Interview with Gozer Goodspeed @ the Stable, Plymouth – Summer 2018
There are two things you need to know about Gozer Goodspeed before we start this interview. Firstly,
Goodspeed is almost exactly two years old. Secondly, Gozer Goodspeed was
created in a low-key Plymouth pub for a one-off performance that never ended.
So, now that you now this, you might join me in feeling slightly unnerved at the
prospect of interviewing a fictional character that’s barely out of nappies.
Where do you start?
|Gozer Goodspeed (Pic: The Lazy Photographer)|
Well, there’s a third thing you need to know and it’s that the human male that inhabits the constructed character of Gozer Goodspeed has a knack of putting you at ease and that comes out in the music but in every other interaction too. “There’s a story on my website about how I found a guitar washed up on the beach and it only had one string. That’s the creation and birth of Gozer Goodspeed. It’s a metaphor of sorts”. There’s a whole load of additional background stuff that takes in Heavy Metal, Blues, Funk, some early efforts at singing and defrauding Tony Blair’s government for bus fare but that’s in the past now so let’s not dwell, life’s too short for that. It’s a past that contains Myspace, green gunk leaking from pipes and chance meetings so it’s all part of the rich tapestry that has culminated in the creation of Gozer Goodspeed.
“In 2015, I had the first year of my adult life where I didn’t do a gig of any sort because I’d had some bad experiences, so I was fully in to my writing. I put out a Sc-Fi novel, I had a publisher and an editor, and I was dead set on that but again it went nowhere, no money, the joy was short-lived and I felt like I was wasting my time. Then, Steve from Dr Thud’s Remedy called me up and asked me to play at a charity gig at the Notte Inn in Plymouth so I thought about it and I’d been tooling around with a new song, so I thought ‘why not?’, y’know? Then he asked me for a name for the poster and so Gozer Goodspeed was born. Anyway, I did the gig, I had a great time, the feedback was fantastic and the guy who ran the pub offered me a residency there and then. It didn’t last too long because they decided to do bowling and karaoke instead, but I’d got the bug again and here we are two years later”.
|Gozer Goodspeed (Pic: The Lazy Photographer)|
That two years has seen Goodspeed rack up a huge live undertaking (over 60 gigs in the last year) as well as writing and recording, so what’s the plan from here on in? “I’ve started to be a bit more choosy with my gigs now. I’ve worked really hard over those two years but I just started to get a bit frustrated with gigs that were really well paid but audience weren’t really there for the music. Like, there was one gig I was doing a lot and the venue was aimed at 18-22 year olds getting paralytic while I played in the courtyard. The last gig I played there was a few months ago and when I was setting up there were like a dozen trainee marines there going “we heard you were coming, play some Oasis, play some Oasis”. They were fine and I won them over but mid-way through the first set they’d been getting progressively more drunk and one of them launched himself off a wall in to the crowd and started beating up this random guy. Security joined in, there was a massive scuffle, people were bashing in to my equipment and I just realised I didn’t want to do that anymore”.
Goodspeed is in to his stride now and the annoyingly loud trio sharing the table with us have become background noise as we lock in to the conversation. “The thing is, I don’t really like doing covers. I’m not a covers merchant. I’m not wired that way so I have to find venues where I know there’s an audience that will appreciate original music. I’ve always gravitated towards artists with a unique and original voice who you can trust, whatever direction they take, and I aspire to be that kind of artist”.
Marine baiting aside, Goodspeed has built up an excellent live reputation but there will always be those still on the troubadour’s bucket list, right? “Glastonbury is the pinnacle of any performers career isn’t it? I went there in 2000 and sneaked in through the fence, paid a dodgy Welshman £5 to get in, collapsed in a field next to a ramshackle stage and David Gray started playing. That was the year Bowie played so it was a hell of a year to be there. It was crime ridden and hilarious and wonderful. We watched the sunrise in the morning having spent the night with an Irish band who played until they were literally too drunk to stand up. We had a couple of bottles of whisky to finish off, so we went up to the stone circle with the drummers and a naked dancing guy. There’s nowhere else like so Glastonbury is the one”. Goodspeed’s natural penchant for story-telling as moving through the gears now, spinning yarns as he meanders to an answer, but you’d be a fool not to enjoy the journey.
“What I really aspire to is to be at that level when people are there, and you don’t have to win them
|Gozer Goodspeed @ the Beeb|
Now, living and performing in the South West of the UK provides an anomalous situation where the music scene thrives more in the summer than it does in the winter – counter to the rest of the country – so that provides a few opportunities to make those festival dreams come true. “I love playing festivals, people just have a different mindset, y’know? They’re not worried about work or catching up with their neighbours, they just want to listen to music and enjoy themselves. I’m playing a few festivals this year like the Ocean City Blues’n’Jazz Festival [in Plymouth] but I’m always up for more, it’s such a great vibe”.
The reason for the timing of this interview was to coincide with the release of Gozer Goodspeed’s third EP, ‘Impossible to Pick Up’, so it’s only polite to ask the man to sum up his recordings. “It’s an incredible piece of work”, comes the response with a wry smile and an adjustment of the trademark, ever-present hat. A self-deprecating shrug of the shoulders and he warms to the theme with relish, “It’s funny how all the themes just suddenly come together. The first song I wrote and played live was ‘Survivor by Habit’ and it came as a result of a few real-life experiences with people who professed to be psychics. I was highly sceptical as I have been all my life, but that song set the theme for the entire EP. ‘Impossible to Pick Up’ was the last one to be written but that was the track that made everything coalesce. It came from a period when my grandma died, and I inherited some nick-nacks from her and it’s very interesting what happens when you’re experiencing a loss and you’re asked to walk around a house to see if there’s anything you want. As the song says, some things are impossible to pick up, you just can’t bear to touch it. Other things, you can just let go. Some things you just can’t let go of even though you know you will probably never use it. That was really polarising for me, but it gives the EP a good frame”.
You don’t stop a guy when he’s on this kind of roll, “the images and psychedelic influences came about because I was thinking about all these feelings and intangible happenings. So, ‘The Key Broke Off Clean in the Lock’ is based on a real-life occurrence of my key breaking off in the lock to my house, a bunch of dreams I was having where I was stuck in a wasteland landscape with no purpose and then the idea that the best life I could lead was just behind the next door and the next door and the next door. It’s a real mix of things that all came together for that song. Then there’s ‘Keep Your Expectations Low’ came out of lots of live experimentation with looping but the meaning only really came to me after it was finished. I just had this realisation that we’ve become programmed to overlook and ignore people but perhaps some of these so-called crazy and disillusioned people that we see every day have some valid things to say”.
After a pause for a long breath and a lean back in his chair, Goodspeed lets out a relaxed chuckle, “that’s probably the worst answer ever, isn’t it? Basically, it’s a load of random shit that came together to create this EP. Even an EP has to take you on some kind of journey though and I think I’ve achieved that this time”. And then, just for good measure, we take off on another tangent, “I’m really interested in the ideas of Gestalt theory where an energy or spirit or a really strong, exacting notion of what you’re creating should be that start point. I work relentlessly on songs, play them live, do them as different versions and refine them to a point where I can be really happy with them”.
One of the key elements of the character of Gozer Goodspeed is the unexpected. From song titles to rhyming couplets and melodies to instrumentation, Goodspeed is becoming a master of taking things in a direction that you weren’t expecting. “I think a lot of it is because I am entirely self-taught. Had I not been self-taught I probably would have become a much more proficient guitar player and musician much more quickly, but I couldn’t do it. I taught myself from books, I taught myself by ear and I just learned it all my own way, the long way round. For better or worse, it’s landed me where I am today and I’m comfortable with that. I love the idea of collaborating with other musicians, but my way of playing doesn’t always make that easy so I’m just following my own muse at the moment, going my own way”. And that, ladies and gentlemen, sums Gozer Goodspeed up perfectly – considered, focused and going his own way whether you like it or not. He’s great company too so get down to a show and say hello.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/gozergoodspeed/
8th July – Inn on the Shore, Downderry (Free Entry)
11th July – Blues Bar & Grill, Plymouth
15th July – Rick Pickings Radio Show
19th July – The Millbridge Pub, Plymouth
22nd July – Peaky Blinders Bar & Grill, Paignton
28th July – Lapstock Festival
29th July – Rockfest @ Rock Inn, Yelverton
5th August – Haywood Cider Farm, St Mabyn
10th August – Ocean City Blues’n’Jazz Festival, Plymouth
15th August – Blues Bar & Grill, Plymouth
24th August – Rockets & Rascals, Plymouth
6th September – Bideford Palladium, Bideford w/Davey Dodds
7th September – The B-Bar, Plymouth w/Davey Dodds
12th September – Blues Bar & Grill, Plymouth
13th September – The Royal Castle Hotel, Dartmouth
22nd September – Cult of Super Ted Radio Show
23rd September – Peaky Blinders Bar & Grill, Paignton
4th October – The Millbridge Pub, Plymouth
17th October – Blues Bar & Grill, Plymouth
14th November – Blues Bar & Grill, Plymouth
25th November – The Wharf, Tavistock w/Davey Dodds
6th December – The Millbridge Pub, Plymouth
12th December – Blues Bar & Grill, Plymouth