god - The Ultimate Interview
You don't know these guys, but they are on their way.
Half-crazed, progressive, thematic, theatrical, they
play to a NYC audience much better than Saturday Night
Live ever will. So grab your humor. Kick the cat. And
now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you - god!!
Audio: Cold Opening (MP3)
(from L to R, top) Rollo, Ethan, Mugwump Jizm, Danny Rockett (bottom, center) cc seymour
[Ben Ohmart] Well, I know what others call you Beatles meet Frank Zappa but who Really influenced what you sound like? Or, who influenced you that you then totally ignored?
[Mugwump] I would never admit publicly, but I was very influenced by my drama teacher in high school Miss Trad. She was directing me in our production of 'The Music Man' and I was playing the lead: Harold Hill. Two days before we opened, she came up to me and said, "Now I want you to go home and copy everything that Robert Preston does in the movie." So I went home and drank several Bartles & James wine coolers and lamented on the disappointment I felt. That was largely influential in keeping me from watching Robert Preston films, who is pretty easy to ignore these days since he's dead.
[Ethan] We all come from very different musical backgrounds, which created this sort of melting pot sound which has slowly coalesced into this amorphous blob that I would call our "sound." Personally, I come from a, well, "varied" place. I have a fair amount of what you would call "classical" training: theory and all. Plus I played in a "jam" band in college. But my "influences" are always changing. It's not a "static" thing. My main "rule" however, is to never "sound" like AC/DC. Ever. Under any circumstances.
[Rockett] Growing up, my parents were huge classical music fans. They were not into rock and roll at all. So when it came time for a pubescent rebellion, I did what any good product of the 80's would do, I started listening to the Beatles. I ate, slept and lived the Beatles. At the same time I was also into musical theater: Sondheim, Bernstein, Jule Stein. I've performed everything from Broadway productions of RENT and Jesus Christ Superstar to a dinner theater production of 'Brigadoon.' All the while, I was listening to jazz, Ween and Beck and writing for 'god'.
[Ben] You also call yourself performance rock or others have and you've wrestled it from their grips so, if you could (and you needn't keep it clean), howzabout explaining a little of what the hell you Do on stage on the typical evening?
[Ethan] The main goal is to get people to transmogrify from the slack jawed gawkers that prowl the streets of New York into raving lunatics who need a quiet rest in Bellvue. Our method is a three pronged attack. First, act so stupid that any respecting audience member will be moved to act silly knowing they can't possible look more stupid than us. Two, make discussion among audience members nigh on impossible by playing extremely loud. Three, subliminable brain washing.
[Rockett] Our shows always have a different theme to them; we are always in costume; prison uniforms, beach wear, diapers, and then we try to go from there. When we wore diapers, for example, we had a jam with cooing and baby rattles. When we wore prison uniforms, we each had a backstory about how we got to jail, and at the end of the show, we were pardoned by governor Pataki, took off our uniforms, and finished the gig in underwear. We have a sing-along number about the joys of riding on a waterslide. I shoot the audience with a water pistol during 'Delivery Boy,' and our keyboardist, Rollo, has three different costume changes in that number alone (each character blowing or getting blown away). Sometimes, we give out door prizes like potatoes that say 'god' on them, or power-of-attorney forms.
[Mugwump] There's another piece that we perform about the dangerous frustrations of working within corporate America called 'Corporape Shoes.' It ends with Rollo smashing a computer keyboard onstage amidst a heavy metal cacophony. Inevitably, however, we fall victims of cliché when we bid all a fond farewell by mention of our website and that we have CD's and t-shirts for sale.
[Rollo] That's true. I do smash a computer keyboard for that number. Although I'm hoping that we can better incorporate my prodigious skills as a lover into our live shows in the future.
[Ben] Your music is very theatrical. Ever thought about writing a theatre piece? Or at least a wacky concept album?
[Mugwump] Would we?! Oh, my goodness – yes! In fact, we already have developed and performed a theatrical piece called the 'GOD-A-GO-GO' which starts off with me inside a television, discussing the merits of giving birth to the idea of a band called god. I explain that you, the audience, will be crucial to this creation as your perceptions inexorably are involved in any sort of creation. Then, one by one, my bandmates join me onstage for a friendly jam, we write a few hit songs, and they realize that they need to save me from this other dimension in TV land called 'Haderbent Wazhm.' After a near-death escape, we play more songs, get signed by a manager in the audience, play Madison Square Garden, find moderate satisfaction in wallowing within the crapulence of our success, become disillusioned - the label fires us, the band splits and each member pursues other means to an end. But we're cornball romantics deep down and believe firmly in the happy ending, so everyone comes back together for the finale, "I am god, we are god." The last piece gets everyone in the audience holding hands and singing along since they were key to the whole process of our success.
[Ethan] Concept album? Theater piece? These are the tools of the pompously arrogant. The words of rock stars parading around pretending to be "artists." That being said, we plan on doing both of these things in the very near future.
[Ben] So, what are you guys doing now? Not right this minute, of course…..
[Mugwump] We are in minor recovery from the loss of our drummer, Dogmeat, who ventured off to Las Vegas to drum for the show 'De La Guarda.' 'God' has just started to work with cc seymour, a punk-ass chick who likes to beat on the kit and sing magical harmonies (among other things). Outside of the inner work going on, it's all about the promo – get the good word of 'god' on the streets. Sometimes, we perform on the subway cars.
[Rollo] Being the only single male member of god has kept me quite busy lately. That and my boxing career. I fight under the name "god" as well, just to simplify things.
[Rockett] I am collecting unemployment.
[Ethan] Musical masturbation! ... Can I say that on TV?
[Ben] And what about the future? Do you see god ever making it to a capital G? In the realm of Billboard magic?
[Mugwump] Absolutely, one of our goals is to reach the state of popularity where it will be required for them to rewrite the bible with a substituted alternative name every time 'God' appears. Realistically, though, our music is certainly not Top 40 material by today's standards. That could and will change, but to our advantage? Who can tell?
[Ben] What's the meaning behind the band name, anyway? Aren't you afraid that it's just gonna entice reviewers to say un-godlike things about your stuff if they get the chance? Or are you your own golden calf?
[Rockett] Mugwump and I were driving back from NYC to Philadelphia, where I was living at the time. The whole way, throwing band names back and forth, which we had been doing for days. We had already been known under the names, 'Toxic Oatmeal', 'The Nits', and, most recently, 'The American Sensations' When we came to the name 'GOD' we laughed our asses off and didn't stop. We were then cursed and blessed with making it work. To me it refers to our spiritually bankrupt society that looks to the actors, and musicians, and artists of popular culture to be their deities.
[Mugwump] We've wrestled with alternative names for our band, but inevitably come up stumped. I think we're stuck this way, for better or worse, until we get cast into hell for naming our band after the big guy in the sky. But it's a tricky thing, because people's knee-jerk reaction to the band name is either a) offended because of the religious nature or b) offended because of the pretentious nature or c) distracted and unimpressed because they don't want to admit to liking anything to do with 'god.' Particularly here in NYC, it's very hard to get folks to pay attention; ostensibly everyone has their own project to plug and rock bands are quickly becoming outmoded forms of entertainment, especially good ones.
[Ethan] Definitely that calf thing.
[Ben] Who did that?
[Rollo] That was me. Hush now, I want you just to lay back, relax, and enjoy. I'm gonna take you to a place of total satisfaction. But we'd better hurry. The De La Hoya match is coming on pay-per-view in 20 minutes.
[Ben] If you were to describe your typical fan, who would she be, and does she bring anyone with her?
[Mugwump] See now, the way you phrase that means you already know, or at least can sense that we attract girls over boys and ladies over men. Our typical fan is a young, nubile, single white female who brings the same to the god gigs. Of course, we're extremely disappointed in this and are working hard at discouraging said profile from future god gig attendance.
[Rockett] She comes to see the show, not to drink herself stupid. She likes to hug me. She brings friends, so that the common experience can be shared. They are the 'FOG:' Friends Of God.
[Rollo] In my experience, most god fans like boxing and lovemaking, often simultaneously.
[Ben] I really, really dig your music. It's one of the freest, funnest fests of sound and pop experimenting I've heard since Zappa rolled over. What are the chances of you guys also releasing 60 cds? How long did it take you to put together the current cd?
[Mugwump] 60 CDs is quite an almighty number, and one that would conceivably span another millennia in order for us to accomplish. Mr. Zappa, whom we all greatly admire, left an incredibly prolific legacy with his numerous albums, but have you listened to all of them? As for myself, I haven't, and that's because, at a point, his musical style and lyrical content just sort of drops off for me as being engaging. And while I'm in no position to be judgmental of Frank Zappa's genius, I would say that it's the intent of our band to make each release highly distinctive from the predecessor. We approach our live shows that way and we'll at least do the same for our recordings.
[Ethan] 60 cds? Pshaw. We've got 80 or 90 cd's worth of material already in the can. We just pound 'em out. This last CD was recorded in just over 10 minutes.
[Mugwump] We had a luxury with the situation for recording 'GGHV2,' which was done in our own in-apartment-studio. We set out with time limits and due dates, but they consistently were broken and/or extended in favor of further experimentation and sonic perfection.
[Ben] Do you play mostly covers at gigs, or originals? What % of your time do you spending gigging?
[Rockett] We play about 3 or 4 times a month, but we are attempting to pad that number by playing out of town, and throwing parties. Covers get whipped up on occasion when they are appropriate to the gig's theme. Prison outfits: "Jailhouse Rock." We open the show quite often with, "Rock Around with God", a parody of "Rock Around the Clock". We also cover assorted numbers by The Pretty Things, Jefferson Airplane, The Kinks, Status Quo, and Rocky Horror Picture Show. I've even sung a German aria called "Halt!" by Shubert, and "Bein' Green" when we were all painted green.
[Ben] Do you hear many other bands coming in your direction, musically speaking? Feel free to name drop a little if Sting's jammed with you or something.
[Rockett] 'God' utilizes a ton of vocal harmony, which tends to set us apart from other groups. As you may know, NYC is a hard rockin' town. There is a lot of noise here, and it seems as though you can hear people shouting over it in their music. Our songs have gained a tougher edge to them, I believe for the same reason. We see many pop groups with formulaic, repetitive hooks, and a ton of hard rockers without an original bone. However, there are a few groups locally like 'The Toilet Boys,' and 'Lesion,' who use humor, costume and other antics to get the show done. Their music is more glam/punk, whereas ours is, well, you know…
[Ethan] There are a couple of bands out there that are doing some stuff that is at least similar in intent, if not in actual sound: Olivia Tremor Control, Apples In Stereo, The Afghan Whigs sometimes. I think the real difference is the variety of styles that we manage to touch on in the course of one show. Plus the vocals.
[Rollo] Locally, I like Jane Jensen and the Dolls. Like god, they are a group of attractive females that sing primarily about sex and fighting. Except that god is mostly male.
[Mugwump] In all honesty, if there's one thing that's working in our favor it's that we do not sound like many other bands out there. Realizing that every band thinks this way and spouts similarly delusional hype, it's hard to break that preconception, but our style of rock is fairly eclectic. I would be overjoyed with Jizm-flow were we to be bestowed the honor of opening for a group like 'Mr. Bungle' or 'Ween.'
[Ben] Anything else you'd like to say or shout? A mission statement? A _'hi, ma!'? An intense political belief? An etc? Thanks for the e-talk, mates!
[Rockett] Our goal is to create a scene - one in which the 'FOG' can run with and create new things. If we can get like-minded people together, we can form a "happening" with 'god' and the music being central, but, hopefully, there could be so many off shoots that you can't tell where the show really begins and ends. The new film 'Pay it Forward' starring Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey, has completely stolen many of the ideas I have been forming for years and bastardized them in Hollywood's feel good crap fest of the season. If I ever catch them in a dark alley.....
[Ethan] God is really about 'Do It Yourself!' Get off the couch by yourself! Turn off the TV by yourself! Throw out that Rolling Stone, that Details by yourself! Turn the stereo up loud by yourself! Inhale by yourself! Vote Nader by yourself!
[Rollo] We as a nation have a great distance yet to travel in terms of sexual liberation. As the most erotically charged musical act since Prince, we have our dextrous, curious fingers on the sexual pulse of America. Increasing that pulse is our duty and our pleasure, but if you wanna go toe-to-toe in the ring, we will pulverize you.
[Mugwump] Thanks for coming out, folks! You've been great. We've got CD's and t-shirts for sale over near the far end of the bar, and don't forget to visit our website at www.godtheband.com to learn more about the myth behind the myth of god – the band.
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