Sunday 7 October 2012

20 Questions w/ Gideon Smith

Well, there are a number of people or bands I would dearly love to get on the blog to talk us and by chance, Gideon Smith was one of those people.  It's strange that I say that, given that he only came to my attention this year, however his music kinda resonates with me.  It is as if he is telling stories through his music and to me his lyrics are very poetic.  Yes crushingly heavy music is something which I am passionate about, however the art of story telling through music is also very cool as well and is something which is appealing to me.  It just so happens that Gideon Smith's music has a strong rock influence there too.
30 Weight was my first introduction to Gideon Smith's music and it truly is a phenomenal record, which is why I wanted to talk to this extraordinary musician.  Too my surprise Gideon agreed.  So here is my interview with one of my favourite new artists I have discovered.  So Enjoy. 
Hey Gideon or do you prefer Mr. Smith haha, How are you? I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to us, here at the Sludgelord.
G: Hail Aaron, doing very well thank you how are you?
Q). Where are you at the moment and what are you doing, in terms of the band at the present, having recently released your latest record, 30 Weight late 2011?
G: I have been playing a few shows in my home city of Charlotte, they've been great and the response to the new album is fantastic.
Q) For people who are not familiar with Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned, could you tell us little a bit about the history of the band?
G: I started my music as GS&TDD in 1996-7 in North Carolina. I wanted to start a band that was loud, wild and free. At the time I was listening to a lot of Skynyrd, Sabbath, Allmans, Doors and sixties rock, old blues, much like today.
Q). Do you consider yourself a Solo Artist or collective unit, given that you’re called GS&TDD? You weren’t tempted to call yourselves The Dixie Damned for example?
G: I consider myself a solo artist at the heart of it all. The name Dixie Damned is more of an extension and a vibe. Initially it just meant 'dark, bluesy' and the southern gothic feel. Ghostly, shamanistic, swampy, southern rock. The musicians who have played with me over the years were guys who could get in sync with the vibe. If I had started the band with four guys and it stayed the same line up all the years with
Mutual time given, dedication and years of hard work, I might have considered just using that name as a band but it didn’t happen that way. This is my music and my name, the Dixie Damned is like a tribe or a cult. It's also like a pirate ship. I've had many line up changes in fifteen years to keep my music alive. The musicians involved are guys who jumped on board because they wanted to be there and enjoy the adventure, but they all respect me for what it is. Every once in awhile I have to toss somebody overboard. Sometimes we stop somewhere and a faithful dirt bag or two will get back on. Dixie Damned might be the flag but I'm the guy who built and leads the army. If tomorrow I didn't have any band members, I'd just say 'time to recruit.' The name was inspired by really long names like Crazy World of Arthur Brown or Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, I wanted a long psychedelic name, but as time passed many people just use my name anyway.
Q) What made you start the band, back in 1997?
G: I had quit music briefly due to burnout. I sold my guitar I'd had my whole life to buy my girlfriend antibiotics. I had been dogged around by the shady business people and was told I was 'stuck in the seventies'. I refused to change and just kept being the man I am and doing what I love. I worked in an occult bookstore and spent the days reading every single book in the store. I rebuilt myself, by being myself, understanding myself. One day I got struck by a lightning bolt of inspiration, jumped up and stood tall. It was time to reclaim my dream. My determination was like lava in my blood and a take no prisoners mission my mind. The intensity I learned from training in other areas in my life shaped my new ethics of approaching my music. I wrote phrases on pieces of paper and hung them on my mirror. Positive thinking, words of determination, famous quotes, and just stared at them with all I had. A few lame people tried to stop me and a handful of great people helped me get up. I got a job working for free at the absolute best recording studio I could find in exchange for recording time. I drove a delivery van, delivering food and master tapes, hauling mixing boards for big artists from all over the world. I bought a used Gibson SG, my friend Gail gave me a Marshall and I wrote the songs for the first ep. I got the best band together I could find, recorded the ep in two days with producer Tracey Shroder who had done COC, Confessor, etc. Then I got the deal with Small Stone a year or so later and all the doors opened. It was time to jump like a hungry leopard and go for the throat! Fifteen years or more later. Here you and I are talking.. And the adventures only get more awesome.
Q) Probably a stupid question, but are you or would you like to be full time musicians? What would you say were the main difficulties for you when chose to be a musician?
G: I am a full time musician. This is what I do and I work on it every single day. I would say the most
Difficult thing for a musician or artist of any kind is getting noticed in the giant sea of the others in your field. I'd encourage a young band to forget about trends, create your own style and blaze your own path. Work hard and work smart. Stay on top of what you do and be ever vigilant and pro active. You gotta be like a tiger, but treat people well on all levels. Because good people will value it and give you the same.
It's a rough business in so many ways, and a rough life. Everyone who does it does it truly because they love it.
Q) Your music is often described as southern rock, gothic blues, doom, space rock, and outlaw country. What are your thoughts about that and what are you listening too at the moment?
G: That sounds cool to me. I love all kinds of music, so as the ultimate music fan I approach my music like someone who loves all kinds of music, I listen to and then I play, basically whatever I want and makes me happy. There is a style and sound to what I do, but it’s a blend of many influences rather than being painted into the corner of only one influence. So I find styles like doom metal, gothic rock, old country and psychedelia are all appealing. How someone describes it stylistically is what it should be in their eyes. Lately I have not been listening to any new bands. I’ve been completely absorbed in Led Zeppelin for many months. Listening, reading, all the time. Then, randomly, Zep signs started showing up in my life all over the place. One day I went to a drive through at a restaurant and the girl handed me the bag of food and I spied her forearm tattoo, the four symbols off Zoso album four! And so we talked about it. It’s been a Zeppelin world lately.
Q) It states on your bio that you began singing in rock bands in 1989, when you started GS&TDD, what were your hopes for the band?
G: To make the kind of music I had inside me, to be true to myself, to get it out in the world and
enrich people's lives somehow. I had a huge chip on my shoulder the size of a battleship in those days, so my initial hopes were positive but I had a vision and a mission. It was like being dropped in a jungle, you immediately get to work. It was all about knowing what you wanted to do and the steps necessary to achieve the goal. I didn’t sweat about scenes, people, trends; I was on a one man mission. Now I'm much calmer but not any less driven. Thinking about it now makes me remember it all, thanks for asking, because those days can remind one of the roots of the past and the trees of today and tomorrow.
Q) If someone was unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe your sound and where would you tell someone to start with you music? Has it evolved because I have only heard your latest record? )
G: You can start anywhere with my music, any album or song. I would let a writer or listener describe what they hear. Yes I do think it's evolved over the years and become more focused while remaining rowdy and free and fun. Step within, play loud.
Q) Who would you say are your influences both musically and artistically in terms of the band’s sound?
G: Musically: The Doors, Black Sabbath, Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Steppenwolf, The Cult, David Allan Coe, Nick Cave, Hendrix, Blue Oyster Cult, Iron Butterfly, Saint Vitus, Blue Cheer, Zodiac Mindwarp, The Stones, The Dead, Morbid Angel, Zeppelin, Roky Erickson, Motorhead, AC/DC, more Black Sabbath. Old mountain bluegrass and country bands. As for as life influences: eastern and European philosophy, ancient history, pagan religions, sixties and seventies biker culture, movies, esoteric books and just life experience.
Q) North Carolina is known for bands such as C.O.C. What is the music scene like in your hometown? Would you consider yourselves to be an underground band? If so, is it a struggle and is there great camaraderie within the scene back home?
G: There are definitely some cool bands from Carolina. I don't really consider myself an underground scene buddy or mainstream musician; I just don't stop to think about it. Everybody knows by now I'm not a scene follower. I've said before that some of these guys say 'we're the black sheep of the music scene' about themselves, but I don't have any interest in being a sheep. My nature is more wolf like. I don’t have anything to prove or any attachment to a scene. When I see a musician caught up in a trendy scene I wonder if they have any vision. A music scene is like a morning newspaper late in the afternoon, here today, new story tomorrow. As for camaraderie in NC I think there is a definite, often cheerful, bond between musicians of all kinds if they've walked similar paths and they have a good attitude. There a lot of good bands you're probably aware of and I have love and respect for all of them who give me the same.
Q) Your music has featured in Classic rock, as one of the best newcomers in their ‘150 Greatest Debut Albums’. Did that have a positive effect on the band and what are your views of blogs such as the Sludgelord reviewing your records, as opposed to mainstream music magazines?
G: Yes that was great, I love that magazine. As far as differences, I don't see any difference between the two. You're both people writing about music that you love. I'm happy to speak with anybody.
Q). Please correct me if I am wrong, but 30 Weight is your 3rd full length release to date, how does this record compare to your previous material? Is it your best work to date? Where do you feel it fits within wider music scene at the moment?
G: The first album was more swampy rock, the second more space rock, this one is a darker night time desert road rock album with a sharper edge. I think all the albums are in the vein of the style, some of them might have influences that rise a little more here and there. I do think it's the best yet yeah, play it loud and hope you enjoy. As for where it fits in the wider music scene I have no idea man.
Q) Does it surprise you when people buy your music and merch?
G: It makes me happy when people take the time to buy a cd or pick up a shirt. When I see photos of people all over the world wearing the shirts it makes me feel great.
Q) Do you have an agenda or a game plan in terms of what you wanted to write for 30 Weight? Does everyone contribute song ideas?
G: There was no agenda. It was the collection of songs I had at the time and just fell into place. Most of the album was written during that time period as the songs came out, if there was an agenda or plan it was subconscious, as if the creativity was coming out from a certain source with no formula in mind. A few were older ones I had saved and then were added to make it longer. I write the songs and guitarist Phil Durr who has recorded the last two albums with me, adds his ideas as well as Eric Hoegemyer the producer and a multi-instrumentalist. It’s a pleasure working with them. I think Phil is a very original guitar player with a lot of power. Eric is a world class producer and player as well. Working with them on my songs is really exciting and it ends up being rewarding for everyone involved. Sue Lott came down and did some backing vocals, it was great.
Q) I can recall many artists in the tone of your voice when I Listen to your music, what are your thoughts when you’re compared to Jim Morrison, Danzig, Ian Astbury and even Nick Cave? Is it flattering and are they artists that influence your music?
G: Being compared to greats like that is a very high compliment and it makes me happy. I love all those singers and yes all of them are influences of mine for sure. My natural singing style is a bluesy baritone so that’s what I do. I was definitely influenced by Morrison, Elvis, Ian Astbury, Coe, Gregg Allman, Ronnie Van Zant and singers in that vocal range. Also older country and blues singers. I went to Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris in 1986, it really mean a lot to me to go there and honour Jim.
Q) Your music has been featured on hit television shows and you have even been the subject of a tribute band. Do you allow yourself to think that you have’ made it’ as a band and does that exposure translate positively in terms of Album sales?
G: The success of having my songs on television programs is wonderful, it definitely gets your music out there to people all over the world who might not have heard of you yet and then get turned on to what you do. Being on some of the most popular shows is fuckin great. It's a surreal feeling to write and record a song and then hear it coming out of a television. I watched an episode of a show that one of my songs was on one night at my friend's house. We were looking at each other eating pizza and then the song came on, and we looked up and back at each other, it was crazy and cool. I'm really thankful for success in those areas. As for the tribute, what can you say but be very so honoured? Hearing other artists play my songs is an amazing gift. I'm at a loss for words as how to express my gratitude. If I ever influenced somebody in a positive way, I'm damn thankful and honoured. I do feel like I 'made it', because all the respect, enthusiasm, love and validation that has built up around me all these years makes me feel that way.
Q) You and your band could be perceived as a band of bikers or outlaws in terms of image and that translates in your music too, is that fair to say?
G: When I started my music in '97, people were calling me 'the real thing' among whatever trends were happening at the time, and all along the path of my music they still say that. I consider that a real high compliment. Whatever that means, is up to the listener. People see you how they see you. When somebody comes to a show, listens to an album, reads interviews or looks at photos whatever vibe they catch comes from what they feel. A song is like a word picture, a sonic visual of the spirit and mind. What someone labels me as... it's all from the source: their experience from what you give. As for the other musicians who have played or play with me, their personal lives or interests don't have to be a clone of mine. They're just there for the fun, to play their instruments and enjoy making music. I just be myself, follow what I love, and happen to make music at the same time.
Q) You have been signed to SS records since 1999, who have an exemplary track record of releasing killer music. What would you say are key elements to a successful partnership with a record label? Obviously the label being a fan of your music is critical?
G: Yes I've been working with them for many years, it’s a great label. I think key elements would be both the artist and the label need to be professional and respectful to each other. It keeps both parties happy and working well together. Small Stone has gone above and beyond the call of duty for me over the years and I try to give them the same when they need anything from me. I truly appreciate their dedication to my music, and the label’s dedication to quality and putting out great music. Yes, having the label actually love what you do and being a fan of yours makes it all the better because you know they are always looking out for your best interests and they encourage you in life and in your creativity.
Q) What are your plans for the rest of the year and any chance you're doing a full UK tour?
G: I have been playing some shows here and there, writing a lot, and possibly doing a little recording soon. There will be a new websites, one of which will focus on my writing. We have a new shirt design with a second piece by the great Mark Riddick coming up shortly. No tour plans, but I hope to one day do a full UK tour for sure, that would be amazing. The British fans seem to understand my music and I would love to play there. As for the future..There will be many great things happening, stay tuned.

Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?
G: Thanks to everybody who supports what I do, big thanks to you Aaron.
What a great interview and many thanks to Gideon for taking the time to answer my questions.  Do yourselves a favour and check out his music, you wont be disappointed.