Gozu Interview with Marc Gaffney: Charging Meat with Jan-Michael Vincent in the Season for Locusts

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Discussing the album and Gozu‘s origins with guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney only underscored my opinion of the natural feel of both the album and the band. Grotto‘s production is modern for sure, but Gaffney, fellow guitarist Doug Sherman, drummer Barry Spillberg and bassist Jay Cannava show a great deal of personality in their playing — something a more sterile album wouldn’t have let them do. In what’s already a banner year for Small Stone with releases by Sasquatch and The Brought Low, these newcomers serve only to make it even better.

After the jump, please find enclosed my Q&A with Gaffney, and enjoy.

How did the band get together?

I met Jay [Cannava, bass] when I first moved here from New York. So I’ve known him the longest, and then Doug [Sherman, guitar] and I played in a band – much different (laughs) – and I’ve known Barry [Spillberg, drums] for a long time also. We were all doing different things in different bands, but we wanted to do something in this type of genre, so we got together and it went from there. Smoothly, actually.

What about signing to Small Stone Records?

That was really from Craig Riggs from Roadsaw. He gave us unbelievable support. He asked us is we were with anyone, and we said no, so we went into Mad Oak and did two tunes, and he sent them out to Scott [Hamilton, Small Stone owner], and that’s how we got onto Small Stone. It was great, considering the band hadn’t been around that long. We’d known Craig through different people, and Craig was one of the first cats I met here too, through a mutual friend, Chris Shurtleff in Scissorfight. That’s how I met a lot of these guys, was through Chris.

And you lived in New York before?

I grew up in northern New York, like 20 minutes from Canada. I came here to Boston, I was playing in a band. It was like soul stuff, like Al Green shit, and I met these other guys.

Is that how you get the falsetto background vocals? A little soul influence?

(Laughs) Yeah, I would say so. Very much so.

What inspired you to bring that into the rock sound?

I think it was just letting it happen, in all honesty. Just trying really to go naturally and not try to be something – I wouldn’t call myself a screamer or anything like that. I just wanted something very melodic. We try not to do too much, so it’s not overbearing or sounds like Backstreet Boys or something (laughs). But in doses, when it fits, just to add some more texture to the song, we definitely will put it in.

You did the album at Mad Oak too, right?

That place is fucking phenomenal. Benny [Grotto] is so top notch and great, I think that’s one reason it went so smoothly. The setup time was really quick, and those guys, they add great things. They’re not afraid to say, “Hey, try this,” or “Look at it with this point of view.” No one was afraid to say anything, which was nice. We did the drums and bass in I think two days, and then I did my guitar tracks in a day, and Doug did his sporadically. The vocals, I think I laid down the tracks in one or two days, and I did the overdubs when we could get into the studio. Probably altogether, if you combined anything, I’d say maybe a month. Then mixing (laughs), mixing took a little bit.

Well, you’ve got a lot going on in the songs, a lot of layers to work out.

Yeah, just making sure everything sounded good and nothing was out of whack.

It seems like there’s a real focus on songwriting on the album.

I think that’s because all of us have been in so many bands and that’s what we set out to do, was to have it not structured to the point where we’re saying, “Let’s go into a chorus right now,” but to have a sense of the structure of the song’s flow. In the songwriting, we really wanted it to mean something, not just taking a bunch of words and hammering it down. We’ll come in with different riffs and things like that, and then the four of us, we just hammer the shit out of it. The actual writing of the song, in terms of lyrics and things like that, it’s maybe 10 minutes, in all honesty. I’ll get the melody down and things like that. I usually, just for different things going on, I’m not one of those cats who sits down with my pen and says, “I’m gonna write now.” If something hits me, I just will go with it. The songs came out pretty easy, because the melody and everything else was there.

How do you mean?

Well, first, we’ll hammer out the song itself. I’ll have some ideas. I won’t have everything. On a few of the songs, I had the chords and riffs and all that fully written, but some of the stuff, we’ll just go in with ideas. Then once we get that structure in, I’ll come in and usually write the lyrics afterwards. If Doug comes in with something, or Barry or Jay. The four of us will come in with all kinds of things, then we just expand on that.

At what point do the tv titles come in? Where do you get “Jan-Michael Vincent” from?

(Laughs) We usually name the song after. I think, what the fuck, “Jamaican Luau” was “Cookie’s Lament” before (laughs). “Jan-Michael Vincent,” I don’t know, we were just like, “Let’s call a song ‘Jan-Michael Vincent.’” And “Regal Beagle,” I forget what the name of the song was before, so we were like, “Let’s call this ‘Regal Beagle,’” so we did. It’s a lot better than having “Doug’s Tune” or “Marc’s.” It’s the whole fucking band’s tune (laughs). Sometimes the fun titles come afterwards.

How was SXSW for you guys?

It was fucking great (laughs). It was quite good. Good to hang with all the other guys from Small Stone. We had met a bunch of them when Scott had the Small Stone festival at the Middle East. We had met Throttlerod and Sasquatch, but then meeting House of Broken Promises, Dixie Witch, The Brought Low, that was fucking great. It’s a touch bit hazy for me. I was fucking crushed. All the free Lone Star in the world, then shots, and you’re like, “Alright…” We played early in the day, so it was a good thing and also a bad thing. By the time Sasquatch went on, I was like, “Holy fuck…” Just a tad coherent. But it was great, and Scott, you can’t ask for a nicer dude, in all honesty. All those guys. Everyone that’s on that label I think are really genuine guys. There’s no egos or anything like that, it’s just dudes that like to play music, which is quite nice to find. Everyone in those bands is super nice. You don’t see that a ton. You couldn’t ask for better dudes to be on a label with.

You’re doing Small Stone’s Philly showcase too, right?

Yep, we’re doing that also.

What else do you have going for live shows?

We have our CD release September 10, at the Middle East Downstairs, so that’s the next time we’ll play Boston. We have shows outside of Boston, and then we’ll do some stuff outside, but we won’t play Boston again till September.

Are you doing more writing in the meantime?

Yeah, we’re always writing. I think that’s one good thing. “Cookie’s Lament,” we wrote literally a week before we went in the studio. We had it and we were like, “Fuck it, let’s do it.” “Jamaican Luau.” We wrote it literally a couple days before we went in, and we were like, “Fuck it, let’s do this one.” I’m always writing. Always writing. There’s other stuff we didn’t put on. What we put on was what we thought was strongest and what flows best on the CD.

The album feels meticulously put together.

Several ‘zines are saying it’s kind of awkward, but definitely a lot of it in my thought process was, not a concept album, but something to grab people. A lot of it’s really true stories, “Meth Cowboy” and things like that. A lot of that stuff has either happened to me or I’ve known people it’s happened to, so it’s trying to look at it. A lot of it is real life stuff. I try to view it that way. In terms of things I was going to write about, I wanted more stuff that was personal, in all honesty.

Does writing something that’s personal like that, then giving it a joke title or a title about something else offset the emotion? What’s the balance there for you?

The titles come because we were in bands before and the titles were completely ridiculous. The stuff we were doing before was really Jeff Buckley-esque and things like that, so we’ve always, in terms of titles, just thought of whacky shit to throw down. I don’t know if it offsets it, it’s just something we’ve always done and I think it just keeps catapulting into what we’re doing. Song titles I think are incredibly tough to come up with. You don’t want it to be too personal, yet you don’t want it to be something where it’s like, “What the fuck are you calling it that for?” I think “Regal Beagle” or something like that, I was watching this show about San Quentin or something, and they showed like a gladiator fight in the jail. I can’t remember what it was called before, but we were talking about something and Barry was bringing up Three’s Company, and I was like, “Let’s call it ‘Regal Beagle,’” and that’s how it came up. I never really thought about it, in all honesty, what you’re asking. I’ll have to ponder that more (laughs). Now I’m freaking out.

Whose kid is that at the end of the album?

That’s my daughter. We wanted that to be a hidden track. On the actual CD itself, I think it’s like a minute and 30 seconds after everything is dead. She wanted to do something, and it was like, “Well, we’ll put it in the back” (laughs). You know what I mean? She’s more talented than me. She’s six years old, plays piano, sings. It’s funny, she’s six years old, really into Clutch and Queens of the Stone Age and that kind of stuff, then she’ll turn around and be really into Annie. It’s strange.



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