Riff Relevant Interviews: GOZU [Gaff & Doug]; ‘Equilibrium’ Out via Blacklight Media/Metal Blade; Video Premiere

Cover Artwork: Chris Smith, Grey Aria Design Studio
Article By: Leanne Ridgeway

I’ve been waiting a long time for this… GOZU has a new album ‘Equilibrium’, out via Metal Blade/ Blacklight Media Records on April 13th.  Today, we have an interview with Marc Gaffney and Doug Sherman, who chatted about the new record, plus pre-order info, and are premiering a new video and audio stream!

First off, this album is fantastic. ‘Equilibrium’ has been on repeated listening for the past three weeks, but unable to tell a soul due to the timing of the album announcement. I admit, my not being able to share song has had me twitching, but relief comes today! ‘Equilibrium’ ups the ante on Gozu‘s heavy hand and may just take the whole pot and end the game.

The interview with Marc and Doug, as well as a SoundCloud audio stream and Video premiere for the first track is below, but first some press info from Blacklight Media:

On April 13th, Boston’s rock/metal outfit GOZU will release their new album, Equilibrium, via Blacklight Media Records. For the first preview of ‘Equilibrium’, the video for the new single “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat” (directed by Tony Simone at Zenbeast Media) can be viewed below.

To deserve the term ‘timeless’, an album really does have to transcend the era in which it was created. ‘Equilibrium’ unequivocally achieves this. With roots in ’60s psychedelia and classic rock, the fuzzy stoner riffs of the 70s, the grit of ’90s grunge, and the winning dirty rock n’ roll that has in recent years made a resurgence, Boston, MA’s Gozu have been churning out killer records since 2009.

With 2016’s Revival they took their sound in a somewhat new and more aggressive direction, and in doing so, dropped the most compulsive, exciting, and downright badass release of their career – and Equilibrium has only raised the stakes.

“We wanted these songs to hit a nerve, make people shake their ass and enjoy simply being alive,” says vocalist/guitarist Marc “Gaff” Gaffney, who founded the band with lead guitarist Doug Sherman. Much of the record’s strength stems from the unit growing since ‘Revival’, the first full-length featuring drummer Mike Hubbard and bassist Joseph Grotto.

“I would have to say that the band is sounding the best it ever has right now,” Gaffney states plainly.“It takes a bit of time to feel everything out. When you are serious about it, you have to work as a team, and we are four guys that dig the same kind of music and love to play, but we all bring in different elements that give us our sound. It is not just one person channeling, it’s the four of us bringing in the ingredients and together making it a delicious meal.”

From the moment the opening riff that heralds the arrival of “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat” erupts until the final feedback of closer “Ballad Of ODB” dies away, there is not a wasted moment on Equilibrium. Having reunited with ‘Revival’ producer Dean Baltulonis (Hatebreed, Goes Cube, The Hold Steady) at Wild Arctic Studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the record is certainly the catchiest and most instant music dropped by the quartet, embracing their love of pop music but without compromising on any of the other vital elements of their sound.

Pre-order ‘Equilibrium’  in the following formats [links far below]:
— CD
— 180g black vinyl + download card
— Sky-blue marbled vinyl + download card (ltd. to 300 copies – USA excl.)
— Magenta marbled vinyl + download card (ltd. to 200 copies – USA excl.)
— Transparent petrol blue vinyl + download card (ltd. to 200 copies – EU excl.)
— Olive/black marbled vinyl + download card (ltd. to 200 copies – EU excl.)
* exclusive bundles with a shirt, plus digital options

With 2018 marking the tenth anniversary of their self-titled first demo, Gozu makes it clear that this really feels like only now are they getting started, and with ‘Equilibrium’ they are doing so in style. That it’s their first release for Blacklight Media, the hard rock and heavy metal label founded by Chris Santos, has only served to further energize the four men of Gozu. The band states:

“It is an absolute honor to be working with Metal Blade’s Brian Slagel – who is an absolute man amongst men in the metal scene – and Chris, who is a master of so many trades, but the thing that rises above the rest of his accolades is that first and foremost he loves music. Right now, we feel like we can take on the world, and we have the backing of not one, but two amazing men and companies.”


Hear the new single Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat above and read on in our interview with Marc Gaffney and Doug Sherman:

RIFF RELEVANT (Leanne):  Hey Guys, thank you so much for wanting to share some info on Gozu and do this interview. Before we get to the new tidbits, you’ve been super busy most of 2017, settling in with a new label, a West Coast Tour, Desertfest Belgium & Keep It Low Fest, then writing & recording… did you stop to breathe? How are you and the other gents doing these past several months?

Gaff: Being busy is key, as downtime is when you go a little crazy. Well, at least for me that is the issue, when I have too much time to think about things. Past few months have been okay as there is always something popping up. I have also been looking into modeling for Big and Tall.

Doug: Great year indeed!  I’m excited to unleash our new album.

RIFF RELEVANT (Leanne):  I’m psyched about the upcoming release of your new record Equilibrium. You’ve been doing a great job teasing us all with updates during recording – but when out of the public eye, how much pressure did you put on yourselves to write the new songs? Did you consciously ‘step up your game’, so to speak?

Gaff:  To be honest, lyrically the songs wrote themselves and that was key. I did not have to overthink or bear down, as they just went from a pen to paper. It was the most therapeutic thing I have ever written. Also, the most honest album I have ever penned. We knew what we wanted and it came out better than I thought. Writing and playing with Doug for me is a huge smile every time. The solos on this album are easily, in my view, the best he has ever laid down.

Doug: It was pretty intense writing this album… when it started coming together it all fell into place. Spent the past year shitting riffs into a laptop everyday, sharing them with band, listening to riffs in the van, rehearsal, at home… Pretty much every time we were together this year was focusing on writing. and we really focused as a band making this a catchy album. It’s a group effort and we wanted hooks, we wanted big melody and big riffs. Hopefully people will enjoy it.

RIFF RELEVANT: I’ve listened to Equilibrium more than a few times and, as with every Gozu release so far, the new record is proving a further evolution in Gozu’s sound. I recall with ‘Revival’ you had some unavoidable situations during writing sessions (Gaff’s back surgery, among other things.) Did you have different opportunities or take a new approach to write this time?

Gaff: For me, dealing with my dad passing away in June, if I did not have the chance to write about how I was feeling, things would have spiraled quite easily out of control. The boys were there for me. Doug came to my Dad’s wake, which my whole family loved him for that. He has met most of them from being at my kids’ birthday parties, but him driving six hours shows why we write so well together.

It was the first time we set down and literally went over each part of the songs. I would ask him to come up with a bridge or chorus and he would do the same for me. Then we record it and send to Joe and Hubbs. It was, for me, the smoothest writing experience I have had. The songs are much bigger this time and the choruses are the best we have ever penned.

Doug: Being in a band, everyone is responsible for everyone’s emotions, passions, anxieties, neurosis… that’s what you sign up for. It happens subconsciously. So I think that’s why it can be challenging to sustain a crazy relationship like this, because it’s not natural until it becomes natural. It was a heavy year across the board and when you come out the other end hopefully it strengthens everyone.

RIFF RELEVANT: Do you all normally have a disciplined method for writing new material or do new songs grow fluently out from a practice or jam session?

Gaff:  I usually come up with the lyrics and music all in the process. As I said before, this time was different as I wrote 6 of the songs in 20 minutes. I will change everything right up until the last minute. This time, the completion was way ahead of time and I think that really helped me out. We rehearse the tunes, as Hubbs and Joe have incredible ideas, and it is surely a team effort when the song is revealed.

Doug: Spent the year writing hundreds of riffs and choruses, compiled them, then added what needed to be added in these songs. This time around I really focused on all choruses and arrangements and outdo breakdown riffs. It’s a group effort broken up into sections, between Me and the band, me and Gaff, and then full group… it’s odd but it works… it’s hard to explain… I have endless songs and riffs and everyone helps in articulating them into a song.

RIFF RELEVANT: What do you each consider to be the most insightful moments while writing and recording Equilibrium?  Do you all have a favorite song or musical part on this album?

Gaff:  For me, I was not sure I would be able to give the lyrics what they needed. When I would get in the booth, a huge cloud of emotion would set in. Also, I was able to use the ruffs vocally and that was great, as I tried out things and they worked. Therefore, I could add many layers to the verses. The choruses were the most layering I had ever done. With the last two albums I had to sing everything in 1.5 days. This time, I did two songs a day, which was wonderful. I just told myself to leave everything on the table. If I did not, I would have let myself, the boys, and most importantly my dad, down. The boys and Dean Baltulonis were there pushing me to do stuff I had never done. I am incredibly thankful to the four of them.

Doug: I think watching all these songs come together and everyone just pulling together as a team to make it happen.

RIFF RELEVANT:  I think the last time I saw Gozu live was when you played with Truckfighters (has it really been a year?), which was suitably ridiculous fun. You have the upcoming Blackmedia Label Showcase in NYC in a few weeks and a show with Crowbar after that… I’m sure you’ll be touring in support of the Equilibrium release; any confirmed tour plans you can share yet?

Gaff:  We have shows lined up and are waiting to hear about upcoming tours that are in the works. We are a band that needs to play and get out there. It is why we do it.

Doug:  We signed with TKO (US) and VIBRA (Europe) for booking, so we are waiting to see what they have in store. We have these shows confirmed as of today [see dates below]

RIFF RELEVANT:  In your opinion, what’s been the best show you’ve played so far, and why do you feel it was the best (was it performance, venue, crowd response, etc.)?

Gaff:  There is a few. The first Roadburn show was amazing. Desertfest Berlin was an all out ass kicking, if I can say that. Also, Keep It Low might be one of the best sets we had ever played. For me, the more the crowd is into it, the more excited I get. In the States, the Fu Manchu shows were packed and really well received.

Doug: Kvelertak at Great Scott [in Boston]. Necro – Yes the rapper – at the Brickhouse in New Hampshire. Weird show… he called me Snoop Doug.

RIFF RELEVANT: We’ve talked before and shared some heinous experiences in traveling for shows – what’s been the strangest experience you’ve both had AT one of your own shows? (good, bad, weird, etc.)

Gaff:  Christ, there have been a few that take the cake as shittier than expected, even when we know it is going to take a d sandwich.

Doug:  France. I fell. I’m gonna leave it at that…

RIFF RELEVANT: Gearhead time – I’m not a music gear nut, but many folks are, so what’s your quick-list of current equipment? Obviously, some gear doesn’t travel well, do you have a different live setup versus recording? Is anyone in the band currently sponsored by any music gear companies/brands, or have their personal ‘must-have’ tools?

Gaff:  I play Black Arts Toneworks pedals and they are simply the best pedals I have ever owned. Mark is an absolute genius and has been very gracious to me over the past years. He knows the sound I love and answers all my questions, and has made the tone I always had in my head obtainable. I am sponsored by Lace Pickups. I love those, and Jared is a super nice and well-educated man regarding tone. I use the Nitro Hemi’s. Also, Zombie Dust Pickups are incredibly strong and Willie is a saint.

For guitars, I play Monson guitars and I am endorsed by them. I have two and, due to my back being a piece of shit, I need a much lighter one and Brent Monson is so wonderful to work with. He makes, in my opinion, the best guitars on Earth. Also, the band is endorsed by an amazing cable company, Toaster Cables. They treat us so well. Great to work with. Strings: DR 12-60 gauge as I am a bit heavy-handed and we tune to C, so it handles the tone and sound better using the heavies.

For cabs, I use Ampeg v4 cabs and just got a beautiful Sunn 6-10 that will be my main cab. For heads, I have a Sunn concert lead, a custom head called Gaff, made years ago by Rob Lohr, that I still use. I just purchased a 71 Sunn Solarus that rips. I can only put it on 1 when rehearsing. For straps, I use Jay Fortin’s straps as they are beautiful to the eye and fit so nice.

Doug:  Peavy VTM 120 / Peavy Butcher (1984) / Sunn 2-12 beta lead / Orange Cabs / Custom Monson Susperia Guitar / Lace Pickups / Zombie Dust Pickups / Jay Fortin Custom Strap / 2 Lawsuit Aria Pro IIs / BC Rich Neil Bochart Custom Mocking Bird. Pedals: Black Arts Toneworks Rabid Mammal, Quantum Mystic and fnord, OCD fulltone, HM2, Russian Big Muff, Carbon Copy Fulltone, Crybaby Wah.  Toaster Cables.

RIFF RELEVANT: If funds were no object and GOZU had their pick of active bands to play with, where have you always wanted to play and who are the bands you want in the lineup?

Gaff:  I would love to play with YOB, as I feel right now they are the band that influences me the most significantly. Mike (Scheidt) is such an incredible musician, but an even nicer guy. He turned me onto Monson guitars, so I will always be in debt to him for that. Also, Sleep and High on Fire would be my choices. Matt Pike is a musical icon that should be on most guitar players’ top ten list. Al is an unbelievable bass player and vocalist. I would love to do tours with all three bands in the states and Europe. That would be, for me, a dream come true. I need to play a ton of shows in England, as they have had such amazing bands.

Doug:  Power Trip, Cloudkicker, Full of Hell, Gatecreeper, Nails, Helms Alee, Author and Punisher, King Diamond, Steel Panther.

RIFF RELEVANT: How do you think venues, labels, and bands could work better together to get a solid crowd turnout and record/merchandise sales?

Gaff:  One thing is by simply posting about a show you have. It takes maybe 3.5 seconds to do it. We have played shows in which other bands did not post a thing about the show. If you are too cool to announce you have a show coming up, then become a Corvette salesman, not a musician. Getting people to go to shows is harder than ever, because life is so incredibly busy. Put a post on Instagram, Facebook, or whatever the social media you choose, and throw it up there. Also, make sure the club and promoter does the same.

Also, make merch that people want to buy and can afford. Money is tight for everyone, so do not be a prick and overcharge things that you yourself would not purchase. Merch is really the only thing you make a bit of money on, once you re-coup the cost and shipping expenses. Then throw in mileage, tolls, hotels, it all adds up so fast. So, make merch that people dig and will be proud to wear and listen to.

Doug:  Not sure where to begin. I really don’t know where to begin… (laughs)

RIFF RELEVANT:    What is the most important thing a newer band should do to get themselves heard?

Gaff:   I think first and foremost is make a killer album. The way I hear about new bands is usually through Doug. If he hears a band that rips, he will always send it my way. I am incredibly picky and do not like a lot of stuff, but when I do I am all in. I still buy music all the time. I love to read who played on it, gear they used, I check out the artwork.

Also, don’t be a bunch of dinks. Be nice and let people want to listen to your tunes and hang out. There is nothing worse than seeing a band or playing a show and they are fuckfaces. That takes any vibe you had to a deeper level. If a band has an off night, I get it, but if you have an off night and are arrogant jerk offs, fuck off. People want to enjoy a show, dig the vibe, and hang out with new people, not be in a scene from 90210.

Doug:  Write good songs. Be cool to others. Bring that shit live.

RIFF RELEVANT:  Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you would like to share?

Gaff:   I want to thank YOU so much for being such a positive light in the music scene. You are beyond a doubt one of the biggest and most educated people to do what you do, and without it a lot would go unseen and unheard. So, from one New Yorker to another, I wanna say Thank You very fucking much.

Doug:  Thanks so much!!

Massive thanks to Doug and Gaff for answering my questions and to GOZU for ripping our eardrums into a stupor. ~ Leanne

Below you can check out their upcoming live dates, then watch the new video premiering today for track Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat & then grab Gozu’s new album ‘Equilibrium’  via the links here:

gozu.bandcamp.com/  |  blacklightmediarecords.com/gozu/

Equilibrium tracklist:
01. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
02. The People vs. Mr. T
03. King Cobra
04. Manimal
05. They Probably Know Karate
06. Prison Elbows
07. Stacy Keach
08. Ballad of ODB


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