"Preserve That Beauty": talking with CHRIS GOSS of MASTERS OF REALITY

Two endangered species, photographed by Stephanie Smith

A MAGICAL SKILL
Chris Goss, a godfather of desert rock, on the return of Masters of Reality
By Jay Babcock

Originally published November 11, 2010 in LAWeekly

Chris Goss, the 52-year-old leader of Masters of Reality, is near tears. A mountain of a baldheaded man, part Aleister Crowley, part Admiral Kurtz, Goss has been involved in some of the most vital rock ‘n’ roll music made in the last two and a half decades. Masters of Reality’s 1988 debut, a masterwork of concise songwriting and classic rock riffage, was produced by Rick Rubin; their second, the lovely Sunrise on the Sufferbus, featured an actual classic rocker, the formidable Cream drummer/crankyman Ginger Baker.

Around that time, Goss discovered a group of teenagers from the California Low Desert called Kyuss, who played a heavy, trippy mix of Black Sabbath and the Misfits. Goss produced Kyuss’ best work, inaugurating a relationship with guitarist Joshua Homme that would continue into the latter’s subsequent Desert Sessions and Queens of the Stone Age projects.

And while there would be other Masters of Reality albums, other production gigs of varying profile and quality — my favorite is Mark Lanegan’s Bubblegum — and an album-and-a-half as Goon Moon, a bizarro-rock collaboration with Marilyn Manson guitarist Twiggy Ramirez (and, on the first EP, underground free-rock drummer Zach Hill), generally speaking, Goss has slipped into legend: one of those musician’s musicians, a guy who knows the occult secrets of the creative process and can get a great drum sound, who somehow, in this devolved age, still feels it.

Which, I think, is why he’s near tears, as we sit on a patio outside his Joshua Tree home. Masters of Reality have a new album out — a beautiful, musically adventurous, warm affair with double-name Pine/Cross Dover — and are about to play a set of West Coast dates. It’s the first time in years that Goss has been able to line everything up: a great album, a happening band, U.S. gigs. But who is there to hear anymore?

“Hard time for art right now,” he says. “Socially, politically, economically — this is awful right now for everyone, this confusion. We’re in the new Dark Ages. It’s very hard and depressing, and you get angry because just so much attention is paid to so much shit. It’s a shit storm. But there’s no reason to stop making music. The market is down? Fuck the market. If you love what you’re doing, you gotta keep doing it.”

Even making record albums, when record stores are going out of business and everything is available for free on the Internet? Isn’t that tactile experience over?

“I love the album format. I’ll never lose that. Never. I don’t want to lose it. I mean, why can’t we keep experiencing it? It’s easy, it’s palatable. I’m so used to buying music in my hand and I can’t get over it. Packaging matters. The visual album-cover connection to the music matters. Remember the gatefolds with the storybooks in them and the pop-up photos and stuff? This kind of thing is a boutique, elitist origami item now, but when I was a kid it was a five-and-dime item. I remember how it felt when I had Jethro Tull’s Passion Play in my hands as a kid, from a poncy Shakespearean Renaissance Faire English hippie guy, knowing that, like, another million kids also were reading this storybook. There was this feeling that so many other people were experiencing what I was experiencing, at the same time. It was like combining that Harry Potter intrigue with the music for the kid of the time. That’s empowering. Those records connected us. …”

The music experience is more than what meets the ear — is it about actual physical contact?

“This is about warmth, and beauty,” Goss says. “Now vocal tuning is everywhere. What a horrid tone. The chipmunk-robot people are here! Great. Lovely. Did you see Shania Twain live at the CMAs this year, maybe last year, with a vocal tuner on her voice when she was singing live? “And! I! Love! YouuuuUUUU!” It puts that thing on the tone at the end, an artificial lengthening of when you land on the note. So the person’s natural phrasing is gone. Why? When Lennon was flat, it was wonderful. When Keith Richards is flat, it’s wonderful. Because it sounds like the guy is sitting right next to you. He hasn’t been chopped to spam before he gets to you.”

People don’t even know what they’re missing.

“I remember going to see Yes in the ’70s, back when people knew the lost art of properly mic-ing an acoustic guitar live. It has to have a low end, so that if you bump the guitar with an elbow, the PA goes boomf. You need that full spectrum of sound — you gotta feel the chest, and the belly, that part of the sound spectrum. Music should come through your chest, your eyes, your belly, that part of the sound spectrum. I think that’s my favorite part.

“There’s some great Israel Regardie Golden Dawn meditation tapes,” he says, describing one of Crowley’s disciples and his mystical society, “where he talks about getting into a state where your body is made out of spiderweb, like mesh. Continue reading

HIGHER POWERS

Roll call for the artists featured on Arthur’s new BLACKOUT compilation…


Moon Duo


White Hills


White Noise Sound


Lords of Falconry


Endless Boogie


Masters of Reality


messages


Enumclaw

BLACKOUT, a specially sequenced compilation, is available as a digital download direct from Arthur on a sliding scale starting at $4.20. Click here for the details, including a streaming audio preview. All proceeds benefit the Arthur mission. Thank you, and hope you dig it…

BLACKOUT: Arthur's new music mixtape/compilation

Arthur’s new 49-minute mixtape, specially designed to accompany (or simulate) a human-plant interaction, is now available as a digital download, featuring a high resolution JPG of the Arik Roper artwork (above), some additional art and text, and the following sequence of songs, as selected by Arthur editor Jay Babcock and sewn together by engineer/mixer Bobby Tamkin.

50-SECOND TEASER TOKE:
[audio:http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Blackout-Teaser.mp3%5D

TRACKLIST:
1. MOON DUO “Into the Trees” (from the Escape LP on Woodsist)
2. WHITE HILLS “Three Quarters” (from the White Hills LP on Thrill Jockey)
3. WHITE NOISE SOUND “Sunset” (from the White Noise Sound LP on Alive Naturalsound)
4. LORDS OF FALCONRY “Osiron” (from Lords of Falconry on Holy Mountain)
5. ENDLESS BOOGIE “Pack Your Bags” (from the Full House Head LP on No Quarter)
6. MASTERS OF REALITY “Johnny’s Dream” (from the Pine/Cross’d Over LP)
7. MESSAGES “Tambura” (from the After Before LP on De Stijl)
8. ENUMCLAW “Harmonic Convergence” (from the Opening of the Dawn LP)

Pay what thou wilt, starting at $4.20. All proceeds go towards keeping the Arthur community garden alive through the fall season.

Order here: BLACKOUT NO LONGER AVAILABLE

NEW AEON MASTERS OF REALITY

New Masters of Reality album out in North America in October, with tour (!). Info: mastersofreality.com

Chris Goss: beloved Masters of Reality mainman for twenty-plus years—a storied New York band whose debut album was produced by Rick Rubin and released on American Records, which was followed by a move to California and some time on the record label that brought us Tone-Loc. For two years, three tours and a studio album, Masters of Reality’s drummer was legendary fiercehead Ginger Baker of Cream. Pine/Cross Dover is the band’s first studio effort in five years, and finds longtime drummer John Leamy once again on skins, joined by Brian O’Connor on bass, and Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal, Earthlings, QOTSA, etc) and Mark Christian on guitars.

Here’s the two covers for the new album, and the opening salvo…

263_BRH9905-Animated_300

Download: “King Richard TLH” — Masters of Reality (mp3)

Stream: [audio:http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/King-Richard-TLH-128.mp3%5D

Goss is also known as: Kyuss producer, occasional Queens of the Stone Age/Desert Sessions member/collaborator, UNKLE contributor, and, with Twiggy Ramirez and Zach Hill, one-third of Goon Moon. As one-half of the pictured-below The 5:15ers (QOTSAer Josh Homme was the other half), he headlined the second night of ArthurBall in Los Angeles in spring 2006.

LARecordBall

Let’s have some classic Masters from the past. Here’s a couple from the Ginger Baker era, first up is a live rendition of “John Brown” off Masters’ first album…

“Mister Who?”: A video by Casey Niccoli from the Ginger Baker era…

A live one from the Queens era…

And an unbelievably majestic 1999 live take on another classic from Masters’ first album…

Also….

“Sound Methods and Weird Channels: How producer and Masters of Reality main man Chris Goss got his groove” (2004 profile I did for the LAWeekly)

Goss is the author of arguably the best piece of neighborhood/cooking writing to appear so far in the pages of Arthur: check out his super-porkout Immigrant’s Sauce recipe/reminisence from the Brian Eno cover ish (No. 17, July 2005—still available, collectors!).

Let’s wrap it up with a message/manifesto to artists from Goss…