From The Red Sun
"Hey, I have that one too!" exclaims Chris Goss, the driving force behind Masters of Reality, fiddling with my trusty battered tape recorder. "I probably recorded half the demos on the new album Welcome To The Western Lodge on this machine. Early on, I like to get bits and pieces on a cheap cassette recorder and the next step after that is the real thing. That in between middle demo stage is a waste of time as you lose a lot of magic." He puts the machine down in a businesslike manner, and who can argue with him? Chris knows a thing or two about demos, recording and studios. The list of albums decorating his CV as a producer outside Masters of Reality is highly accomplished. His production work with Kyuss is legendary and he has also worked with Slo Burn, The Flys, Fatso Jetson, Queens Of The Stone Age, Stone Temple Pilots and Unida. But Chris is here in London today to discuss his own band and their latest offering, Welcome To The Western Lodge. Most of this new album was a collaboration between Chris and former Masters of Reality drummer, John Leamy, who is back in the fold, playing drums and some keyboard and bass parts. John also designed the album's artwork, described by Chris as the control panel of a Masonic spaceship flying through the astral plane.
"John has kept up aesthetically with music too, he understands some of the subtle places we want to take it and not to mention he's an in-house art department!"
There was some help from friends as well. Dave Catching from Queens Of The Stone Age dropped in during the recording period and two songs, 'Take A Shot At The Clown' and 'Time To Burn', were a result of the jam session. There's been a definite move away from the blues-rock evident on early Masters of Reality albums towards a Seventies sound, at times strongly reminiscent of David Bowie; a comparison that Chris seems pleased with. "Before I cut this record I was listening to Diamond Dogs a lot and i have been a fan of that record for probably twenty-four years - hate to say it but it's the truth. I love the way that record has such an end of the century feeling, something that is going on right now. Diamond Dogs summated that very well twenty-five years ago! If there is any Bowie work apparent in this record, it's probably Diamond Dogs and also maybe Low."
Constantly looking for new musical influences, Chris is quick to scorn the narrow minded.
"There seems to be people who are offended by something that strays off from their brand of metal. Like, someone wore blue jeans instead of black, so they must die! Limiting yourself becomes tunnel vision and the art form of hard rock will not survive if it has tunnel vision and rules. The thing that made it so great is there were no rules to begin with."
So Welcome To The Western Lodge is a deliberate workout in unusual keyboard sounds and vocal effects?
"The time calls for it," Chris nods his head. "The aesthetics of rock vocals are being rewritten. It's a matter of going through what works for the song, it's a quirky time for music production right now. This is where heavy metal and hard rock need to go to school. Sonically, how can we lift our artform up? We have a giant library of rawness or slickness to choose from. Even Iggy Pop is being used for car commercials now and so it opens up people's ears to everything. It's exciting, it's the best of times and it's the worst of times."
With the lineup of the band ever changing - "it's friends who can do it logistically at the time" - the constant link between all of Masters of Reality's albums is Chris' participation. Members drop in and out: for a brief time Masters of Reality even counted Ginger Baker amongst their ranks. It was a heady period, the memory of which still enthuses Chris. "When I first jammed with Ginger, it was an incredible experience and I almost fainted twice. I was standing in front of him playing my guitar and he did some drum fills that I had heard him play on live Cream records when Cream were really jamming. It took me out of the present and back to when I was a little kid wearing headphones. I nearly keeled over, my eyes rolled back and he literally almost knocked me off my feet, it was that amazing."
Their jam sessions led to the album Sunrise On The Sufferbus, but then the question of touring came up. "At the time when I first started playing with him he was fifty-three years old. For a man who has done all that he has done for heavy music, I realised he was not going to put up with what it takes nowadays for a band to make it, for very long. He was not going to get on a fucking bus and open for Alice In Chains and Megadeth and stay on the road for months, doing the meet and greets at stupid radio stations in the States. Looking back, my only regret is not doing more records with him quicker."
Chris hopes to push the band and touring to the limit with this new studio album, their fourth release. "We never logically followed the progression of a record to it's proper conclusion and that is my goal with this record. I want to be able to go out and not just do just one tour for it, but I have no idea what people's reactions will be, as it is a weird record." He earnestly leans forward, peering through his thick dark sunglasses. "We made a weird little record and if people want to buy it and see the band for the next twelve months, then I am there, I will be there. I told John the other day I hope that the band that tours this record is cohesive enough to go out and cut another record and tour as that band too. It feels so great not to be signed to a label, to do whatever we like right now."
With this first release on Chris' new imprint label Brownhouse, he also managed to pluck back the gothic tinged track 'Baby Mae' from a never released album the band recorded for a major label. "We did a studio album for Epic which they didn't understand at all, they didn't hear a single. We said 'Good! Don't put it out if you're going to let it rot on the vine', and so nothing happened with it. Slowly but surely, those songs are coming out."
Although he jokingly describes himself as "a manic depressive pothead and probably lazy half of the time," his real life is crammed with ambitious projects. He completed building his own recording studio in Palm Springs called Monkey Studios a few years ago, revamping a former pỏrno movie set which came complete with a pool and jacuzzi. "You can still rent pỏrno movies today and see the pool and stuff. It's great when bands stay. I just open the studio door and say, come in to do your vocal and someone gets out of the pool. It's turned into a party studio."
The first album he produced there, The Flys' debut Holiday Man has gone gold in the US, and he's doing the follow up this autumn. He runs a thriving internet site and he also has a couple of side projects lined up with Josh Homme from Queens Of The Stone Age, just waiting for the right time to arise. "We've been saying we've got to get these done. We have a project called The Eagles Of Death Metal and another one called The Green Monarchs. We have songs for all of these projects already written! I mean, the amount of music coming out of the desert, it's like every two months there is something great coming out of this small little area."
Credited with being the guiding force behind the Kyuss desert sound, Chris has had numerous occasions since those early days to work again with vocalist John Garcia, first with Slo Burn and recently with Unida.
"John is my brother," Chris deliberately chooses and stresses the word brother, emphasising it with a pause. "It's not even work when I'm working with John. He is quite possibly the best rock singer in the world right now, in fact he probably is the best." I enquire if this accolade is coming from another singer's perspective? "Sure," says Chris smiling, "I'll be the first to admit it. John's voice could knock you over right now, it is stronger than ever. He's very passionate and the fact that he goes back to the desert and finds musicians to play with that aren't established and then makes another core band out of it... well, John is a righteous guy."
Away from the hectic schedule at the party studio and life on the road, Chris is a fiercely private person. "In rock 'n' roll a lot of the reason why families crumble is there are too many people around. I live fifteen miles from my studio and when I'm home with my wife and my cats I like to draw a line where my private life is not privy to my manager and the bands I am working with. I really think that is what killed Jimi Hendrix," he sits back and confidently smiles, "and I refuse to be killed."