Golub about leaving Serbia, life in Beirut, the new album of Goblins, performance at AF…

Goblini ENG

This year, Arsenal Fest will take place for the 14th time at the Knezev Arsenal venue in Kragujevac from June 27th to 29th. Arsenal once again brings together big domestic, regional, and international names, including the band Goblini, who will shake the Main Stage with their punk energy on the last day of the festival.

In anticipation of the festival, we spoke with the frontman Branko Golubovic, who talked about his book, leaving Serbia, and what fans can expect from the performance in Kragujevac.

You’ve been in the music scene for over 30 years. What’s different compared to 1992 when you started?

I think the difference is huge.

Let me start with the media. We had pretty good access to the media, both print and radio and television shows. I think there were even two rock shows on Pink TV. You could go on Pink and have a guest appearance and an interview there to present yourself, to present your band.

That’s gone now in general, and I think that’s the most significant difference. These new bands are more focused on social media, promoting themselves through that channel, while we used mainstream media.

I still stand by the idea that without mainstream media, there’s no substantial promotion for a band. Promoting a band on those social media means presenting your band to people who already know about that band, unlike television shows where people surf channels and come across, say, a Goblin music video or an interview, and they like something there and stay on that channel, listen to that song or watch that video, and decide to attend the next concert and listen to the band. I think that’s the basic difference.

Another thing, the ’90s started with an influx of bands from the interior, and I think as such, those bands from the interior didn’t have a problem traveling because everything gravitated toward all those big cities – Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš… So you had to, you were forced to travel, to present your band, to appear on shows, to negotiate with publishers, and therefore it wasn’t difficult for us to travel around Serbia at that time and promote our band, and in that way, we opened doors for ourselves for concerts that happened afterwards in clubs that were active in those cities.

And that’s a huge difference, I believe there wasn’t a city that had a club, a few people who were willing to rent a space and organize a gig. It’s a slightly different story now.

We weren’t lazy to travel wherever we needed to in order to promote the band, meet people, and create a network of people who follow us and support us both in the interior and in those big cities. So, for me, that’s a big difference between the ’90s scene and today’s.

Da li sa istim žarom izlazite na scenu?

Do you go on stage with the same fervor?

Well, of course. I believe it’s impossible to fool people at concerts. I think people can easily tell whether the band is there because they really want to play and share that hour and a half, two hours on stage with the people who came to hear them, or if they’re there just to make money, turn around, and leave.

I believe the positive and negative aspect of Goblini is that we don’t play so often. We play between 20 and 30 concerts a year, I would say, it’s a joke. That’s because I live outside the country, and it’s impossible for me to come to Serbia or other former Yugoslav countries more often because of the nature of my job, and that’s when there’s an additional hunger for concerts from the band.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Goblini (@gobliniofficial)

We had a mini-tour in December – seven, eight concerts, and then the next time we performed was at the end of March, which is almost a four-month break between two mini-tours. People can feel that in the band, how we behave on stage, how happy we are to be together as a band, and how happy we are to play and socialize with the people who came to hear us.

Yes, that fervor doesn’t diminish, and it’s always present. I’m glad when after a concert I talk to people who say they feel it too and always share with us the impression that it’s still visible that this is a band hungry for gigs.

How difficult was the decision to leave Serbia? What was the reaction of the guys in the band when you told them the news? It was a long time ago, but…

I left the band and Serbia about a year after the band stopped working. That was January 2003. We played our last concert in June 2001. Well… It’s always hard to leave your country, leave the people who live in that country, with whom you’ve been friends your whole life and grew up with, but I think Vlada said it: “Life happened to us.” And family, and a child, and earning some money so that the child could dress, have something to eat, and go to school, and that wasn’t possible with rock and roll. I’m not saying it’s possible now, but back then it definitely wasn’t possible, because we’re talking about that post-war period after the bombing, the band, so to speak, survived in 2001 rather than played, and that was just it.

Now, I didn’t particularly announce the news to my bandmates, I just told them I was going to Afghanistan, and since the band wasn’t active at the time, of course, they were sorry, or rather, sad that we wouldn’t see each other more often, but to be honest, maybe it was expected that people would go their separate ways.

Judging by the fact that Goblini are still performing, and you are thousands of kilometers away, the band is functioning. But how difficult is that move – organizing work, private life, flying for hours, playing…?

Organizing work while living thousands of kilometers away from the band isn’t easy. And as the years go by, it’s getting harder and harder. Jumping on a plane right after work, let’s say Friday night, to arrive in Serbia on Saturday morning, or wherever we need to play. No sleep all night, playing a concert, heading to Belgrade, arriving in the early morning hours, and already having a flight back, in this case to Beirut, so I can be at work on Monday and not lose those free days that I might need when we’re doing those mini tours, and that’s not easy at all. You get used to it, but it’s really not easy.

Working on new material is possible because of the technology of the 21st century that allows the band to work. We made a couple of songs that way, although most of the songs are made and happen when the band is together, although we have the possibility of exchanging ideas via the internet, it’s invaluable when the band gets together in the same room and spends four, five days together… Ideas just circulate, presenting certain riffs, I sing them or tell them, recite the lyrics that are in my head, and then the work begins, and those two things really can’t be compared, so now we’re combining them.

And finally, of course, there’s the family, the family can’t bear my whim with the band, alongside the demanding job I have. It’s important for me to spend my specific time with the kids, and to travel a bit and go home, to spend some time at home, and that takes time. And you really have to combine your entire life in such a way that the family gets its specific time, the band gets time to function properly, my humanitarian work gets to function properly… That logistics… I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. My calendar and how it’s all written down, only I can interpret that. But if you truly love it, then everything can be done.

You’re currently in Beirut, what’s the situation there? How has humanitarian work personally affected you? Has it influenced the creation of music?

Although there has been conflict in the south of the country with Israel since last October, life in Beirut is relatively normal, there are no problems in that regard.

As for humanitarian work, there is a lot of work on various fronts, from helping refugees, of which there are over a million here, to assisting Lebanese people in need in various ways, from healthcare to food, and so on. Humanitarian work and how it has impacted me, I would like to say positively. The idea that with some knowledge you can change lives and save lives of other people, and to dedicate your life’s work to that, is something very, very important to me.

And I can say that it has influenced a couple of songs I’ve made, not a lot, but a couple for sure, and among them, what people probably know is “U odbrani zla” (In Defense of Evil). Probably the first song that was created under the direct influence of my involvement in humanitarian work.

You had a longer break; was that the end of Goblini at that time? Who initiated the comeback? What was the feeling of going back on stage again? Did you expect such a comeback reaction?

Yes, it was the end of Goblini. I don’t think any of us had any ideas or thoughts of a comeback to the scene. Until 2009, when I was promoting my first book “Pisma iz Avganistana” (Letters from Afghanistan), at that time, a young band from Šabac appeared, jokingly named themselves Gremlins, and did some covers of Goblini songs, which was part of the package for promoting my book. I remember in an interview I did at that time, I got a question: “Why don’t I sing a few Goblini songs with them?” I said: “If I were to do that, I would only do it with the guys from the band I spent so many years with. I simply don’t have that feeling to sing Goblini songs with anyone else.”

And I think that’s where the idea came from, primarily from the guys in Šabac, to contact me and ask if I would be interested in doing some, it wasn’t a comeback tour, but a farewell tour. The band, so to speak, fell apart overnight, it stopped working overnight, and that after 10 years, we play a few concerts again. We had six concerts scheduled, and then we won’t work again, and then when we meet again, we’ll meet.

Of course, all that changed after we played the first concert; we realized that that energy not only exists among us but is even stronger than it was. And on top of that, I personally think that, these are the years of YouTube’s rise. I wasn’t very active there, so I didn’t follow what was happening, but YouTube did an incredible job for the band. They told me to go on YouTube and see how many views our songs have. I couldn’t believe it; I simply didn’t expect it. Even less did I expect to see so many people at concerts, literally singing songs from A to Z.

Then I realized that Goblini had, in a way, strengthened, and instead of the opposite happening, that people had forgotten. This was especially evident with the songs from the album “Re Contra,” which simply didn’t pass; it was literally created just before the bombing, and that promotion was never done properly, and today, I think it’s the album with the most songs played at concerts. “Re Contra” has become a cult album for Goblini.

How does the local punk scene look to you? How much has it changed since you started?

The local punk scene is alive and kicking; I believe there isn’t a city without at least one young punk rock band, so there’s no shortage of activity. Especially in times like these, it’s fertile ground for punk bands to form and do what they do.

How much has it changed? Well, times have changed, as well as the approach to work, musical influences, and even Goblini themselves have changed. The band members have matured, broadened their musical horizons, listening to different types of music, and all that affects the band’s direction and sound. Yes, it’s changed, but I wouldn’t say for the negative or positive, it’s just the 21st century.

Do you manage to keep up with the new kids? Do you have any successors?

I follow them as much as I can. I’m not sure if we have successors. The new bands we’ve listened to and heard have their characteristic sound. I’d never say they’re our successors, but they have their own thing, their own vibe, which is extremely healthy and good. The latest thing we did with a younger band, not to mention all of them now, was with the band Ubili su batlera, a great band, which was our guest at KST last year, and I can tell you it’s something promising.

At your shows, you can see grown-up kids with their kids. How much does that mean to you?

This question and answer are related to the question about how we felt when we started working again. One part of my surprise was seeing, so to speak, the generational bridge that happened and still happens at Goblini concerts. We see generations who followed us in the 90s, people our age, and some new generations of kids who, in some cases, aren’t even legal yet. It also happens that we see generations—parents with their kids—all being avid Goblini fans.

It’s great to me, but also a bit scary because I realize that some of those songs from the 90s, those rebellious and revolutionary ones, are still, unfortunately, reflecting the situation in real time, in today’s world. And all those ideas we had about how things should change, well, it’s sad, unfortunately.

I would prefer if people were gathered by a song like “Anja, volim te,” for example, rather than “Ima nas,” because that would mean there’s no longer a need to sing such a song.

What message do you have for the new “Deca iz komšiluka”?

To the new “Deca iz komsiluka,” I would say don’t make the mistake that our older friends from the neighborhood made. Pay attention to what you’re doing, how you’re fighting, who you’re fighting against, and who you’re fighting for. Everyone must be held accountable for what they do, what they will do, and keep their promises, otherwise, nothing will change in this country.

You have released the book “Priče iz Avganistana” (Stories from Afghanistan) and the novel “Izgužvane misli” (Crumbled Thoughts). How did you feel during the writing process – reminiscing about everything you saw on the mission, the separation, and then recalling the young Goblins and their development into something great?

“Pisma iz Avganistana” is a book that came about by consolidating a large number of emails I sent to my friends during my work and life in Afghanistan over four years. There wasn’t even an idea to create a book; it was simply my friend Stevo Perlinac, who collaborated with Goblini on the album “U magnovenju” (In the Blink of an Eye), where he wrote some good lyrics for songs on that album. He actually gave me the idea and encouraged me to work on it. So, I started working on it, I had bricks, each of those letters is one brick, and now I needed cement to connect some letters, those stories into a unity. I worked on it for another year, adding certain parts to give it consistency and a common thread that runs through the entire book, and that’s how the book came about. Autobiographical, but travel-autobiographical.

It was a bit of a different story for writing “Izgužvane misli” where I returned to the late 80s period and through all those stories, not all related to Goblini, for the first time, I caught myself thinking about certain events that happened to me, and started to analyze some of my reactions to those events or some emotions that were the product of those events. Rarely, at least I, have time for that, and I believe that in today’s time, many people don’t practice such things. So it was much more than writing a book. Also, it was about understanding the importance of certain people around me; sometimes you don’t think about how important some people are to you.

Are you aware of the fact that your music means a lot to many generations?

No matter how much I try not to think about certain things, they simply present themselves, happening right in front of you. And that’s precisely it – those younger generations, not just the young ones but a whole swarm of generations present at the concerts, share emotions with you. In many cases, they tell you how important and meaningful certain songs are in their lives, how they connect certain events in their lives with specific songs. What makes me very happy to hear is that some bad things have been eradicated and changed, and people have started living better lives because of certain Goblini songs. That’s incredibly important and heartening to me. If, over all these 30-something years, we’ve changed the life of even just one person for the better, then this band was meant to exist. Just one person, not to mention more of them.

Are you preparing something new for us?

Goblini are starting to prepare a new album. We had our first gathering in May, which wasn’t exclusively about playing, but about starting work on the new album. We found a new location where we’ll be working on this new album. It’s wilderness as always, isolated, with rivers and forests, where you can work from dawn till dusk, without bothering anyone and no one bothering you, allowing ideas to flourish and exchanging opinions and ideas with bandmates. I can say that we’re working on a new album, but we’ll never set dates or pressure ourselves as a band to release an album by a certain time. Simply put, the album will be released when we’re satisfied with those songs.

You’ll be performing at Arsenal Fest, and considering that you’ve already performed on the main stage, what do you think of the audience in Kragujevac and what do you expect it to be like this year?


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Arsenal Fest (@arsenalfest)

Goblini have always had great respect for the audience in Kragujevac, and the roots of that go back to the distant year of 1994. It’s the first city, excluding Šabac, Belgrade, and Novi Sad, where we performed. The first city in inland Serbia where we played as a band, had a concert, and one of the best-organized concerts at that time. I remember one of the main organizers was Vlada Paunovic; I remember we played with Zvoncekova Biljeznica and the band Alan Ford, and I remember we were warmly welcomed by the Kragujevac audience. And that hasn’t changed to this day.

I remember every performance at Arsenal Fest. The atmosphere was always fantastic, whether it was on the Main stage or at the Garden, and I believe the same situation will happen again. I truly have no fears or doubts that it won’t. The atmosphere is always great.

What do you think about Keanu Reeves coming with his band Dogstar?

I have a lot of friends, which doesn’t necessarily mean they have to listen to Goblini; some of them don’t listen to my music, they are just good friends, and such friends usually don’t come to Goblini concerts. However, when the news broke that Keanu Reeves is playing the same year as us, precisely this year at Arsenal, then the interest started from those, mostly female friends, to come and listen to Goblini. I said, “Yeah, sure, you’re not coming to listen to us, but Keanu Reeves.” Since we won’t be playing on the same night, that guest list will be considerably shorter, which isn’t so bad, to avoid overcrowding.

Basically, I listened to some of those songs he’s doing now for the first time when I found out they were coming to Arsenal Fest; in principle, I didn’t even know… I respect him as a fantastic actor; there are a few movies that I consider my favorites… I mean, what would I say to him. I would shake his hand and thank him for everything he’s done, talking about his acting career, but I would listen to that band, if given the chance, why not. They probably sound good live, but for me, he’s still a great actor.