A Beginner's Guide To...
Masters of Reality
Article by Malcolm Dome
Originally appeared in Classic Rock (2002)

Who are the most influential musicians in the Classic Rock world? Apart from the obvious, well-deserving contenders, Chris Goss would certainly have a case in laying claim to being a member of that exclusive club, because without him the whole stoner sound and movement may never have come to fruition.

Goss is the main man behind Masters of Reality, the American band who virtually invented stoner rock with their seminal debut album Blue Garden in 1988. Since then, though, it must be said that their releases have been few and far between: three more studio releases (1993's Sunrise On The Sufferbus, 1999's Welcome To The Western Lodge and last year's Deep In The Hole), plus a couple of live sets (1997's How High The Moon - Live at the Viper Room and the recent Flak 'n' Flight, recorded on the band's 2001 UK and European tour).

"Six albums in 14 years, eh? Not very prolific is it? Do I have regrets? Yeah. Only that I didn't get more albums from Ginger Baker. Other than that, I don't see any point in wanting to change anything."

In truth, Goss has become the cornerstone of stoner music through his role as a producer, working with the likes of Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age and thereby establishing an enviable and unique pedigree. And ask Goss which band he's enjoyed working with the most, and the answer comes almost before he's had time to think about the question. "Kyuss. No doubt. I first heard them in 1990, when my wife played me a demo. To me they sounded like Danzig at the time, but I went to see them play a showcase gig in Hollywood - I was one of the few there - and they blew me away. I'm so glad no heavy metal producer got hold of them back then, because they'd have been ruined."

Goss produced three albums for Kyuss, 1992's Blues For The Red Sun, 1994's Sky Valley and 1995's ...And The Circus Leaves Town, which are now regarded as classics of their type. And Goss unequivocally believes in what the band were doing a decade ago: "At that point, I have no doubt that they were the heaviest and best band on the planet."

As good as they were, Kyuss didn't manage to make any sort of commercial breakthrough, but one member of the band at that time, guitarist Josh Homme, now enjoys considerable success with Queens Of The Stone Age, whom Goss worked with on their second album, 2000's Rated R.

But that's just the tip of the Goss iceberg. In recent times he's also worked with Stone Temple Pilots, Screaming Trees, Cult singer Ian Astbury, and Hollywood star Russell Crowe on his musical project 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts.

The surprising thing is that rather than Goss going after various jobs, they're more likely to come to him: "I guess I'm lucky that way," he says. "While some people run after artists, if anything I run the other way. But when I do get involved with a project I totally immerse myself in it. I arrange the songs, bring in the musicians... I suppose I see myself in the same way as Nelson Riddle with Frank Sinatra, doing everything concerned with the music."

What all of this has meant is that over the years - to the frustration of the band's fans - is that Goss has effectively, if not deliberately, put Masters of Reality on the back burner.

"I guess that is true," he concedes. "But when it comes to doing a Masters album, everything happens very fast. And we [Goss and drummer John Leamy] are planning to put one out next year. Actually, this might be a Chris Goss solo record, because it will be more acoustic and ethereal, concentrating on the sort of material I've always rejected for this band in the past. It should be out by the Spring."

But that's only one of several projects taking up Goss' time right now: "I'm working with former Marilyn Manson bassist Twiggy Ramirez in a real rocking band called Snowballs. We're writing songs right now. And I'm also producing the new albums from Mark Lanegan and Melissa Auf der Maur. So you could say that I'll have a very busy 2003."

Yet, despite his busy schedule, Goss has a simple philosophy towards music: "It's the same one I've had for 25 years: roll a big fat one, get in a cool drummer, and jam. If I've got that, then I have everything!"

As for that 'godfather of stoner rock' tag: "I'll take my credit for playing a role, but a lot of others did as well."