Still Alive | Gravity Kills

Killoween II takes place on October 28 at Pop's 24/7 in scenic Sauget, Ill., and once again features Gravity Kills headlining a trio of local bands: One Lone Car, Ultra Blue, and longtime local favorites Fragile Porcelain Mice. The show is sponsored, appropriately enough, by the band's old friends at the Point.



As if you needed more arguments against corporate radio, consider this: in 1994, a tastemaker alternative radio station in St. Louis called The Point released an open invitation for local bands to submit songs for an upcoming compilation called Pointessential, Vol. 1, a release the station trumpeted, putting all its songs on constant heavy rotation. A group of three friends decided they wanted in on the action. The only thing guitarist Matt Dudenhoffer, keyboardist Doug Firley, and drummer Kurt Kerns were missing was a singer, which they found in Texan Jeff Scheel. They churned out their submission, a chugging yet insanely catchy hunk of electro-metal named "Guilty," in three short days, and suddenly found themselves as one of The Point's most requested acts, and the foursome turned what was a one-off collaboration into a full-fledged band.


A deal with TVT followed, and the band's self-titled debut, a brilliant example of the mid-90s burgeoning industrial metal scene, was a huge success, garnering them an opening slot on the Sex Pistols reunion tour, many gigs headlining the local festival Pointfest, and appearances on several high profile movie soundtracks (Se7en, Mortal Kombat, Escape From LA). Unfortunately, both the record and radio industries underwent massive changes as the century turned. Gravity Kills' third album, 2002's Superstarved, was greeted with indifference, and the band quietly disbanded.


Until 2005, that is, and the first ever Killoween Freakshow, a mini-festival featuring a trio of local bands and a newly reunited, newly reinvigorated Gravity Kills. The show was a smashing success, and led to a repeat performance in 2006. Killoween II takes place on October 28 at Pop's 24/7 in scenic Sauget, Ill., and once again features Gravity Kills headlining a trio of local bands: One Lone Car, Ultra Blue, and longtime local favorites Fragile Porcelain Mice. The show is sponsored, appropriately enough, by the band's old friends at the Point.


"You know, a year goes by pretty quick," says Firley. "The songs are still really fresh in our minds. Kurt [said], ‘you know, what's really great about doing one show a year is it keeps you in shape,'" he laughs. "Our show is such an active live show, especially on stage. We knew having done this a lot in the past that if you're going to survive five minutes out there on stage, [you're] really going to need to run and SoloFlex, and really do a lot of cardio to make it through the show without collapsing."


We caught Firley by phone as preparations advanced on this year's Killoween show. He catches us on how the reunion came about and what lies in the future for Gravity Kills.



Going back to last year, when Gravity Kills reunited for the first Killoween show, what brought about that reunion in the first place?


We'd been talking to friends and people kept approaching us because we had been gone for three years. Maybe people were getting antsy, but we started hearing from more than one person, ‘You guys should get together and play a show,' and then the idea started spreading. It was almost viral, really.


So I called up the guys and I started talking to them—and this was at least six months before the show—and said, ‘Well, what do you guys think about doing this?' The other guys…everybody's pretty settled into their daily routine, you know? We eased into it, really, and then at about three months out we were like, ‘All right, let's do this.'


That last three months, we just pounded it really hard. I think this year is going to get a little easier. Last year, a lot of it was much more dusting off cobwebs, literally, off of our equipment: me pulling out the keyboard stand and really getting it back up and running, repainted, getting my Matrix 12 mounted on top of it, getting it functioning again, [and then] relearning songs we hadn't played in three years.


We thought if we're gonna do this, put all this effort into doing this, this is something that we should really look at doing every year. Our rehearsals were going really well, that's when we decided that until we decide to do something else, let's just play our one show, let's find three other bands that we think are really great, especially up and comers, and let's use this one as our building year and we'll go from there and we'll see how far we can take this.


How did you find the rehearsal process different, doing it after a long break as opposed to when you first got ready for your first tour?


Well, the first time we had built all those songs in the studio, but we had never played them out live.  When we played our first show, which was actually around this time in 1995, we came out of the studio and we had three weeks to prepare for the show. The rehearsal process was extremely difficult… It got to the point where we were three days away from the show and we were calling up our manger saying ‘we gotta yank this show, we suck! It's going to absolutely be horrible, it's not coming together, we're not tight,' and she was like, ‘Keep going, give it a couple more days, I don't want to do anything quite yet.' Literally the next day, that's when it finally came together and for those two days it suddenly congealed.  And then, of course, we played the show, and everything was fine after that.


This time around, I was actually surprised after not playing for three years how quickly everything came back. It's all like muscle memory, really, almost like in sports.  And of course Jeff lives in Oklahoma City, so we were really only able to rehearse one evening with him. The same thing will happen this year: we'll rehearse on Thursday, we'll take Friday off to rest his voice, and we'll play the show on Saturday. [The rest of us] will rehearse Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday for a couple of hours and that'll be plenty of time. I'm not even worried about it at all. It comes back really quick.


That's amazing. 


The funny thing is, [after last year's show] the RFT gave us Best Rock Moment of 2005 [Actually, Doug, it wasn't the RFT, it was us here at PLAYBACK:stl, but don't worry, we won't hold it against you. —JG]. People who flew in from all over the country, and many of them were really diehard fans who'd seen 10s of shows, who really followed our careers, came up to us afterwards and posted emails to us saying, ‘Out of all the shows I've ever seen you guys play, hands down, that was the best show. That was it. That was probably the apex of all your live shows.'


And the only thing I can really think about that is it was probably good to get away from it for that long. I know that show felt really good onstage. The only other thing I can think of is we didn't have all that bullshit hanging over our heads, where you're out touring a record, you're getting burned out from being on the road…any number of things, the drama that happens when you're in a band.


There's good and bad. Just to come back and enter it fresh, I think that really makes a difference, and I feel good about this year also. I like the idea of just putting on one really bad ass show.


So the idea to do one show a year, that was pretty much set before you even played last year, right?  Or was the positive reaction you got last year kind of the basis for coming back again?


No, it was like, if we're gonna do this, we need to keep going because the first year we're going to do all right. We're not going to do great, because it's going to take some time for this stuff to get around, and that our first year is going to be our building year. The second year, we'll get the word out even more and we'll keep going. Maybe if things go well, we'll sell out year two, if things go well the third year we could do two sold out nights, and our next year, if things go really well, maybe we can move into the Chicago market…just kind of thinking as a promoter would.


It was sort of like, ‘Whatever happens this first year, we can't get discouraged.' It was a lot of work last year. It was every bit of three months, getting ready for that one date, and this year is going to get a lot easier, of course. Everything got packed away nice and neat, everything is functioning. We're using our same sound engineer, same lighting company, [but] switching venues, changing the show, changing the whole feel and style of the show.


So yeah, that was kind of the idea. We always knew we were going to do this. We'll see where we can take this.


Now has there been any attempts or any talk of writing any new songs? Or are you guys just content with still sticking with your first three albums?


Hmm… that's a good question. There's rumbling.


Interesting you should bring that up, actually. Personally I didn't think it was going to happen this soon. Getting a record deal is fairly hard, but the hardest thing is keeping a band together, once you're actually a part of the industry and you're in the system and you're doing albums. Having gone through what we did, there's a lot of water under the bridge between all of us, and getting together last year was really kind of doing the ‘get to know ya': saying hi again, seeing how well we get along, getting used to the personalities again. There have been several occasions since then that everyone's been able to see each other, and the friendships are starting to blossom again. Everyone's getting along really famously and I think that was the holding up point, that nobody really wants to jump into anything like that too soon, where it's like ‘Yeah we should do another record together sometime.'


The last time we did a record was half a lifetime ago, and I think everybody just wasn't sure [about] getting everyone back into the personal politics of working on music again. Things have actually been going really well for the past year.  We'll see what happens. I don't think anyone's in a huge hurry. Maybe I'm playing a little more conservative.


We have to figure out if we were to do it, the whole industry has changed, how would we release such a thing?  How would we tour to support it? Those are questions that need to be answered before we actually [do it]. With everybody's schedule, how logistically could we be able to pull something like this off? What direction do we want to take it? And all these answers, you know…you gotta get a map before you try to walk out of the forest.  But you know, there's certainly talk.


When you guys were coming up, there was kind of a renaissance going on in the St. Louis music scene as far as a lot of St. Louis bands that all got signed to major labels around the same time, like you guys, the Urge, Stir, New World Spirits, etc., but yet at the same time St. Louis never really caught on as a "music scene" to the rest of the country. What do you think happened that caused St. Louis to keep from catching on?


Well…I don't know. I mean, a lot of records were released. I think the Urge ended up doing three records and Stir did two for Capitol, and the Bottle Rockets are still around… I wouldn't say it didn't really catch on.


I do agree with you [that] St. Louis didn't have a sound, but when I thought about St. Louis, I always thought that was the really strong point about St. Louis. And that continues to be a strong point about St. Louis, [that] it's not like other markets [where] there's a cluster of bands that are all in the same genre. St. Louis has always been a diverse scene, and continues to be, even to this day. St. Louis has a lot of buzz going on right now and tons of really great bands. One thing I noticed is that 10 years ago, there was a sudden surge of really great bands and everybody got signed—and then of course you have Nelly and the whole hip-hop thing happen and that's been fantastic—[but] as far as the rock thing went, I think that the talent pool really got depleted pretty quick, and it's really taken another ten years, up until this point right now, where everything seems to be really strong. There are great bands and absolutely fantastic material. We're right on the edge of things really starting to happen here again. But it's taken ten years to really bring it back.


The cool thing is, those guys from the other bands are still around. With my music production company, when we need studio musicians it's great to have Brad Booker from Stir or John [Pessoni] from the Urge, the guys from Full System Purge, any of these guys that are A-shelf musicians here in town, and fantastic writers to boot. All these guys are still part of the music industry here in St. Louis, even though they aren't formally in bands. It's really cool. Did that answer your question?

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply