Godsized Interview @ The 100 Club, [23/09/11], Interview by Rhiannon Marley
“It’s been a year since we’ve last been here”, muses Godsized bassist Gavin Kerrigan, sitting opposite me at a little round table, a few feet underground. Not that the quartet have any catching up to do. The boys are preparing for tonight’s anticipated ’do at Oxford Street’s infamous 100 Club, and they’re slipping into both role and venue like a comfy pair of vintage New Rocks. I think they’re taking a break from sound-checking for the minute; it’s a shame no-one seems to have told the pesky drum tech, though…
Godsized are a tricky lot to pin down. After all, they’ve got over 250 gigs under their belts, and a horde of festival debuts to their name. Oh, in case you didn’t know, there’s also the 2-date European invasion with Life of Agony, and sole support to Black Label Society on their 2011 UK tour to mention – the latter of which I first saw them at, ripping up the Apollo in Hammersmith. Nearly forgot about those ones.
Yet the omnipresent spectre of record labels still hangs over their bearded heads. Currently unsigned, they’re still awaiting the perfect partnership to cultivate their undeniable talent. And with such a back-catalogue behind them, including a sponsorship with Germany’s holiest firewater export, you can bet your ass it won’t be long. Let’s have a natter with Gavin and guitarist Neil Fish about life on the road, Zakk Wylde, and just why Jagermeister makes you absolutely crazy…
Rhiannon Marley (RM): Let’s delve a little into your history. For those who aren’t aware, how did your infamous Download breakthrough come about?
Neil Fish (NF): “Err…we had a manager at the time who managed to get us on it. I mean, it was one of those sorts of things where we’d been working really hard up until that point, just doing as many shows as we could. So we just played hundreds of shows: any night; any bar; any town in England we could get out to. And that was kind of the thing: we just wanted to hit every town. So we made a name for ourselves, and we already had a bit of a following all-round. And our manager approached the Download booker, Andy Copping, and he was like: ‘Yeah, I’ve heard of these guys’; we gave him a CD, and he dug it! But that was a pivotal moment for this band; that was really the moment when we could just, y’know, move on up a bit.”
RM: Do you agree, Gavin?
Gavin Kerrigan (GK): “Oh, definitely. ’Cause our slot was like, 11 o’clock in the morning; we weren’t expecting much, to be fair. AC/DC had played the previous night, so everyone was hungover – including us! [Laughs] I think we had to be onstage at half 9…?”
NF: “9 o’ clock! We had to be up and ready at 9 a.m. for our sound-check! It was pretty brutal!”
RM: I bet those hangovers were doing you no favours at all…!
NF: “Urgh! ’Cause we watched DC, and we were just all having a good time, y’know…and then all of a sudden, it just kind of hit us! We were just like: ‘Oh shit! We’ve gotta play tomorrow! Biggest show of our lives!’”
GK: “Yeah, we even played to a sold-out tent: I mean, 5000 people there!”
NF: “Yeah, there were 5000 people.”
RM: …And of course, there’s the infamous Black Label tour to speak of. Obviously, it must have been incredible to play with them, so I’m not gonna ask the generic “how was it?” question. But what parts of Black Label’s musicianship do you admire the most? Could be in relation to your own instruments and playing, too…
NF: “Oh yeah. I mean, everyone in Black Label is an amazing player at their instrument, respectively; I mean, Zakk Wylde is a guitar master; Nick, the rhythm guitar guy, can play everything Zakk can play. They’re all amazing. JD, the bass player, was just a phenomenal player…”
GK: “Oh, yeah.”
NF: “They had two different drummers on the tour: Will Hunt, who plays with Evanescence, and he’s just an absolute crazy player, and then for the European leg of the tour…”
GK: “John Kelly.”
NF: “John Kelly: Type O Negative player. And he’s again, just absolutely crazy. So on a musicianship level, everything they do is golden. But I think we learned a lot from their stagecraft.”
RM: What did you learn?
NF: “Well, me and Gav in particular watched them every night. Every night apart from one: when we were in Poland, and just got swamped at the merch, and couldn’t. Which was…good! [Laughs] But you just learn how the big boys do it: on a big stage, how to sort of work smart, not hard; how to maximise your use of the stage, and everything. There are a lot of tricks of the trade we learned from those guys. And they were really cool, as well; they couldn’t have treated us any cooler.”
RM: What an opportunity, though. I understand it was by chance, as well? At last year’s High Voltage Festival?
NF: “Mmm. They got our CD; Zakk gave it to his son; he dug it; that was the root of it, really.”
RM: Not bad. I was reading a recent interview of yours in Metal Hammer, and I think it was you, Neil, who said no matter what sort of crowd you find yourselves in front of, you usually succeed in motivating them. What do you think it is about the music of Godsized that appeals to a wider audience than just the metal style? What do you think it appeals TO, in people?
GK: “The riff and the groove, innit! That gets everyone going.” [Laughs]
NF: “That’s the long and short of it. Yeah, I think if you’ve got a good riff and a groove, then people get into that, y’know. That foot-tapping kind of groove [taps foot under table]: people can’t help but dig that sort of stuff. I don’t know really; I just think it’s that we play hard rock music: that’s why I say we’re a rock band. There are loads and loads of different genres we could be pigeonholed into, and there are loads of different genres that inspire us. But I think it’s just rock music, and there are not a lot of bands around at the moment doing the sort of rock music we do. And I think there’s an audience for it, so you find that people just get into it, y’know.”
RM: It’s about an attitude as much as anything, isn’t it?
NF: “Oh yeah. Very, very much so. It’s also about completely bustin’ your ass onstage, as well – just giving it 100% all of the time. A lot of bands say they give it 100%, and don’t. But I really believe you’ve gotta come off stage exhausted…”
[We all piss ourselves laughing as the drum tech (no idea if it’s the same one as before) starts chucking some beats in the middle of our chin-wag once again…we can’t hear a thing, and he shows no signs of slowing down, so we re-locate to a backstage room to carry on.]
RM: I’d like to touch on the old chestnut of recording contracts – a bone of contention for many up-and-coming artists, particularly ones with your level of success so far. How important do you think it is to straddle the musical integrity of what you do, with meeting requirements for that big commercial break?
NF: “Yeah, it’s hard, because we’re not doing a…like my last answer, saying there aren’t a hell of a lot of bands doing this sort of music; the big record labels are scared to spend any money, ’cause no-one buys CDs anymore. So the money they do have, they want to only put into a show like this; which means following a trend; which means a hundred bands have to already be doing it for them to think it’s worthwhile…So you have to follow a trend at the moment to get anywhere, and I think it’s harder and harder for bands to get signed. I mean, we’re really lucky at the moment that we’ve got Jagermeister sponsoring us…”
RM: What do you think, Gavin?
GK: “Well, y’know…the industry’s not like it was back in the 70s, where labels could work on a band for three or four albums; it’s not like that anymore.”
NF: “The first one’s gotta be…it’s gotta be here, and big, or…”
RM: The only decent thing about it is that it helps to avoid the long-term financial litigations between labels and artists if something goes wrong…
NF: “Well, the thing is, at the moment, the cool thing with us is that every penny we make, we keep, and we can keep funding the band, and that’s cool. And we’re starting to see more money come into the band, which is amazing, but it’s still not enough money at the moment for us to be doing this for a living, and to keep roofs over our heads, and pay the bills. So we’re in that situation now where we’re semi-professionals, where we have to go on tour for six weeks at a time, and we have to record albums, but we have to find the money for that, and find the money for going away, and quitting jobs, and getting new jobs when you come back…”
GK: “We’re between jobs all the time!”
NF: “Yeah. It’s a struggle. When you’ve got mortgages and bills, and all that. So it’s hard, but you’re a musician; you do it because you have to do it.”
RM: Actually, my next question leads on from that – what advice would you give to other musicians in your position, about how much of your personal life is compromised by professional life on the road? How much does it restrict you?
GK: “Definitely, yeah. For us, every weekend, we’re away. To try to have friends outside the band, y’know, it’s a no-go. Girlfriends and wives…they never see us!”
RM: Unless they come on the road, huh?
GK: “That’s it. Get in the van, get out there and gig. Gig your ass off.”
NF: “It’s hard. Yeah, I think you have to be prepared to give it your all. And you can’t go half-arsed at it; you need to just completely dive into it, headfirst. I’ve said it before in interviews, when asked what advice we’d give to a new band: just get in the van, and just play as many shows as you can. Just learn your craft, because the only way to make money in this industry at the moment is through live, and I still think you can break a band live. A rock band or a metal band: you can break a band live still. You can get a really good following, and some good will come of it. And you haven’t got to jump on a bandwagon; you haven’t got to have a fashionable haircut, or a tight pair of jeans, that kind of thing. So I still think you can do it, but you have to work really hard at it. And we’re still doing that.”
RM: Do you think you’re very much a ‘live band’, as well?
NF: “Yeah, definitely. It’s what we do.”
RM: Let’s talk everyone’s favourite subject: Jagermeister! Tell me, gents, why are Jagermeister and metal so compatible?
NF: “It makes you go crazy! [Laughs] It does, though! I like drinking, and I drink a lot of stuff, but every time you drink Jagermeister…the Jagermeister shots come out; it’s always a more brutal night! It is, though! Everyone can relate to that! And whether that meshes with a metal crowd…who knows!”
RM: Do you think your being on the Jagermeister sponsorship roster is a compatible pairing, also? Do you think that’s going to be a fruitful relationship?
NF: “Yeah! I mean, they’ve been amazing to us so far.”
GK: “So far, yeah.”
NF: “They’ve done more for us and given more to us than a record label would or could at the moment, for an unsigned band of our level. So we can’t say enough good stuff about them; we’re in constant contact with all the guys at Jagermeister, and they’re just super-supportive. They’re everything we could ask for, really. Yeah, they’re looking after us! It’s good; it’s really good. It’s awesome.”
RM: That’s tremendous stuff. I’ve got a last couple of questions for you – slightly less work-related! If you could each take five music-related personalities, past or present, live or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
GK: “Well, Phil Lynott would be mine. He’s my hero. [To Neil] You next, dude!”
NF: “I think I’d probably do a guitar nerd-out dinner party! So, I’d have: Van Halen; Slash; Zakk Wylde; Jimi Hendrix; and someone crazy to mix it up with…”
GK: “Surely Pepper would be in there, would he…?”
NF: “Pepper Keenan. There we go. THAT is a party! [Laughs] [To Gavin] You’ve got four left!”
GK: “I think John Bonham’s gotta be in there…just for the laugh!”
NF: “Keith Moon! Keith Moon at a dinner party would be good!”
RM: Lars Ulrich?
GK: “Keith Moon; Lars Ulrich; and Sebastian Bach! The one and only!”
NF: “Ohhhhh! Now THAT IS a party! Circa 1989, when he was a 19-year-old crazy guy!” [Laughs]
RM: …And lastly, boys – Desert-Island Disc: if you could each take three albums with you onto a desert island, what would they be?
NF: “I’m pretty good at this, so I think I know…I’m gonna have ‘Boggy Depot’ – Jerry Cantrell – I love it, it never leaves my car stereo! I think it would be ‘Pride and Glory’ – Pride and Glory; and ‘Appetite for Destruction’ – Guns N’ Roses, ’cause that was the one album that really made me want to play guitar.”
GK: “I’d probably pick ‘Badmotorfinger’ – Soundgarden; ‘Mad Season’ – Matchbox Twenty; and a Thin Lizzy album’s gotta be in there, so ‘Bad Reputation’.”
There’s something about Godsized. And I don’t just mean their playing abilities or dishy looks (although, two words have to be said, ladies: Maximus Ruinous). No, I’m talking about an attitude which is tangible on the gents even during the short period of my meeting them. It’s an unabashed dedication to success; the resolution to get to the top of Everest, with or without the safety-net of the moguls, where lesser wills would falter. But the ears of the bigwigs are already being pricked. On my way to the Intrepid Fox for a piss-up as I await the doors to open for tonight’s show, I see the myriad of famous faces on the walls of the 100 Club: rock n’ roll in their actions; wildness in their visages. And I wonder how long it will be before a snap of the fearless Godsized is tearing a new one among them…
Photos by Linda Heron