Wild Thing Interview (Greece)
Beginning his career in 1996 with Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned, Gideon, along with friends Otis Hughes and Boo Duckworth brought forward his version of classic rock and blues, North Carolina style. After three GSDD albums, his most recent release is a four-song EP for his newest gig, the doom metal Cemetery Crows. I had some questions for Gideon, and he was more than gracious about talking with me. - Angela Domaingue, Wild Thing (Greece)
WT: You've been with Small Stone Records since very early on. How has your relationship with them been over the years?
Gideon Smith: Without a doubt, always awesome. I treasure the support and belief Scott (Hamilton) has always shown me. I am stoked to be a veteran of that roster, and of all the years he has been and still is in my corner.
WT: Shortly following the release of your debut album Southern Gentlemen your friend and band mate Boo Duckworth passed away. What was on your mind during that time?
Gideon Smith: First and foremost was the loss of my friend. Everyone who knew Boo loved him. He was a golden soul. He had such a big heart. He was just a mountain-going, beer drinking hippie drummer at heart. He worshipped John Bonham, and was such a tremendous drummer. One of the coolest, best friends I ever had. Boo was like an anchor when he sat down behind you on the drums, and nobody played like that. I have known many great drummers and big praise to them all, but his feel was singular in its power. But as a friend, yeah he was a well loved and much respected person by many. Without him we kinda felt lost and still do at times. I also felt deep, personal loss when guitarist Richard Parris died in 2009. He was a brilliant player and massively clever. He was a mystical musician who was like my brother figure as well. Both those guys were instrumental in my music and life journey. I love many of the musicians I have played with, but since we discuss two that have moved on from this earth we walk... Boo and Rich will always be key figures in my story.
WT: "Draggin the River" was featured in The Sopranos. Was that the moment when you knew your hard work was beginning to pay off?
GS: It's awesome to look back and know I was a part of those shows because they were such high quality and well-loved all over the world. I will always have mad love and big respect for Sopranos, A&E Dog the Bounty Hunter, Sons of Anarchy, MTV, CW Channel and other shows that put me out in the world to so many people. Just awesome. Those programs and films brought my music to countless people who might not have known me at the time, so I'm really grateful for that.
WT: In 2008 you broadened your audience with the goth- influenced rock gem South Side of the Moon. What did the success of that album mean to you?
GS: It was a shaky time in the sense that the first album was very successful and got a lot of acclaim. So following it up could have been potentially like many bands who get rumbled on the second album syndrome and drop the ball. What made it worse is that Boo had died and the line-up was in constant fluctuation. There was also tension between the revolving guys I played with locally. I did endless demos that just were never making the cut to move on to actually recording album two. So because of the cocktail of losing one band member to death, the pressure to deliver a great follow-up with no solid line-up and little money, little equipment and all the little things needed to gear up and do it right, it was pretty stressful. But I carried on and was determined to do it. I had a health crash from lung trouble and eventually came down with auto-immune disease issues, mostly by way of arthritis, and it was a rough journey. Haters were gathering, giggling like the jackals and hyenas they were, to try to slit my Achilles tendon, hoping to exploit my hard work and knock me down. I gave them no power and give them none in my life today. I soldiered on, like a true warrior of iron, and refused to let my music die.
WT: Every time you have changed your sound, you bust out with something really original that crushes to the core. What has been your main influences over the years that brought the unique sounds of Gideon Smith?
GS: Thank you very much. I'm glad you dig the various chapters of my music. I'm really glad I never painted myself into a corner artistically, which hasn't been deliberate, but happened naturally. Many artists are just known for one thing and if they vary slightly, people that like them become upset with them. Fortunately, I just always did what I wante and the people who follow what I do are open to it all and absorb the vibration as all parts of the whole. From psychedelic acoustic songs to dirty blues, to slamming heaviness there are no walls around my style, or rules. As for long running influences, I suppose it's what people now call classic rock: Zeppelin, The Doors, The Cult, Hendrix, Sabbath, Allman Brothers, Stones, Bowie... and sixties, seventies rock. I also love 80s goth bands like Sisters of Mercy. These days I've reconnected with old classic blues like Robert Johnson, so honest and soulful. I listen to all kinds of world beat music like reggae, rap from many different cultures in multiple languages, fierce black metal, a lot of Buddhist and Japanese music, old school reggae and my life long favorites, classic rock bands.
WT: Your baritone vocal style has been compared to the likes of the mighty Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley and Nick Cave. How does it feel to be compared to some of the most influential artists of yesterday and today?
GS: Whenever I hear or see my name end up in the same sentences as people like Morrison, Nick Cave, Ian Astbury etc. I am honored. I love all their music, so to be compared or seen in a similar light by music fans is an honor. It means the world. I visited Morrison's grave in Paris, and have always felt a kinship with Jim, more than I can explain. Elvis will always be the king of rock and roll. He was a world-class musician in every way. And Nick Cave is amazing. Such a brilliant, original figure, with no compromise in his art.
WT: You've were known for your vocal abilities long before you released GSDD's debut album. What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
GS: Sing from your heart. Write from your heart. Follow your heart. Thank you, I appreciate the kind regards about my singing. I've always been more or less a blues-based singer, so I was never a good operatic metal singer guy. I just sing from my soul and let it be real and natural. I always tell people to sing in what style comes naturally to you, with no strain, with ease, so that you find your own style and just be real.
WT: Tell me about the tribute album called F.T.W.: A Tribute to Gideon Smith.
GS: Over the years, I had recorded versions of other artist's songs for tribute albums, mostly the ones released by Small Stone. I never thought there would be one to me, so that was so magical. As the years went by, from time to time I knew bands were covering my songs too. Since my music had gotten all over so many different music scenes from all walks of life, the covers were really diverse and interesting to hear. The first band I ever heard cover one of my songs was a French band, HK Family, that did a punk/ska reggae version of "Whisky Devil", which just blew my mind because it was so amazing. I was so honored. The CD is a gift to my life story and I am beyond honored that other artists out there, whoever they are, played their own versions of my songs.
WT: What song of yours is closest to your heart and why?
GS: All of them come from my spirit somehow. In hindsight, I will name a few that stand out to me now: From the first album, "She is Venus" and "Wish You Were Mine" - the songs Mike and I played on acoustic guitar sitting around the house during that time were really magical. From the second, "The Wolf Will Survive", "Way of the Outlaw", "Shimmering Rain","Daughter of the Moon" and "Lay Me down in Ecstasy". From the third album, "Black Fire" and "South". "South" because it represents such a deep-running, river of love, as two people deal with their challenges, but their love for each other is greater. The song "Shimmering Rain" because it's all about true passion and how when you're in the ecstasy of love, time seems to stop - how beauty can put time on pause, as the world goes still. "Lay Me down in Ecstasy" because it's my one pure, transcended, cosmic love song. Many things inspire many songs, but I think while you can draw bad ass songs from anger and other emotions, songs about passion are my favorites.
WT: Given that your music has been so diverse over the years with classic rock, blues, and goth influences, it wasn't surprising when you revealed your newest project, the doom metal-influenced Cemetery Crows. What inspired you to do the record, and had you wanted to do a doom record long?
GS: Cemetery Crows started as a side project for fun, just for satisfaction in the genre. Like everyone who digs doom, it all starts with Sabbath. Cemetery Crows somehow grew from doom to psychedelia, blues and gothic all at the same time. Because the initial four-song demo Wolves of Desire was so much fun and people were psyched about it, I decided to devote more time to it and expand on the sound. I am recording new CC and adding some bad ass musicians to join me in the line-up and the result is more Zeppelin, Sabbath, delta blues sounding. Cemetery Crows started as I needed to get my doom blues jam on and ended up being super-trippy and throwing a little shadow on the midnight and sunrise, when all kinds of fun things happen. It was basically an experiment that grew into something bigger by natural evolution of groove. It's definitely elemental sounding; an earthy, forest band. Take from it what you will. It's very raw and honest music that comes down like a falling black feather as the crows fly. I don't consider it evil sounding at all. It's like music notes colored dark purple or bright silver, mixed in with the blackness; a rhythmic, passionate music which is why the sound becomes addictive to some. Many people who have heard it tell us they find the sound addictive. It's like cerebral catharsis. It's a caress of crushing riffage but with ancient elemental soul. As heavy as it is, it's actually relaxing music but very primal. The future waits and the crows will fly. Stay tuned and keep your eyes on the moonrise.
WT: Thanks, Gideon for talking with me today. You are a true inspiration. May you triumph in all your future endeavors.
GS: Thank you to you, Angela for the interview and always keeping up with me. I send much respect and big appreciation your way for all the kindness and respect you show me. Shine like a supernova! Music speaks the language of the soul.