interview by: Roberto Martinelli
The following interview with guitarist John Gossard is the final chapter of a discussion trilogy that has no practical beginning or end. Rather, it is the grouping of ideas Gossard had in August, 2004 about The Gault, the long since disbanded band whose only album, Even as All Before Us, was to eventually see the light of day as a release shared by Flood the Earth Records and Amortout.
One year later, the album is released and rapidly sells out, simultaneously challenging Gossardís assessment that The Gault was nigh-universally hated, yet affirming that it was the quintessential listen-at-home-alone band.
But Gossard is no stranger to stumbling upon musical cultdom. All the bands that heís recorded guitar for: Weakling, Asunder, and now The Gault, have all been sealed in the vault of classics. Itís inescapable to then mention how history repeats itself: that the two bands that have ceased to exist only put out one record each, and Asunder has only done one, something that Gossard himself is firmly aware of, and indeed fears: the sophomore effort.
But the bands Gossard has been in have all touched on some immortal quality. The following near stream of consciousness conversation loosely about The Gault adds to the deep perspective into the manís psyche and personality that the interviews conducted about Asunder and Weakling do. Read them all in any order you want.
Maelstrom: From where can we trace your approach to writing the guitar parts for The Gault?
John Gossard: Somebody was talking to me about Paradise Lost and The Gault. Iíd thought the first couple Paradise Lost albums were cool, but I never really got into them. So it was weird when someone told me that The Gault shit sounded just like it. When I wrote The Gault stuff, it was coming out of me clearly identifying with Darkthrone and Emperor, and appreciating Joy Division and Bauhaus, and trying to write like those bands. But someone perceived it as me cloning this other band. And then I listened to Paradise Lost and thought, ďdamn, that does sound like The Gault.Ē
Maelstrom: You had talked before about perspective, and how when thrash was new, the relatively older metal fans thought it was stupid. I did an interview some months ago with the drummer from this band The Forsaken. Youíre about six years older than me. He and I are the same age, and we discussed the issue of our getting older. And how, to 16-, 17-year old kids, the biggest deal is... whatever [is big during their time]. And they may not know or even care that what is such a big deal to them is really a second, third + generation of the original. Have you ever experienced this sort of ďoutsider looking inĒ feeling as you get older, too?
John Gossard: Itís pretty weird. Iíve watched some of the recent Headbangerís Balls. Iím not an authority on the style, but Iíd say that there is a plethora of American hardcore, emo metal Ė whatever you call it Ė that rip off massively At the Gates. Itís their prime source . And I donít even know how many of these people know At the Gates, or how many of these people know Grotesque. If you want that stuff, itís out there and not that hard to get. But instead, youíd rather hear a fifth generation At the Gates rip off. When At the Gates came out, no one know about it, here, anyway. I used to go to the bar and be like, ďplay my tape...!Ē and people would say, ďno, itís stupid fucking vocals... I canít understand the lyrics...Ē Not that there were any metal bars. So Iíd go to the Chameleon and wait till I was drunk enough to ask them to play whatever I wanted to hear.
Maelstrom: The perspective on ground-breaking bands like At the Gates is an interesting point, too. I mean, maybe these kids wouldnít like At the Gates if they heard it. Obviously, youíre a big Venom fan. If youíd never heard Venom before and were a big metal fan, and if Venom came out today, what would you think of them?
John Gossard: It definitely wouldnít have the same impact. I constantly see the commentary young kids have about Venom with no historical perspective. There are two important ways to listen to music. One is that the music is so fucking brilliant that you donít need to know when it came out. You listen to Bach, which has so much depth to it in terms of rules heís created and broken that people are still trying to analyze the fuck out of it, but itís still emotional... People are always going to be like, ďBach... heís pretty good. A pretty cool guy. I like his shit.Ē
I donít even know much of the genre, but you listen to The Beatles, and you know that Ė if you follow any history of rock music Ė The Beatles broke shitloads of rules. And that a lot of bands came after, that sounded like The Beatles. And some people figure that if it sounds like The Beatles, itís just as good, But youíre throwing out the historical perspective of The Beatles doing it before anyone else. Itís something beyond understanding the art of the music... itís about understanding the impact of coming up with the music in the situation. A lot of people understand Einsteinís work, but can you imagine coming up with it before Einstein did?
Not that Venom is on the same level as Einstein or The Beatles, but they came in at a time when punk rock was going on, there was Kiss as offensive shit, there was Motorhead as far as balls out, bass-heavy, metal rock and roll. Venom mixed all that shit up AND instead of flirting with Satanism, like Sabbath, they said outright that they were this ridiculous Satanic thing. Even in their not being true, out-and-out Satanists Ė I donít even know what that is Ė they were living their own bullshit to just enjoy it and love it, and fuck everyone else... they were living to whatever the fuck Venom was speaking to. They lived this crazy dream and became this larger than life band, without having any musical skill. They did have talent in writing memorable, catchy songs... but they were so down with what they were doing. And itís beyond how many countless people they influenced. They influenced Bathory and Celtic Frost, they influenced Metallica and Possessed and Death... I donít know if Venom influenced millions of people, but they influenced people that went on to define entire genres. So regardless of what they did, if you understand it in the context of where it came from and how it never existed before that. I think that people that say that Venom are not black metal because they donít sound like it and werenít serious, donít understand history and are a crock of shit.
Everything that is entertainment culture is a complete load of crock. Iím very connected to music: it releases me someplace. I feel government structures love the fact that rebellious youth attach themselves to music sub-cultures that donít do jack shit. The only people that have an impact are subversives that remain subversives after going through shit like Yale or Princeton. When you come right down to it, my passion isnít for any of that shit, and thatís why I donít give a fuck about being an influential person. Iím not into black metal for other peopleís rules. But there are shitloads. Like, ďyou must be black metal and you must wear patent leather pants and corpsepaint whenever you go to a show...Ē itís very mall trendy. Thatís the predominant thing, and black metal is predominantly dead. Itís not a powerful force, and definitely not shocking. I hope that people who are into it arenít put off by the fact that they are no longer shocking.
Maelstrom: In all the bands youíve been in, I canít imagine any of them having a particular image.
John Gossard: In The Gault, I wore a nun outfit a couple times.
Maelstrom: Do you do the vocals on The Gault?
John Gossard: No, itís a guy called Ed, whom I think should be named Ed Dead. I was originally asked to split the vocals between me and Lorraine, the bass player. I thought that I probably couldnít do them, and if I could, Iíd have to practice singing in key a lot. The guitar playing on this is probably much more esoteric than Weaklingís. I could probably not play that loosely if I had to think about what I had to sing. I enjoyed the guitar style and didnít want to give it up by singing.
Maelstrom: My impression of The Gault was that nobody really cared about it, which I donít understand.
John Gossard: Nobody really cared about it. We had a handful of people who thought it was the best band ever. We went on a tour, which I didnít want to go on. Not that itís the same kind of music, but I thought of The Gault as kind of like Bethlehem or Skepticism... doomy music that is just not live. People that do like it would probably rather listen to it at home alone. Especially if you go on tour, youíre gonna get booked with whoever is playing that night, and [the audience] is gonna hate it. We went to Portland, Seattle, LA... ever single show was the worst fucking show ever.
I didnít want to go on the tour. I was broke and out of work. I didnít have any money to buy dinner. I bought a lot of wine in a box. One night we played a show where I walked into the club and felt, ďthis show isnít worth playing. Death in June is playing two blocks away for $10. Letís go.Ē There was an argument about ďwhat if we want to come back to this stupid club? They wonít let us play because we walked away from this horrible show.Ē ďI donít think Iím ever coming back here Ė Iíd rather go see Death in June.Ē
We had a couple nights like that. Then I said that if we played another show that I didnít think was worth playing, Iíd quit. So we did play the show. A couple weeks after we got back from tour, I got an email saying I was out of the band.
Maelstrom: So I guess this wasnít your band.
John Gossard: No, no.
Maelstrom: Are they still going?
John Gossard: Weíre going to play a show in a couple of weeks.
Maelstrom: Haha! So it doesnít sound like you guys practice a lot.
John Gossard: Itís going to be a matter of us trying to remember how to play all these songs, which has to do mostly with me not playing guitar the way I normally do. I was also really, really, REALLY drunk the whole time that all this was being written. I have no idea why I wrote some of this stuff.
Maelstrom: That must be kind of cool for you to listen to it. Thatís probably why youíre able to do so.
John Gossard: Yeah.
Maelstrom: If I said, ďput Weakling on,Ē you probably wouldnít do it, right?
John Gossard: No... With The Gault, Iím pretty much sure that everybody hated The Gault. Personally, with The Gault, I donít think that technically we could ever pull off anything like Weakling, but as far as emotionally, and some of the weird grooves we got into, we did some shit that definitely that good. But nobody likes it. Maybe some people will like it in 10 years...
Itís sad because you spend several years of your life doing it, and think about it every single day, and walk out of it with people telling you youíre full of shit.
Maelstrom: Weíre people actually telling you that?
John Gossard: Not now that weíre dead. But people did when The Gault was still around. When The Gault existed, I had people telling me, ďwhat the fuck are you doing with this shit? Why donít you just re-form Weakling with new people?Ē And Iím like, if thatís what youíre asking me, then you should not have the Weakling album.
Maelstrom: I think people get that perspective based on the progression of so many bands that they buy. Like Immortal. Immortal was Abbath and Demonaz. And then, it wasnít Abbath and Demonaz anymore. They got other dudes. And it didnít sound like ďHolocaust MetalĒ anymore, but it was still really cool and people liked it.
John Gossard: See, I donít like those later Immortal records. Not at all. I mean, the guitar style of Demonaz... I remember listening to that shit and hearing the tendinitis developing. Like, ďthat guy is playing his guitar with his pick at this crazy angle! Wow! Thatís painful.Ē And thatís what this music is about. He was supposed to put out some album of a different kind of music. He had some interviews where he talked about it. But he never has, at least not to my knowledge.
Those guys were way the fuck more successful than anything Iíve ever been involved in. I could imagine the temptation of spending 10-15 years of your youth and developing the cult status of your band, and then finding that your friend who helped develop it can no longer physically play it. And being like, ďcan I really no longer be this band?Ē And your friend saying, ďyou can. I will be your manager.Ē And thatís what happened with Immortal.