We get a lot of people that say they like the live show a lot better than the disc. I work on the discs a lot—probably too much, to some degree.
How did the appearance on Fox 2 News in the Morning come about?
You know, that was something that Stephanie [Green, Gooding’s former manger] set up a long time ago. When we came through in April, we played “Falling Down Again,” kind of that mellow version, and then this morning we played “Slow Burn,” which is the second song we played tonight. They were a little freaked out, because we brought in our whole kit; I brought in my amps, everything. Before, we did it real mellow, but this time we kind of took our chances because we wanted to represent what we were going to do tonight.
You know what I’ve noticed these days? Attendance at the clubs in general is down like 20 percent right now. You have to get the to right people in the town. I hate to admit this—this is one of those things that I’m trying to overcome—but I am very affected by the room. No matter whether it’s five or five thousand, we will try to leave it on the stage; if we don’t go home tired, we feel like we didn’t do our job. But at the same time, I’m not as quick to talk, I’m not as quick to have jokes and—because I feel like, “Are you guys cool?” I’m trying to not care.
But I take it so personally, you know? But we run into it a lot. I mean, we’re an independent band, we only have so much money, and a lot of time our promotions are hit and miss. It’s just one of those things.
Listening to your albums, the care and the sounds that go into them, you strike me as more of a studio player. Yet you tour extensively and put a lot of energy and passion into your live performance. Which do you prefer?
We get a lot of people that say they like the live show a lot better than the disc. I work on the discs a lot—probably too much, to some degree. I am a huge movie soundtrack fan, so I’m really into trying to get space, get things to open up and get a place you can kind of live in. Each one of the records I want to be a little bit of a different world. Live, you’re not going to get that; it’s not very subtle. With all the other noise in the room anyway, there’s a lot of stuff that we just don’t do because it really loses the audience.
There’s a part of you that wants to do your show no matter what, but you also want to keep people engaged, you want to feed off their energy; that has to be a concern. And we’re playing all original music anyway, so even if we don’t play certain tunes, we’re lucky to be doing it.
So that’s the battle: how to represent the record, how to let the guys be themselves. I heard Miles Davis say that, too: If you don’t let the players find themselves on stage, you’re not being all you can be as a band. So there’s that concern, but if I had my choice, I’m probably one of those Prince-like people that would put out way too much music; my reviews would be terrible. I have that record, Collection One, which is kind of like B-sides; I have two, three, and four done. I heard Moby say once, “I’ve got 150 tracks,” and I was like, “Who cares?” Well, that’s what everybody that reads my interview is going to be saying, too. You know, “Come on, guy. If you can’t get your 10 to pop, why do we need 50 more?” So that’s the battle.
I think I’m more of a live player in that I get to try things out, and I think I play a lot more—when you get those moments that you forget that you’re playing, and you just get wrapped up in it, it’s a lot easier to get past that plateau. In the studio, you’re so aware, even if you’re having a good time and you’re working with friends or whatever; you get so aware that the red button’s on. Most of my stuff I produce myself; it’s really great, because I can get stuff done quick, because I know what I want to get out. But it’s also pretty detrimental in that all artists are control freaks to some degree. Eric Clapton said, “If I can’t get it the second time, I’m not going to cut it again.” I’m bad about that; man, I’m cutting that thing 10, 12 times. You know, it’s five in the morning, you’ve gone through two pots of coffee, you’re not going to get it any better.
Live, you don’t have to worry about that. If you fuck up, you’ve fucked up, but it’s over, you know, you’re on to the next passage. And there was plenty of that tonight, there was a lot of riffs, tuning was off in places, but it happens; the crowd’s more into, “What have you got next?” It’s not about analyzing so much as it is just the vibe. I’m a lot more comfortable with that atmosphere.
How did you come to have so many influences and sounds in your music?
I’m really lucky in that I grew up around a lot of music. My dad was a DJ in the ’60s and so, the time off and on that he was around the house, he was playing Motown. He bought me the first two records that I got: Gene Simmons’ solo record—you probably saw the KISS stuff on the Web site—
[Laughing at the memory of a photo of Gooding, age 5, all decked up as the fifth KISS bandmate] I did see it, yeah.
YMCA by the Village People, and Linda Rondstadt. Everything was on Casablanca at the time, we’d buy it at the local drug store up the street, so whatever Casablanca had, we had. And then my mom was a classically trained pianist and she taught piano lessons around the house, so I heard a lot of kids playing. I think that’s where a lot of the harmonic minor scales come into play. A lot of people think the music’s sad, but to me it was kind of cathartic, as well; I mean, I grew up with it. Basically, I was just really lucky I was exposed to a lot of stuff. Nothing was really kept from me. My dad was like, “Here you go, you’ll figure it out.” They would talk to me about stuff, but they also didn’t censor everything, so I got to listen to, I mean, everything. If your parents take you to a KISS concert when you’re four years old, you’re probably going to get to hear everything.
I saw Flash Gordon when I was seven or eight, and I knew even then that the music to movies was something I wanted to be involved in. I remember being up in my bedroom after the movie and just playing the soundtrack over and over again. I’ve always wanted to be involved with that. We’re hoping to license some more stuff. The two things that just really excite me are listening to a great record and going to a film and hearing a movie soundtrack and getting chills, you know? That’s one of my passions, for sure.
The intermission in your set—it’s unique. Where does that come from?
Between the sets? It’s unique for bands that are considered headliners, [but] they look at us like a bar band here. In cities where we’re doing really good we play straight through, but here they’re like, “Two sets, take a break.”
I thought maybe you just did it to break up the mood of the music.
Here’s the thing. As you’ve seen, I’ve got way too many guitars on stage. I mean, I need to do different tunings and different sounds and stuff. But a lot of that stuff, especially when it’s out of tune—it’s really nice to have that break. We don’t have a big road crew to really take care of stuff, so the break is really good for us technically when stuff’s breaking down. I mean, something breaks every night; that’s just kind of how it is. So that’s probably part of it. If we do festivals—like we opened up for Blues Traveler a few weeks ago; that was our biggest show by far—that kind of deal, we never take an intermission, but bars, it’s kind of common. I’d like to take credit for a good idea, but it’s just what we have to do.
Some states are better than others, but around St. Louis, they look at us like a bar band. We’re a national act and they treat us good—I mean, Cicero’s is cool to us—but when you’re only bringing 30, 40 people in here on a Tuesday…Some places—like Northern California we do great, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas—
What about Wichita, you do good there?
Hometown’s always good; that’s kind of the bread and butter for when we go out East and we’re breaking into new markets. We make our money playing there. We just played Wichita last weekend; I still have stains on my shoes from the sweat. It was insane; we played like three hours. Hometown shows are fun. People put down Wichita, but it’s like people come out and we play all original stuff, we play a lot of styles, and they get it. You know, they get it, so I definitely don’t have a chip on my shoulder about the Midwest. But if I could live in Northern Cali, I would; it’s beautiful there.