With the storming Equilibrium album which was released earlier in the year on Metal Blade subsidiary label Blacklight Media, Boston hard rockers Gozu have definitely released one of the albums of the year so far. Killer riffs and grooves collide with a raw passion in their well crafted songs and the results are breathtaking. We caught up with vocalist/guitarist Marc “Gaff” Gaffney to hear all about the record, its creation and the themes and emotions of the songs on there as well as the history of Gozu and their influences, the bands love of the Wu Tang Clan and hip hop, life on the road, memorable gigs and the music of their Boston hometown in a very informative and enthralling chat. Go buy Equilibrium now, you won’t regret it!
How did Gozu get started in the first place?
Doug and I had been playing in a different band that was much more in the Jeff Buckley, Radiohead scheme. We loved heavier music and decided, why not put together something that was in line to a lot of the music we had been digging on. Doug called Barry to play drums and it felt great. Jump ahead many years later and we are going strong.
Who are the bands main influences and inspirations?
In terms of influences and inspiration I feel they are all over the map. The band itself is all fans of Clutch, Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age, YOB, Church of Misery, Sleep, High on Fire etc….. Then we all have music that we get into, for me I am a huge fan of soul music. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Chaka Kahn, D’Angelo, Ohio Players. Also, I love the singer song writers, CSN, Neil Young, Elliot Smith, Jeff Buckley, Joni Mitchell, Gram Parsons, Todd Rundgren. Then I tend to get into especially when I am in the car, Allman Bros, Grateful Dead, Traffic, The Band. I need to hear that essential groove, harmonies, music made for the soul by the soul. We wanted the album to engulf many different inspirations. Dean Baltulonis, the engineer and producer wanted it to sound like a heavy Motown album with layered vocals and heavy as fuck guitars, huge bass and pocket drums. Thus having so many different influences, we could draw from so much stuff that gets us off daily.
Your brilliant new album Equilibrium came out earlier in the year. The album is even more epic and expansive than your last album Revival. Was your intention to expand on your sound even further with this record?
We wanted to make something in regards to a wall of sound, via instrumentation and vocals. There was a sense of taking a breathe and letting everything out we all had been through. In terms of vocals, I was able to do 2 songs a day and really concentrate on the song, the structure and what I wanted to do for the main vocal and backgrounds. Usually I would go in do all the songs in 2 days and that was that. This was an experience where I could really dig in and feel the song, add and try things I had not had a chance too in other recordings. Instrument wise, watching Doug destroy solos was an amazing time. One better than the other, rather amazing to be honest. Joe being able to have this amazing wall of sound for his bass, being able to lay down what he had committed to in his head was so refreshing. Mike, well, his groove is so evident on this album that he was able to shine and heard so crystal clear. If you cannot shake your ass and clap in time, then, may I suggest a Polka. All things clicked went we went in to record and the outcome was pleasurable to the ears. It is a collective of feel, therefore, everyone has to be on board for it to take flight. If something or someone is off, it shall be heard and thus not fair to anyone listening. Music has to be a team approach for the songs to live and breathe as one unit. We wanted songs that would grab you by the nuts and take you on a musical escapade of many different landscapes the mind can drum up. Thanks for enjoying it.
What inspires you to create such vivid songs and massive riffs?
We all have things that move us and create who we are. The songs, especially the riffs just come out. I tend to write when I am feeling movement and Doug is constantly coming up with riffs. The music is not labored over, rather it comes out. We play in a band where everyone can say yay or nay, so the more things you try, the easier it gets as we all tend to know what the four of us can definitely get into. As we grow older, the music has more meaning and the fluidity of it cannot be explained, rather, it is as if the riffs come out via osmosis. A channeling of a distant time and order.
Your songs have such an epic and emotive quality to them. Is this a trait that you want to come out in your music?
Without emotions, a song is just a gaggle of words. When I am writing, I write about things I know and feel. I cannot write about muscle cars, swords or dragons, as I have never owned a dragon, a sword or a Charger. That is an area where I would be a complete fake, as I have no idea about any of that. I have never played Dungeons and Dragons or done burn-outs. I cannot relate to that. I need to be familiar with the subjects and be honest about the lyrics or it is all a falsehood. Music is such an expressive tool, to not use it in the truest form would be a waste of time and words. Emotions need to be let out, or at least in my case if not, I would be in a room with a bottle of Beam talking to a wall. No one wants that.
Do you think that your songwriting skills have reached a pinnacle so far with this record? The songs sound so well crafted.
Not at all, or at least for me, I have just hit a nerve with this album. Music wise, I feel we are just starting to delve into where we want to take things. There is a groove that must be met and there are issues that need to be explored and Equilibrium is just a pin prick into the subconscious of what the four of us can do. If the music is honest, it opens up many doors and the sincerity seems to find a way into the fingers and minds of the band. I feel whatever comes out will be more exciting than what we have previously released. It was an eye and ear opening experience.
The albums song titles are a feast of 70s/80s pop culture references from opening track Ricky The Dragon Steamboat and The People vs Mr T to Manimal and Stacy Keach. Is that a time you love to revisit with your music?
The titles are simply something the band comes up with to laugh about! The lyrics are a bit dark so we try not to take ourselves too seriously when naming the songs. Hearing someone say, “They probably know karate” is funny to us. I love the 70’s and 80’s as I was around for both of those periods and they were great. Stacy Keach should be a heralded actor as Mike Hammer was a piece of artistic and cinematic gold. Mr T in Rocky 3 was one of the best villians to be on the silver screen. Who else could have answered the question, “What is your prediction for the fight Clubber Lang?” Mr T said, “Pain!” That is pure poetic justice.
What are the songs on Equilibrium about?
My dad passed away a month before we were going into the studio. It was very much out of the blue as I spoke to my mom on a Saturday and she said everything was going ok, then Saturday night I get a call saying I needed to go to Syracuse , NY as that is where he was in the hospital. It was a tumultuous time for me as he was the one that would encourage me to do everything I did. I would call him after tours, shows, recording. He had a way of putting things into perspective when I could not see any of the fruits of my labor. He would tell me when to stop being an asshole or how to be a bit nicer to myself when I could be a bit of a dink. Losing my dad, who was also my best friend, fucked me up. He was my voice of reason when I really needed it. Then all of a sudden, all that is gone, poof. So, there is no fucking class or tutoring for grief or loss, it is simply something you have to go through to know what and how you will move on to the next chapter in your life. So, two weeks later, I was at work, it was a Monday, and six songs were written in 20 minutes. I did not think at all, I just wrote and when I was done, the songs were complete. It was such an intense release that I closed my door and the tears came flushing out. It was unlike any writing experience I have ever had. It was honest, emotionally crushing and what needed to happen for me to be able to move on. I wanted to express my sorrow and write something that would have made him proud of me. I hope people can relate to it and have their own meanings to the songs. Singing them a year later is still hard at times as waves of emotion can visit you out of nowhere and hit you like a brick in the head. It keeps you alive and makes sure that I sing these songs on full tilt and never just go through the motions. I think they have made me a better singer and writer.
The album ends with the song The Ballad Of ODB. Are you a big fan of the late rapper and what do you think he would have song and the music of Gozu?
We are all Wu Tang fans however, unfortunately the song has nothing to do with ODB. We just felt the title sounded lush to the ears. I am sure someone has written a true ballad about him, he was a lover.
Who is your favourite member of the Wu Tang Clan?
I love Method Man. Huge fan. 36 Chambers was my shit. The Wu was such a era changing group. Beats for days, lyrically they slayed so much of the competition. Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.
Would you ever work with a rapper on a Gozu track?
I do not see that happening, however we have played Hip Hop shows and the crowd loved it. We are open to any type of music and love playing with different artists and bands. To be pigeon-holed is the kiss of death. The four of us are huge Hip Hop fans. Doug and I used to go to the Lyricist Lounge shows and hang with the artists when they were in Boston. Great events, De La Soul were the MC’s when we saw them. Eminem was just starting out. We were present for that run.
You’re playing a few dates in August with Witch Mountain and WhiteNails. Are you looking forward to those dates and getting back onstage?
Playing for me is really the only time I feel comfortable. It is definitely needed and the four of us cannot wait to get it going. Those shows should be fun.
Will you be playing much material from the new album?
We will be playing at least 4 or 5 new ones. The new stuff is really enjoyable to play. It seems that people are digging it do to the response we have received in the last few gigs. Ideally we will be playing the whole album soon.
Have you got any other live dates planned for this year? Hopefully you’ll make it over to the UK, I’d love to see you guys play live!
We have some dates that will be coming out later. We would love to play the UK, if you would like us to, let us know when and where.
How would you describe the Gozu live experience to someone who had never seen you live before?
It is music you can shake your ass too with melody and sing along choruses. The vibe is one in which we hope people can get off. If you want to enjoy and feel funky, you most definitely can. If you came to lose yourself for a good hour, by all means, do it.
You’ve shared the stage with with everyone from St Vitus and Church Of Misery to Helmet and A Storm Of Light amongst many other great bands. Who has been the best band to play with?
We have been very fortunate to play with so many great bands. Each one has opened a different chapter in our book. I think we have learned a lot from all those bands and have enjoyed also hanging out with them. As a fan of music, it is those moments that you get enthralled in, watching from the side of the stage, singing along, smiling from ear to ear. Thank you bands.
Which bands would you love to tour with in the future?
Sleep, High on Fire, Karma to Burn, Weedeater. There is a plethora out there we would love to play with.
You’ve played at the Roadburn and Desertfest festivals in the past. How were those experiences and would you love to play them again?
Those shows were amazing. I would love to play those again in a minute. They are ran so professional and the acts are amazing. It was an unreal experience. Probably the most fun I have had at a Festival.
What has been the most memorable gig that Gozu have ever played and what made it so memorable?
There are a fucking ton. Each show has a certain memorable experience sowed in. Tours in Europe especially as you can have just as many people at a show on a Monday night as a Friday. I think it is the expression of the audience. We play every show as it could be our last and give it everything. People are paying money so you owe it to them to leave it all on the floor. Roadburn will always stick out in my mind, looking out to a crowd of people that were digging what we were playing. I felt as if my body realigned to another vortex. It is hard to describe as the vibe of the crowd was so incredibly infectious that you knew it was going to be immense.
Do you find that playing live is a cathartic experience?
Fuck yes. It is a true explosion of feelings in which words can’t describe. As I said, I feel like I am in the right place when I am playing. Unfortunately, I do not feel that all the time so when I get to strap on my guitar and play for people, it is a much needed outlet and one I do not take for granted, ever.
What are the best and worst things about being on the road?
The road can be a bit daunting but seeing that you enjoy it, you try to make the best out of it. I would say the physical aspect is a bit of an ass kicker, only because I have a shitty back. Other than that, I stretch and shake it off. The best thing is being able to play in different venues and for different people. The pros so outweigh the cons. It is not even fair. You get to travel to places most likely you would never be able to go to and meet new and truly beautiful people. It is a huge blessing.
How is life on your new label Metal Blade sub label, Blacklight Media?
It is amazing. Being able to work with Chris Santos has been a dream come true. MB is an amazing group of talented people that truly love music. Brian Slagel is a genius in terms of letting music be heard and running a label that is artist friendly. He is also one of the biggest fans of music I have ever met. It is a charm to be able to put out music for Blacklight/Metal Blade as they are one a kind in the record business. It is a pleasure that I enjoy daily.
How did the signing to Blacklight come about?
We were playing a show at Lucky 13 in Brooklyn and Chris Santos was there. He approached us as soon as we were off stage saying he was sending Brian Slagel video clips of our show and wanted us to sign with his label. The band was blown away that he came over to converse with us, and even more that he enjoyed our set. Therefore, we received an email on that Monday asking if we would like to sign and the rest is history. It is an honor to put out music on his label and even better knowing that he is in our corner. All you can do is be thankful and put out the best music you can make.
What is the heavy music scene in your hometown of Boston like nowadays?
There are a lot of heavy bands in Boston these days of all the different genres. It is a bubbling scene.
Are there any newer bands that you could recommend to us?
In terms of music in general I like a band out of Spain, SueVicha. They have a really powerful singer, great drummer, bass player is solid as fuck and I love the tone of their guitarist. Also, Grime out of Italy is heavy as fuck. Three-piece that completely slays and brings a massive sound.
What are some of your all time favourite Boston bands and records?
My two favourites would have to be Scissorfight and Roadsaw. I was also a huge Superhoney fan. I am originally from Watertown, NY so I grew up loving Blue Oyster Cult as the Bouchard Bros are from my area and their brother was my lacrosse coach in high school.