Interview from Craveonline
30. August 2010
Interview by Iann Robinson
Chris Goss - Musician. Producer. Genius. Visionary.
Getting into the head of the man behind the best work of QOTSA, Kyuss, UNKLE & more.
Musician. Producer. Genius. Visionary. All of those words fit Chris Goss, and yet donīt seem to do justice to a man who has taken the idea of experimental rock and pushed it ahead into brilliant new territories. Not only with his own forward-thinking project Masters Of Reality but also with his production work, which has encompassed an incredible variety of musicians. From helping develop the sound of the legendary band Kyuss to working with UNKLE, Screaming Trees, Queens Of The Stone Age and even rapper Lupe Fiasco, the Chris Goss mindset is oft sought after and never duplicated.
This year Goss returns to Masters Of Reality with the new album Pine/Cross Dover, an eclectic record that shows the band moving once again in bizarre and exciting new directions. I got to speak to the man himself and quickly found interviewing Chris Goss is the same as listening to his music, you never know where it will go. From the new album, to his outlook on music, our mutual love of early Bowie and even Masters Of Reality brief action movie stint, nothing was out of order but everything was off the cuff.
CRAVEONLINE: Masters Of Reality albums seem to appear randomly. How do you know when itīs time to release new material?
CHRIS GOSS: Good question. Usually timing is about me and my drummer who lives in New York City. We both do what we do a lot and time will go by, a year, a year and a half and weīll both just say letīs do it. We also try to include time to tour in that period.
CRAVEONLINE: The new album Pine/Cross Dover almost seems to split musically. Why?
CHRIS GOSS: Iīam not sure if the split on the record is as much musical, maybe more philosophical. The way the record started shaping up and the mood of the record it started to take on its own character. No matter what you try to make it becomes something else like making Frankenstein. All of a sudden there is this creature in front of you thatīs saying something back to you. Subconsciously if youâre making music correctly it goes places you didnīt know it was going to go to. When the whole picture is done only then do you know what you have done in a way.
There are two sides of this record to me and that became apparent when we made it. One is kind of mournful and the other is kind of like more Buddhist, almost like a Catholic side and a Buddhist side to the record. The Catholic side is Pine and the Buddhist side is Cross Dover, like one side being male and one side being female. It just happened.
CRAVEONLINE: The keyboards in Absinthe, Jim and Me are amazing, whose idea were those?
CHRIS GOSS: Well itīs a combination of both keyboards and guitars depending on which part. Thereīs almost a cabaret style melody in there and those are the keyboards with heavy guitars underneath that.
CRAVEONLINE: Your records are always varied but still manage to sound like Masters Of Reality. As an artist and musician how do you walk that line?
CHRIS GOSS: I think itīs always a ball of music that came from what I listen to, either recently or my whole life. This is kind of like throwing the ball back. If itīs a period of time where Iâm stuck in four or five fusion records I loved from the seventies or Iīm stuck on Bowieīs music he did in Berlin. Probably right there is the combination of music that for the last couple of years Iīve focused on. It īs like looking at jewelry youīve had in a case for a long time and studying it even more. Combine that with the mood of the world, whatīs being shot around the atmosphere.
Musicians, the halfway decent ones anyway, are like antennas in the air and you pick up on stuff. Itīs almost like stuff is flying around the air and flying around your subconscious and the two of the meet and become a catalyst to create some kind of reaction that become physical music.
CRAVEONLINE: Do you use that same approach lyrically? How important are they to you?
CHRIS GOSS: They usually happen pretty quickly. I donīt know if that understates their importance but generally they are important. Thatīs probably the part of it that is the mood of the planet at a particular time. Whatever confusion is flying around and the surrealness of life 2010 mixed with paranoia and mystery. Itīs sex and everything else that makes us what we are and it just happens. Theyīre almost like whispered to you in a weird way.
CRAVEONLINE: Who all is working with you on Pine/Cross Dover?
CHRIS GOSS: The other contributing musicians were mainly David Catching from the Earthlings and Brian OīConner the bassist played on it and the twelve minute jam on the record is Brendon McNichol and Mark Christian. Those were the other musicians there at the right place and the right time and had something to contribute.
CRAVEONLINE: Do you still believe strongly in the revolving line up of Masters Of Reality?
CHRIS GOSS: Well, itīs an interesting question because as long as I have my right hand man, which is my drummer, thatīs the most important thing. I mean me and John are so in sync when we play and you hear that on the twelve minute jam Alfalfa. That was improvised, there was not one part of that jam that was planned out so all those stops and turns, if you pay attention, is four musicians moving at the same time.
CRAVEONLINE: I had no idea Alfalfa was improvised, thatīs amazing.
CHRIS GOSS: It was a learning experience doing that song, it taught me about a lot of my heroes created music like Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Those two bands in particular, Iīm obsessed with their music and how the fuck did they do this. On the jam it was the first time in my life I kind of stumbled onto okay thatīs how they did this. That song was actually eighteen minutes and I edited down and when I listened back I was ecstatic about it.
Iīve actually had people ask me why didn īt I make that song a bonus track. (Heavy frustrated sigh, then laughs) Think about that question. If I had said bonus track it would be different? Just by calling it a bonus track? I actually wanted to open the record with that. Itīs funny because people are like a bunch of trained seals when it comes to what a record should be and that makes me want to make records weirder than ever. Itīs revolting that youīd get a question asking why didnīt I use it as a bonus track, tack it on or something.
CRAVEONLINE LINE: As if an improvised jam wasnīt as important as the other songs.
CHRIS GOSS: Exactly. I mean there īs another instrumental on the album called Johnnyīs Dream and that was improvised to. The only thing I added was a keyboard string melody backing up the guitars. That was the only overdub, everything else, the odd notes bouncing around was all off the cuff. I wanted to balance both sides with instrumentals and try to take it to a level where you can communicate mood, melancholic or joy, without having lyrics.
Thatīs something David Bowie did on Low and Heroes, almost half those records are instrumental. Those are two of the three records called the Berlin Triptic. It was Low, Heroes and Lodger. Look that succession of records from Bowie from 1970 through 1980 and itīs one of the most prolific string of masterpieces that any modern artist has ever done. Thereīs not a bad album in the bunch and the changes from record to record, it īs like a completely different artist.
CRAVEONLINE: My favorite aspect of Bowie was the disconnection of the early material.
CHRIS GOSS: Bowie reinvented himself every time even to the detriment of his own career. He stayed true to where he wanted to go and saw music as art, not a pop career and from that he got a long career. He wasnīt washed up after Ziggy Stardust. Look at Diamond Dogs which is this apocalyptic weird rock record and then Young Americans, which is a Philadelphia soul record and then Station To Station which was art disco and then Low, which is when he hooked up with Brian Eno. That is my call to arms, I see that courage and really taking a look at what this person did, basically committing career suicide. Him and Jimmy Page are the guys I look to as the guys who took their music and did whatever they wanted to do.
CRAVEONLINE: Why do you think Masters Of Reality hasnīt been your main focus?
CHRIS GOSS: I suppose from a fans standpoint itīs kind of annoying that they donīt have this consistent four people the way classic band line ups are where you get to know these personalities over the years and adore their playing. Then again there īs artists like David Bowie who changes his line up quite a bit but has a few consistent players through out his career. Iâd love to have a full time band but Masters hasn īt been full time. It would be pretty hard to use the same four people because usually other musicians are off doing other things. It would have to be a miracle that all of our schedules lined up.
Thatīs about to change. Iīve been in the studio for the better part of twenty two years now and I do get to play a lot no matter who Iīm recording with and work on music. Iīve kind of recently come to grips with this pretty big catalog of music, a lot of which has never been performed before. I just made a few decisions to commit a bunch of time to this and do some US shows.
Iīll tell you why. Whatīs out there right now is shit for the most part to me and Iīm bored with a lot of hit music. Thereīs not a lot of hard rock bands, like weird hard rock bands, that can deliver. Radiohead doesnīt tour that much, bands who can put on that kind of delivery and have the emotional depth that they do. Iīm just looking to make a mark in a place that isnīt being fulfilled; itīs time to go show everybody how it īs done again.
CRAVEONLINE: So you īll be touring on this new record?
CHRIS GOSS: Yes. Iīve committed to myself to promote this record for an entire year. I do have some obligations to finish up in the studio but I donīt want to put something out and not have the pleasure of performing it live anymore. I feel like Iīm missing out and I think our fans are missing out. Weīve been pretty cruel to our fans over the years and now itīs time to play.
CRAVEONLINE: Who does Chris Goss look at and say Wow, he/she is amazing?
CHRIS GOSS: Joanna Newsome at the moment. She is an artist who plays the harp and writes masterpieces but popped enough to be on Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel. Her last album came out three months ago called Handle On Me and you should check it out. Itīs her third album. Sheīs like the new Bjork to me.
CRAVEONLINE: As a producer why do you think such a wide variety of artists have chosen to work with you?
CHRIS GOSS: I think they like that the stuff I do is a bit off center. I donīt produce everybody who comes along and (pause) Honestly I donīt know what theyīre looking for but theyīre getting it (laughs).
CRAVEONLINE: Whatīs the secret to being a great producer?
CHRIS GOSS: Letting a band play.Â Letting them run wild. Itīs like being a great jailer in a way and allowing people to open and try anything they want to try. Most restrictions bands have are self-imposed and I try to tell them to do whatever they want. If they want to make a turn and do something from left field Iīm all for it. Iīm not into repeating what someone has done before. Open the floodgates of creativity and I donīt care if the beats are perfect or everything is perfectly in tune, in fact I loathe that attitude. I donīt tune the vocals and all that crap so itīs pretty old school the way I produce records. Iīm looking for brains man.
CRAVEONLINE:Â Are you still going to be working with The Cult?
CHRIS GOSS: Yeah. Weīre doing a series of three EPs. The first one is done and we begin the second one in a couple of weeks. The first one started last year and God knows when the third one will happen so Iīll jump into Masters full time once the second one is done.
CRAVEONLINE: Can you tell me a little about the Brian OīConner (bassist for Eagles of Death Metal) fund?
CHRIS GOSS: Brian started chemotherapy for cancer; he was diagnosed about a month ago. There was just a benefit held for him about a month ago, Queens Of The Stone Age played, Eagles Of Death Metal played and I started this fund. He doesnīt have health insurance and weīve all managed to gather forces and raise money for him. Heīs also like the coolest motherfucker ever and I donīt believe in karma. Explain to me why a two year old gets Leukemia? Brian couldnīt have been any nicer or cooler and he just got blasted. So thatīs what the Brian OīConner fund is about. (check out mastersofreality.com to contribute to the fund)
CRAVEONLINE: What do you want the Chris Goss legacy to be?
CHRIS GOSS: Rhythm I think, swing. He swung. Thatīs what it boils down to for me. All rock music, any music, I just want to be known for keeping time really well.
CRAVEONLINE: Is it true Masters Of Reality was in a Steven Segal movie?
CHRIS GOSS: Yeah, we were in Marked For Death. We were performing in the scene in the bar when the Rastafarians come in a shoot up the place.
CRAVEONLINE: One last question. Does the Godfather Of Stoner Rock thing bother you at all?
CHRIS GOSS: Nah it doesnīt bother me, they have to call you something. Marijuana does play a big part in the way I make music. If thatīs a round about way of saying then thatīs fine with me, I guess I got what I deserved.