Bill Gaal Talks In for the Kill
Wed, 06 Jul 2011 07:25:01
Evolution is the key to survival in the music industry—or any industry for that matter.
If you can't roll with the punches, you're going to get swept underneath the changing tides and washed out to sea. However, there are those artists who manage to take success in one facet of the business and transmute it to another. Bill Gaal is emblematic of that.
He's something of a heavy metal visionary. Gaal went from playing bass in seminal genre juggernaut Nothingface to numerous session and producing projects. Out of his Southern California studio, he's made music that's appeared in The Ghost Whisperer, and he's in the process of making the next record for his In for the Kill project—this time around featuring original Nothingface skin-smasher, Chris Houck. He's receiving a bevy of placement and production requests, and he continues to make enthralling, engaging, and entrancing rock.
Amidst all, Bill Gaal spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about In for the Kill, music on The Ghost Whisperer, his favorite Nothingface memories, and so much more.
What's your plan for In for the Kill?
There's already one In for the Kill release out, and the whole idea behind the project is to write music that I love. I'm not trying to do anything specific with these songs for any reason. There's nothing pre-conceived about it. Other musicians that I respect, get along with, and have a great time playing with put their print on it and give it their little flavor. In For the Kill is definitely rock; it's not metal. I did the first record with some friends in a band called Molly Maguire. Nothingface played with them way back in the day and we all loved them. It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to do a project with these guys. They played on that first recording which released in 2008. The thing that's odd about In for the Kill is I have people play on the records but they never actually go out and play these songs live. I ended up putting live versions of the band together to do shows. It's definitely a project band.
What's it been like going back to working with Chris Houck?
I'd written a bunch of music for this new In for the Kill record that I ended up playing for Chris Houck, who was Nothingface's drummer when we were trying to re-launch the band. He really loved it. We came up listening to the same music. Our parents listened to the radio when we were kids so that's what we listened to. He really liked the music and wanted to play on it. I gave them copies of all the songs, and he took them back to North Carolina. He wrote his version of what he thought the drums should be for 12 songs. He'd send me his tracks back and forth. Between the two of us, we'd figure out the drum parts. He flew out here, and we tracked the drums for this new record at my studio in Los Angeles two years ago. I ended up taking a job in music management for a year and a half, putting everything on hold. I stopped that in September of last year, and I'm launching my own production company and wrapping up this In for the Kill record because I really want to get it out by the end of the summer and do some shows. In a nutshell, that's about it.
Can you do anything musically with In for the Kill?
That's the idea. However, it's rare that I'll stretch it out into anything that's so far into pop or metal. It lives in that rock world. Really, it's the music that I just write naturally. This is the music that comes right out of me. It's a direct pipeline to whatever my music psyche is.
Would you say there's a distinct vision for it?
I think so. It ends up staying a bit more direct because the type of people who play on it do probably fall into that genre that I write in. By default, it stays in that realm of rock.
Has it been really gratifying to have so many recent film and TV placements?
That was all In for the Kill music that I'd been working on. A good friend of mine does a lot of placements, and he's had a lot of luck getting those songs on television. I've had some indie film stuff as well. It's surprising, especially The Ghost Whisperer. They've used one of my songs on three different episodes. There's always something horrible going on when they use like a monster attack or people are getting naked, jumping in lakes, and being attacked by ghosts [Laughs]. It's great.
Your playing has always been cinematic. Is this something you'd always dreamed of doing?
It's definitely something that I've always wanted to get out. During the years I spent in Nothingface, it just wasn't appropriate for what we were doing. It just didn't fit the band. It had to go on hold. We were doing our thing with Nothingface, and that's the direction we were going. As far as a cinematic or dramatic element goes, I think that comes from playing in a band like Nothingface for as long as I did. It's always important for the dramatic parts to be extremely dramatic and for the mellow parts to be extremely mellow. It was a very extreme band. Everything we do in life, whether it's living or songwriting, it affects our art. That's in my songwriting and I'm sure it always will be.
Are there any composers that you find particularly inspirational?
That's a good question! I haven't spent a lot of time in that world of straight-up film composing, but I like Danny Elfman and John Williams. Film scoring is a whole different realm that I haven't spent a lot of time in. Most of my inspiration comes from rock guys or producers. I do a lot of producing. That's where most of my energy goes.
Nothingface perfectly created a space between elegance and brutality. Was that an inherent goal?
I think the big reason that happened is all of the band members have a lot of aggression in us. The beginnings of Nothingface were not necessarily about aggression. The start of the band was very melodic and musical. We came from that, and we added the aggression. However, we never wanted to lose that contrast. It's pretty powerful to see something brutal against something beautiful and soft. That black and white contrast can be pretty impressive. That's what we always tried to go for. There was an aggressive heaviness in Nothingface that came from an inner core. If we could've made stages explode with our music, that's what we would've liked to have make happen. Nothingface possessed a dark, internal heaviness and not a fast heaviness. That's where the beauty and melodic sensibility of Nothingface came from as well.
The songs worked because there was always a groove.
Right! We didn't come from a straight metal background. We grew up with rock music, pop, and hip hop to a degree. That's what we listened to as kids. When I say that, I'm mainly speaking of Chris Houck and I. Although we spent a lot of years with Tommy Sickles, Chris and I grew up together. The fundamental of that groove came from there. We'd spend afternoons just playing drums and bass and locking rhythms years before Nothingface. When you hear these new In for the Kill recordings, those grooves are there. They're not heavy like Nothingface, but you'll recognize and feel the Chris Houck grooves, and it's pretty cool.
Do you still run into a lot of old school Nothingface fans?
I do! It's always shocking. It's lessened as the years have gone by. Every once awhile, I run into people in the most random places that will bring it up or say something. It's very cool. I have such a different perspective of the whole entire lifespan of Nothingface now from start to finish. When you're in the middle of it as an artist struggling, working, and trying to achieve whatever your idea of success is, it's very difficult to appreciate all of the good things and see what you've actually done up to that point. Years later looking back on it, I'm like, "This is an important band. We did a lot of really cool stuff." As a band we never quite achieved what we were looking for as far as commercial success goes. As far as underground success and releasing important records that actually meant something, especially An Audio Guide to Everyday Atrocity, we achieved that, and it's pretty huge to me.
The band was one of those bands that elicited fervent reactions from listeners.
You either got it, or you didn't. There was no in-between. That's a function of the way we wrote. It was either heavy or it was melodic. It was either destructive or beautiful. It was all or nothing with that band.
What's the story behind your studio?
It was a long journey to this. I'd been working as a songwriter for a couple of years out of a small studio I had in my house here in California. Working and doing that led me into management for about a year and a half over at Frontline Management, specifically at Morey Management who managed Nothingface at the very end. When you go work as a manager, you learn a lot as an artist. You meet a lot of people and can go, "Oh my God, we did some stupid stuff. If only I would've known this or that!" You just can't know it as an artist. It did make me realize that it was time for me to get back into the art of what I was doing because the business side wasn't fulfilling at all for me. In the fall of last year, I decided I'm going to go all-in. I'm going to invest the money. I'm going to find the space. I'm going to build a creative space to work on my stuff and to work with other artists whether it be recording an album, consulting, songwriting, or production. It's a creative space where I can work with artists and help steer and guide them towards some sort of success. When you're involved in your art, it's difficult to deal with the business side of it. Without the business stuff, you can't continue to create your art and make a living. I can offer some insight to people when it comes to that so that's why I built this space. It's a creative space for artists to come and work and develop songs. I started building it in September, and from day one I was immediately busy. I haven't stopped working, and it's a great problem to have [Laughs].
Looking back on Nothingface, is there a moment you remember most fondly?
There are a lot of moments. Looking back on it, I can now see pretty clearly that my joy in music was more based around the creative aspect of it as opposed to the live aspect of it. I can now see that I've always been a studio guy and a songwriter. Most of my moments would be in the studio. They're the revelation moments where you're writing something or putting it together and all of a sudden something just falls into place. You think, "I can't believe we made this piece of music!" Growing up, you listen to records but it doesn't occur to you how they're making them. There are a lot of those moments in the studio. I remember one in particular. We were mixing Violence with David Bottrill up in New York. Listening to the mixes come together and watching what he was doing was emotionally overwhelming. It was amazing. There were a lot of moments like that in the studio. Live, the obvious moments are the first time you go out on your own tour bus, you say, "Wow, holy shit, this is actually happening!" Then there's the first time you play in front of 20,000 kids, and it's so big you can't comprehend it. You comprehend the first couple rows of people, and it's so cool.
Have you heard Bill Gaal's music?