When it comes to the horror score game, there are few names more revered and respected than that of Goblin. For over 40 years, Goblin has reigned supreme as the eminent creative group behind some of horror’s most notable and loved scores. Their collaborations with Dario Argento on music for Suspiria, Profondo Rosso and Phenomena, quickly made them a force to be reckoned with and desired by directors near and far. Among their lengthy list of collaborators includes the late and great George A. Romero. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of their work with Romero on Dawn of the Dead, Goblin is releasing a brand new commemorative album titled FEARLESS (37513 Zombie Ave).
While Goblin has had various lineup changes over the years, one of the longest running and most multi-faceted members has been Maurizio Guarini. As keyboard player, composer and collaborator his contributions to the band and their creative output are innumerable. Outside of Goblin, Maurizio has also worked with extensively with the famous Lucio Fulci, Fabio Frizzi and Pino Donaggio. I recently had the extreme privilege of speaking with Maurizio and we talked about all these things and more. Check out our conversation below.
“[…] all musicians with technology can do incredible things now, things that were impossible before.”
Rachel Prin for Nightmare on Film Street: You’ve had such an incredible and long history with music. What is it that first attracted you to it and what about music keeps you interested and exploring?
Maurizio Guarini: As a kid I was attracted by music in general. The ways in which someone can make sound and someone else can enjoy it always intrigued me. So, I was maybe a potential musician since I was a kid. I always liked playing instruments. What brought me to make music for movies? It was really a series of circumstances, but I have a passion for that. I wouldn’t have done anything else in my life.
NOFS: Outside of music, you are involved in the world of computer science and technology. As an experimental and progressive musician, how do you see technology impacting the creation of music?
MG: Let’s say that seeing music from a more technical perspective or mathematical perspective, I don’t see any difference between mathematics and music. If you put aside the creative intuition and gift part, technology of course influences a lot. The process of making music over the years, you have to keep updated on the new technology. In the beginning, when we started making music with Goblin we had very poor technology. We didn’t have anything like monophonic synthesizers, just a couple electric pianos and this stuff. So, over the years, everything evolved.
The fact that now there is a mix between let’s say, between computers and music and everything, it offers different aspects. In a way, it’s negative for music because it’s putting everybody in a position where anybody can make music. That means that a lot of people who aren’t supposed to make music are making music. The average quality has gone down. Now this is normal with music and movies and everything else. On the other side though, all musicians with technology can do incredible things now, things that were impossible before.
NOFS: So, you’ve been a long running member of Goblin. How did you first get involved with the band?
MG: Ok, it’s a short and a long story. That was in 1975 and I was playing with other friends in Rome, Italy. And a common friend, a guitar player named Massimo as well, knew Massimo Morante. And they (Goblin) had had this success when they did Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) and were about to put together a tour. But, the original keyboard player Claudio Simonetti, left and didn’t want to do touring. So, he went and did another band and they had to put together a live band. So, Massimo contacted me and we played together and liked each other, and that’s it! That’s the way I joined Goblin, through common friends and common musicians.
NOFS: Goblin is famous for their work with Dario Argento. However, you personally have also collaborated with the iconic Lucio Fulci. What were those experiences like?
MG: Let’s fist say, for some reason I didn’t always work with Dario Argento because when they (Goblin) were doing movies with Dario Argento, sometimes I wasn’t there. Anyways, Dario was way more passionate regarding the creation of music itself. He liked to be involved with it in some way and know what’s going on. He was very excited to see the music take shape. I know Dario very well. And Fulci, of course I saw him several times, but I wasn’t the one really composing the music. I was working mainly with Fabio Frizzi on most of the Fulci movies, but I didn’t follow the initial process very much regarding Fulci.
“You have to have really good melodies. Melodies are very important and Pino is very good at them.”
NOFS: You also collaborated a lot with the famous film composer Pino Donaggio. What was your relationship like with him? How involved in the creative process were you on his films?
MG: Let’s say that we were friends. We did 25 movies together and I was involved of course technically as a studio musician. But, he used to come to my place maybe a few days before going to the studio and we would go over scores and things and decide ‘How do you want to do this? And how do you want to do this? Let’s double this, have the strings with the synth bass.’ So there was a collaboration in terms of sound and creation, especially the sound of the synthesizer. I wasn’t just a studio musician and I did collaborate a lot with him. Especially when the synthesizer was more prominent on the soundtrack.
NOFS: Those scores are so emotional, and so beautiful. You really feel them.
MG: You have to have really good melodies. Melodies are very important and Pino is very good at them. He started in the 60’s as a singer AND a composer so he knows melodies and their importance, even in music for movies. When I was a kid, I knew him and then re-met him after more than 30 years. I think I started working with him in the mid-80’s, but I had known him since the early 60’s when I was really just a kid.
NOFS: In 2017, you did a cool project with Cadabra Records where you composed a score for a vinyl spoken word album for Robert W. Chamber’s ‘The Yellow Sign.’ Did you have to take a different approach to composing for a strictly auditory storytelling experience versus a visual one?
MG: Yeah, it’s a totally different approach. And I love this approach of the spoken word because it leaves more space for the imagination of the listener. You don’t have the visuals, you just have a speaking voice. Actually the speaker (Anthony DP Mann) is a friend of mine, and he’s very good, very emotional. He’s very good at transmitting what he’s reading. In a way it’s very simple for me, writing music and composing music for spoken word. So in my imagination, I try to follow the story. I love doing these kinds of things. I did another one before that and now there are another couple of works that are coming out from Cadabra. One is ‘Berenice’ and the other is ‘The Masque of the Red Death.’ Both are stories by Edgar Allan Poe. The album is just getting printed and will be out in maybe a month of two. The process is totally different from visuals.
NOFS: Let’s talk about the new album…FEARLESS (37513 Zombie Ave). This album includes some re-imagined tracks from George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. As you weren’t involved in the original score, what was it like being able to offer your input and put your own spin on this classic Goblin score?
MG: At the time I was doing Fulci and stuff. After Suspiria, I left for a couple of years and rejoined Goblin when we did Patrick, Contamination and Blue Omega. But for Dawn of the Dead I wasn’t with Goblin. But let’s say, there’s always fighting with musicians. But you have to put in your idea, so we’re always fighting. We tried to not change the original arrangement too much because we wanted to keep the sound, the choir, the darkness, but we added some orchestral elements. In this case, I just put some orchestral parts, and of course I play keyboards differently than Claudio plays. It’s not just me putting something in something that I didn’t do. We’ve done this live for 10 years so I already have played this kind of music. We did try to put something new into something that was made 40 years ago, but basically we wanted to leave the original flavor of everything.
“In my opinion, [Thom Yorke’s Suspiria score] was effective. It was matching the movie.”
NOFS: FEARLESS also includes some new Suspiria tracks. What can fans expect from these new versions?
MG: Ok, so there are 2 Suspiria tracks; one is ‘Sighs’ and one is the ‘Suspiria Theme.’ We did put some orchestral flavor and we changed things a little bit, but this album is mostly a celebration. A celebratory album after 40 years. Suspiria‘s 41st anniversary and the 40th for Dawn of the Dead. And even though it’s mainly for Dawn of the Dead we thought, let’s put a couple Suspiria songs on it because people like that and they will for sure enjoy this version.
NOFS: Have you seen the new Suspira film?
MG: Yeah, I did. And I personally, I did like it. I know some people don’t like it, but people can think whatever they want to think. I think they did a decent job trying to get the same, I don’t know how to say…it’s totally different, the plot is a bit different, the music is of course totally different and didn’t try to copy anything, but they kept the same sort of flavor of the movie. Maybe in my opinion it’s a bit too long, but after all the waiting I was expecting worse and actually it wasn’t bad. I liked it.
NOFS: What about Thom Yorke’s score? What did you think?
MG: I liked what he did. It was simple and it stayed in the same mood that we were in, but it’s totally different and he didn’t try to copy anything. He put in some more modern sounds of course because you know, everything has to be modern cause after 41 years you can’t do the same things. In my opinion, it was effective. It was matching the movie.
NOFS: Goblin is showing no signs of slowing down. What’s next for you guys? Touring maybe?
MG: We didn’t tour much this year. We did a very big show in the US, in Las Vegas. Like, 5000 people at the Hard Rock Hotel. We were guests as part of a festival. Last year we toured a lot in the US. This next year we might go to Japan, or might go to Mexico but we don’t know yet. If we do Mexico, we will again do the US. The US is the more receptive market for us. There are people who love us all over so we love playing the US. The only problem is everything is so distant. But we meet a lot of great people all over the US; North, South, East and West. I hope we will tour soon again.
We are happy to have done this. There are a lot of people that don’t even know Dawn of the Dead. After 40 years there are 20 year old kids who might not have an idea about it so, that’s why we’d like to share it again. Thank you for loving what we do!
The brand new album from Goblin, FEARLESS (37513 Zombie Ave) is available for pre-order on vinyl, Limited Edition Camouflage Vinyl or CD as of December 24th, 2018 here. Albums will begin to ship first week in January, 2019. You can also check out Maurizio’s scores for those Cadabra Records releases here.