Welcome to Gabbing With Gus. Forget some sort of long intro and lets get right down to it, shall we? The first interview for a fresh new year.
If Kira Roessler had done nothing else but play bass for Black Flag she would have Quick-Creteed herself into the underground consciousness. However, before and after her tenure with that band she played in a list of bands as long as my arm, and to boot is an two time Emmy award winner for dialog editing, and has found time in her busy schedual to play and sing (and has one of the most unique and beautiful voices in punk/post-punk/or put your pet genre title here) for Dos, the two bass duo with Mike Watt as well as loaning her four string tallents to support the West Memphis Three, along with other former Black Flag allums, and she also plays with Devin Hoff in Awkward. She was kind enough to take some time out to answer to my silly email questions for this first post. So lets go….
When did you first start playing and when did you realize you wanted to be in a band?
I started playing classical piano at 6. I quit at 11, because I am really competitive and could not keep up with my older brother. When I was 14 he was in this prog rock band who needed a bass player, and I decided to take up bass to join that band. I practiced like a fiend, but way before I was able, the band had broken up and my brother and I were into punk rock. So we started a punk bank called Waxx.
Black Flag has become a household name but you played in bands before that. What were Waxx, Sexsick and Twisted Roots like musically and who were/are your influences?
Yeah that is weird. Because it never really seemed like it would be that way. Most of the bands I played in, I was “just the bass player” in the sense that someone else was the primary songwriter and creative lead. I always say my biggest influences are the people I played (and play) with … and not anyone I listen to necessarily. I am not much into being “like” anyone.
So Waxx, the Visitors, and The Monsters were all bands I played in where the guitar player Glenn Brown wrote most of the songs and influenced me the most. Glenn has a very strong rock n roll background, and that was clear in the songs. He and I still are in a virtual band making songs over the internet.
Sexsick was the most influenced by me, because I wrote about half of the songs, and was somewhat of a dominant personality in the band. It was rock, but moody, girly, emotionally overwrought… the way a girl band might be.
Twisted Roots was my brother’s band. He wrote all the songs, and it had more of a pop sensibility with a dark twist (of course).
Dos and Awkward are bass dominated bands in which I am in benevelent competition with my counterpart … and they don’t really sound like other bands.
How long was Waxx around for?
No idea. Maybe a year? We practiced alot in our garage and recorded ourselves. I think Paul (our drummer) joined the Screamers on keyboards and that kind of broke up the band. Glenn (the guitar player) and I then formed The Visitors.
You were going to college when you joined Black Flag. I would imagine school and marathon touring was pretty exhausting. How did you keep up with the pace?
It pretty much sucked. When we were home – I would go to school and then go to practice for several hours and then try to study somewhere in there. Seemed like every time we were actually recording, I was in midterms or finals too…
I would take a quarter off (UCLA was on the quarter system, not semester) and we would tour, and then pretty much they would drop me out of the van back for my first day. It usually took at least a week before I could understand anything they were saying and tie it to the previous studies. And I was studying applied math, which does not come naturally to me.
How much did you have to prove yourself to people outside of the band that you had what it took to play for the band?
In that way, the guys in the band helped a lot. I mean we all had pretty high standards, so they encouraged me to just do what I do, and were always positive and complimentary. People outside were gonna hate if they were gonna hate … and that came from all sides. So we were more of a united front against the haters.
And speaking of pace, Pace Picante or Old El Paso?
Uh … neither … there is this brand I like though … it has a very nice habanero flavor and a salsa verde… I also LOVE the Baja Salsa at Baja Fresh restaurants for some reason.
How did you get into doing dialogue editing? Was it a natural progression from spending time in the recording studio?
Not at all. I had been building a twelve year long computer career, so changing paths was not natural at all. But I was kind of unhappy with it, and I met someone with a tiny sound company. I thought with my computer, business, and music background that I could be an asset to his company. At first I just answered phones, and did all the business type stuff until I realized that the guys all preferred the sound fx part of the editing. So I offered up to learn and grow in the dialogue area … filled a need so to speak.
I know you have won a few awards for your editing, but out of the projects you’ve worked on what (or which) were the most personally fufiling?
I have won two Emmys. [Gus does LOUSY research!-ed.] HBO mini series John Adams. HBO TV Series Game of Thrones Season Two. They were both pretty thrilling, but I have to say I really didn’t expect the second one. John Adams swept across the board that year, but a season two series seemed much less likely.
Since I work on features (movies) most of the time, it is really gratifying that two of the TV series I have worked on have been acknowledged. But it is because HBO goes for a standard of excellence, that they get such great results, so a credit to them as well as those who received the awards.
Myself, I was scared senseless when I took my first band into the studio. What band where you in when you recorded for the first time?
Geez the first gig was WAY more terrifying to me. I mean in the studio you can fix mistakes, and we had been recording ourselves quite a bit in rough form, so it was not that stressful. Plus I don’t think I really did any formal recording until Twisted Roots’ single, so by then I had more confidence. I had played live a bit by then and played a whole lot in general.
You play a 3/4 scale bass and you see quite a few players using them as well these days. Do you find the shorter scale to be easier to express the low with vs say a 34 scale Ric or Fender?
Uhhh I find it easier on my old hands and body. I think also that in the old days some of the 3/4 scale basses just didn’t sound very good. I had one a long time ago and just hated it. Of course the two I have now are just beautiful custom basses, so I can’t really compare how the “off the shelf” ones are now. But my switch was purely that I hit a wall physically.
You sing in Dos. How big a part of your musicality is singing?
Hmmmm. Well I have always sung along to things. And loved strong female singers. But I never have considered myself a singer. I am a bass player who sings. That being said, it has been a pleasure to grow a bit in the songwriting area using melodies I am singing in a way I just didn’t before.
What do you think of the music scene today? Are there any bands or singers that get your blood pumping?
Really hard to say. I am not exposed unless someone says “hey check this out” to me. And alot of stuff I am listening to that isn’t old favorites is new to me, but not new.
I do not, however, believe that things are so much worse than they used to be, or so much better. I think good music is always being made. It takes some effort to go and find it. Maybe less now than it used to. And if you don’t like it, and think you can do better, START YOUR OWN BAND. See how you do.
There is a lot of punk rock nostalgia around right now. Do you feel that you can move forward while still keeping the ethos/ethics? Is it just new leaves on a old tree?
Yeah, the re-hash thing is very weird to me. I always like to see things move forward. To me they weren’t necessarily the good old days. I have no regrets, it is just that so much has happened. I love dos and the work we have done. I love the songs I write these days. So I have no personal nostalgia.
As for what is going on “out there” I don’t pay that much attention. If people suggest I check out some music (new or old) I eventually do that. If I like it , I like it again new or old.
I do think there are new cool bands out there … you just have to be looking, and listening.
If you had the chance to play for any band or musician, living or dead, in any period of time, who would it be?
Well I do not sit and wonder or wish for some situation with some amazing player or players. I am not beyond being flattered if someone were to ask that I admired, but that has not happened but once in the last thirty years. That was by Devin Hoff, a bass player I admire that I now play with (when we can) in a band called Awkward. So there you have it, if asked … who knows.
When you’re not editing or playing, what are your passions?
My dogs, my sweetie, movies and TV (yeah I do like them), good food …
Anything that you’d like to say that I didn’t cover?
I have always been a non-conformist. Punk rock made sense because there were supposed to be no rules. So don’t get caught up in how punk rock should sound or be … do it your way, listen to it your way, dance your own way … There ARE more ways out there.
(I dedicate this to my friend/cat, Indy c.1993 to 12.31.12-Rest and Purr-G)