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In Extremis

Double Bubble: Supersonic Previewed - Goblin Interviewed
Jimmy Martin , July 15th, 2009 15:40

Our favourite extreme music festival - Supersonic - is almost here. We look forward to the treats in store and Jimmy Martin talks to Italian psych/prog horror legends Goblin

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Not so long ago, Brian May was heard to remark that Queen’s soundtrack to Flash Gordon marked the first instance of a rock band providing the score to a motion picture. Much as we all love Flash Gordon and the glorious bombast that accompanies it, such a claim is plainly nonsense. Not only does it ignore the frequently meandering and inconsequential work that Pink Floyd delivered to score films like Zabriskie Point, More and La Vallee, and the work of Can on the numerous celluloid projects that led to their Soundtracks album, but it also fails to take into account the twin titans of 70s rockscore lore, whose startlingly vivid work looms large over not only much else of a similar disposition, but sometimes the very films themselves: Florian Fricke’s Popol Vuh, and the Italian maestros of florid grand guignol, the band synonymous with horror auteur Dario Argento, Goblin.

Goblin’s cult following originally began around the time that their score to Profondo Rosso became a chart hit in their native land, somehow taking a sound which occupied similar territory to the ill-reputed likes of Mike Oldfield and Emerson Lake And Palmer, yet injecting it with a dynamism and drama that places them well outside the more self-regarding and indulgent spheres of mid-seventies experimentation

Indeed, such was the impact of Goblin’s music, that the symbiotic relationship between film and soundtrack was often thrown beyond its usual metier. During the making of Argento’s heavenly bloodbath Suspiria, for instance, much of the music was recorded before any of the film was actually shot, and played on set to build up the requisite atmosphere. True to form, it’s genuinely hard to imagine that film’s otherworldly allure being anything like as potent without Goblin’s dark, deliciously overwrought blend of progressive baroque and wild, raw experimentation blasting away in tandem.

Suspiria excerpt

Unfortunately, more recently their burgeoning fan base - which has grown in exponential proportions in the last ten years or so partly thanks to virtual tribute bands the like of Zombi, and (ahem) Zombie Zombie - has already had to endure one notable false start in its quest for a chance to hear these claret-splattered serenades in the live arena. Daemonia, the band put together by keyboardist Claudio Simonetti to supposedly update Goblin’s music for a new century, made a London appearance some four years ago supported by the mighty Electric Wizard and a tedious appearance by dance troupe the Satanic Sluts which was frightful for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, the assembled Goblin-fiends were perturbed to be confronted not only by Simonetti drawing comparisons with Bono in floor-length leather jacket and shades, but a set in which the crypt-kickers of yore were transformed by some reverse alchemy into stomping, gormless metal melodrama with virtuoso keyboard flourishes.

Now, however, the remaining members of Goblin are back en masse, and the signs point toward a rather more righteous reprisal of the horrors of yesteryear. As they warm up to play Supersonic festival and London’s Scala towards the end of July, keyboardist Maurizio Guarini, an affable veteran, appears mildly puzzled yet grateful that Goblin still command the jaw-dropping lure of their original incarnation in the here and now.

“Actually, I moved to Toronto ten years ago, and a few years ago, like in 2002, I went to a metal place with a friend, and they all knew me and Goblin, but everybody there was 20 years old“ he audibly smiles. “Maybe I then realised that it may be true that other bands were inspired by us and they brought into the future our sound, more into metal and punk stuff, and we are considered as the ones who invented that kind of sound. I’m pretty happy for this. Actually, we didn’t do much to be this way, but we found ourselves with a lot of followers. There are a lot of bands like Zombie Zombie and Justice and things very much inspired by our stuff, but I’m not following that very much."

Dawn Of The Dead Theme

As regards the reformation, indeed, “It was a project that was mainly required by fans,” he muses “because they keep asking, asking, asking and we said 'Why not?' And we still had things to say. We all kept playing live with other situations, but all together as Goblin, it was like jumping back in time 30 years. We had the same arguments that we were having 30 years ago playing live, you know, arguing about anything. We knew each other like we’d played a month before. After rehearsing a bit our initial way of playing together came back immediately, so it was something that was dormant in our brains, being a Goblin or something, It all went very smoothly and actually we are very happy to play together.”

Regarding the actual genesis of Goblin’s sound, Maurizio is quick to blanch slightly when a certain four letter word beginning with ‘p’ rears its contentious head. And not merely because of the usual Rick Wakeman-esque connotations of the word, but moreso because it places a reductive boundary around a band who were always about following their own wayward path.

“OK, let’s say first of all, in that period there were no definitions like prog rock” he notes. “In the 70s we were all listening to a lot of music especially from England I must say, with a little bit of difference between us: somebody was more Yes, somebody was more King Crimson, whereas I was personally more into Gentle Giant, and more stuff like Soft Machine or Nucleus; it was an experimental thing. But so each of us personally had a little bit of difference in what we were liking, and that made the real substance of this music of Goblin. I see the music as a little bit more odd timings and more weird chords. Maybe Massimo (Morante) sees it as a bit more rock because he’s a guitar player. The mix of all the ideas came up with something new that none of us can come up with by ourselves.”

One of the big worries most folk have when being confronted by a band who’ve reformed from a bygone age will be that the band will have made some misguided attempt to update their modus operandi to fit the present day and, with the help of the dread hand of digital technology and thirty years worth of lapses in taste, will have lurched violently off the rails in the process. Such after all, was the case with Daemonia

“Actually, when we started, we talked about a little bit as well,” Maurizio relates, “and we had different opinions on things, at the end what we did is a mix. We put in something that reminds us of what we were doing in the seventies, just because people who know us know that kind of sonority. We didn’t want to change that much, but things also came out spontaneously, and we tried to keep that, In the meantime, we are aware of the fact we personally had some evolution in each of us. So we had to keep in mind that we might need to change something in the near future.”

Given that Goblin’s sound is so drenched in the warm resonance of vintage analogue synths and mellotrons, it seems only fair for the average nerd to ask whether they’ve dredged up the same equipment as before.

“We are not actually“ he begins, slightly worryingly, but continues, ”We are using some analogue stuff, but of course now we are using computers and virtual instruments, I’m talking about keyboards. Regarding guitars and acoustic stuff, yes, they have the same equipment, they have the same guitars, the same Alembic bass and things, but keyboards, it’s too complicated to find a mellotron. Technology is too useful to be ignored.”

What's more, as we prepare to be reacquainted with this legendary force of nature, these sel-fsame obsessives can’t help but wonder, given how large the Keith Emerson-esque figure of former keyboardist Simonetti has loomed in the band’s mythos, whether there’s any beef between him and this particular Goblin line-up?

“Absolutely not“ asserts Maurizio, despite a slightly weary tone in his voice suggesting that this is a mildly thorny issue . . . “Goblin is a very litigious band but Claudio was the one I never had any problems with musically.”

Did they approach him to take place in this reformation?

“I spoke to Claudio about this. My personal opinion - maybe I shouldn’t say this - is that there would be no problems being in the band with Claudio right now, but I think that this is impossible because there are personal problems within the band that cannot be resolved. Claudio, he chose to do his own thing. He took a little bit more the rock or metal thing, and put that into Daemonia, and now I think it’s the Claudio Simonetti band and not Daemonia anymore. He‘s gone his own way, but anything may happen in the future.”

Yet all told, while cynics will be reserving judgement until the end of July, it‘s hard for most of us not to get a little hot under the collar about these particular developments. “Our plan is to keep doing stuff with Goblin, both live, and in the studio and releasing a live record“ Maurizio concludes, as the unearthly sound of old gorehounds and newer musos alike uniting in celebration resonates across the chasm that unites the bedroom and the concerthall. “We are going ahead with some new ideas and maybe some innovation. The future is Goblin.”

For tickets to Supersonic (July 24th - 26th) visit Capsule's website.

As well as Goblin, Quietus favourites SunnO))) are performing one of their mind melting and ear drum perforating Grimm Robes shows. Other things that have us tumescent with excitement are the immense and beautiful Flower/Corsano Duo, post rock pop pickers 65 Days Of Static, interstellar rock from Earthless, the legendary Mick Harris/Scorn and adrenalizing post punk/metal veterans Zu.

Click below for a pictorial guide to some of the highlights. All pictures are thanks to the lovely folk at Shot2Bits.net. (And that's not even including the cake stall and John Doran's metal anthems DJ set in The Rainbow on Sunday night.)

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Monotonix

pic by Andy Ennis


Angus Finlayson
Jul 15, 2009 9:07pm

Wish I could make it to that!

The line up is possibly the best of the year; don't forget Scorn, the unsung grandaddy of dubstep...

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John Doran
Jul 15, 2009 9:38pm

Scorn! Of course. Amended . . .

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