A Sunday Conversation with Gideon Smith
First time we heard Gideon Smith's latest offering, South Side of the Moon, we were blown away here at the Ripple office. I mean, open the windows and let some air in to clear the acrid smoke, blown away. Coming at us with a massive, meaty, mix of stoner rock, big time '70's inspired riffery, and seasonings from the deep south, in a big 'ol southern gothic way, this was a meaty platter dense enough for us to sink our teeth into. "Dixie Damned," as he likes to call it. We just couldn't wait to fire up the Bar-B-Q and invite Mr. Smith to come sit a spell on the Ripple couch and tell us all about what makes him tick.
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkle, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I looked at music, what it could sound like, how it could make me feel? What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Hail to you guys, and thank you for your time and the interview. Thanks also, for your thoughts on the latest album. I am pleased to know you enjoyed it. I agree with you, everybody loved KISS when we were turned onto them back then. I think turning points for me where when I first heard the “Love” album by the Cult when I was young and it was barely out. I remember listening to it at my friend’s house as if we had this rare secret thing. Hearing the Doors LP’s for the first time, Led Zeppelin, Allman Bros, Skynyrd, Black Sabbath, Sisters of Mercy, Hank Williams Sr., Danzig, Vitus, hearing old Misfits 7”s for the first time. I get off on the power of the magic in the music. And really, the first time I got to play shows and do it all on my own. Standing up behind a mic stand, looking out, it’s a feeling you never forget and it’s always awesome. Every time I get to do a new record, or play a show, it renews that again a thousand fold, it’s like an expanding epiphany. I never take it for granted but instead welcome it as an exploding gift of audio bliss.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
It’s often never the same. I tend to write riffs first, but sometimes I write words and then music. Or I sing ideas and then pick up a guitar. There is no real pattern that always applies to the songwriting. It can come in all kinds of ways.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
I am very fortunate in that I never have writer’s block, or lack of drive or motivation. The inner engine of my musical force never stops. I think what keeps any artist going are new experiences, and reflections on the experience, that brings the inspiration for more songs. Stay alive and keep your head up and you’ll keep feeling alive enough to write song after song.
Genres are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?
I would say it’s up to what the listener finds there. It’s interesting how many people can hear the same record and describe it differently. To me that’s a really good thing as opposed to being quickly ‘it’s this, or it’s that’. Since I refused to ever paint myself into a corner artistically, I think “Dixie Damned” is just an extension of a vibe more than a band or said style. I just do what makes me happy. As for ways to describe it: Passion, love, power, fury, lust, peace, frustration, beauty.
What is your musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?
My songs come from within. As they come out and are captured like photographs as a moment in time and soul, then they are made into an experience which can be repeated
by listening or performing them again. As they are heard, my intention is only that they are ‘real’ and then the listener can take what they find there. Being real, true and from your spirit, then I think songs become universal themes. If I had an intention, it would simply be to take people places that lay hidden within themselves they need to go. Or places they struggle to go but can’t get there on their own. I would hope my songs take people places inside themselves that they long for: I like to grab their wrist and pull them the final step into what they desire.
The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated?
The first key is unwavering tenacity, and keeping your inspiration bright so your heart doesn’t become empty. We all have to face it if you stay on the path long enough. You’re right it is brutal. Yeah it’s a terrible business; you just keep in it because you love the music. You do it for the music and the people who care about your music. Hopefully you have as much fun as you can and the ride is a good one, and you find it more rewarding than bad. It all depends on the band and their attitude, and then what adventures you may have. You make sure you work with good
people you can trust on all levels, and stay determined and keep your attitude sharp and bright. I have kept doing it also: because I’m honored to know there are people out there who wait on new records or hope for a show they can go to.
The great appreciation for them, that makes me want to keep going. Any uphill battles along the way are just challenges not problems. There is music on the horizon, always rising. Inspiration and magic is what keeps it alive.
Do you have a particular sound in your head that you try to bring out? Or is the creation process random and spontaneous? Or both, or neither?
It’s all at the same time. So, none of it is out of place whether it comes about by a plan or randomly. Of course, a lot of what you do is spontaneous, that’s creativity as it arrives. Always stay true to your vision of what you do and who you are.
Where do you see you and your music going in ten years?
Honestly the next ten years are nothing to me but more time for more music. I hope to keep shaking the trends and doing my part to crumble the weak hypocritical forces that try and keep rock and roll down. Where I will be or what I will have done ten years from now, I will leave that to the great mystery of tomorrow.
What makes a great song?
It’s all about the heart of it all. People love a good song and get psyched to hear it again. It’s like a gift you never tire of, the song’s timeless. Trends come and go and if the song remains, then you know it’s real.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Cds because I have to, because times have forced me to accept it. Vinyl is my long love.
Thanks for joining us Gideon. It's time to go pick up some Blackened Voodoo beer to go with the crawdads we got simmering and the cheesebread cooking. I'll bring the music. You may have heard it before, it's called Dixie Damned.