Cinemusic: Goblin It Up

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Chris Morley gets horrific.


From the spaghetti west to Suspiria & beyond, as we now consider cult prog rockers Goblin on a return visit to Italian cinema.



The story of founder member Claudio Simonetti begins in 1972 as he & bandmates Massimo Morante, Fabio Pignatelli & Walter Martino head to London in search of wider fame. Eddie Offord, then producing Yes, liked what he heard on one of their demos & persuaded them to make the move to our nation's fair capital city.

Seemingly defeated by a lack of funds they returned home & three years later would adopt a new name - Cherry Red. Under this moniker they released one self titled album before adopting their best known guise & becoming Goblin. Just in time for their first Dario Argento soundtrack with Profondo Rosso, after composer Giorgio Gaslini was dismissed from the project.



Its director gave the band just a night to write their own score plus a day to record it! Perhaps the strain of that led to a breakup in 1978 following work on George A Romero's Zombi. Better known to English speaking audiences as Dawn Of The Dead.......




They'd eventually be back after a 22 year hiatus for Sleepless, again working alongside Argento.



As Wondering Sound would remember of their heyday.....
"Argento tried to secure the services of Pink Floyd. When that plan failed, he approached a promising Italian progressive rock group named Cherry Five. “Dario was looking for a band that could play in a rock way,” says the group’s Brazil-born keyboardist, Claudio Simonetti. “Our producer was also Dario’s publisher, so he recommended us. When we started recording the soundtrack, we didn’t change our music. Dario chose us, because he loved what we did — he said, ‘I want this sound on the film!’”
Simonetti would recall that in their earliest days as Cherry Five they would...
"...listen to Genesis, Gentle Giant, [and] Emerson Lake and Palmer”.



When it came to Suspiria, he would add of Argento that while not treated as a band member he still had a role to play as they composed its soundtrack.
“He helped us to choose what kind of music he wanted with a lot of records. We had Dario participate, not like a musician but as a… I don’t know. But he was in the studio so he worked with us.”
The Moog synthesiser was a key part of that sound.
“I used it because I was a big fan of Keith Emerson. Also because of the sequencer – of course, we didn’t use any computers. You would never use a synth to do soundtracks [then]. Normally it would be made with an orchestra, or with a band. No one was using a synthesizer for that. I think we were maybe one of the first using [the synthesiser], then in the ‘80s the synthesizer and drum machine became more famous and it became more usual.”
Certainly in the work of John Carpenter, the director & composer who would go on to meet Simonetti & inform him “I know you very well, – I stole all your music.” in acknowledgement of Profondo Rosso's influence on his own Halloween. It would be dusted off for live performances in February of last year, when Claudio told The Quietus...
"I think if you write music for soundtracks then sometimes you do something that you could never do if the film did not exist. If I wrote something just for a musician and not for a soundtrack I would have no inspiration from scenes or from the story. It's like if a painter sees a beautiful scene and he paints it. If he's in his home it's not the same. It's very strange what happens when I start working for a film."
Of George A Romero coming to call by way of Argento, he said,
"Dario called us and said ‘Listen, I have this film from George Romero. Of course, we knew him because of Night Of The Living Dead, and Dario said ‘I would like to distribute this film, but for me this film hasn’t got very good music’. George Romero used the libraries, not original music, and actually the music was very poor, boring, in the film in [his] version.

So, Dario said to us ‘OK, now you write the music,’ and he cut maybe 20 minutes or half an hour from the film. I’ve never met Romero in my life so I don’t know him personally but I know that he loves our music, and he distributed Dawn Of The Dead in America with the new [Goblin] music…"
Surprisingly he was full of praise for the remake by Zack Snyder, though he bemoaned the poor quality of modern horror soundscapes.
"There is music missing. I love [modern horror] films, but not the music. It was much better [before for soundtracks], Bernard Herrmann, big composers… the Psycho score is unbelievable.” 
Goblin's most frequent collaborator did at least receive praise for his understanding of the role of their music in his films.
"It’s incredible. Dario has shot a lot of beautiful films that have had big success also because of the music, and he knows. But it’s thanks to him, because when he chose the music for Profondo Rosso he said ‘I want something new, something different, I want more energy in my music’. Dario was a big director, he was very famous in ‘74, and when he chose us we couldn’t believe it. We were very lucky, and also him, because the music is still in the Italian story of the movies."
That story is in a sense told in a roundabout manner in Berberian Sound Studio, Peter Strickland's 2012 film presenting a unique take on the giallo's interplay between music & image as an English sound engineer played by Toby Jones - best known perhaps as the Dream Lord from Doctor Who's Amy's Choice - starts to find that life is becoming locked in a dangerous tango with art, with a soundtrack by Broadcast providing musical accompaniment to Gilderoy's breakdown.



Its true genius lies in how it deploys sound without actually showing us much in relation to the images its meant to be accompanying! As an Observer review pointed out,
"A bloodcurdling scream lands on the wet sop of a demolished watermelon. The sudden clunk and hiss of magnetic tapes spinning into action accompany the rush from a harsh light source shining directly into your retina. The rhythmic hum of analogue machinery pulses softly.

Horror has definitely been switched on. But not in the way you'd expect. These are the sounds to the opening sequence of Peter Strickland's new film Berberian Sound Studio. They introduce us to the dimly lit chambers of an Italian post-production studio, tinged in a subtle 1970s kitsch."
It's to the Forbidden Planet we head next, though, for a look at the pioneering electronic music made by the husband & wife team of Louis & Bebe Barron......

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