Friday, June 10, 2016
Interview with Gaff from Gozu
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Hearing Crosby Stills and Nash as a kid blew my mind, listening to my parents vinyl of Sgt. Peppers was amazing. My dad was a huge Willie Nelson fan and I remember hearing "Blue eyes crying in the rain." His phrasing and voice was a new sound to me, such a distinct and moving tune. Of course driving in the car, so much good music, hearing Doobie Bros “black water” before hockey practice in my dads F 250 was amazing and the first time hearing Van Halen with my buddies dad, epiphany. We were going fishing and Sinners Swing came on and opened a whole new world to my auditory system. Most influential was seeing Stevie Wonder with my uncle Mike. I was a freshman in High school, went after football practice. I saw him in Syracuse, 3.5 hours, 11th row. Sweet Christ, if that doesn't put a little shake in your snake, get out the defibrillator. Also, Allman bros were constantly amazing, saw the Grateful Dead at age 13, that fires up the dendrites to what scenes were out there and the force music truly holds over people.
I was lucky to be exposed to all different types of music growing up. My parents took me to see Harry Chapin and I saw Blood Sweat and Tears when I was 6 with my mom. Seeing George Benson with my dad opened my eyes to how amazing the guitar can be and how when played right, is the best instrument on the planet.
Also, Beastie Boys, Murphy’s Law and Public Enemy was a complete fucking mind blower. Hip hop and punk fused so well together, opening up a brand new door that would be continually revolving for me.
Hip hop to country, a melting pot was stirred by Les Paul's and turn tables.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
I usually come up with a riff first and then let it proceed naturally. I only write when I'm in the mood and when it happens, the process takes over. I usually compose whole songs and then put lyrics to it. I change lyrics right up to the recording; if a moment moves me, I have no problem substituting the words. I usually will write a few songs at a time as I am not going to stop the process when it is working. You don't just take a half piss; you have to let it all out. It's the same with writing.
Who has influenced you the most?
I could not say a one person or band has influenced me the most. I draw from a plethora of artists.
I really love Richard Emmanuel as a vocalist. The sense of desperation in his voice is somewhat haunting, hits a place that I find remarkably relatable. Levon Helm is also one of my favorites as the grit and timber in his voice is amazing.
Greg Allman has an iconic voice and writes great songs. 20 years old and destroying the Fillmore. Not a bad resume builder at that age.
Jeff Buckley was one of the most blessed vocalist to ever grace a microphone. The range is unmatched and his articulation was out of this planet. Elliot Smith is also, in terms of lyrics, a huge influence on me. His pieces are small narratives of the inner workings of what makes us smile and cry.
Guitar playing, I love Stephen Stills. His command of the instrument and chording are very much a part of the story as the lyrics. He lays a woven backdrop that lets the vocals float over and mesh when needed. Also, David Gilmour's sense of melody and singing style is spectacular.
I would have to say that everything about the Allman Bros is so tight and right on. They can go from a chugging riff into a jazz moment and not a beat is missed. Those guys as they say, were “hitting the note.”
Queens of the Stone Age, Hermano, Kyuss, Fu Manchu. They are all influences on my playing. Bob Balch is a fucking monster and I love the style of Josh Homme. I find his tone to be my favorite. However, Tony Reed’s tone, is as rough and tumble as they get. That man has it dialed in.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Life in general is an amazing motivator. There is pretty much inspiration in your day to day, be it amazing or complete heart ache. Watching how the world is changing and the people in it are acting is a weird fucking conundrum. People my age and older can converse and have conversations regarding pertinent happenings or feelings; some people now are like talking to a corpse, on a good day. The art of story telling like Tom Waits has perfected, is an ongoing inspiration for me. A song like, "Please call me baby", deals with immense inner workings of despair and genuine unbridled love sandwiched into a beautiful piece of music that everyone can relate too.
Thus, the feelings music or a wonderful story can convey means so many things hidden and witnessed. It doesn't matter what age, race, demographic, feelings are feelings and unless you are a cyborg you can relate to a well written novel or song. Take a piece like Breathe by Pink Floyd, lyrically Roger Waters wanted it simple so people can relate as it is about the day to day life of humanity.
I find pure inspiration in that artistic form of telling a story with prose, pictures and chords. When it is done correctly, it is a hopefulness that people can and will dig.
So inspiration is what I am listening for; not just in music but in conversations, art shows and simply living.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
I grew up in Watertown, NY. Joe is from Chicago, Hubbs is from New Hampshire and Doug is a tried and true Boston native.
I think for me, where I grew up has a lot to do with how I write and what I write about. There is something to be said about your hometown and why you cherish it differently while you are away than when you were growing up and performing the day to day shuffle.
Boston has a ton of bands and many insane musicians on every corner. You can see live music almost every night of the week in any genre. The East Coast in general is fast paced and you say what you mean. Fuck you is not, "hey, let's have a salad and talk" it means “Fuck you.” So, there is that kinetic attitude in a lot of music that is created in places like Boston and NYC.
The music tends to be worn and worn proudly on the sleeves of many bands that inhabit the city.
Where'd the band name come from?
It is from a Japanese movie that Doug was and is a huge fan of. It means cow head. People will ask about the name and some people will throw on an accent when saying "Gozu." I think it is their way of being funny in a fucking undesirable way. There is always one in every bunch.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Easy Rider would be fantastic.
Writing lengthy cosmic and somewhat transcendental music would be amazing. Grooved based shit that you can listen and shake your ass too. Stuff like, "don't step on the grass" or any Hendrix tune. Taking it far out and knowing at that moment when to real it back in. Now we are talking baby,that I like.
Definitely could turn off the membrane for a bit and ease into a new sphere of consciousness.
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
Only love can break your heart by Neil Young.
That is probably one of my favorite songs. Lyrically the piece can be interpreted in so many ways and the melody is so captivating that you can not help but to sway when it invades the cochlea. The chorus is really beautiful with the background vocals hovering over his voice and blending like a fine print on canvas. Neil is so god dam good. Out on the weekend is also one I would care to write about. The first plucks of the guitar, instantaneously puts me in a relaxed mood. Reminds me of being a kid and when entering adult hood; vibing on what he is articulating about. The pedal steel on that song really makes it. Again, story telling at its finest about relationships and how relationships bring so many feelings to so many. Also, that backbeat is a bit behind the beat, that's the groove that sits so nice, like being in a rocking chair on the porch, enjoying the calmness of your mind.
What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?
My intention is to write honest, heart felt music that is in no way compromised or fucked with that has a boogie to it that you can close your eyes and transport to another aura if you so chose too.
I want people to be able to feel something in the music and let it be what they want it to be. Hopefully if people dig it, they can let it ease their worried minds or bring them to a place where they can shut down and just listen for listening sake. Not give a fuck but turn off and let the power of the riff do its job, whatever it is you want the job to be. It is truly open to interpretation and there is no right or wrong; it's music for and from the soul.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Christ, there are times when people have said, "I loved that show or remember that time you played that song, you had on jeans?"
Jesus, in my younger day, the whiskey would flow to and from my hand quickly to my mouth, sort of a way to loosen up my back or whatever was feeling tight. I was told about kicking a door open, walking on stage in Italy with a bottle of booze and the place went nuts. I would have enjoyed that I think.
We played a show, in a band Doug and I were in and this fucking dink was screaming his head off. We did a few shots, Doug walked up to the guy and told him he was fired and the guy went crazy. "You can't fire me, fuck you, I'm not fired." Let's think about this, how fucked up do you have to be to think a guy in a band can fire you and fire you from what? The guy ended up being tossed out for going crazy.
Doug is s bit of a mover on stage and he has almost decapitated me a few times and enjoys stepping on my cables so I am fucking locked there on stage until he moves himself.
In college after a show at this place Diana's, my buddy fell down two flights of stairs.
He had been drinking some kind of brew that was about 8 percent and he missed a step. Suddenly all I see is an amp go up in the air and he is somersaulting down the stairs like a hammered gymnast.
He stood up unscathed but his amp was fucked up. Needless to say the laughter commended for a good 10 minutes. He also partook in the chuckling.
Most of the stuff goes on after the show and those are for my memoirs titled "good girls don't but I do."
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
Live for me is the most fun. It is the place where I actually feel comfortable and can leave my worries at the door.
We try to bring it every night, no matter the size of the crowd or the venue. If people are there, they should get your best and leave on a high note and feel they were part of something and a place where they could sing, dance, not give a fuck for an hour about the outside world or the trips in their mind. Our goal is to have a great show and an even better time and let the rock roll. This is not decoding cold fusion, it is four guys plugging in and playing music to make love too.
What makes a great song?
I think that is up to the listener and how it hits you and makes you feel and react. Bottom line, if it moves you in a way that you can't describe and catch yourself humming that song for years to come, you know you did it right. I find a lot of great songs hit me pretty hard and I have to seek them out and digest everything about it.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
First song was in college and it was with a band I played in. It was in the Black Crowes realm and was an eye opener to how this process would change my life. Guitar solos after each chorus. It was crazy the first time playing it for people. The first time playing it live the drummer decided to take a journey shall we say. He before the show said, "Gaff, I am seeing 3 snare drums." I told him to hit the one in the middle.
I finally had an outlet to share things with people. It was a bit unnerving as you really have no blueprint or step by step form to follow and this is what I truly loved about it. You can choose to share or not, put chords to words and let it out. I have not thought about that song in a long time.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
I am proudest of this new album we just made. It really has many different stylings but sounds mod def sounds like us.
I feel vocally it is the best stuff I have done. I just let it out and the guys were amazingly supportive. Also, playing with Doug has made me a much better guitar player. The great thing is it is the first album with the new line up so I am excited for people to hear it.
The feel is a bit heavier than the last two and I believe lyrically it is stronger.
The groove has a different feel as Mike really sunk into this motherfucker. Hubbs went all out and the proof is in the pudding with the tremendous back beat. Joe is a fucking monster on bass and has a remarkable ear so he is really good about his phrasings. He did some very tasty work. The rhythm section completely laid down such an amazing foundation that is was easy to sing and play over.
Truly, it is the best stuff Doug has done. He destroys this album. Fucking guy just plugs in and the shit that comes out is head scratching good.. His solos are in a different domain than his others. Some are almost Gilmour like and at times Brian May comes to mind. A plethora of guitar players rely on gimmicks and complete fucking bullshit based hype, Doug is the real deal and you won't find a more humble guy, and a better player.
As a band we all wanted this fucker to be a monster and hopefully people dig it.
The one thing I have come accustomed to is, if we as 4 musicians dig it, really that is the key. Like anything, building a house, painting, mechanics, if you put your heart and soul in your work and can hold your head up at the end of the day and get off on the final project, the rest is fucking easy.
I tend to be ultra fucking critical of everything I do, so I don't really enjoy listening to myself very much. This piece of work I just listened to last night after shelving it after it was mastered
I really like it. I am extremely proud to make music with these guys as being in a band is like being married. You have ups and downs but the ups way out weigh the downs.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
I fucking love D'Angelo. His 3 albums are amazing and live it is like a James Brown show. Hitting it, on the one, god dam. Great spiritual quality, by that I mean, it hits a deepness inside of you and the smile it brings to my face lets me reflect on why I love music and why I play. Not everyone is hip to what we or any artist does, but when you can smile and sing along, who gives a fuck what the cool people that fucking hate everything have to say. It is funny, a group of negative people were going to a show but they ended up not going because they didn't think it would be fun. Those cats need to open up to all types of music; it will set their internal clocks free in the long run.
The new Luna Sol album is really right on. Dave Angstrom is really hitting his peak lyrically and guitar wise in this piece. There is a band Soulive that is an organ trio and they fucking rip. Neal Evans is my favorite B3 player and he lays down bass notes with his left hand. They do a Beatles cover album that is so right on and funky. I feel very sexy right now talking about it.
I am sure the new COC will be off the hook as I love Pepper Keenan and also Crowbar. Kirk is such an underrated guitarist. His tone is so nice and writes phenomenal songs.
Really though, so much old stuff is coming out that truly blows me away.
I drive a lot so music is mos def my co pilot and makes the ride smooth and the bumps manageable.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
With my son and daughter probs digital is what we listen to the most but vinyl is by far the best way to listen to music and it brings you back to a time when things flowed a little smoother and shit didn't weigh as much.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice.
Jesus, I probably would have to say whiskey, but I have calmed that down. I loved whiskey for a mighty long time, probably longer than one should. Shots, jack and coke, Jameson, Beam, fuck they were a part of my hand. However, I worked for Old Milwaukee distribution when I think I was 14, so beer has a wonderful place in my heart. I also worked for Miller in high school and Genesee in college so I never was without beers.
I enjoy beer but am not a guy that loves micro brews or shit that is more than my fucking mortgage. Light beers, Corona, Coors light, Dos Equis are some of my favs. Also, Yuengling.
But, whiskey was my favorite for more than 20 some odd years. So whiskey is a clear cut winner.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
To be honest all the Newburry Comics are great. They have great staff and are incredibly helpful and sell a ton of vinyl. They are also good to local acts.
What's next for the band?
Next is putting out the album on our new label, Ripple. Truly excited to be on Ripple working with Todd. The album will be out in June. We also just shot a music video for the first song. Then it is playing a ton to get the music out. Shows in June and July, Psycho Vegas in August and in late September to October, in Europe with Holy Grove from Portland, Oregon.
I am hoping that we get out a lot and let the tunes do the talking.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
Thanks a lot for the interview, much oblidged.
Please pick up the new album and if you want us to play your town hit us up on Facebook and let us know.
Really support live music in general. No one is getting rich off playing but we are getting rich in soul and musicality.
Bottom line, if people don't go to shows, it will dry up, so please go out and see music in its truest form, live uncut, unapologetic and sweaty.
Be safe and hopefully we will see you all in 2016.
Eat a peach.