Crows N Bones Interview
North Carolina’s Gideon Smith is a true one- off. With his band Gideon Smith & the Dixie Damned he has been playing a bluesy mixture of southern rock, doom metal, stoner and psychedelia. It’s a well of timeless gothic Americana and outlaw class, helped by Gideon’s deep, soulful vocals (they invite constant comparisons to Danzig and Ian Astbury). His songs have ended up on the soundtrack to The Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy among others and his work has been recognised by Classic Rock Magazine. His songs have been covered by a number of underground bands (most notably for the tribute album “F.T.W.”) and he is also the author of the book “Way of the Outlaw Spirit”. His newest album is 30 Weight on Small Stone Records, arguably the single best rock label in the U.S. at the moment. The man himself has the details, starting with his influences when he was first starting out:
(Interview by Dimitris Kontogiannis)
G: Hail and how are you? Good speaking with you today my friend. When I first started getting into music I loved bands like Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Elvis, the Stones, The Cult, Queen, Motorhead, and what most people call classic rock bands. I also loved bluesmen like Robert Johnson, BB King, stuff like that. As for country, I liked outlaw country music like Coe, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, the bad ass guys of country music. My first concert was KISS and Nantucket. I listen to and love many kinds of music but as the years pass I still pretty much listen to my favorites like the aforementioned bands. Good records open up over and over like good books or movies, they keep speaking to you. I like everything from Morbid Angel to Nina Simone, it’s all about the power of the music.
CnB: Do you have a favorite book?
G: Not any one book in particular. I would have to name many that might be on my mind currently. I am always surrounded by books. I often carry books with me wherever I go. I don’t read fiction very much although I do love some fiction like Tolkien,etc. Mostly I read things I am interested in for knowledge and inspiration. Philosophy, positive thinking, esoteric books, world religions, occultism, ancient history and martial arts books. I have been studying Sun Tzu and Musashi over and over for years. Books are a gifts. I feel bad for people who don’t read. People need to be encouraged to read and not just watch television. Books can be faithful good friends.
CnB: Your music has many different elements (psychedelia, country, doom, stoner rock, to name but a few). There is an earthy blues undercurrent to it all but it’s often blended with cosmic, spiritual lyrics. It’s an interesting combination and I was wondering whether you get lyrical inspiration from specific philosophical traditions.
G: That’s very insightful of you and yes it is. My lyrics are inspired from all that I have learned or experience from many sources. It comes out with a natural flow from experiences and inspiration whenever they choose to appear. Lyrics are like word pictures and journeys of the spirit in sound. Words are like boxes that encapsulate meaning, so the words are the shapes drawn around the emotion to give it a face.
CnB: Do you have a favorite tattoo artist or have you gotten your ink from various places over the years?
G: They were done by many artists over the years. Many of my early ones were done by Randy Herring in North Carolina. I got my big chest tattoo by JFK who is in Scotland at Studio XIII. Most of my tattoos are animal totems, spirits and mystical symbols. They make me happy and I get tattoos that mean something to me, even if they’re just seen as ‘cool’ they still have some kind of meaning. I have a few rough ones but that comes with the territory of getting tattoos especially if you started getting them when it was hard to find a good artist, or any artist at all. I remember when tattoos were only common on soldiers, ex-sailors, bikers. If you saw somebody with one, especially someone with many of them, it was a rare thing. I am happy I saved some space so that I can get new ones now. Lately I have been getting new tattoos from my old friend Hans Drost, an awesome artist at Fu’s Tattoo in Charlotte, NC. Tattoos are the maps of heroes, your life story on your skin, symbols of the paths you walk. People say the body is a temple and so like the lions or dragons you see outside an old temple carved out of stone such are my tattoos are to the temple of the body.
CnB: Do you have any plans for another book, or was “Way Of The Outlaw Spirit” a one- off thing?
G: I wrote that book in 2006 when I had a great deal of alone and downtime and was not doing a lot of music. It consists of whatever I had to get out that was going through my mind. I am really honored that it inspires people or means something to someone. Yes I do plan to continue writing and there will be more books in the future.
CnB: Is Gideon Smith & the Dixie Damned a band in the traditional sense or your personal project? To me it seems a bit like a loose musical collective (such as Sly and the Family Stone, Funkadelic or Hawkwind, or even Queens of the Stone Age), as opposed to the standard definition of a rock group.
G: Yes you’re right, it’s totally like that. I jam with musicians who dig the vibe, enjoy the music and have a positive professional attitude and deep love for music. Dixie Damned is more of a vibe. I like to play with people who play their ass off, love to be part of it, and contribute to the energy of the recording or shows with heart and excitement. I’ve been playing music since 1989 so at this time in my life I play music on my own terms with the idea being the same advice Duane Allman once gave ‘play as much music as you can the best that you can.’ I believe music is like creating a ritual, giving a gift, an experience, and it should be pure and full of passion and power.
CnB: Is there a new album on the horizon?
G: No new full length for a good while.. such as the new album ’30 Weight’ has only been out a little over a year. If you would like to hear some new music, check out the new one and yes there will be more in time.
CnB: Will you be continuing your collaboration with Small Stone Records?
G: Yes, I love Small Stone and my musical relationship and friendship with SS rolls on. It’s a fantastic label.
CnB: You have always had a great taste in covers (Season of the Witch, I Bleed Black, When I Die). Are there any songs you would really like to cover one day but never had the chance?
G: Man, that’s a good question. Many for sure. At live shows I have covered many songs for fun that I haven’t had the chance to record yet. There are some unmixed unreleased cover songs I did that might see a release one day down the road. If you asked me today I’d like to cover ‘Yes the River knows’ by the Doors. I plan on doing a Doors tribute show one day, where I play all Doors songs and capture it on video. I need to find the right guy on organ. I’d also like to cover ‘More’ by the Sisters of Mercy or ‘Planet Caravan’ by Sabbath. I’d like to record “Sign of the Wolf’ by Pentagram.
CnB: Are there any live shows lined- up for the near future?
G: In the last year I played a handful of shows with one electric line up in Charlotte. We had some fun but I stepped back from live performance recently to focus on other things. I will continue to record and will return to the stage one day when the time is right. For future projects, stay tuned there are many very cool things on the horizon. Thanks brother and keep your eyes on today and ever onward.