Monday, December 26, 2011

an INTERVIEW with Southern gentleman : GIDEON SMITH

That's a fact which I hope will last again and again, I'm always particularly happy, excited and kind of proud when I publish an interview here, but this time more than ever before... GIDEON SMITH is simply  more than just another underground musician living his passion at 110%, his natural kindness, his curiosity, his deep culture, his natural aura command RESPECT and even if he would deserve more, his talent and originality are unanimously reckoned in the Southern STONER'n Roll galaxy.
From the songwriting to the production, GIDEON SMITH and THE DIXIE DAMNED's new album "30 weight" is a HUGE masterpiece, darker, thicker and more atmospheric than previous efforts, this album could allow GIDEON and his buddies to attract some new fans attention... The trademarks of the band are still present (a warm heaviness bathed with the wild traditions of outlaws american rock n' roll, a fantastic voice "somewhere between Elvis and Satan" like wrote magically Chris Barnes at Hellride...) but there has been a slight risk-taking and I'm not just thinking about this outstanding cover of "I bleed black" for a result that goes far beyond expectations.
Now, let's enjoy what GIDEON has to say about this fresh actuality, some past and future events... Interviews with him are pretty rare but always very catchy and interesting and I guess this one is another cool one, so please now : savor !

Hi Gideon, it’s a real pleasure to feature your band in the blog again, through an interview this time, thanx dude ! Let’s start about the new album, I think I’ve never seen so many dithyrambic reviews like in The Sleeping Shaman, The Ripple Effect, Hellride music, Cosmic Lava… (even mine was longer than usual !) I suppose that it reflects the general good feedback after a rather long await ?
"Hello Stephane and thank you. I'm happy you enjoyed the new cd and thanks for your kind regards. I think people have been excited with this one because it's something new for long time fans and something exciting perhaps for people who are just getting into my music. This album has an edge and extra punch to it but it also retains the mystery and dynamics of the past albums. We really went for it with alot of heart and ferocity this time and the soul of this record resonates with people who connect with it emotionally. I am pleased and thankful after pouring my spirit into the songs that it makes people feel the magic. I think music fans are always on the quest for music that will speak to them or songs that speak for their own hearts. In the process of creating my music I put so much of my personal adventures within, I pull you into my world. If you like it, you can stay there or visit and return whenever you want. If people listen and want to enter my world then I'm always there. This album is like a car pulling up to a person standing on the side of a long ghostly highway. The door opens and there is no one there but the listener and me. I beckon with my hand and say 'let's go my friend' and off we go into the endless night of the Dixie Damned."

You told me that you had a lot of fun recording “30 weight” which is maybe your darker stuff recorded so far, how could you explain this slight paradox ?! was it maybe due to the excitement of playing with a new approach or in a particular context or …?

"I understand what you mean. Recording or performing new music with great musicians in a positive  atmosphere in which everyone involved has an excited and professional attitude, it makes it always very fun. I don't think the songs are depressing or unhappy to listen to in a dark way like that phrase might imply. They are full of huge riffs and passion instead of downbeat glorification of depression. Even though this album is somewhat darker, it's a thrilling kind of darker. Passion and fire and magic in the night, love, desire and ecstasy, so what's more fun than that? That's an important key to the power of loud music, the passion behind the volume."

Like on the previous album, this is Eric Hoegemeyer who has produced  “30 weight”, what’s his own experience in the domain ? Can’t you imagine yourself producing some future stuff of the band like you did a while ago on “dealin’ decks” ?
"Eric is a multi talented musician, producer, programmer and a great dude. It's a pleasure working with him and I love how he approaches his work with my music. He has played drums for many bands you would know, and is an engineer and producer at Rustbelt Studios in Royal Oak, Michigan. He's a brilliant guy on all levels. Working with him and a bad ass guitarist like Phil Durr is just amazing. Their enthusiasm and love for my music is an honor and a pleasure. I truly love working with those guys. As far as producing, I'd like to produce other bands. However with my future albums I will continue to work instead with an outside producer who is among the best, and it keeps the process healthy and makes it more interesting creatively. Can't say enough good things about Eric, Phil and company."

On “30 weight”, the southern and bluesy elements rooted to your style are not as present as previously, the general atmosphere sound more doomy with more pronounced than ever before early 80’s English rock (gothic ?) overtones… am I wrong or does it reflect this time some more European influences ?  How do you consider the fact that the word GOTHIC is often used when describing your style?  don’t you feel a bit disturbed to be assimilated to a genre that is often more defined by the image of dark adolescents than the music itself ?
"I understand. I don't think this one is less bluesy or southern sounding but it does have elements that are more pronounced than on the previous records. I do love the English eighties gothic rock like Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Joy Division and the early work of The Cult. The absolute founders of American gothic rock are The Doors. Their music, especially for the time, was bold, innovative and very powerful. They combined sixties blues with carnival-esque organ, psychedelic masterful guitar work, very creative beats and rhythms fronted by Morrison's beautiful but dark poetic lyrics. Even though The Doors are known as a Los Angeles band, Morrison was a southern american from Florida. He loved the supernatural south and especially New Orleans. There is a mystical aura to the South in the swamps, forests and mountains. That's where I am from so my music comes from there. I can see how those bands influence me, especially vocally. Maybe on this record those influences are stronger.  The term gothic is okay with me because of my personal understanding of what that means. I think the imagery is appealing but I do agree when you say that 'gothic' is seen for the most part today as a youth based identity fashion than music that has a focus on depth or songwriting. Regardless of  a person's style or image, once you get past an image it is the music's vibration that gives the weight to what you do. If someone sees my music as gothic because it reminds them of the aforementioned era of British or American gothic rock that makes me happy."

How did you choose the song “I bleed black” as a cover on the new album ? Were you playing or having the idea to play it for a long time ? Did you have some feedback from any ST VITUS member about your particular interpretation ?
"I am a long time huge Vitus fan, so it was always one of my favorite songs. I had always wanted to record it but until this new album I did not have the opportunity. I recorded it on the new album because it's a pleasure to record such a classic and to honor it but also to put your own spin on it musically to make it interesting for the listener. I'm happy that people enjoy my version of it as simply a tribute to their music and also a different interpretation without losing the original vibe. No, I do not know any of the Vitus guys personally, so I have not had the chance to play it for them or speak with them regarding my version of it. I hope they enjoy it and look forward to meeting them one day."

You’ve contributed to several tributes – Aerosmith, Zodiac Mindwarp, Anti-Seen…- if you just had to do one more, for which band would it be ? What about the tribute for yourself “F.T.W. Gideon Smith”, how did it happen (who submitted the project) ? which covers did you enjoy most?
"Yeah man, all those were great. Its a pleasure to cover a song by one of your favorite bands and to be part of a collection like that. I have been on a few of those over the years, they're always fun. If I had to choose another band  it would be maybe The Doors, The Cult or Allman Brothers. The tribute album to my music is a true gift to my life and my music's history. Appearing on so many other bands' tribute cds, it's an amazing thing to wake up one day and find out there is going to be one for your own music. What can you say but be so honored and thankful? Hearing other musicians play your songs in their own styles and especially hearing another singer sing a song you wrote about your own life, it just blows my mind. I'm still amazed that happened. It came together by the immense efforts to see it happen of my old friend Shane. I hand it all to him really for making that come together. I'm grateful to all the bands who recorded my songs and to the writers who contributed liner notes. I'm sure any artist would tell you it's a dream and an honor to fight your way in the music business for years and then see something like that happen in your life story. As for which ones I like best I love them all, they're all great. The whole thing is an honor to my life story. In  the last year at virtually every show I played the opening act covered one of my songs during their set.  It was the first time in my life to sit in a club and watch another band onstage playing one of my songs. What can you say but be honored? I'm at a loss for words how much that cd and that level of appreciation means to me."

One of your songs“Draggin’ the river” has been featured on the TV series“the Sopranos”, which I suppose was an exceptional exposure in terms of promotion ,  but if you had to choose for another between “the shield”, “dead wood” and “dexter”, which one would you choose ?  just for personal pleasure which series or movie would you be the most proud to be featured in and with which song ?
"Thanks man, yeah having a song on 'The Sopranos' was a great thing and I'm really thankful they used my song on such a classic series. Yes it definitely exposed my music to a giant amount of new fans. I'm honored my name is associated with such a fantastic show. I would say the same about any of the shows that use my music, it's fantastic and an honor. As for the three you mentioned, any of them would be great. I love them all.  It's also an amazing success to have a song on 'Sons of Anarchy'. I am really excited to have my song on such a killer show.   I would love to have a song on 'True Blood'. Speaking of films and television, I hope to get into acting eventually. I see guys like Danny Trejo or Mickey Rourke and I would love to give a shot at some of the roles these guys are playing. I would love to be in a Quentin Tarantino film. I would do it the same way I approach my music: with authenticity, professionalism and alot of heart. I might end up giving acting a shot in the future depending on the role and director."

Just like him : you’re playing in YOUR band, on guitar and vocals,  have a very strong artistic personality, you’re both ranged in the STONER scene (“desert rock” more specifically for him, while you can be attached to various ones) and have certainly about the same age… his nickname is “cool man”, who is he ? even if the comparisons  with him (B.B.) can certainly stop here, have you ever been compared to him and do you feel close from him in a certain manner ?
"Yeah Brant Bjork is really cool. I love his music. I do not know him personally but I'm sure if we meet one day we'd have many cool things in common to talk about. I am a little bit older but yeah around the same age. I don't know if I've ever been compared to him, that would be up to the listener. But yeah he's cool, hope to hang out one day."

You’ve written in 2007 the book “way of the outlaw spirit”, could you present it please ? Does it describe your general vision of life ? Have you heard about the “atma” philosophy  that Mike Scheidt from YOB is precisely describing in their last album ?
"My book was a collection of writing during that period of time that reflected things that were going through my mind and spirit. I wrote it for my own sense of accomplishment, but after it was released I have been so honored it has done or does anything positive for the people who read it. It was not a rock and roll backstage stories type music book, or a collection of lyrics and newspaper cutouts. It was and is, like a brick of light with heavy philosophical thought on many subjects of what I had to give at the time. As for the philosophy, it simply means to be yourself, never give up, follow your dreams and overcome adversity. I approach life believing that one should strive ever onward, to be the best they can be, to pick yourself up when you get knocked down, to believe in yourself and fill your heart with determination. To fill your blood with iron. I wanted to encourage other people to do the same. It's not a book for everybody but the people who needed to read it were the ones the book found. The people who would get it and understand it. In the wake of it now, it's five years old and I have seen many people I knew who read it decide to write their own books, I'm honored to inspire them. As for Yob, yes I do know about Atma philosophy and I think it's very cool they present Buddhist concepts through their music. Really great man."

You’ve sent me a photo from you riding an impressive motorbike, is that another of your passion ? Are you member of a bikers gang ?
"I love motorcycles and biker culture, it's a big part of my heart. No, I'm not in a bike club."

How about your deal with Small Stone records , do you work closely together ? What about tours, is there any chance to see you in Europe in 2012 ?
"Yes we are in constant communication, and work very well together all these years. Small Stone is a fantastic  label and I'm very proud our association. As for touring, no plans yet but I hope so."

I’m maybe wrong but it seems that on FB most of your musical friends are into Doom and Stoner, does it reflect the composition of your fans audience, or do you have also a great part of Southern / Blues rock fans too ? Do you feel  basically like a metalhead or just an outlaw rocker ?
"The fans of my music seem to be very diverse. I feel fortunate my music is enjoyed across the lines that might divide music fans. From stoner rock and doom metal fans, gothic rock lovers, classic rock fans, biker rock lovers, fans of psychedelia and blues. It seems that from the start so many years ago it reaches people in many different scenes. I would choose that by far than to simply be an artist that is one dimensional or just another scene guy in some passing crowd. Because of that, I don't feel like a part of a trend and refuse to be a scene follower. I just do what I love and get out what I need to get out.  I'm the ruler of my sound, my style. In many instances people who strive to conform to a particular music scene, there is a handbook of rules and etiquette that is dictated to them of what's okay to like. They are anxious and neurotic to fit into the scene and be accepted. I don't follow scenes or pay attention to them. There might be those who perceive themselves as the black sheep in the music world, but I am not a sheep. I prefer to follow my nature and be a wolf to the music scenes. Circling around the outside, I cut through them as I see fit and seize that which I have my eyes on, what I have marked. My music stands alone for what someone discovers there. wouldn't have it any other way. I'm an individual who follows what calls me on the inside, and out come the songs. The people who follow a call on the outside are the victims of the piper of commercialism. But in the end,  it's all rock and roll to me brother."

Thanx Gideon for your time and communicative enthusiasm
"Thank you very much my friend and I wish you well in all ways."

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