big audience, because when you tour the U.S., you often see the shows sold out. This was part of the experience. We are stronger on the stage now. Concerning the playing itself, I think we are exactly the same as we were when we were twenty. When you’re a musician, there’s a certain relationship playing with other people. And that doesn’t change over the years. It’s the same. When you’re a musician, you feel like you’re doing that with another person. But here we are now, much older, and we found ourselves exactly where and how we were. But the experiences have been a factor, so now it’s easier with a good sound, and the technology helps, too.
Diabolique: What do you see as being the future of Goblin?
MG: That’s a very good question. We’re bad at planning. Whatever we did and whatever we will do will be random, from one day to the next. We never made any plans. This year, we may have some live requests. We’re evaluating those. We may be going to Japan again, and maybe we’ll go to some new countries, like Mexico. We even have a few potential soundtracks. And we may make a new studio album with new material. But there’s nothing specific right now.