© Kerrang! 1999
Autor: Dave Everly
Bilder: Paul Harries
Chris Goss leans back in his chair, runs a thick hand over his shaven head and lets out a sigh that's part embarrassment and part bemusement.
"I can't make any claim at all to inventing desert rock, or stoner rock, or whatever you want to call it," the Masters of Reality mainman drawls. "I make rock n roll records, and hopefully try to make the listener feel like I did when I heard my favourite music."
The Masters of Reality are the greatest 'lost' band of the '90s. Since they released their debut album The Blue Garden - a monolithic slab of occult blues-rock that combined the mystical and the majestic to perfection - in 1989, a near-mythical aura has grown up around their name. Sporadic sightings over the years - an album here, a live date there - only served to heighten the enigma.
As the Masters faded from view, so Goss' parallel career as the coolest underground producer around began to blossom - first with stoner rock overlords Kyuss, then with a succession of other musicians including former Cult vocalist Ian Astbury, Stone Temple Pilots mainman Scott Weiland ("He liked some of the records I've worked on, so we went in the studio and started playing some tracks") and The Flys.
"Time went by and people started saying, 'Where the fuck is Chris Goss?'," he says languidly. "Well, Chris Goss was working 16 hours a day in the studio with other bands. It's been a very strange career," he adds with a wry grin.
'Strange' is a mild way of describing the last 10 years for Chris Goss; 'turbulent' would be closer to the mark. In 1990, less than a year after the release of The Blue Garden, Goss walked out on the band he had formed almost a decade earlier, taking the name with him.
Three years later, a collaboration with legendary '60s drummer Ginger Baker produced a second album, but the liaison wasn't to last ("For Ginger to have to go through the degrading bullshit of some kid in a Megadeth T-shirt giving him the finger onstage was more than either of us could take," snorts the singer). Instead, Goss decided to concentrate on his production work. The first band he became involved with was an unknown Palm Springs quartet named Kyuss.
"My wife had gotten a tape in 1990, and we were playing it over and over again," he recalls. "I went and saw their first gig in LA. Five people were there. It was stunning."
Over the course of four albums, Kyuss helped to define the stoner rock scene. Naturally, the disarmingly modest Goss is quick to dismiss his influence on both band and movement.
"The only credit I can take is that I captured their sound," he says with a shake of his head. "Hopefully it got what Kyuss were about live onto record. From 1991 to 1993, there wasn't a band on earth who could touch them. I'll go to my grave with those memories."
Ten years after that unforgettable debut, Chris Goss has once again unfurled the Masters of Reality banner in the shape of new album Welcome To The Western Lodge. A hazy blur of gilt-edged psychedelia and opiated balladry, it contains more transcendental beauty in 40 minutes than most bands manage in a lifetime of trying.
"I tried to go back to the sort of dark, cynical, carnival-esque vibe the Masters had when we first started," muses Goss. "I'm not a fan of championship wrestling. I don't like the stupid side of metal. I come from a school of hard rock that's based on subtlety and mystery and esoteric aesthetics."
Western Lodge sees the Masters stripped down to a core of just Goss and drummer John Leamy. The singer says that the freedom of working virtually alone gave him all the impetus he needed.
"It's like I've returned to the way the Masters were in the beginning," ponders the great man. "All the other incarnations were dictated by circumstances and other members. With this one, I was free to be an asshole on my own."
"Y'know, I have a hard time relaxing," he laughs. "I don't know how to go fishing. I'm bitching when I'm working, and I'm bitching when I'm not. But I love what I'm doing and I haven't become a whore yet."
He shifts forward in his seat slightly and smiles once more. "I emphasise the 'yet'."