The U.S. Masters
At a time when the majority of product being released is drab verging on the monochromatic, an album of the unique quality of Sunrise on the Sufferbus comes as nothing short of inspirational. Untarnished and unburdened by the whims of ovine undirectionalism which appear to rule the music business, Masters of Reality have shut themselves away from the pressures of commercial gurus and created a masterpiece. Scattered with feel and emotion, the album evokes and dissipates moods from one moment to the next, leaving the listener inexorably drawn in. At the very least, it's one of the best albums this year. At best, it's genius.
Masters mainman Chris Goss has, therefore, good reason to be feeling content with his world. In his eyes, it's far more what the band are about than what their first album hinted at. "There are some things about the first album that bother me," he explains. "It sounded a little... stiff, I guess. I think that has a lot to do with the fact the band wasn't getting along together very well. This time the converse is true, which is why it has a far looser feel to it throughout. We enjoyed making this record; taking the time to take lots of different styles and basically just fuck around with them. I must say that during the recording of this record we became a three-piece which has given us a sound."
He emphasises the word 'sound' heavily, clearly believing that whatever alchemy has been created on Sunrise was absent first time around. Having trimmed down to a more workable three-piece, and given that the studio environment is described by Chris as being "comfortably dark with a reefer burning" it's hardly surprising that the feel of the album is "loose"!
The loss of second guitarist Tim Harrington came as a result of what Goss thinks of as a working relationship that had passed it's sell-by date. Eight years of collaboration had created a polarisation of opinion between the pair and an ultimately self destructive dogmatism.
"Everything was an argument," he states with an ironic snort. "In the end, I just couldn't stand it anymore. I'd lost track of the reasons why I do this for a living, like it being fun and an alternative to a nine-to-five existence."
When Chris first put together Masters of Reality, he must have had some vague - or even specific - idea of how he wanted the band to turn out. How close to his original concept is the band today?
"It has to change. I've always been the kind of person who, when everybody else starts doing one thing, wants to stop and do something else. When you hear an average day's radio content in the States, what I don't hear is what I want to hear. I've always been contrary. My teachers at school hated me! Going back to the question, I suppose because Masters of Reality continue to be the square peg in the round hole of the commercial music ethic, the band is pretty much where I would like it to be musically."
I bet you never thought in your wildest dreams you'd ever have Ginger Baker playing drums for you?
"To be honest, no. But then it's funny how life works out. He fits perfectly into the attitude of the band. When we're not playing together we're all fairly reclusive types who avoid all the bullshit that goes down on the LA scene. Then there's his playing. Let nobody be in any doubt that the guy's still got it. He's one of the most instinctive players I've ever come across. He really gets off on us being a three-piece as well, which is hardly surprising given his past history."
The title Sunrise on the Sufferbus is a direct reference to the band's last tour of the US, which is variously described as "a living hell" and "a nightmare". Ginger Baker dubbed their transport 'The Sufferbus', if for no other reason that neither he nor Chris can sleep in a moving vehicle. The result was that they would stay up all night. Sunrise was often observed, hence the name. And a very cool one it is too.