Q&A with Gus Chambers
Sheila Rene': Hello, Gus. Where are you calling from?
Gus Chambers: Hello, how are you? I'm in Pasadena, California. I'm looking for the old lady from Pasadena but I can't find her. (Clever take on the Beach Boys song).
SR: (laughing) Driving that T-bird. Keep looking.
GC: Yeah. I'm doing fine.
SR: Are you happy with the way the album turned out?
GC: I'm very happy. It's different from our debut album. It's more of a natural progression of what the band is. We pulled together as a band after being on tour so long. We didn't really think about it, it just fell into place really naturally.
SR: The first album I interviewed Dave. I asked him what he was going to do differently than Slayer had done as a band. He said he was going to make the comararadie tantamount in the new band.
GC: That has happened. The first album we decided should be a rock album. Dave had a few things to prove still about Slayer. There were lots of rumors going around so we did an in-your-face album.
SR: Well, this new one is too.
GC: Yeah, but what it was with this one when we started writing the music all our different influences came out. We put it all together as a new direction. We always want to make it hard and aggressive. We got to know each other and we've become really good friends. That makes it easier when you're making music. The music comes out with less friction the simpler it is.
SR: Dave was really happy to find out what a great writer you are. He knew that you could sing because he had heard your tape.
GC: It's strange because a lot of people have a little bit of reservation about me. The British press is really dogging me a bit, who is this guy? I'm not a run-of-the-mill metal singer. I have my own way of doing things. I'm not trying to say that I'm the best but I approach things in a different way...coming from a punk background. A lot of folks are having a hard time adjusting to this style because Dave with his repetition as the ultimate trash rock drummer they expected a regular type guy with long hair and tight jeans. Hopefully, we're sounding a little bit different than what has been going on then.
SR: You did about 150 shows on the Power Of Inner Strength. What was the time line after the tour into this album?
GC: We toured Europe with Creator and we started jamming on a few ideas at sound checks toward the end. The last date was December 17, 1995 and we took Christmas off. We got together in February of 1996 with all our ideas. We all live in different parts of the world so this is how we do it. Dave has a studio in the back of his house and we all get together there. We started working on riffs and ideas for songs. That usually is a three week span solid, every day. What we do is to get focused for those three weeks and then we go away for a couple of months. Then we get back together for another three weeks. By that time we've all had time to listen and build on the first ideas. The whole thing was written in about ten weeks.
SR: All the lyrics are yours, are they not?
GC: I write all the lyrics. When they're working on the music I'm there with them in the studio. We put the format of the songs together and I'm laying on the floor soaking it all up. I hum along and suggest breaks in the music; however, we're so tight now we know how each others minds work. It's not a big process. I started putting melodies together and it was very natural. For instance, "Scream At The Sky" the drums came in and I started messing around with weird noises, just jamming. All of a sudden this melody just popped into my head. Dave stopped and said Gus get some paper that's it. I like to be spontaneous rather than forced and over produced.
SR: Waldemar produced again.
GC: It was a combination of all of us although he was at the helm. That's the good thing about having a guitar player who knows how to work the controls. He's not thinking of just a riff; he's always thinking deeper. That saves us a lot of time and energy. You could go in prepared and then have the producer change it all. We've already preproduced everything so there's little or nothing that needs changing.
SR: So when you went into Woodhouse again, you were ready. How long did it take?
GC: We recorded and mixed in five weeks. The engineer at Woodhouse is the owner and he reads in whatever you want sometimes before you ask. He's great with drum sounds and on this one we wanted to have more of a woody drum sound for Dave instead of the mechanical sound a lot of bands are using today. We set Dave up on the first album in a room that was tiled. On this one we used a bigger room with a wooden floor that gave us a more natural live drum sound. The studio has a good atmosphere. If we did it in Los Angeles or any other big city, we'd probably get sidetracked with all the stuff that goes on.
SR: So being in a small town kept you focused.
GC: When you're in a studio in this small town in Germany there's not much to do. We remained on track every day.
SR: Is there a story behind the title of this album. I suggested to Dave that Power Of Inner Strength could be the motto of the band.
GC: Yeah, it does. Within the last 18 months prior to recording we had a lot of problems. A couple of guys in the band had personal problems and we were dealing with law suits that weren't even valid. They were bullshit. It was a time that there was a lot of negativity going around about us saying that we were the second Slayer and all that kind of stuff. It was a challenging time for us. We could have gone either way but we came together with greater strength and that reflects in the mood of the album actually because it's a lot darker with a lot more dynamics. What we all tried to do, we're all human you know, was to get our feelings over in the music. It was good therapy. We went around and around about what we should name the album and I thought of the word nemesis. The dictionary defines it as deserved punishment. For all you people who doubted us, it's not a revenge thing plus you've got the mythological Greek goddess who is the goddess of justice. It linked the two and I worked on the artwork with all the Greek statues. It all came out quite naturally. I always write about experiences I've been through or what I witnessed. I don't like to get political but sometimes I think some things are wrong. I don't get blatant, but I try to put it in a way that I can heighten the consciousness. Then the listener can make up their own mind up about the subject matter. It's more of a challenge for me to write like that.
SR: Is that your voice on "The Summoning" and "Descending Darkness?"
GC: Yes, all the voices are mine. What we did on "Descending Darkness" was to use my idea where I wanted to do a spoken piece. I wanted to put some music to the poetry which was quite dark. I didn't want to play to the music because I knew my voice would go with the time and the beat of the song. What we did was record the poem onto a little hand-held cassette machine in another room. We then played the track back through the mic on the micro-cassette so that's how we got that sound.
SR: "Rusty Nail" is the first video. Who directed and when will it be out?
GC: We get the first edited today. We used a Texas-based company called Film Zero because the budget we had to work with was very low. We couldn't afford a big production. We filmed on this desert that's shown on the back of the CD in a dry lake bed. They used a camera mounted on a van that drove around us several times. I make an iron maiden and it closes down on top of me. We're going to computer enhance the sky to give it a different look. Film Zero did our first video and they are great to work with. When you're on a tight budget they'll always get the best they can out of every situation. They're really cool guys.
SR: Is there one thread that weaves throughout all the tracks.
GC: It's like whatever happens to you in life you have to believe in yourself again. Talk about things and get things over. As a writer most of the time I guess I'm a bit of a lefty. It's more looking at life and seeing things that happen while you express yourself from deep within. Not preaching but making it nice for the ear to listen to. So even if you don't like the subject, you'll like the music. For instance "Empress Of Rancor" is a love song. When I told the guys I was writing a love song they all said no way! Of course, it's a love song but most people won't get it. The lyrics are very deep.
SR: How long have you been singing?
GC: I started in London in the late '70s so that's about 20 years now. I'm giving my age away now. That's another thing I should say is that in pop music before now the biz didn't give musicians a very long career. They'd lose that youthful look and the career was over. Nowadays you can have a career as a musician and it doesn't matter if you're 90. If you can still get up there and you believe in what you do there's no age limit. You can kick serious ass at any age.
SR: We're finally over that. In the '60s it was don't trust anyone over 30. Look at the old Blues guys and the Stones. They're still working hard and putting out great songs.
GC: I'm a little bit over 30. It's an attitude. You have to be a special type of person. A lot of folks just accept things for what they appear to be but we're the type of band who challenge things and write songs about it.
SR: The album comes out on February 25 with a tour starting up right away.
GC: We'll be out with a band from L.A. called Coal Chamber and two other bands called Bloodletting and Cause For Alarm. We wanted to headline this time out and not get on a bill in the support slot. We've done that. We don't care if we play for 100 people in a little club. It doesn't matter, we just want to headline. Last album we missed the midwest and the south because of politics and bullshit. This time we want to take out new bands that aren't getting any airplay and give them a chance to be seen and heard. Our kind of music is getting a bad rap in the States and it's starting to get pushed out. We're going to fight back and let everyone see the new life in this music form.
SR: I really like Coal Chamber. I bet they're a lot of fun to tour with.
GC: It's a really good package. It should be an interesting night out on the town for everyone.
SR: Do you do anything special for your voice when you're touring?
GC: I do a little bit of scales and warm up and then I've been endorsed by this herbal, organic mixture. It coats your vocal chords so that you don't blow them out. I really give it 120 percent with my voice and this stuff helps. You really have to look after yourself and not go out and get drunk every night or you'll destroy the voice. The schedule we're on is tough. The American tour is quite a lot of dates with only three days off. We'll be in Japan in May and Europe in June and July.
SR: Any big festivals set yet?
GC: We'd love to do the Dynamo Festival again. Last year it was great. I should mention that we'll be doing the States again after Europe.
SR: One listen through of this album is all it takes.
GC: There's so much more to come and that's exciting. We all have so many ideas and the chemistry is so good. I've been knocking around in this business a long time and it's really rare to find a set of musicians that click this well.
SR: Thanks for your time, Gus. It's been very informative.
GC: I want to say to everyone reading this interview that we apologize for not getting around everywhere last album but this time we're really excited to get out there. Thanks to everyone who supported us and bought the first album. We're going to kick some serious ass this year and you'll get your moneys worth this time around. Hopefully, MTV will start playing music again.
SR: The Internet is taking up the slack. For instance, www.hardradio.com is blasting around the clock with an excellent mix of hard rock and heavy metal. Now they're getting ready to play videos too. So get your new one submitted.
GC: Thanks for the tip. I'll get the information to our management.