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The Godz interview with Larry Kessler

June 20, 2014

The Godz interview with Larry Kessler

If The Monks with their provocative album Black Monk Time
were kind of an answer to the early Beatles years, the Godz answered to what was
happening at the current time (both albums by The Monks and The Godz were released
in 1966) with expensive production of Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds. I
ain’t saying that is a bad thing, but The Godz kind of answered to the
mainstream society with some of the wackiest, sarcastic music, that worked like
a rough diamond. They were very influenced by the Fugs, which are the pioneers
of wacky folk rock, or maybe freak rock would be better word to use. The rest
is history and in the following interview we will discuss some things about
them.   
Were all
members of the band originally from New York?
I was, Thornton was
and McCarthy was Jay Dillon was from Jersey.
You met Jim McCarthy and Paul Thornton in the 49th Street
location of the musical instruments store Sam Goody’s. How is it possible that
three like minded people got the same job in this music store? 
It was a coincidence
but Sam goody was the biggest music retailer in the city, so three guys who
love music to be working there really isn’t too farfetched. Sam Goody was
dealing in records mostly, instruments were a sideline. I was in sales and
Thornton and McCarthy were in stock. We were all in the rock – n roll section,
which was the smallest section at the time.
Back then there were records for everything, learning
languages, speeches, comedy, Broadway soundtracks and on and on. It was a
more encompassing experience than it is now.
What were some influences from back when you were just a
kid?  
   
Ray Charles, Buddy Holly , Dion and the Belmonts, that’s the
music that I liked. When i was a young kid my mother was a big fan of Frank
Sinatra, Bing Crosby and swing of the day.
There is very interesting story behind the original idea of band formation. We’d love if you can share it?   
Um, well to start the band.We started at my Apt and, uh, we
were just getting high and playing music. It’s funny, the song that sold
Bernard Stollman of ESP records was the song “White Cat Heat’ .
Both McCarthy and Thornton were turned down by ESP, so I
knew that Stollman wouldn’t want anything that sounded like anyone else’s, so I
got the band to submit that one. I was already working as a salesman at ESP at
that time, so I did have an in.
I invited Stollman to a party where we performed “White
Cat Heat’. He loved it and booked 3 hours at A-1 studios in NYC, to cut a
single and we did an entire album… He was upset at first but he liked it
enough to put it out.
Awhile ago I interviewed Bernard Stollman and he said, that
back in the ’60s there were only six employed and four of them were members of
The Godz. What can you tell us about this?   
Jay Dillion was the Art director, I was the General manager,
Thornton was in the stock and Jim McCarthy, I think he was in shipping. I only
took the job because Jim pointed it out to me, he didn’t want to be a salesman. I brought them in later. A very particular set of events led to the Godz coming
together. Everything happened, just the way it had to happen, to make it a
reality.
What is the concept behind The Godz music?
  
Freedom. Freedom from the music business boundaries, and the
boundaries of what was the norm. And it was pretty stretched out at that time
if you remember. The Beatles, The Stones were all doing great things, but we
just took it further.
Thornton was really freaky when he was with us, but he was
also friends with some establishment rock stars of the time , so he never
completely let go.
You were not the only band, that managed to produce music,
that was really “out there”. There were others like you. For instance fellow band from ESP’ like Cromagnon and a lot of others like Red Krayola, Nihilist Spasm Band, Hot Poop… How did
you like stuff, that were produced by others? You were probably very influenced
by The Fugs too?   
I never listened to any of that stuff…. I was too involved
with my own music. … I loved the Fugs but they were never an influence on us
musically…. but we loved their attitude and their musical freedom, which they
eventually lost when they signed to Warner Bros.
In 1966 you hit the
studio and started recording Contact High With The Godz. What are some of the
strongest memories from recording this album?   
The engineer loved us and actually played on the record. He
never saw anything like us and wanted to be a part of it, so he ran out during
the recording and made some noise just to be on the album. I think that was the
effect the Godz had on people, they wanted to be a part of it and the basic
simplicity of it meant that they could.
What can you say about the writing
process?
We worked individually and together on songs. Lot of stuff
was on the spot creation. We’d start playing, then someone would start singing
and a song would form.
Later on the we would bring individual songs-and try to
collaborate. On the 4th album we basically came in and did our own songs with
different musicians. The only collaborations on the 4th album was Thornton and
I doing “women of the world” and all of us on ‘The Wiffenpoof Song.
What was the scene
on East Coast? There was a lot happening and I would love if you can make a
summary of that special period of time in New York…
I would see a lot of bands come through New York.  I saw , Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin all
at the same club, Steve Pauls scene .We were like the in-crowd hippies on the
NYC scene, and Steve Paul loved the Godz , so we could go in there any time for
nothing and we could see the best bands in the world for free.
One night we went to the Park Place hotel to get high with
Jimi Hendrix. We got off the elevator and this girl comes out of the room
screaming at him, and he was screaming at her and fighting . I looked at
Thornton and said lets get out of here and we departed. That was my Jimi
Hendrix experience. The Doors were booked for a whole week at Steve Pauls. We
saw them and wow , I also saw Dylan at West Chester…Also Max’s Kansas city
was hot later in the scene, many of the pre-punk stars were there along with
the Warhol crowd. I meant my wife there as well… It was crazy time.
Who made cover
artwork? 
That would depend on which album you mean. Jay Dillion made the 1st album. Michael Solden and Judy
Parker did the 2nd cover. The 3rd cover was done by Cathy Graham and Ruthann
Punich from Creem Magazine.
Godzunheit was done by ( Larry thinks for a while ), I
don’t remember.
Godz 2 came a year
later and was a lot different, still avant-garde, but the elements of
psychedelia came into the album. What’s the story behind making your second LP?
Was it recorded in the same studio? 

Yes it was recorded
at A-1 as well. We were using electric instruments at that point. We were
rehearsing and we were starting to get good and Stollman was starting to get us
gigs. We actually got us a sponsorship from Ampeg. Jay Dillion left after this
album and we never saw him again.
What about concerts? I heard you were pretty wild…
 
When we first started we did folk shows at the Greenwich
village clubs, but we were constantly getting thrown out and arguing with
audiences who didn’t understand us …. I think that’s why people say we were
proto punk…. it was a adversarial role that we would take towards the
audience, mostly because we’d be drunk or high. We got kicked out of the Cafe
au go- go one snowy night for smoking pot in the club .
We were total anarchists/ punk rock type of thing. We were
angry and people did not like us. We were totally misunderstood. You have to
understand that people did not do that .
As a performing artist, you did your best, looked nice and
appreciated and thanked your audience. You were not supposed to antagonize and
berate them. We did some big shows though. We got thrown out of almost every
gig we did. We were thrown out the miss Greenwich village pageant , for being
too loud and angry.
This was probably why Jay Dillon left, I don’t think he was
comfortable with that image and the shows. He wanted us to teach music to kids
in schools, that was crazy in itself for us.
Jay Dillon left the
band and you recorded two more albums The Third Testament and Godzhundheit.
Here we have another wacky music playing. It looks like you proved a point with
the second one, that you’re a really good musicians and here we have another
freak-out, which I personally love. I always look waaay out of the box… 
The Third Testament is where we put a lot of other musicians
in the studio with us and had them play other instruments that they would not
normally play. So, if you were a drummer you were now on the piano , if you
played piano you were on the guitar and so on. They seemed to go along with and
enjoy our atonal type of music.
What can you say
about the use of hallucinogens? They probably had some impact, especially when
recording your second LP…
Yes they did. We were always high on something. Alcohol, as
well. Also speed , pot , hash and anything else … Although we all stayed
clear of coke and heroin…. coke was too expensive and heroin was way too
scary.

Godzhundheit was
your last album. Which members were part of this one?
All three of us, but we were all in other bands at that
point. After the Lester Bangs article on The Godz , Stollman wanted us to try
and capitalize on it. We all went in the studio and cut this last album with
all of our musician friends. Our dynamic on that album was different. It wasn’t
strained but it wasn’t friendly. I had recently come back from Baltimore after
breaking my neck in a diving accident and I started working for Stollman again.
He said that since we all were in other bands he would pay for studio time for
us all to record that last album.
What’s the craziest story in history of your band?
We did a show for Mehr Ba Ba the guru in North Carolina. When
we played We opened up for Mehr Ba Ba and someone spiked the punch with LSD and
everyone even cops and security were tripping.
You have a brand new
album out called Gift from the Godz. What can you tell us about it?
We started recording it in 2007 in Baltimore. I had some new
songs and Jimmy re-did 2 songs that he did with the Godz. Paul Thornton did an
original song and 2 covers. He did a Hank Williams song and a cover of Buffy
Saint Marie’s “Universal Soldier”.
Jimmy and I wrote 2 songs together “Bustin My Ball” and
“Dead and gone”.
All the songs from these sessions are available on the CD
GODZ REMASTERED
After the sessions, things started falling apart. Old
feelings came back to the surface and we split once again.
I have resolved to keep going and keep the spirit of the
Godz alive. I assembled some great new players and started my association with
Manta Ray Records in 2010. One of these players Rick Sambuco has been playing
with me for the last couple years now, we have a great chemistry together on
stage and in the studio. We started up the new band and have been recording new
songs. We’ve also rehearsed some Godz favorites and have taken the group out
live for some preliminary shows before we hit the road.
We will be out touring to promote “ Gift from the Godz
“which was a collaboration of Godz material and new material written for this
CD. On the “Gift from the Godz” CD, Paul Thornton did an original song and 2
covers. He did a Hank Williams song and a cover of Buffy Saint Marie’s
“Universal Soldier”.
We also did a newer version of “Turn on “ Jay Dillon’s voice
is on this and on Women of the World from the 4th album, so it’s kind of like
he is on the record with us.
One of the things I like about working with Manta Ray
Records , is I get a chance to work with some of the next Generation of
producers. On the track “Women of The World”, Manta Ray Records producer Robby
Gosweiler took Women of the World into Dubstep mode and put a whole new spin on
the Godz sound.
Will you do any shows
together with the original Godz?   
Doubtful but anything’s possible. We still stay connected.
Recently, vinyl records started to come back. Do you like
this format?   
I love it since I have a record store that sells vintage
records
What are you currently listening to and what are you
reading?   
I’m reading my grandchildren’s books and listening to my
wife, finally.
Anything else to say to our readers?
Thanks for all the support over the years and for keeping
the music alive, We’ll see you out on the road. Fans can reach us through Face
book 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Godz/224740927594050?ref=hl
Stay freaky!
Interviews made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
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