Goblin Rebirth are one of three Goblins, but the only one with a new album coming out. We think.
Being a Goblin fan can be confusing. The legendary Italian prog-rock outfit has splintered and re-splintered so many times that the guy who wrote an exhaustive 450-page book about them in 2011 already needs to update his shit to cover what the famed horror soundtrack composers for Profondo Rosso (1975), Suspiria (1977) and Dawn Of The Dead (1978) have been up to in the four years since publication. For example, you may have seen Noisey writer Joe Yanick’s cool interview with Goblin co-founder and keyboardist Claudio Simonetti last week. Simonetti now has his own version of the band, appropriately called Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin. Meanwhile, co-founder and bassist Fabio Pignatelli has not one but two versions of the group— one with co-founder/guitarist Massimo Morante and both with Suspiria/Dawn Of The Dead-era drummer Agostino Marangolo. The version that doesn’t include Morante is called Goblin Rebirth, and they’ve got a self-titled album of all-new material dropping later this month. In the meantime, we caught up with Pignatelli via Skype to find out what the fuck is going on.
NOISEY: Right now there are three different versions of Goblin going. You and Agostino Marangolo are in two of them, including Goblin Rebirth. Don’t you think that’s a little confusing?
Fabio Pignatelli: [Laughs] I think is a little bit confusing, yes. After we divide with Claudio, me and Agostino make a group with Goblin Rebirth to make a new composition and play some soundtracks that we can’t play with Massimo because Massimo don’t want to perform the soundtracks that he doesn’t play on, like Contamination. I don’t know if you know this movie, or Buio Omega. We also want to be a little bit different than Claudio’s version of Goblin. After we make some gigs, we get the idea to make some new stuff, new original music. So we begin to record and then Massimo and [keyboardist] Maurizio Guarini call us to be back in Goblin because they fighting with Claudio. [Laughs] So I told them, “Okay, but you must know we already finish a Goblin Rebirth record.’ So now there is two projects. [Laughs] This is the story.
What was the inspiration for the Goblin Rebirth record?
The inspiration came from after we play live and we have the desire to make some original stuff. We put together some songs, some ideas and we begin to work. We saw that it was good material, so we go ahead to finish the record.
You mixed and produced the album yourself. How important was it for you to have control over that aspect of the record?
It’s important because I love this work. This is the work I do every time with Goblin. I was the one that make the mix. In this way, I can give a part of Goblin that is always the same, I think.
Goblin Rebirth did a tour here in 2013 with Zombi, a band that was hugely influenced by Goblin. What do you think of their music?
I love them. I really like the music and the energy. Beautiful musicians, beautiful persons. We made another tour with [Zombi keyboardist] Steve Moore last year—he play with us in Goblin. We make another tour in spring last year with Pinkish Black. I love them, too. And they love us. Superb musician and superb person. I hope we play together another time.
You and Agostino have been playing together for a long time. How did you first meet?
I met Agostino in ’72 when he called me to play in the group Flea On The Honey. Then we began to play continuously for many, many years. We also did studio sessions and some tours for many Italian pop singers. And then prog rock with Goblin. For eight years, we play everyday together.
What kind of music did you listen to at that time?
I began with Cream. Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton—that was my first approach. I was 16, 17—very young. And then I saw a concert of Yes and Jethro Tull. This was my first concert. Then I listen to Genesis, Gentle Giant—all progressive music for many, many years. Later, some fusion like the Weather Report with Jaco Pastorius.
The first major soundtrack you did with Goblin was for Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso, also known as Deep Red. What do you remember about recording that score?
This is a very strange story because the soundtrack songwriter Giorgio Gaslini called us just to play the studio session. But in the middle of the session, he had some problems with Dario, so they ask us if we want to try to write the remaining soundtrack, because it was not finished. For us it was okay. In the night, we go into Claudio [Simonetti]’s studio, and I had the arpeggio for [the song] “Profondo Rosso.” And then we write the song. In the morning, we are in the studio and in one day we record “Profondo Rosso.” We make a loop with the tape, you know. Now we have digital loop, but in the ’70s, we made a loop of the arpeggio and use a microphone stand to keep the tape in tension out of the machine. We use this loop and then construct the song. We were young—I was 20. We were always trying to find a new experiment. For me the studio was a pleasure.
The Profondo Rosso soundtrack was very successful when it came out. How did that change things for Goblin?
We are very, very lucky for this because we began to work professionally. It was the impetus for us in Italian music production. Many people call us for work after Deep Red. It was very helpful for us.
Then Argento asked you to score Suspiria. Did you approach that one differently than Deep Red?
Yes, because with Suspiria we were called directly to write the soundtrack. With Profondo Rosso, we were called just for the session, just to play. So with Suspiria we begin with Dario to talk about the music before he began to [shoot] the movie. We saw the paper, you know? All was on the page—the script.
Did Argento describe the mood or atmosphere he wanted for the music?
Yes, Dario always showed us some example just to have some destination. He was always very demanding.
The next big score Goblin did was for George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead, which was called Zombi in Italy. What do you remember about working on that soundtrack?
[Laughs] I remember we finish the soundtrack and then in the morning we go into the studio, we put the tape on the machine, push the play button, and nothing on the tape. The assistant engineer erased all the tapes to make the calibration of the tape with the frequencies, you know? One thousand kilohertz, one hundred kilohertz, Ten thousand kilohertz. We have only the last song on the last tape so we have to make the soundtrack again. [Laughs] This is funny now, but when we listen to the frequency it was not so fun.
But you didn’t work directly with Romero, right?
No, we don’t work with Romero—we work with Dario. He did the production of the movie for Italy. I think Romero added another soundtrack to the movie at the beginning, but then Dario wanted us to make a new soundtrack. So we make the soundtrack for Italy. There is different soundtrack for US, I think. I don’t know what happened, but everyone know our soundtrack, I think.
What did you think of the movie when you saw it?
I like it. I think the movie is good. It is one of our soundtracks that I prefer. I prefer Suspiria and Dawn Of The Dead.
Goblin split up not long after Dawn Of The Dead. What were the circumstances?
You are talking about when we divided the group, yes. We made some minor soundtracks but there is always fighting between the musicians, so we change the lineup. I remain always with Agostino after we divide. We make some soundtracks with Claudio Simonetti and [guitarist] Carlo Pennisi. Then next year we remain with Carlo but without Simonetti. Always change. Many, many, many lineups. [Laughs]
You and Agostino reunited with Claudio and Massimo to score another Argento movie, Sleepless, in 2000. But it didn’t last long. What happened?
Ah, yes. Nothing was changed in 20 years. [Laughs] It was like ’70s—always fighting and disagreements. It was good in a way because it means we don’t change. But always problems. I feel so good with Claudio when we don’t work together. But when we play together, strange things happen. I don’t know. So after Sleepless we again separate.
The soundtrack to 1989’s La Chiesa, which Goblin and Keith Emerson contributed to, was recently reissued on vinyl here in the States. You were the sole member of Goblin at that time, weren’t you?
Yeah, I play all, record all in my house. Alone. This soundtrack is all MIDI—no real instrument. I use sampler and I record this soundtrack directly from MIDI to the two-track mix. When we play this with real musicians, is very emotional. This is what we want to do with Goblin Rebirth—play some minor soundtracks. Not just Suspiria, Zombi and Deep Red. We want to play all the songs that no other Goblin version play live.
J. Bennett plays guitar in Ides Of Gemini. He thinks he understands what’s going on with Goblin now, which is probably a clear indication that he doesn’t understand at all.