Interview © Fukin.com,

von Robert Pally, Dezember 2001

 

The Last Rock Band

 

The new Masters of Reality album has everything you love about Rock. Great riffs, interesting arrangements and fine singing harmonies.

Chris Goss speaks about his new freedom to record whenever he wants, Nu Metal, Rap-Rock, Marilyn Manson, the guest on his new album, his vocal style and about misleading the people with his lyrics.

 

Robert Pally: Before the new album Deep in the Hole it took you every time very long to come up with a new album. Now it is only 1 Ĺ years since your last CD Welcome to the Western Lodge. What has changed?

Chris Goss: I think it has a lot to do with the logistic. A few years ago I opened up my own studio. That gave me the opportunity to record whenever I wanted to. Not so long ago I moved from Palm Springs to the desert, to Joshua Tree. I took all the studio equipment with me, but it is now on wheels. That allows me to set up a studio in any empty house. I think having my own gear and having the ability to record whenever I want to solved a lot of that problem. Using a Los Angeles studio needs a major label recording budget to be able to do it properly. Now I donít have those problems.

RP: So in the future we will see more frequent records from you?

CG: Yes! I have another done already beside this one off past outtakes and new acoustic stuff. Itís gonna be a weird off the wall type of thing.

RP: The new songs remind me more on the ones from your first album from 1988. Great rock songs with incredible guitar riffs. Your last record Welcome to the Western Lodge was a kind of Krautrock meets Suicide and the Silver Apples.

CG: I think it was my desire to make rock music. That is all it is. I usually make the kind of record I would like to hear on the radio. At the moment I am just dying for good Hardrock. Especially when itís played by human beings. The machine heavy stuff, the programmed stuff has no quality in it that makes my body respond at all. Whether it is NIN or I donít know who. The genre electronic meets metal bores me to death.

RP: I think that there are exceptions. The Swiss band the Young Gods for example. They sample heavy guitar riffs and loop them. But they use a real drummer. Out of that they make an incredible sound.

CG: I would love to hear that! I am waiting for someone to break them all. Marilyn Manson comes close for me. I like theatrical Hardrock. He puts on the best show right now, I believe. I wanna hear a life band. Even Mansonís new stuff is too cut and dry and protooled for me. I wanna hear it raw. So, I thought I would rather make a raw record, cause that is what I like to hear right now. If it is a return to anything, what you say could be right. With Western Lodge I wanted to hear a dark almost Krautrock type of thing but with shorter songs.

RP: Did you write all the songs especially for the new album?

CG: Pretty much. I had a lot co-written with John Leamy, the drummer. We jammed for about a week and sorted out riffs. Also Josh Homme from the Queens Of The Stone Age co-wrote one of the songs ("Roof of the Shed").

RP: I also noticed that compared your earlier albums there are more layers on the Deep in the Hole, more things going on. On how many tracks did you record it?

CG: Actually, it was recorded digitally. So I had as many tracks as I wanted. But I donít know how many I used. There are a lot of vocals. I stacked a lot of them on it, which I could do forever. I love to do that. There is so much stuff going on.

RP: But it works well. It sounds like one piece.

CG: And hopefully I will be able to pull it off live. I donít think that will be a problem. The perfect example for that was Led Zeppelin. Some of their songs had 15 guitar lines. When they played it live you didnít know the difference. I think, if you are a decent performer and musician you can kind of pull it off.

RP: Who else helped you on the record beside John Leamy and Josh Homme?

CG: It was a real fun record for me to do. Deep in the Hole is the first Masters album that was recorded when all of my friends were not on tour. So I had a lot of guest appearance on this album. Troy van Leeuwen from A Perfect Circle played on it and Nick Lucero, the drummer from the Flys, who played also on the last Queens album. Josh Paskowitz, guest vocalist from the Flys. Roxy Saint, A Cyper-Punk girl sang on it. Dave Catching and Matthias Schneeberger from the Earthlings played on it as well. I found an empty house in Joshua Tree, moved the gear in and just had people stopping by every day. We had no plan. We were just saying: "What you think of this, play this or that." It took the pressure off me to get another point of view and people playing things I wouldnít have played. I really, really enjoyed this record.

RP: One can hear that. One song, Major Lance sounds almost like a '70s Easy Listening piece!

CG: (laughs) Yes, if it had been longer. I have a habit of putting little songs on my albums. On the Sunrise on the Sufferbus (1992) I had a couple of tiny little ditties like that. I think it is from growing up with the Beatles, who did similar things. Itís just a mood change on the record. Major Lance has been around since 1985. I was in an apartment in New York at that time. I was in my kitchen and just started to sing that song, while I was waiting for the toast to pop out of my toaster. I almost canít take credit for writing it. It just happened. Finally, I got it recorded.

RP: Is Major Lance a real person?

CG: There is real person named Major Lance but I did not know that till years after. He was a soul singer in the 1960ties on OKeh Records. He had a hit with a song called Monkey Time. I ended up looking one day looking through the Soul section of a record store and came across a record by Major Lance. That blows me away cause I had no idea he existed.

RP: Your way of singing is pretty unique in the Rock world. You donít scream you sing very melodic harmonies. Do you just sing like this or did you work towards that?

CG: Again, this is just what I like to hear. I sing like that, to begin with. I donít sound good if I scream. My scream is very thin. And I am looking for bands/writers that write melodies. That is becoming rare. The Rap-Rock has lowered the bar. I get Rap-Rock sent to me and I hate it. It just does not move me. If there is a riff in that moves my body I like it. But even some of the riffs are cold to me. There is something that does not embrace about it. There is just a lack of substance. And I think that this kind of music is not going to be there in 5 years time. Anyway: Melodies are what I am trying to do.

RP: I like good singing melodies too. Do you know Jason Falkner? He is from L. A. and incredibly talented. He is the touring bass player from Air. He makes albums that mix great singing harmonies with a kind of arty Power Pop.

CG: I would love to hear that! You brought up a good point with Art-Rock. In the 70s when Bowie did his Berlin trip, when he recorded Low and Heroes. No one has taken up that torch. Art-Rock meets melodies, meets modernism. My contribution, hopefully, is to mix that with Hardrock. You donít hear many Hardrock bands, maybe except Marilyn Manson. He has a lot of Bowie. Using the intelligence of the Art-Rock scene and mixing it with music that also stimulates the body. This area is not filled properly!

RP: You are right that there are not too many bands around like that. Although Spocks Beard are doing something in this direction.

CG: I heard their name.

RP: These guys are great. They write songs that are 15 minutes long, sometimes even longer. They are taking what King Crimson did in the 70s and mixing it with Pop, Rock and good melodies. Some of the song titles sound a bit silly to me. For example "A Wish for a Fish", "Counting Horses" or "3rd Man on the Moon". How important are lyrics for you? Are they simply here to transport the melodies?

CG: Interesting. I think I am a fan of the double on Tantra, where the surface seems light. Itís almost film influenced. There is a covering over the surface but underneath, I think, is a little more being said as to what the title is offering. I try to avoid profundity and pretension. I think some of the titles are one of the ways I do that.

RP: So you wanna mislead the listener?

CG: Exactly! Its almost like telling someone a film is gonna be lighthearted and then they walk into the theater and are horrified. Its maybe like David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. A lot of my Art-Heroes are filmmakers. Stanley Kubrick, for example, had underneath a lot of black humor.

RP: A good example for that would be the intro scene to the David Lynch movie Black Velvet. The camera goes through the grass of a nice house on a sunny day and ends up at an ear, which was cut off.

CG: Exactly, and the birds sing. That is it. I love that.

RP: Will there be a single or a video from Deep in the Hole?

CG: There is a song that Mark Lanegan from the Screaming Trees sings on it. Itís called "High Noon Amsterdam". Itís a 3-minute rocker that might be a good single. I donít know what a single in Europe would be, to tell you the truth. I listen to the radio there and donít know what to think.

RP: Music like Queens Of The Stone Age does well in Europe. Your songs go in a similar direction. But it is hard to predict what people like in these days. Trends change quickly.

CG: A lot of the songs on the radio donít sound like singles to me. Whether itís Deftones or Limp Bizkit.

RP: I donít understand the whole buzz about Limp Bizkit anyway. In my opinion they had only one good album, their first.

CG: I know itís tough times for Rock.

RP: In these days it sells if you take some metal riffs and noodle around with samples and electronic. Even if the results sounds horrible people will buy it. Limp Bizkit sounds like this to me.

CG: You know itís strange. I was trying to look back historically. About 5 years ago when everybody started working with drum machines in Rock music. Everybody put a little drum machine break in their songs and started syncopating the beats more. Then I look back at the 70s and say: It was the same, when the Mellotron and the Moog came. Everybody said: you need some Mellotron or Moog in your songs. I think now it is a similar thing. Musicians hear a quality in something and they wanna include it in their sound. But now more than ever there is this tendency where it is too much. The bands are losing their identity because of this. I had an e-mail conversation with a European musician recently. They are choosing a producer for a record. I said I love to hear a band or the recording of band where you know itís the band, the interplay of the band. Thatís being lost now. You really canít tell what is what unless perhaps the singer starts to sing. In older Rock music when you heard the drummer and the guitar player play together you knew exactly who it was. I think I am searching for that identity that makes a band a band. It almost does not exist now.

RP: I agree, there are only a few bands that have a distinguished sound where you know right away who it is. Ben Folds or the Bad Brains (now Soul Brains) for example have that. You also have a distinguished sound. As soon as I hear the guitar or your singing I know that it is the Masters of Reality.

CG: Years ago, we used to hear in the States about Japan having disposable Pop music. They would take young kids, set them up for the market, then put a record out. When they turned 18 or 20 they would be gone and another one would take their place. Guess what, it's here too. The band's now are more aware of singles and what sound they have to have. It becomes more of a career thing then an artistic calling. Letís face it, RockíníRoll is used for Metal, Techno and anything. Within a week of the success of a band you will hear their song in a car commercial or in underwear ad. The innocence is gone which I think happens in everything of the world right now. It takes about a week for a corporation to realize whatís going on aestheticaly, immediately jump on that Aesthetic and ring all life out of it. Here we are again.

RP: What bands are you currently working as a Producer?

CG: I am working with an artist called Roxy Saint. She is still not signed. Actually most of the artists I am working at the moment are not signed. I think it is significant of what I like versus the industry. And I am proud of that. There is another band called Enemy, itís the band from Troy van Leeuwen from A Perfect Circle. They are not signed. They are great! If I became involved in the actual shopping of the band and selling it, I would become a manager. And thatís not my gig. I have done that before. Where I find talent, record it and get a record deal. Itís so time consuming, money consuming and frustrating. I donít live in L.A. and kiss corporate asses all day long. That is what you need to do to get that kind of response. So I have been working with a lot of people that donít have a record deal.

RP: So you mainly do that because you like their music and you wanna make them sound as good as possible?

CG: That is the only reason. If they are good people and make great music, I will say: why are they not signed? A lot of it had been shopped but was turned away cause they canít compare it to something that is successful right now. But I know that I am right. And if someone had a chance to hear it they would be successful. I am kind of an independent entrepreneur and once in a while it works. I pushed The Flys and it ended up selling half a million copies here in the states. But it was 2 years of recoding, planning, selling and talking with people ever day. And finally it broke through. At the moment I am almost willing to take a place at a label. So I can bring in what I want. Itís so frustrating, I can name you 20 unsigned songwriters that could sell zillions of records but they donít have a proper representation, no proper management and they donít have the funds to record their music properly. Itís twice as frustrating when I then hear the crab on the radio. That is were I am now I am still working in the underground.

RP: The radio stations in Switzerland are not better.

CG: Itís all about cash. In the American record stores you buy the slots at the front of the store. They are called Waterfall Racks. Those are for sale. You donít get put there because the manager likes you. The record company has to buy the slot. What chance does someone have, who is independent against that?

RP: Not a big chance!

CG: How does Virgin, Tower, Sam Goody or any of the chains order their records? They will order what millions of copies are being printed and what is being bought into the space of their store. If the monster gets that big, then the little monsters, I suppose, have to grow on the side. That is what I am hoping for.

RP: I think the internet changed a lot. Just remember Aimee Mann. After problems with her label she decided to release an album on her own imprint SuperEgo Records. It was first only available over the internet and really sold a lot. The internet is good for smaller bands to spread the word.

CG: I sell more record through my website then I do in stores. Thatís the way things are right now. But that does not help when you want to go on tour. It costs thousands of dollars a week to put a band on tour. That doesnít help much in that sense. But thatís the way things are.

RP: As an ending I want you to tell me more about some of your songs. How you came up with them, how they developed and what you thought when you wrote the lyrics, if you wanna talk about that. Letís start with "Scatagoria". What does that mean anyway?

CG: (thinks) Scat means shit. I think there is a term called "scatagorical" where people just talking shit. In this songs particular, itís a loss of hope and thatís aÖ lot of shit (laughs).

RP: What actually made you write this song?

CG: I think itís an overwhelming thought. Itís like a magnet to try to encapsulate despair, and despair isolation. I think similar to, if I may make a link to David Bowieís song "Ashes to Ashes" (1980) and the resurrection of Major Tom, that was introduced first in Space Oddity (1969). Isolation of the writer and the words that particular writer uses to describe that isolation.

RP: The next song is "A Wish for a Fish"

CG: It has something to do with religion (laughs). The fish is a symbol of Christ. Itís maybe just the tension between doing what you like and doing whatís Christian.

RP: Indiscreet question: Are you religious?

CG: Itís a tough word to define! (thinks)

RP: Or maybe can you say that you believe in god?

CG: Yes!

RP: I can say that I believe in God although I am not really religious. But I believe in something up there.

CG: Yes, you have to (smiles).

RP: (laughs) You donít have too.

CG: No, I have to (laughs)!

RP: Okay. Someone build the earth. It is not possible that the earth just came out of the nowhere one day. I donít know who build it, maybe God or someone else.

CG: There are too many coincidences and too many unexplained phenomena that happen, that I experience and millions of other people have experienced, that go beyond the logic of the science. A metaphysical plan does exist, I am convinced about that. Along with our biological development, I believe there is a development that co-exists with us. And there is too much proof of it to ignore it. Plus, I have no faith in man, so I have to put my faith in a higher power.

Itís great thing to keep in mind because in the Constitution of the United States, where it says that man were endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That little statement "endowed by the creator" gives us the license to go beyond what the king dictates, go beyond what the government dictates and challenge it. If man and the government is not the absolute power we always have that little door "endowed by the creator" to defeat their rule.

That is brilliant. That is our gate to freedom, to believe in God because we then have the ability to think higher then the man who is telling us what to do. If we were told that he is the ultimate we are fucked, because he is just a man!! I believe there is another magnet out there that draws us higher, I hope!

RP: I to believe in a higher power up there. Talking about things that go beyond our imagination: I preoccupy myself a lot with dreams. I can interpret my own dreams pretty well. Sometimes I see things that will happen in the future. Not major things, but still. Maybe I see a person that I will meet later in the day or the next day.

CG: How?

RP: I donít how!

CG: Itís been proven to me so many times in personal incidents like that there is more going on. I know of a very easy to understand incident. I met a musician a long time ago. I didnít know him to well. He had a home studio. He told me to come over and visit his him there. It was on the east coast of the US. I went over and asked him to go first out for a beer. He lived in a really run down section of town. We were driving along and I was looking at the little bars there. In this area it had a lot of train wrecks and industrial waste. While I was driving I was thinking: Well, there must be some people that are drinking in this places, which have been through the ringer and seen it all. Maybe this musician who is living here is finding something from this surroundings? And this person turned to me and said: You are right, there are a lot of cool people around here.

RP: That is incredible!

CG: Yes. And I said nothing. I didnít even dare ask for an explanation. There was no explanation necessary. He just read my mind. This is one of many incidents that I was floored by that ability, that science can not prove.