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Non-Prog Interviews

Gravity Kills

Interviewed by Mike Korn
Interview With Gravity Kills' Jeff Scheel from 2002


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.


After a long layoff, you guys have been back out on the road for a while now. How's the road been treating you?
Good! We did 38 shows in 39 days with Pigface on the "Preaching to the Perverted" tour. That was a kind of "knock the rust off" tour. The shows we've done with Sevendust have been great. The fans are taking us back, it seems. Getting on this tour was very instrumental for us to re-launch ourselves as a band.
MSJ: How did you wind up with Sevendust? That was a big break...
Yeah, it was. It was a really interesting story. A guy in New York, Creed's manager and Sevendust's manager, walked into the office of a guy who does independent radio promotion, and we were on the sound system. The manager asks him, "what's this? What are you playing?", and the promoter tells him it's the new Gravity record. The next thing we know, we're getting the tour offer!
MSJ: You've got a pretty good camaraderie with Sevendust?
Yeah, we've known 'em for a long time. We were both signed to TVT Records about the same time. We've played some radio shows with 'em and always gotten along with them great. Who doesn't get along with them, anyway? They're great guys. In fact, I hadn't seen Lajon (Witherspoon, Sevendust vocalist…ed.) in a couple of years and the first thing he said to me when we met up wasn't "How are you guys doing?" but "Have you guys got enough booze?" (laughter) It's like they hadn't missed a beat.
MSJ: When you guys played with Pigface on the "Preaching to the Perverted" tour, you were in front of a more industrial crowd. Opening for Sevendust, you reach a more metal audience. Do you approach those audiences differently or do they both get the same show?
Ummmm. I guess, we do approach the shows differently. The set is different and the attitude has to be different when you walk on stage, as well.
MSJ: How would the attitude differ?
Well, when you do a show like this (Sevendust), you don't know quite what the crowd response is going to be. We're kind of in a purgatory of musical styles. On this tour, Flaw comes out and they do the metal thing. Then we come out and people aren't quite sure about what we're doing. There's more of a catchy, pop side to what we are doing even though we fall on the hard side of the fence. So, attitude-wise, you have to come out knowing that the crowd might even be hostile to you. So you have to come out and not back down. Stick to your guns. When you're opening for a band like Sevendust, you've got fans that probably don't even want you on stage. You have to prove yourself. On the "Preaching to the Perverted" tour, it was odd for us because we never wanted to be seen as an industrial band but that's what we've gotten lumped into. Our new record is far more of a metal record than the previous two, though it still may not be quite as heavy as Sevendust.

MSJ: On that "Perverted" tour, you played with Pigface and their main guy is Martin Atkins, who produced "Superstarved" for you. What was it like working with Martin? Was it pretty relaxed?
No, it wasn't relaxed at all! I've actually known Martin for a long time; I met him in 96 at the Sex Pistols show at the Aragon in Chicago. Before he did the record for us, he flew to St. Louis to meet us and ask us what we wanted from the record. We told him we wanted to do some more organic things and some new things with Brad our new drummer. I said I wanted to represent myself vocally more like I am on stage. In the studio, that's a hard thing to do, because the studio is a very controlled environment. So from Day One, Martin pretty much started pushing my buttons. A producer is like a psychologist. It's like being a jockey as well. You're trying to get the most out of the horse you're riding. He just started pushing my buttons. We'd get into heated arguments with lots of "f you's" in them. But if you go back and listen to the new record, there's an edge to my vocals that you don't hear on the first two records.
MSJ: There was a method to his madness.
Yeah! At the end of every day, we were always civil to each other. But he would back me into corners to try and get me to do things that I may not have wanted to do and it pissed me off but it got the performance out of me that I told him I wanted.
MSJ: When you perform material, do you do things spontaneously, on the spur of the moment or are they well thought out?
Both, really! One, you are performing and two, you are performing a lot, not just once a week but four or five times a week. You do sometimes get in a rut, where you keep saying or doing the same thing. Doug and I, before we go on stage, look at each other and say "achieve consciousness". We've been doing that since '98. Sometimes when you're out touring, you'll hit that wall and your mind will start to wander on stage, you'll start thinking "I hope the pizzas come after the set". Lyrics and vocals will be coming out of your mouth but you're not really thinking about the show. This just can't happen! It can't happen because we're so lucky to have a second chance. It can't happen because of the fans. If somebody came to see us in Chicago or Milwaukee, yeah, we'll be playing the same songs but you don't want to give them the same performance. You try hard not to do that but it's hard sometimes not to get into a rut.
MSJ: Was there ever a time in the last few years where you guys said "that's it, the band is done" or did you always know you would fight your way out of it?
We didn't know, for a while. We asked to get out of our TVT Records contract and we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. There were literally days when we walked into the studio, looked at each other and asked "man, are we gonna be a band tomorrow or what?" We'd work our butts off in the studio, we'd be in there at 3 or 4 in the morning, and you're wondering, is anybody ever gonna hear this? I turned to our manager at TVT and said, I just want the chance to release a record. It got really hairy there for a while.
MSJ: But you got through it and it made you stronger.
I think a lot of things happened. I think we made an incredibly honest record because of it. You always write lyrics based on experiences but the things that we were going through were so profound that the only way to actually get through the day was to write about them.
MSJ: A lot of songs seemed autobiographical on "Superstarved" but the two tracks "Fifteen Minutes" and "Forget Your Name" seem especially so...
"Forget Your Name" was a kind of tongue in cheek thing. It was a twofold kind of song, it could be about some "Backstage Betty" you'll meet at a show but at the same time, it could be about some industry meet-and-greet where you're meeting whoever from the XYZ music label and all they do is blow smoke. People who don't care about you, you're just a two-dimensional character to them and it's all about moving units. It's all very fleeting fame. So the song did have a kind of duality to it.
MSJ: Is the album a concept album? It doesn't seem that way but there's a linkage to it.
Not consciously but when I look back at it, it's a very autobiographical record and it's a very honest record.
MSJ: What Spinal Tap moments have you had that you'd like to share with us?
We've had an exact Spinal Tap moment somewhere in Holland where we couldn't find the stage. We've a lot of those moments. On the Pigface tour, we changed tour buses seven times. We broke down in the middle of West Texas on that tour and we had to jump on another one. We were sharing a bus with Godhead and we had crew people on the bus as well so there were 13 of us on the first bus. Then we are all on the second bus and there's 26 of us on one bus going from West Texas to Phoenix for 13 hours straight. Just a stupid kind of experience...
MSJ: What has the last CD you got for your own pleasure?
When we were recording "Superstarved", Doug and I picked up both the new Static-X record and the new Crystal Method CD.
MSJ: What was the last show you saw just because you wanted to see the band?
Well, we've been in Gravity Kills land for quite a while now. I've got to think back to last summer. Well, you've got a Fear Factory shirt on and I saw them twice, once on the Sno-core tour and once on their own tour later. I saw Disturbed, but that was because my wife wanted to!
 
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