What Scares Prog Legends Goblin Even More Than Miami Clubs?
In which Goblin likes some movie with John Travolta, apparently.
Photos by Fernando "Holiday" Vargas
In Miami, we don’t get as many cool acts as the rest of the country. Many bands see it as a gargantuan hassle to make it down to South Florida, as it is not on the way to anywhere else in the country and is generally an expensive detour. Which makes all the more gratifying when a more niche act like Italian horror soundtrack prog legends Goblin does make it out to the 305. Especially because I have no idea who the fuck in Miami would be a Goblin fan. Even though the band was playing at Grand Central, one of the few clubs in the city invested in getting people to go to see music that isn't an arena show or a club DJ, it was still playing at a venue that captures the charm of South Beach, which means overpriced entry fees, artificially lengthened lines to get in, and 15 dollar drinks. Who was the Miami demographic for a motherfucking Goblin show?
For me, Goblin and the Dario Argento films they scored were a high school and college obsession, fueled by, well, weed. I would play Goblin’s theme for Suspiria on repeat, but as I got older and stopped doing the reefer, Argento’s drawn out, incomprehensible stories got harder and harder to sit through. Still, when I heard Goblin was coming to town a wave of nostalgia washed over me. I showed up before the club opened so I could interview the band, but it turned out I wasn't alone in my early arrival.
With a premium ticket ($60+), fans could watch the band soundcheck and participate in a meet and greet. There were about 30 of these people, all wearing some kind of Goblin merch: a few young twenty-somethings, some high schoolers from Naples (Florida, not the band's home country), a gaggle of neckbeards, and a peppering of old school biker bros. While it was tempting to think of myself as above all that nerdy shit, I soon recognized that these people, all of these people, even in their full comic book convention glory, were my people. I soon found myself geeking out with them about my favorite Argento flicks and Goblin cuts, talking about how fucking stupid that shout out to Suspiria in Juno was.
I mostly hung with the high schoolers from Naples: Kira and her sister Tiffany somehow, at their young age, grew up adoring Goblin. Tiffany was even subtly dolling herself up more and more as she waited to meet the band. She had brought two posters and a CD to be signed, and was going through her purse to search for as many signable items as possible. She settled on her lipstick case.
I was also able to view Goblin doing a kickass soundcheck with “Tenebre.” They were maxing out the distortion on the guitar and flooding the room with as much noise as possible. More casual fans might recognize this as the sample from Justice’s “Phantoms Part 1 +2.”
I wondered how a band would make the transition from scoring a movie to a live show, and I was curious what the band was trying to get out of the audience. Before the show, I asked original keyboardist Maurizio Guarini, the only English-speaking member of the band's original lineup, if the band was trying to scare the audience: “No. We are not trying to scare anyone,” he responded. “Our main goal is just to replicate that feeling of watching the movies for our fans. We just want them to be in that space again.”
The atmospheric, groovy rock and roll was never really ‘scary’ anyways, and more fun than anything. I remembered that I have never really been scared by an Argento film, and I don’t really think that’s what people want out of the movies. “We see it as an exchange of energies,” Maurizio continued. “It is never just us playing. We give to the audience, and they give back to us. That is performing.”
When Goblin finally took the stage, they played an immaculately arranged set of their classics. They amped up the distortion to an insane degree, and the thumping percussion absolutely crushed. The crowd was a small one of around 300 or so people, but they were all diehard fans with an intense focus that wouldn’t be out of place at a metal show. Everyone was standing still, sweaty and engaged (to be fair, how do you dance to Goblin?) , and I felt like I was back in high school. Back when all you needed on a Friday night was some reefer, a Goblin T-shirt, and a guitar being shredded by some old farts to some weird synth grooves. Energy was definitely being exchanged.
I spoke with Maurizio and Fabio Pignatelli, the original bassist, a little more before the show while guitarist Massimo Morante looked on. It was kind of surreal seeing these guys who produced such bizarre, iconic music as just these chilled out, regular old dudes. Maurizio, at one point tried opening his beer bottle without an opener by putting the cap against a table’s edge. He couldn’t do it, and it was adorable.
Goblin has been around since 1972, but for the past few decades their band has been a revolving door of new and old members. This is their first North American tour, and their act has four of the original members. I asked how it is to be playing together again and if they got to reminisce about old times. “We have had a lot of different line ups and members,” Mauricio said. “But so have a lot of old bands. We are still at war with each other, as always.”
Is that war a good thing or something that you regret?
Maurizio: For being creative, war is a good thing. That’s how you create you [makes smashing gesture with hands].
Your music is all about building atmosphere. Do you think modern horror scores focus too much on playing to that particular quick cut or moment?
Yes, I agree with what you are saying. There is too much playing to those random moments. But in the 70s, the difference was you could just play and you could be creative. They allowed you to do everything. There was creativity! I don’t know if Fabio agrees.
Fabio: It’s like comparing pop to rock and roll. It is just different.
What scares Goblin?
Maurizio: For me, heights and tall buildings.
What do you think about being sampled by bands in other genres, like Justice and some rappers have done?
Maurizio: We were surprised. But we are still very proud.
Fabio: It is very special to be able to create music in some way.
Maurizio: Yeah, building a bridge to somewhere without knowing where it is going...that is weird. But we are proud to have contributed.
What scores are you most proud of?
Fabio: Suspiria. And Zombi.
Maurizio: Actually I played a little on Suspiria. But my favorite is one that is not so famous called St. Helen’s: The Killer Volcano. It was done with a symphonic orchestra, and in my opinion it was very touching.
Any recent movie recommendations?
Maurizio: Well...recently…I liked the one with Travolta. [Spent a good two minutes with him trying to figure out this one, going through my mental laundry list of Travolta movies to no avail.]
Fabio: I love zombie movies! So I thought “The Walking Dead” at first looked okay, but then my wife made me start watching, and now I’m addicted.
Are you working on anything currently?
Maurizio: Yes we are currently working on a new album with no film attached with this line up.
Fabio: We are trying to get our score attached to a film!
The author, far right, with the band.
E Sueno Rock
Non Ho Sonno + Death Farm
Dawn of the Dead/ Zombi
Jonathan Peltz is Noisey's Miami correspondant. He's in the club, watching horror movies on his portable TV.
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