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INTERVIEW 2014

Q: So what has happened since our last interview in 2011?

Donnie: Well that interview was to promote the recent release of my solo album brain cell.  I received a very positive reaction to the album but I have done little if anything to promote it.  I generally only write new material if it is for a specific purpose like a new album or a new tour or something. I don't write just to write (like many others do). 

I continue to play live both as a mellow unplugged format, usually as a duo, and with bands, most recently with The Playlists, which included my middle son, Jordan Gossett, my cousin, Leon Rogers and his son, Brent Rogers.  A total family affair.  It is one of the great joys of my life to perform with my son.  However, he recently moved to Denver, Colorado to pursue Intelligent Dance Music under the name VOIDIZM as Denver is the North American capitol for IDM so the band is no more.  We played our last gig on January 3, 2015.  It was an interesting band experience and particularly challenging to integrate the two generations.  Selecting material was the most difficult of any band I have played in (and I have played in many).  However, we did include about 10 of my original songs along with covers of modern rock and some classic rock.  We split the lead vocals 60/40 between Jordan and myself.

 

Here are some demos we recorded live in my studio with no overdubs.

 

LONELY BOY

 

SON'S GONNA RISE

 
Q: I notice that you have recorded and released several of your older songs from the 1970s and early 1980s?

Donnie: As I said before I don't write new material for the sake of writing.  I believe that if you want people to hear your music in the modern era, you need to provide accompanying visuals, preferrably a live action video.  Otherwise people are unlikely to listen to just pure audio.  In other words the chance of people listening to a previously unknown song as a video rather than audio only are about 10 to 1. 

 

I realized I had quite a few good strong songs from the late 1970s and early 1980s where I had no video, only the original recording.  So I started recording and filming a new version of SHE DOESN'T KNOW IT from my 1980-1981 solo album TELL ME WHY  where I actually played or sang on camera (rather than pre-recording and miming as with most music videos).  I was pleased with the first so I went on to re-record several more.

 

I NEED YOU NOW

 

AT THE BORDER

 

BIGGER THAN LIFE

 

THE LOSER

 

Among the challenges of these videos as I typically have no technical assistance: no audio engineer, no camera operators, etc.  I must do everything myself.  So I put cameras on tripods usually more than one at a time so I have more than one angle to choose from or to cross edit with.  Most are recorded either in my music room or in my bedroom which acts as my control room.  The problem with that is that I don't really have encough physical distance to capture the angles and images I prefer to have so I make do.  One of the most important aspects of a video is what appears in the background.  Usually it is not that you want something to appear but the opposite: that is, you don't want things in the background to distact from what is the focus in the foreground.  That is why so many professional music videos are shot against a complete white background or a complete black background with selective spot lights to only light up what the director wants to be seen, which brings me to the other important aspect of all my recordings and videos of the last 15 years: I have no budget.  So I must make do with what I have or try to be "clever" in working around it.

 

Another related problem is that without a budget I don't have proper lighting intended for video, but use cheap work lights.  They tend to glare. In recording my most recent video THE LOSER I recorded the vocals and guitar parts in my bedroom.  It is such a small room that with the bright lights I could hardly see.  My cameras each have a small monitor on them but with the bright lights in my eyes and no camera operators I could not really tell exactly what was framed in the shot.  My backdrop was too small so the camera frame revealed things I did not want in the shot plus they were off center -- which looks especially "weird" in high definition.  My work-around was to crop the shots in post-production and frame them with natural "frames" for images like the picture frame for a painting, the view in a TV screen, the frame from a postage stamp, etc.  I have received many positive comments on the creativity of the visuals for this video.  The irony is that I did not have these "creative images" I wanted to show but was seeking to hide what I was trying to avoid showing.

 

Q: So you just stated that you actually record the performance rather than mime? Why?

 

I tried miming in a few cases both vocally and instrumentally.  It never looked as good as when I actually recorded the performance itself on both audio and video.  Also many of the parts I play or sing are improvised or at least have an improvisational element that I don't have to worry about syncing later. 

 

In my opinion recording video, especially of oneself, is much harder than recording audio of oneself.  Now part of that is that I have many decades of experience of only the latter.  But considering monitoring: When monitoring yourself on audio, you just wear headphones.  There is no indication that you are focusing on any particular thing you are listening to as far as the audio recording is concerned.  But when monitoring video, one must look at a video screen while filming oneself.  The slightest change in where ones eyes are pointing is completely noticeable on camera and not the least bit subtle.  Your eyes are providing an indication that you are monitoring.

 

I also have lots of visual expression when singing.  I close my eyes.  I raise my eye brows.  I squint my face.  I look like I am in pain.  And yet after a lifetime of singing I don't think or realize that is what I do until I see it on camera.  However when I mime, I am not the same.  Maybe I am just not a good enough actor to convincly fake it.  The same is true when I "sing along".  It still looks "fake" and "weird".

 

The other point which I think is significant is that the video performance when the actual performance adds authenticity to the whole project.  It obviously requires musical skill to perform an entire passage if not the entire song in a complete pass rather than with traditional punch-ins.

 

Q: What about the videos with your other bands?

 

I have recorded many songs with other bands in the last couple of years.  Usually these videos are completely live in the studio or, at least, the band is live and I have enhanced the recording with a few overdubs.

 

I have a band called STANDARD THRILL which consists of Mike Taylor on bass and vocal, Rob Ferguson on drums and vocal and myself on guitars, keys and vocals.

 

HOW LONG

 

I FEEL GOOD

 

SHARP DRESSED MAN

 

LISTEN TO THE MUSIC

 

I GOT A WOMAN

 

MORE THAN JUST A BOY

 

I have played with a classic rock band for the last several years called THE BILLY SHEARS BAND with Billy Shears on guitar and lead vocal, my cousin Leon Rogers on bass, my nephew Brent Rogers on drums and guitar and myself on guitar, keys, drums and vocals.

 

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT

 

YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG

 

CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE

 

I also recorded a full album of cover songs with an acoustic unplugged duo as Donnie Gossett and Rob Ferguson called ACOUSTIC CRUISE.

 

SUNDOWN

 

THE BREAK UP SONG

 

ABOUT A GIRL

 

 

Q: What is your background in music?

I started playing piano as a child and then became serious at age thirteen playing both guitar and bass.  I played in various bands including backing up other artists. I have performed 800+ concerts in 15 countries. I began writing songs when I was fifteen years old and have written 500+ songs, almost all of which I have recorded. I also worked extensively in the recording industry as a producer, engineer and studio musician, having produced 50+ albums and contributed to many more. Most of my career has been focused on original music but I have also played in my share of cover bands.

Q: Who are your musical influences?

I am huge Beatles fan like everyone else. My favorite classic rock artists are Steely Dan, Cheap Trick, The Doobie Brothers and Dwight Twilley. I have listened to progressive rock since I was fifteen so my prog-rock influences are Pink Floyd, Kansas, Yes, King Crimson and Opeth. In the last year the primary music I have listened to is Opeth -- which most people are not familiar with but they are from Sweden and have been around for 20 years. They are both excellent musicians as technicians but also create truly beautiful music. My new album is not as heavy as Opeth (as they are a death metal band that plays progressive rock) but more in the mode of Pink Floyd. Many have told me that my guitar style is reminiscent of David Gilmour.

Q: I note that you are primarily a guitar player, so who are your major guitar influences?

There are many. Jeff Beck, Jeff Baxter and Larry Carlton (Steely Dan), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Eric Johnson whom I consider the greatest all-round guitar player in the world, Barry Bailey (Atlanta Rhythm Section), Lenny Breau (Canada's great jazz musician), Brian May (Queen), Carlos Santana and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.

Q: What do you consider to be the most distinctive aspect of your guitar style?

What keeps me playing with other artists is my versatility, in that I play numerous styles (rock, blues, jazz, country, funk, metal, reggae, etc.) reasonably well. But in terms of style, I suppose it is my thematic, melodic, lyrical guitar solos and my extensive use of guitar harmonies. I also tend to play many things "outside of the box" in that I am prone to play a solo with a greater abstract flavor than most guitar players. That's why I like someone like Jeff Baxter so much -- as he plays so much totally different than what most guitar players tend to play.

One last point I would like to make about my style is that I tend to approach many issues of life -- especially as it pertains to performance -- with what I call The Bruce Lee Approach. I am a big Bruce Lee fan from my youth and have seen all his movies many times and own them all. Bruce was a master of many styles of martial arts including defining his own style call Jeet Kune Do. Typically in a Bruce Lee movie, when Bruce was facing a major opponent, he would let them "make the first move" to determine their style. If they used Karate then he used a different style such as Kung Fu. If they used Kung Fu then he used American-Style Boxing or Judo or Karate or some other style his opponent had not mastered.

So in my style I tend to do something distinctly different than what other guitar players would do or are likely to do (if another guitar player is playing). If he plays jazz then I play rock or country licks. If he plays rock then I play jazz. If he plays rock and jazz then I play funk. In my opinion most guitar players tend to over play. They throw far too many notes into the solo as though there were a reward for the most notes. I consider this type of playing to be athletic but not musical -- and my interest and goal is in making good music. Sometimes people ask me what I mean by musical -- since shouldn't all sound in music be musical? But, no, that is not what I am saying. To be musical is among other things, to not be particularly athletic. Music is not the Olympics or the Super Bowl. It's art. There are drummers much more capable technically speaking than Ringo Starr and yet Ringo is one of, if not the most musical drummer ever. Ringo was not trying to impress you with his technique. Ringo was "serving the song" by making it more listenable and "musical."

I strive to be musical especially in my guitar playing. Musical guitar solos can be listened to many, many times without becoming boring or pass´┐Ż or predictable -- but instead memorable and contribute to the overall song.

Q: What prompted you to create this album called "brain cell"?

I determined that I wanted to create a progressive rock album with a strong concept that tied all the pieces together. However, I was not attempting to tell a cohesive story such as a rock opera but rather explore various maladies to be found in a mental hospital. The working title for the project was The Seven Wonders Of The Will to identify the power of the human mind especially as effected by illness.

From there brain cell evolved to a visit to a 1950s style mental hospital that is dilapidated and inefficient where we explore the various illnesses and issues of the patients. One patient has narcissistic personality disorder (Alice) while another is paranoid (Nothing More). The most "serious" patient suffers from a delusion where he thinks he is king and his hospital room is his throne room (The Kingdom In Your Mind). One patient implores his visitor to aid him in escaping (Call And No Answer) while another patient may be incorrectly diagnosed (Maybe I'm Crazy) and not ill.

I deliberately set out to create an album that was not commercial in the traditional sense and contained music that lovers of progressive rock (including myself) respect and appreciate. Where a typical commercial song may be three minutes in length and 2.5 minutes of that is singing, I deliberately created six to nine minute songs, still with 2.5 minutes of singing but the remainder as instrumental sections.

Q: Why choose the topic of mental illness?

I have always found the human mind intriguing. I think people are fascinating, especially in how they think. I find the science behind the study of the human mind intriguing and yet, it is such a soft science (compared to so many other fields of study), that there is much interpretation imposed as compared to other disciplines.  I question many of the conclusions of modern psychology and psychiatry. For example, in the case of many of the drugs that are available for mental illness, scientists do not necessarily understand why certain drugs have certain impacts while others do not. Or why a drug impacts one patient in a particular way and does not impact another patient at all. Apparently, their lack of understanding does not inhibit them from prescribing them.

There is a well-known and highly influential psychological test called the MMPI (Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Inventory) where psychologists assessed a large number of patients, who also underwent a true/false test with hundreds of questions, which forms the MMPI database. Subsequently when "John Doe" takes the MMPI, the results (John's "inventory") are fed into a computer to determine whose answers in the MMPI database are his closest match. If their test results are close "enough" then John Doe is assumed to suffer the same mental problems as their assessed counterpart in the MMPI database. Of course, there are numerous weaknesses to this.

First it assumes that the original patients were correctly assessed by the psychologists who gathered the data. What if the psychologist was wrong or mistaken? How can such an evaluation fail to be, at least, somewhat if not highly subjective and therefore prone to error? Most psychologists examinations are based on statements given by their patients but what if the patient is not telling the truth or is mistaken? What a patient reports is subjective and does not necessarily accurately present what is going on within their mind. Is that included in their assessment? I doubt it.   Psychological assessments are complex and multi-faceted because humans are complex and multi-faceted. Human beings are not static -- so that person maybe assessed in a particular way on one day and yet be assessed much differently on another day. The MMPI database suffers from inherent lacking reliability.

When matching answers, how close is close "enough"? What if John Doe did not answer honestly? The MMPI attempts to address this by asking similar questions repeatedly. However, it does not require a genius to recognize the similarity of questions and, therefore, answer them similarly.  The assumption that lies are inconsistent only relates to the highly unsophisticated.  One questions attempts to detect paranoia by asking John Doe if he perceives that someone is out to get him. Most people who are paranoid always believe someone is out to get them whether it is true or not. However, there are some people who are in a situation where someone is out to get them. It is not paranoia but fact. The MMPI will likely deem John Doe as paranoid if he answered "true" to this question, regardless of this distinction.   Unfortunately, the MMPI is frequently used to evaluate people whether in consideration for possibly employment or as evidence of "lacking character" in a court trial.

Like many psychologists I think every human is, at least, a little damaged and, therefore, mentally ill. Something is wrong or "broken" with the way they think, even if minor, and if given enough time unchecked and unresolved, it could lead to much more serious mental issues. Most of us are not so damaged that we cannot go to work or school every day -- but that does not mean we do not have maladies. We all catch colds or other infectious diseases, we all need to have a doctor check out some sort of malady in our physical bodies and yet most of us never expect to need any help with our mental faculties. I suspect that we are even more susceptible to mental maladies than physical ones.

So I chose to explore these issues in an artistic and reflective manner, which is rarely if ever done. Pink Floyd wrote songs about the progressive insanity of their original leader, Syd Barrett. "Dark side of the moon" is a British term for going insane -- for to be on "the dark side of the moon" is to have lost one's sanity. Even then their exploration is focused on one specific real person (as with their songs Wish You Were Here and Shine On You Crazy Diamond). That is the closest I have encountered to my project -- and I am, of course, a big fan of Pink Floyd and particularly David Gilmour.

brain cell concerns many issues related to mental illness and different forms of mental illness. For example, the song Under Restraint is specifically about a patient who is restrained to their bed by shackles. Although the patient does not like or enjoy the confinement, they are past the point of initial anger and resentment, having become accustomed to the confinement. They use the "power" of their mind to imagine that they could look at their own image in a mirror -- rather than be strapped to a bed -- and then what they may discover about themselves. I use the word "may" because until they can actually be released to get up out of bed and look in a mirror, they can only speculate on how that experience may impact them.

 

I must add that art means different things to different people and therefore one perception is not necessarily the definitive perception.  As a creator I deliberately leave aspects vague so as to allow the listener's own imagination to interact.  For example, I have stated that my intent was to write about patient who is under restraint but I deliberately avoided stating why they were restrained, especially for a long time period.  Maybe they seek to do damage to themselves.  Or maybe they are seeking to escape and could be a danger to society if permitted to leave.  Or maybe the staff supervising them is vindictive and is "punishing" them or seeking to intimidate them.  These are, but a few of many possible scenarios I leave to the listener.

Q: Why progressive rock (versus other styles)?

Well, I have always been a fan of progressive rock, not only of the style but I appreciate the fans of progressive rock as an audience more devoted to the genre, more knowledgeable and more discerning in what they choose to listen to than the generic rock fan. They are very sophisticated listeners and many of them are musicians themselves. Progressive rock appreciates songs that "take you somewhere" as though you have been on a journey. This is usually achieved through greater length (than popular music) and a series of musical changes either in tempo, key, feel or structure, much like classical music tends to have movements and then often times eventually return to prior themes. I enjoy all these values and find other styles relatively predictable and less satisfying.

Q: Were the songs difficult to create?

Not really. Once the concept was clearly defined then it was relatively easy to write the songs. However, unlike some albums I did not write all the songs first and then begin recording. I wrote a song and typically finished recording the song before going onto write and then record the next one. I wrote five songs intended for this album but for various reasons elected not to include them although this album is almost a double album as it has less than 5 seconds left from filling an entire 80-minute CD.

I re-wrote several of the songs several times. The song Maybe I'm Crazy started off something like Dire Straits' Sultans Of Swing but then evolved into a shuffle. Then from a shuffle to a true "stripper beat". Each time the feel changed so did the lyrics. I then tried recording the song in three different keys.

Life is a mystery, everything absurd

We all have moments we can't put into words

(From the song Maybe I'm Crazy by Donnie Gossett)

The first track was originally titled All Seems Lost and had completely different lyrics. My son, Justin Gossett, was a constant influence on the album and provided much of the artistic direction. He suggested to me that this song was not as clearly related to the concept of the rest of the album of mental illness so I should consider re-writing the lyrics for greater cohesion. Initially, I resisted as the project was a great amount of work but then I eventually determined that my original vocal recording was too restrained in style and should be performed stronger. Since I was going to re-record the vocals anyway, I took Justin's advice and also re-wrote the lyrics, now titled Alice.

Q: How long did the creation process take?

Well I started in September 2010 and finished writing and initial recording by February 2011. I then spent several weeks improving and tweaking various aspects of the recording.

Q. One of the distinctive aspects of this album is that it is almost entirely performed by you singing all the vocals and playing all the instruments. Was it a difficult process to master so much territory?

I started as a child on piano taking piano lessons along side my other siblings. When I was thirteen years old I began to play bass guitar and within months also began to play the guitar. In my early twenties I bought my first drum kit and learned to play as a studio drummer where the emphasis is on solid beats and feel rather than busy fills and solos. And somewhere along the way I also began singing.

My son, Justin Gossett, co-wrote one of the songs with me (Oblivion -- a song about electro-shock therapy) and played the arpeggio guitars (both acoustic and electric). My long time friend, Mark Cole played the sax solos on Magic. Everything else I performed and wrote myself.

 

Q: Were all these songs written recently?

 

All but one. The music and about half the lyrics of Three Reasons was written when I was sixteen years old.  One day I was working on ideas and recalled a similar idea in this song -- then titled "A Man Looks To The Sky" (which is the opening line).  I began to play the song but could not recall all the lyrics.  Ironically, I had no problem recalling the music.  I thought to myself "rather than doing a song like this, why not do this song?"  So I wrote additional lyrics to fill on the missing lines and recorded the whole thing rather quickly.

Q: Tell us about the track The Day After.

My first intent was to write something like Stairway To Heaven although it evolved into this highly emotional presentation. My idea was of someone who attempted to commit suicide by slitting their wrists but was rescued before they succumbed. Subsequently, they have been taken into custody at the mental hospital for observation and to prevent them from hurting themselves any further. Then the next day, someone close to them (a family member or close friend) comes to visit and the song presents the "patient" side of a conversation -- behind glass over a phone. Each verse begins  calmly at an emotional distance but as they begin to express, their emotions become more openly exposed and eventually leads to rage. This process is repeated for each verse to the climax at the end.

When I wrote the song I was concerned that the second verse may be perceived as flippant as the patient states "They may have saved my life but could not save my shirt" due to the blood stains on it. My exposure to people in this state is that they are both detached and yet able to come in contact with their emotions at a moment's notice. So this is a detached observation made at a point where the patient is highly aware of the concern of their visitor and yet life's inherent idiosyncrasies.

When I sang the ending I was not certain as to what I would sing either musically or lyrically so I literally looked over the previous verses to spontaneously create the words. The first verse focus is on how the patient is sorry so that was the first line. Then the second verse was how they are tired so that became the second line but then the third verse which is presently with much more vivid emotion is about anger so I sang "I'm sorry and I'm tired but most of all I'm angry..."

I was inspired by Alanis Morisette's song You Oughta Know as an expression of rage but put that rage into the context of depression leading to a suicide attempt. I believe Alanis broke new ground with her song and I attempted to also break new ground in expressing real human emotions.

Q: Tell us about The Same Old Line.

I wanted to write something that identified rage with the corruption of our system -- particularly in light of the financial collapse of recent years. So I started with accapella voices singing as slaves may have in the 19th Century -- to identify how long the working class has been "slaving for the man". Then next is an instrumental section almost like modern dance music -- but is meant to demonstrate the factor with marching and beating an anvil to the beat of the song. Then I use recordings I sampled myself back in 2008 of a singer from Abbotsford named Shelley. I then play these samples like an instrument using various sampling/tuning software.

Then the lyrics start with identifying disillusionment with the corporate system. Each chorus brings back the marching and the anvil -- to remind us of how little has changed. The song is quite long with 3 full verses and 3 full bridges finally building to a cacophony of layered guitars and voices. You can hear the famous sample from Gordon Gecko ("Greed is good!") from the Oliver Stone film, Wall Street then followed by "Drill, Baby, Drill" as spoken by Michael Steele, the former head of the Republican Party speaking at their 2008 convention. Thanks to my friend, Steve Riva, for his many cool suggestions for this song.

Q: We'd like to know about your guitars. What can you tell us?

It depends on what I am seeking to accomplish but generally on this album, I played my 1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe for most of the "screaming" leads and power chords as on the heavy guitars for The Day After. For mellow clean parts, I used my new Squire Telecaster (which I acquired during the recording process). For the guitar solo on Under Restraint I used Justin's PRS SE Mikael Ackerfeldt Signature Model but for most of the other parts I used my Ibanez. I like the Ibanez because of its wider neck, 5-position pick-up selector (enabling me to get Fender-style out-of-phase sounds along with decent screaming like the Les Paul) and its 24 frets. Most players do not use those upper frets but I do. For acoustic guitar I used my 1975 Ovation Balladeer acoustic/electric taking the signal both off the guitar pick-up (which is ancient by modern standards) and also from a microphone. For bass guitar I used a 2001 Mexican-made Fender Precision bass although I also used much keyboard bass.

I typically played my guitar with both a direct signal off the guitar and through the POD (Version 2.0) but generally took the clean signal and put it through a plug-in. I love the many new and varied plug-ins which are available now even though they require a significant amount of processing power.

Q: You have produced many different artists in the past. What is it like to produce yourself? Is it substantially different than producing someone else?

Yes, it is. Typically when you are recording an artist, they are performing in the studio behind glass while you are in the control room, carefully critiquing their performance. Your focus is on listening while the artist's attention is on creating their performance. They depend on the producer to critique it. This is especially true in the case of vocals -- as their are unlimited nuances and ways of phrasing words along with a range of tones and vocal techniques to produce the sound -- not to mention the mechanics of timing and intonation. It is substantially harder to critique your performance while you are creating it than when only listening. Over time I have become quite accustomed to it but I must also rely on playback to determine if I achieved the performance I was striving for.

In the modern age with so much technology to assist in the recording process, there is a tendency to record the smallest possible segment of a performance, seeking to perfect it and then move onto the next segment. With vocals this can be a single phrase. However, oftentimes continuity or the feeling of a recording is compromised as seeking for perfect intonation loses some of the natural feeling that would occur in a more spontaneous and less contrived performance. Neil Young says that the first two takes are almost always the best and if it is not capture by then, it won't be (in that session). Mr. Young speaks a truth. However, that also fits within his style which is deliberately loose. As creators of modern recordings we need to use the best of the tools that are available without losing the emotion and humanity of creating music with purity.

Q: Is there much distinction between performing live as compared to performing in the studio?

Yes, there is a very great distinction as they are very different mediums. For the most part, the concert itself is a much more controlled environment -- in that the audience experiences the music as a group and is impacted by the group dynamics. The presentation, whether in a small club or large concert arena, is controlled by the artists (and those assisting putting on the show). If the artist presents visuals (like Pink Floyd does, for example) then the whole audience sees the same visuals. In contrast the studio itself is a controlled environment but the audience usually listens to the music alone (and not as a group) in unlimited environments. They could be on a bus or bicycle, at the beach or in a bedroom, at a party or on headphones. As an artist you do not know the environment they are listening in. Live performance is a one time presentation. The listener cannot press rewind. The audience does not know what is going to happen next while the artist does (or at least has the option to determine it). While a studio recording is entirely predictable in that it will sound the same the next time as it did the last.

Practically speaking, you can present things to an audience that could work very well live but would seem tedious in a recording. You can build dynamics live that could be very effective but be hard to listen or follow in a studio recording. Then you can control or manipulate the performance or only present the performance of your choice with a studio recording. For example, you could hear an awesome vocal performance that the artist simply cannot reproduce live (such as Queen only performed small portions of Bohemian Rhapsody live as the complex operatic parts were simply the studio recording).

I believe in utilizing what works best for that medium. Usually they are very different. For example, with guitar solos. Improvised "bluesy" guitar solos work better live while in the studio, melodic thematic "deliberate" solos generally work better.

Q: How did the tour-de-force song The Kingdom In Your Mind come to be?

A: My son, Justin Gossett, is an avid progressive rock listener and researcher. One day he was discussing with me how the album In The Court Of The Crimson King by King Crimson is considered the first prog-rock album of all time and has such influence to the present that it is near the top of the list of best prog-rock album of all time (Number 3 I believe). He asked me if I was familiar with the album, which I was as I listened to it when it first came out and particularly was fond of the title track. Justin then suggested to me that I should write a song for this album as inspired by In The Court Of The Crimson King. He suggested it should be long (it is over ten minutes which was unheard of when it was originally released) and has many verses and transitions but after each transition returns to the original theme.

My immediate response was "What a great idea!" I then recalled the movie K-PAX which takes place in the mental ward of a large New York hospital where one of the patients was so delusional to think she was an aristocratic lady (and not merely a patient) who took "gentlemen callers" in her "parlour" (which was her private hospital room). I thought that it be cool to have patient in this mental hospital who thought they were king and that this patient was deluded that in order to discourage this patient from violence, the hospital staff "played along" with his delusion by greeting him as "Your Majesty" and suggesting he drink the "special elixir" (which are his prescribed medications) so that he can be free to rule his kingdom and not be sent back to the dungeon (the place where the meds were forced into him). I wrote six verses and four major instrumental movements that have tempo, meter and/or feel transitions but then after each one they return to the original theme -- as though returning to the kingdom -- The Kingdom In Your Mind.

I wrote the song with inspiration but it took me several weeks to record it -- as it turned out -- it was one of the earliest tracks of the album. Upon completing what I call Phase A -- the initial writing and recording of the album, I determined that though it may be the best song on the album, its production was the poorest as it did not seem as clear and punch as I perceived it should be. So as I analyzed it I realized that the song would sound better for my voice if sung in a higher key -- so I raised the key -- which meant I had to re-record almost all the parts. Unlike the first time of recording the song where I recorded it as one long song, I recorded each tempo/feel transition separately and then glued them altogether at the end. Initially I had programmed the drums but decided that playing the drum parts -- as a real drummer -- helps the parts to sound more musical (I suppose that is the power of the intuitive mind over the conscious mind -- another interesting mental quandary) so I played drums on the second recording and I was much more pleased with how it sounded.

The first instrumental movement is faster tempo riff rock but then reverts back to a Beatles or Queen-style theme. The second movement is in 6/8 and is one of the rare keyboard solo moments in the album. The third instrumental movement started off as more metal with double kick drum but the middle part of that evolved into a Hendrix tribute. The opening line of my guitar solo is taken directly from Hendrix classic guitar solo from the Woodstock album -- where it slows down from Star-Spangled Banner and Purple Haze into a cool laid-back blues -- which happens to be my favorite Hendrix guitar solo (and the last song performed at the Original Woodstock Festival) so I used this as a nod to one of my guitar heroes. Then the last instrumental movement was intended to be a solo guitar segment but eventually evolved as dual harmonies against a sparse background.

Q: You have spoken much about guitar parts but little about keyboards. What was their role in the album?

There is only one brief keyboard solo on the album (The Kingdom In Your Mind) but I made use of keyboards on almost every track especially with the pad synth sound. I recorded the album from September to March and during New Year's Eve of that period I saw Foreigner live in concert. I very much enjoyed them and while I was watching the concert I noted the frequent use of a pad synth sound -- and realized that those guys more or less created that sound and style -- especially as one of their original members (no longer in the band) was also a founding member of King Crimson (Ian McDonald). My own use of pad synth somehow made more sense to me after seeing them as I chose it intuitively rather than necessarily recognizing that it is in the great prog-rock tradition.

What I did use much in the album is organ as I am a big Kansas fan. I superficially was aware of Kansas when they first emerged. I have specific Studio of repairing a sound system in Nashville when Dust In The Wind first came out as a single. I liked what I heard but I did not immerse myself in their material at that time. Years later a friend of mine named Arthur Klassen lent me his Kansas catalogue to listen to and I loved it. Steve Walsh is one of the great rock singers of all time -- and as typical of a great talent, he makes it all seem easy. I also love his organ playing as it is signature to the Kansas sound so I have quite a bit of that through the album.

 

Q: I note that the album begins and ends with the same sound effect.  What is the meaning of that?

 

The sound effect you refer to is an Electro Cardiogram machine (known as ECG or EKG).  It monitors one's heartbeat with both a visual and audio monitor.  Rather than hearing the actual heart beating, the EKG sounds a pulse of simple beats to represent the rhythm of the heart.  In the opening track, Alice, it starts off with the "flat line" sound representing no life or end of life as there is no heartbeat but then it starts to pulse representing the heartbeat.  I used a sample of a real EKG machine but then I modified it to pulse at the tempo in synchronization with the song with A note -- the same key that the song Alice is in.  Then it starts to play the opening arpeggio of the song and then eventually is joined the band particularly acoustic guitars.  Then the last track, When It's Over, is a song about euthanasia -- that is choosing to end one's life usually due to unrecoverable illness.  So that track opens with a breathing machine in synchronization with the song.  Then at the end of the song, as the patient has gone under the anesthetic we hear the EKG machine again but this time in the key of B.  It starts to pulse quickly as a warning that the patient's heart is not beating and then flat lines -- representing that patient has reached end of life.  The use of sound effect in synchronization to the song is a nod to Pink Floyd and particularly the track Money from Dark Side Of The Moon.

 

Q: The album credits state that you played almost every instrumental part and sang all the vocals.  So what part did others play in this album?

 

First of all, my son, Justin Gossett played a major role in helping me define the album as a concept album about mental illness within the progressive rock genre.  We both have listened to much Opeth in recent years and appreciate their quality and integrity -- but Justin is the one who turned me onto Opeth.  At one point, Justin suggested I listen to another artist covering an Opeth song.  As soon as I listened I was inspired to create my own song -- which is how much of the best music is created.  However, the Opeth song featured the strumming of acoustic guitars.  I had my acoustic guitar beside me but I had no guitar pick immediately available so I began to play finger-style.  Almost immediately the structure and melody for Under Restraint came flowing out.  On another occasion Justin suggested I create something as inspired by the Opeth song Face Of Melinda.  I listen to the song and within moments came up with When It's Over.  Now both songs sound much different than the Opeth songs that inspired them but they are nonetheless influenced by them even as they have come into their own.

 

I have two good friends named Myron Berg and Jon Brotherton -- who are themselves mutual friends, that have given me much helpful feedback to my music and recordings in recent  years.  As I recorded each track I would send it to them for their feedback which was always helpful.  Sadly four months into this process of this particular album (even though they had been providing this helpful feedback for years), Myron was tragically killed in car accident which also sent his wife and four children to the hospital.  Myron was a close friend for decades so his loss was quite a blow to me.  There was a period where I just was not up to working on the album.  Myron had been the single greatest supporter of my music in my entire life but I realized that if Myron had not died, he certainly would have wanted me to complete this album so the best way I could honor him and his memory was to complete this project.  After a period of mourning which included putting together a band to play at his memorial, as requested by Myron's widow, I returned to the project.

 

I had written and recorded a particular part to a song (ironically the song When It's Over -- which is about death) that I knew Myron would particularly appreciate.  However, I had a cold and waited till my voice was in proper performance condition before recording the vocal before I played the song for Myron's feedback.  It was during this brief waiting period that Myron died.  I was not able to play him this part which would have been meaningful to him because I had waited a few days.  One of the lessons I learned from this experience was the shortness of life and to make the most of what you have while you can. 

 

My brother, Michael Gossett and my best friend, Steve Riva, also provided much helpful feedback and suggestions throughout the project and I am grateful for their input. Steve considers The Kingdom In Your Mind as the best track of the album.

 

Originally the album was titled The Seven Wonders Of The Will but my son, Jordan Gossett, hated the title.  Instead he suggested a better title, brain cell, which I used.  I particularly appreciate the double-meaning as our brains are filled with cells but also that within the custody of the mental hospital the brain is a cell.

 

There are, of course, many others who contribute to my life and music such as Brandon Gossett, Kelsey Gossett, Ben Karlstrom, Leon Rogers, Tony Chamberlist, Glenda Rae, Mike Taylor, Victor Wells, Brent Rogers, Billy Shears, Rene Worst and others.