Special thanks to Nick Anderson for this unpublished interview originally conducted for Real Groove magazine
Over the last 12 years Chris Goss has remained elusive, certainly more dedicated to his craft than to his ego. Whether as leader of the Masters of Reality, the group whose sparse yet vital catalogue has captivated many the world over, or as gonzo producer extraordinaire, he's earned the title 'King Of Underground Rock' through his dedicated passion for music and his disdain for an industry rife with bullshit. Thanks to technology and the help of Lou Russo at the MOR website we can finally get some answers on his methods and madness.
Obviously enamoured with what he heard from an early age, Goss has remained on a course first undertaken long ago. "I listened to everything except my parents and teachers". The track 'Swingeroo Joe' dedicated to Charles Hobbi highlights his penchant for swing. "He was a DJ who played big band music for 5 hours every Saturday night in Palm Springs, California on KWXY FM. He was a singer during the era. If a song he was spinning was really smokin' and swingin' he would shout over the music 'Oh Mercy!'."
While remaining in touch with the artists that first inspired him, Goss keeps up with the play as far as the art is concerned only, on current rotate "Eminem, actually anything by Dr. Dre, T Rex, Berlin era Bowie, Triptych, Dean Martin, Louis Prima and Rossini, I'm looking forward to the new Radiohead and Marilyn Manson. The current state of the industry doesn't really concern me, the formula is still the same, write songs, sink, swim or flail until exhausted."
Named after his favourite Sabbath album, "solely to piss of the music intelligentsia", the Masters played the live circuit gaining a reputable following of then up and coming musicians and the like for quite a period, until 1988 when the band were signed to Rick Rubin's newly formed Def American label. The album Blue Garden, the only to be made with the initial line-up, was a beautifully packaged breath of fresh air, heavy enough to appeal to me a time that was peaking with Slayer and Soundgarden, vaguely progressive and topped with Goss' Jack Bruce like golden tones and lyrics ranging from the gutter to the ether ("probably a bi-polar disorder"), providing a timeless quality that continues to this day. "Rick Rubin signed us because we wrote good songs. Honestly for me the best thing that came out of that record was meeting the girl that became my wife during my stay in LA recording it, violins please"
After canning a tour in support of Alice In Chains (themselves fans), the group disappeared, it seemed all was lost, until out of nowhere in 1992 the Masters resurfaced with Sunrise On The Sufferbus (Chrysalis). An altogether different affair, only bass player Googe had been retained, the rest of the group replaced with fellow producer Daniel Rey on guitar and none other than ex-Cream member Ginger Baker on drums, as much a legend for his ill-tempered manner as his playing. "I met Ginger at an Argentine BBQ at a mutual friends house, we jammed a week later, it felt great. I'm very proud to say I never once played a note of a Cream song with Ginger. Nor was I tempted to. Just think of all the morons who've tried. As for touring we shared many neuroses, can't sleep on the bus, chain smoking weed and tobacco (never mixed), and liked to play cards all night. Oh yeah, and complain a lot". The album rolled more than it rocked, particularly Baker's fantastic leading rhythm's filling out the sound allowing Goss and Rey more interplay. It's stark white cover and through the looking glass illustration a favourite of Goss who selects the artwork himself.
It's also around this time that Goss the producer began to come into his own, most notably for his work with fellow Palm Springs natives, then teenagers, the stoners god-head Kyuss. "I didn't want a 'metal producer' to thin out their sound and tighten it up. At the time heavy music was staccato and anal. Kyuss was like lava, a swinging, consuming, bassy steamroller. I called the label and said 'I'm taking Josh Homme to see artist Christo's umbrellas (stretched over 20 miles along the freeway), so he can see the implications of worldwide art and not fear it'. They bought it, we never went to see the umbrellas."
Having acknowledged performance as a true art, open to anything to capture the moment Goss alludes to an early attempt at a multi-media presentation. "As for producing, I scripted my first live, worldwide Beatle broadcast when I was 6 years old, in between Beatle sets, I played Benny Goodman's 'Stranger On The Shore' while doing dissolve shots of my Mom's paint-by-numbers oil painting 'Swimming Swans'.
Goss' work as a producer bears his mark as clearly as his own material, though he refuses to lend his gift to those unworthy. "No rules in the studio. I record guitars 100 different ways and I'm very aware of an LP's musical direction, but that doesn't mean it reaches it's intended destination, only time reveals that. Bands find me, the only prerequisite for my attention is good song writing. Arranging is second nature to me, as is harmony. I look for the 'body-swing' in the music as well, and try and get these things fully realised. I don't polish turds, I refuse to spend any time in hell with music I don't like. Except for Russell Crowe, of course. I'm pissed at Russell, I never got a chance to record the Grunts (Crowe's band 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts) from the ground up. He'd bring me demo reels from Australia and I'd have to piece things together. At least for a few sessions I had the pleasure of working with his guitarist Dean Cochran"
After an incendiary live album How High The Moon, recorded at the Viper Room in 1997, it was the end for Googe. "We did gigs specifically to record, I whipped that band together and the production team in one week, perhaps that's why it smoked, no choice". The next album Welcome To The Western Lodge was almost completely recorded by Goss and drummer John Leamy. "It was the fastest way to get that particular album done. I no longer play with Googe, I toured Western Lodge with a Brit on bass, Paul Powell, and Brendon McNichol on second guitar, currently with Queens Of The Stone Age".
Notably How High The Moon featured Vic 'The Stick' Indrizzo on drums, who has also recorded with QOTSA, whose definitive Rated R album, one of 2000's highlights was produced by Goss, still an integral part of the former Kyuss team. "The QOTSA sessions were wonderfully chaotic. My thoughts during recording were generally 'When's dinner?', and 'Who's turn is it to buy the weed?'. Nick Oliveri is my cub. The world should know that". While that success is almost disregarded, the treatment of another of his recent projects, the long awaited solo effort from the Cult's Ian Astbury gets a snarling response. "Ian's touring with the cunt, oops, I mean Cult right now. Opening for Jimmy Page/Black Crowes. I'm hooking up with the whole circus next week. Beggars Banquet does not realise how great of a record they have with Ian's solo effort. Fuck them."
Yet as sure as tomorrow's another day Goss, thankfully, remains enthused about the future. "I'm currently working with a cool Seattle band, Post Stardom Depression. I think you'll hear about it", and has been re-issuing the MOR catalogue, available through their site. "My music is available to those who really want to find it. That puts my fat encased heart at ease. There's always more in-store, if the good lord's willing and the creek don't rise."