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Interview: CHRIS GOSS

Pure metal...interviews

Being a great musician and a well-known producer are two things which perfectly describe Chris Goss, the man behind the legendary US outfit Masters Of Reality. Chris made a short trip to the UK in order to promote his latest release "Bring Us Barabas" and to explain to me exactly what "total gass" really means.

Hi Chris. What brings you here to Britain? What are you currently up to?

Chris: Flying around Europe, talking about my new record, and along with that it also brings in a lot of other musicians that I work with, and their new records. So, talking about Rock n’Roll music really in a rush, looking for weed wherever I go (laughs). I’m sorry (laughs).

Yes, that’s a new record coming out on April 26 in Europe. It’s a lot of material that I’ve been compiling for years and years that I think I had a hard time fitting in on any other of the Masters Of Reality records. It’s a compilation mostly based on acoustic guitar, but it’s not soft acoustic music. Not music that someone would imagine listening to in a coffeehouse, it’s kind of orchestrated.

So it’s not only stuff from the Masters Of Reality era that we’re going to listen to...

Chris: Correct, yeah! I call some of this Masters Of Reality out of respect for the people who played on it, cause they cut the tracks at the time they were cutting Masters Of Reality tracks, you know what I mean? They were doing it for that purpose, and for me to just call them Chris Goss wouldn’t have been right, so it’s Masters Of Reality/Chris Goss and in a homage to friends who played in that record and I really respect musically. That’s it really.

Which were your feelings when you started recording this album?

Chris: There’s one track on this album, the last track, silly little track that was done twenty years ago in a four-track cassette, and that’s the exact same version that I put on the album, not re-mixed or anything, but there it is!

There are four more songs, which came out of four-track cassette recordings, and other songs that I spent a fortune on recording and re-recording over the years. It’s really hard to tell the difference between the really cheap ones and the really expensive ones that’s just to show you that expense has nothing to do with quality really. Well, sometimes on airplanes it does (laughs).

Which would you say were the highlights and the lowpoints of your career?

Chris: Oh, Highlights and lowpoints! I actually try to forget the lowpoints. I kind of hit myself in the head with the frying pan, I kick myself down, meaning that I probably don’t over analyze and stress out maybe as much as I should about certain things, and one of those things is music. I'm not stressed about music at all.

As far as the lowpoints go...not touring enough for the album that Ginger Baker played on "Sunrise On The Suffer Bus", is my biggest regret. Ginger didn’t want to tour any more, and I thought: well, if he’s not going to tour, then I’m not going to put one in the position of having to be Ginger Baker. A lot of people are going to be expecting to see Ginger and him not being there. So I didn’t have the balls to do that. That’s my only regret in the music business I believe, all the rest has been fine.

You get dealt a hand when you play cards in any profession, and how you play them.... life is a very long poker game, and I’m fine with parts that I’ve won so far, I’m still on the game.

Would you say that Ginger Baker is a difficult person to work with? Most of the people I told that I would be interviewing you asked me to ask that question on you.

Chris: No, not difficult to work with...difficult to deal with! Work was no problem, making music with him was an incredible joy. He is a brilliant, god-gifted musician, so yeah that’s no sweat. We can make grooves forever, sit in a room and write songs forever. It was the day to day stuff.

When he joined my band he was fifty-three years old and at the time I think I was thirty! He didn’t want to do meet and greets on a radio station before opening for Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. It was insulting to him to have a kid in the front row with a Megadeth T-shirt throwing a bottle at him, waiting for Alice in Chains to come on stage.

Some of the idiots who didn’t know what was going on. Of course I can understand why he didn’t want to do that. It not difficult to understand him really, he gets frustrated with stupidity and so I do. We always backed each other’s action: If he got pissed by something, I would too, If I did he would too. If I said "I’m not riding in that car" he’d said "neither am I", he was like a good partner to get into a fight with, and so when Ginger made a stand I usually back his action also. I didn’t have any problems with Ginger really, there were moments where he was a miserable nut, but there’s moments that I’m a miserable nut too, so whatever!

The new album is called "Give us Barabas". What made you choose this title for the album?

Chris: Ever since I was a kid, I thought that it was really funny that the crowd chose Barabas over Jesus. It’s like O.J.Simpson being found not guilty, like letting the wrong guy walk. That’s how I found the irony of it and the typical stupidity of life. That saying stuck on me from the very first time I heard it.

I was raised a Catholic, so the crucifixion was very intriguing and sexy to me. If you are raised as a Catholic boy, there is something very mysterious and forbidding feeling about the whole thing. So that saying just reminds me of modern times, nothing’s changed, I think that’s all I’m saying. There’s really nothing changed, just the same fucked-up world!

This album covers a ten-year musical period, during which you must have written hundreds of songs, knowing you as an artist. What made you choose those specific songs?

Chris: On this album? The acoustic guitar was the basis for most of them. These songs never actually fit with the other records. Some of these songs are almost happy, but I also wrote depressing stuff – probably melancholic is the right word to describe them. I like that side of things. I once spoke to Alicia Aftermar and the very first conversation I ever had with her when she wanted me to work with her was that her two favorite bands were Kyuss and The Smiths.

I understood that completely because they’re two of my favorite bands and if you think about it, Kyuss is a Metal band and The Smiths are like gay poetry (laughs), but it’s not like that. I think that there’s a melancholic vibe running through Kyuss and the way Johnny Marr plays guitar...there was swirlingness to it I think that Kyuss had too. The similarities where you get like plug in what’s wild and what isn’t. I guess it all boils down to Smeck’s taste, that’s all. I tend to get along with the weirdoes like myself.

There’s a bunch of weirdoes that I work with all the time, and we make what I call "out of whack" Rock records. That’s what I do. When people want an "out of whack" weird Rock record, they call me, and I take an "out of whack" amount of money to do it, and I’m glad to be there. It’s cool.

Since you mentioned the fact that you have worked with many different artists, I need to ask: Which album that you produced brought you most satisfaction and why?

Chris: Oh man, there are too many...I have fun with most of the records I do, when there’s isn’t any fun involved then I don’t even want to mention them. I don’t like misery in the studio. If the studio is dark, misery is allover the place or some member of the band is a prick it destroys my fun and makes me not to want to do this anymore. "Blues For The Red Sun" total fucking gassed me, so did the Alicia Aftermar record: total gassed, 80’s Beeline Matchbox Disaster", the record I just finished: total gassed. It doesn’t get any more fun than that. It was the easiest thing that I’ve ever done, really.

So that’s what I’m looking: Rock n’Roll should be easy. It should be easy to listen to, it should be easy to make, or else if I wanted to be miserable I would have worked in a marketing company, to have some short of a boss telling me what to do. When you work with artists who are misery addicts, and there are a lot of them in the music business: junkies and misery addicts, I internalize it towards myself. I’m actually getting physically ill when I work with people like that, I can’t do it anymore. I don’t have time. I’d rather sit home with my wife rather that sitting in a studio with some asshole.

The albums that I previously mentioned were all stand out as been total fun to me. Another artist that I’m working now with is Roxy Saint, an electro-class Punk girl. She will be in London in the next couple of months. It’s a total gass working with her too. If it’s like a party in the studio, usually the record sells. The records that are fun to make, are the records that sold the most in my history.

Which song/songs would you most like to be remembered by and why?

Chris: I have no idea. I really don’t.

Given that the first Master Of Reality album was such a hit, why do you think that the band never took the next step up in popularity terms?

Chris: For exactly the reason that was my major regret, was not touring after Ginger left the band. If I had toured to support "Sunrise On The Suffer Bus", the record he played on it would have sold. The single was on the top five in the States, we were right for success and that’s when he told "I’m not opening for Alice in Chains, or going out on tour anymore", on the fucking tour bus. And I said: "you know man, I don’t blame you, I really don’t fucking blame you"

If I was 53 years old I wouldn’t be in a tour bus opening for somebody with like "hey dude, you Rock". Ginger Baker touring America with that kind of atmosphere around, no I wouldn’t do it either. He’s royalty, and we weren’t. The band itself was up and coming, and we weren’t rich, and we were struggling. He had already done struggling, so he didn’t have the patience to hang in there and neither did I. So I was like "Yeah, you’re right, fuck them", and that was my biggest mistake ever. That’s why Masters Of Reality never really made it in the mainstream, that moment right there.

Do you think that it was for the good after all these years?

Chris: I don’t know man. That was the way I played the hand. You can’t predict what would have happened. If I continued touring without him and gotten another drummer too, maybe I would have made a lot of money, or maybe not. You can’t go back in time and predict what the results would have been.

In the meantime, I’m really happy to be alive, I don’t buy the dead Rock Star legend thing any more. I think that Iggy Pop has proved Neil Young completely wrong: It’s not better to "burn out than to fade away". Iggy is fucking Rock and looks really good. I’m happy to have Iggy around, I’m happy to have Jimmy Page. Being dead does not enhance your legend anymore, let’s get rid of that bullshit once and for all. How great would it be to have a grey-haired Jim Morrison sitting there right now. I’d rather have D.D.Ramone alive today, talking to me. Fuck Sid Vicious man, he’s dead, he’s gone! Don’t worship his death – celebrate his life whatever little that was since he was only a kid. The winner survives.

I think that it’s wonderful to have Jimmy Page fifty years old, how fucking great is that! One of the guys who crossed the abyss: Keith. I thing that it’s a miracle the fact that this man is alive, and it’s wonderful to have him here. I don’t think that if these people were dead we would be any better of. That’s my attitude now, probably because I’m getting old. I fucking paid my dues and I want to hang around and enjoy myself. I don’t know what exactly that means, aye drinking Scotch and looking outside my window. Life is really, really short...seventy years...big deal. I’ll hang in another thirty!

Which kind of music would you play in order to fulfill any musical ambitions left?

Chris: Loud, psychedelic music is where my love is, usually impov too. I like what happens by accident. Jamming: Jimmy Hendrix making feedback, that’s where I want to be. I want to be in front of that Marshall’s like chemotherapy standing in front of that...making noise, that my dream, and the uglier the better as far as I’m concerned.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Chris: One of the things the wisdom of age brings is to have other interests. I know a lot of Rock stars that all they think about is to be Rock stars: Their next record, the way they look, the next interview...that think like Pop culture is me and I’m Pop culture. I personally find satisfaction in distracting myself from music.

I collect art pottery from the mid-century. I get as excited about a vase, as I do about a song. I like collecting art and decor items, I like my animals and I also like nature. I try, it’s hard to be an artist sometimes, to get satisfaction out of superficial things, but I do. You want to make me happy? Just tell me where I can get a good cheeseburger. At the end of the day I’m a very simple minded person.

Any other records coming out soon?

Chris: Yeah, I’ll start this record in June with Twiggy Ramirez. We have a band called "Snowballs". Whenever we get together we write four or five songs. It’s really easy and I’m really looking forward to that. He’s a great musician

Any message to your fans?

Chris: The message is in the music, it really is. Listen to the record if you like me and god bless you.

Thank you for your time Chris, all the best.

Chris: Thank you, you too, man.

Interview © 2004 John Stefanis

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