Interview © Roadburn 2005
Words: Walter from Roadburn
CHRIS GOSS - MASTER OF REALITY
"Jimmy Page is my heart-hero. He has thrilled me more than any other artist I know. He came out to play guitar as hard as it could be."
Chris Goss of Masters of Reality-fame talks to Roadburn about several albums he would love to have produced. Meanwhile he unveils his underlying aesthetic: "I'm underground, and I've made some cool records, but still underground, and I prefer that.
In the words of Mark Lanegan from 'High Noon In Amsterdam': "Get your head around going underground". If that's my destiny, always like trying to be the subversive weirdo, then OK, that's all right. I tried to fight it, but now I'm comfortable with it -- it's like a journey on a river inwards, like 'Heart of Darkness'. Just keep your eye on the prize where you think it should go... and as you do this, it just creates more rivers to travel..."
David Bowie - "Diamond Dogs"
The first album that came to my mind was 'Diamond Dogs'. To start with the cover; it's a fucked up cover; a weird cover; Bowie is depicted as a dog with a dick. And there's the poem that starts the record, which ends with: "this ain't rock 'n roll, this is genocide." The record has a concept feel to it, but at the same time it's very scattered like Bowie. There's a very fragile, dirty future on that record --like the cityscape after the Trade Center tragedy times ten --in a weird New York junkie kinda way.
The rumor is that Bowie saw the band Television at CBGB's in 1974 and then recorded 'Diamond Dogs', which should interest the reader of this article into buying the first two Television albums. Television's 'Marquee Moon' is a dark, scary record --the guitars have a great rhythm, the guitar tones are clean. Dynamic. The album is emotionally heavy and vibrationally heavy. It's not sonically heavy, but it rocks in it's own way, and all of this inspired Bowie.
'Diamond Dogs' has so many of my favorite Bowie songs on it; 'Diamond Dogs', 'Big Brother', '1994', 'Sweet Thing.' The record is great from start to finish. It's not that long --too many concept albums are just too fuckin' long. I can't listen to a 70 minute CD, I can't get through it. I can get through a 22 minute Yes song though.
How do Bowie's 'Diamond Dogs' and Television's 'Marquee Moon' tie-in to stonerrock? Because you get your music from everywhere you fuckin' can, you get it from classical music, you get it from Soundgarden, The Beastie Boys or Wyclef Jean. There's a trick to be learned from everybody; a harmony trick, a rhythm trick... At the same time it's inportant to keep a foot in the salt, and know where things came from, and know what genre that you feel comfortable enough to rock in -- that's what makes rock and roll!
Joy Divison - "Closer"
Intense life drama! A poet losing his mind with a rhythm section behind him. It's right up there with Kurt Cobain's work. I'm sure it influenced Cobain to hear a guy [Ian Curtis] saying: "I'm going to cash it in, this is a bad scene. I'm too fucked up."
At one time I was very inspired by Joy Division, especially by the heart-wrenching sincerity in their songs --by their honesty. You don't have to be overly dramatic or self-pitying to have emotion in your songs. There's a way to do it and still sound like a poet, if it's good poetry. Jim Morrison was able to do it the same way [speaking of stonerrock - Jim Morrison is the stoner-king!].
Yes - "Close to the Edge"
I learned a lot about songwriting from Johnny Anderson of Yes. Using words as vehicles --he does it in a completely different way. I'm not as cosmic as he is, I tend to have a little more black humor involved --he had no black humor, he's a religious man. He uses free word-association for meditative, positive moments. That's where his words flow to.
Anyway, these brush strokes of melody, choosing the right words that convey and propel the song along for the head fuck and body fuck -that's the intention. I do it in a few words as possible and as lazily as possible --it's my part of keepin' the foot in the salt. Otherwise I'd sound like Alanis Morrisette.
Talk about free word-association... Josh Homme uses it a lot too, and Bjork. It's like surrealism. You put these strange images that don't belong next to each other, and it creates a landscape of feelings. It hopefully brings your listener what you're intending to do. It's some kind of texture with the help of a few notes or words as possible. And that landscape is inside of everybody --that's why some people can connect to me and others don't.
My approach can be too weird for some or not violent enough for others coz' I throw in soft songs too! I throw curve-balls, and it's almost a challenge to my own demise --making it challenging enough hopefully to offend other people and scare them away. For instance: Yes. I know lots of people abolutely hate them. I really love the '70 to '76 era of the band. I really do.
Humble Pie - "Rockin' The Filmore"
Steve Marriott was this little English guy who had the best British blues rock voice, like Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes but better. And better than Rod Stewart to me 'cuz it was higher and it sounded even more like cigarettes and Jack Daniels. And he has a lot of black American soul!
Humble Pie just rocked. They were one of the first British bands that made plain-and-simple hard rock, but doing it in a way that was loose, fun. The predecessor of the Foghat school --before the big white bellbottoms; it's pre-glam. In 1971 not many bands sounded like Humble Pie and Led Zeppelin --both of them are from a similar school... but Humble Pie weren't so mythological! And Steve Marriott at the front of it, singin' like a motherfucker; he was in the Small Faces with Ron Wood.
Marriott died in a fire; he had been a drinker all his life, and I guess he burned himself up from smoking something in bed, I think that's the story. Previous to his death, he was playing clubs in Amsterdam to just a handful of people. He deserved a lot more than that. Humble Pie 'Rockin The Filmore' is a wonderful double album. 'I Don't Need No Doctor' is on it and 'Four Day Creep.'
Led Zeppelin - "IV" & "Houses Of The Holy"
I think these albums are Jimmy Page playing at his best in the studio. The orchestration of the guitar really started to happen with the albums. Just listen to 'The Rain Song' [from 'Houses of the Holy'], it's one of the great modern compositions of the 20th century. I put it right up there with anything Stravinsky did.
Led Zeppelin was flying high at the time, and you can hear it --take 'Dancing Days Are Here Again' and 'The Crunge.' By that point, Led Zeppelin were really rich hippies. And really happy --diggin' where they got themselves, although it started to get ugly shortly after.
What I love about Led Zep is the honesty. You saw the decay in their art. The artwork of 'Houses of The Holy' is bright orange --there's new life; the blond girl climbing up the hill, the guy holding her up. It's like spring time; "Honolulu star-bright/sweet Calcutta rain." Two years later 'Physical Graffiti' comes along and it starts to look tarnished and burned. And Zeppelin started to sound weird.
Well, Zep sounded weird from the start, but by the time 'Presence' came out, it got really weird --they sounded like the whirlwind of the previous seven years started to take its physical toll, and tragedies had started to happen. And 'Presence' sounds reflective of that. It's like a crocodile caught in trap --the album is nervous and uptight.
'In Through the Out Door' is where Jimmy Page's heroin-addiction had removed him a bit from the band. And even though there's some brilliant stuff on that album, it's more John Paul Jones' album --more keyboards. But all through the album, they never tried to get slick and hide who they were. Page didn't think; "Cuz' I'm junked-out or doing to much coke, let's get a producer and make it sound like Steely Dan so we sell out the record." He felt more like: 'Yeah, this the way I fuckin' feel." He's true to himself, and that's why Jimmy Page is my heart-hero. He has thrilled me more than any other artist I know. He came out to play guitar as hard as it could be.
I think when John Bonham died it probably devastated him, I mean, having a drummer like that on your side, knowing that he's gonna make your riffs just fuckin' hammer the gods. The death of Bonham knocked him on his ass, but he came back, and I saw some of his best playing ever in some of the last stuff he did with Robert Plant a couple of years ago. I saw him flying around the [guitar] neck with a confidence that he hadn't had since 'Houses of the Holy. We are lucky to the guy alive with us. He could have gone the way of Morrison, Joplin & Hendrix.'
Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Smash Hits"
I like 'Smash Hits' songs in a row better than 'Electric Ladyland' where it sometimes meanders. When I hear the 'The Wind Cries Mary' next to 'Manic Depression', 'Fire' and 'All Along The Watchtower, it's like: Wow! As far as Hendrix songs go, that's my pick. But if I want to get stoned and have music on the background, I just grab the box-set with all the outtakes. It's wonderful. I wonder if Hendrix would want everyone to hear everything that wasn't supposed to be released. Probably by that time he had nothing to hide.
I'm more inspired by Jimmy Page than Hendrix --he's still in there from a psychological viewpoint than sonically. He really tried to paint weird landscapes with this music. And using sonics in the '60 as audio-landscaping within the song --something all the electronic bands do nowadays -- but he was doing it with a couple of guitar tracks instead. If the electricity goes off tomorrow, I can make a living off playing my acoustic guitar, but as soon as the Chemical Brothers batteries run out, they're fucked.
I like the violent part of this electronic music and I can see why a stadium would jump up and down --the 'viva la anarchy' electronica vibe. But I still like seeing a musician and hearing emotions a little more directly. I can write my music wherever it wants to go. It's open for interpretation when you play it --for the most part it is.
So I'm not doing the same 142 bpm per night on this song, and it's 8 minutes long coz' that how long the computer is programmed for, and this is the part where I jump through the fuckin' fire ring. You can't program real music, that's the lesson from Miles Davis. Unfortunately, sometimes you paid $50 to see Miles, and he came out, just blowing two notes while his band kept jammin.' If he didn't feel it, that was all you get, and he wouldn't play. That's honesty! And the same goes for Masters of Reality -what you hear is what you get!