with Max Soren of The Goslings
February 23, 2007
Okay, so some of you may recognize the name Max Soren from his project Oleta appearing on a Silber comp years ago. But with a recent re-issue of the first two of The Goslings EPs on Crucial Blast, the band is starting to get quite a following. At the The Goslings hear are Max on guitars & his wife Leslie on vocals. They are heavy metal in the raw form of Black Sabbath rather than the virtuosic tendencies that have been dominating it for thirty years. Learn more about The Goslings on their webpage.
QRD – If people say your music is a cross between two bands, what bands do you want them to say?
Max – I don’t know. That’s a hard question because there are so many influences, but people generally compare us to Sunn O)) & My Bloody Valentine a lot. We get Sun O)) & then I think because people are trying to think of something else that sounds like it we get My Bloody Valentine, but we don’t really sound like either one of those bands. As far as who I’d want them to say, I don’t have an answer for that.
QRD – Would you consider your music to be metal?
Max – Yeah. Basically it’s metal. It’s a lot of other things; but at the heart of it, it is metal.
QRD – Did you grow up on metal?
Max – Yeah. When I was a little kid I listened to mostly punk & stuff, but a lot of Black Sabbath. & then Slayer & Carcass & still a lot of Sabbath & then I got into the Melvins & that was a big deal. That changed the way I viewed music. They’re the biggest metal band that I am into & they are probably the biggest influence.
QRD – You have a bit of a dichotomy in your music between really aggressive stuff & really soothing stuff. Is one of your goals in music to juxtapose those two things?
Max – No. I don’t think of our stuff that way in terms of “goals”. We do have the prettiness of some of the songs juxtaposed against the harshness or the ugliness of how it is recorded & a lot of other factors that play into it to make it ugly. But I think a lot of times the ugliness is kind of a byproduct & we’re shooting more for the pretty. But a lot of it comes down to Leslie because she’s the one who shapes the vibe of every song. None of it is really anything until she adds vocals to it.
QRD – Your discs usually credit guitar/vocals/drums/other what is the “other”?
Max – Everybody kind of does other things besides what their major role is. Like I play guitar on every song, but there’s a song here or there throughout the albums where I play the drums. I just think it reads better to list it like that rather than every minute detail. I play guitar & mess around with other stuff. Leslie does all the vocals & other things. Same with most of the drummers we’ve had too.
QRD – Your music has a pretty organic type of sound, do you think the secret is recording to tape?
Max – Yeah, tape is kind of what it’s all about. The feeling of tape for me is the whole thing.I don’t think we could do what we do if we recorded digitally. We will never record digitally – I’ll never do it.
QRD – You started out on a four-track & I know you briefly worked in a “real studio” & now you use an 8-track reel-to reel. Why did you decide to go back to recording yourself?
Max – I never did actually any “recording” recording in a studio. I’ve always recorded myself & the only time I get a studio involved is after I’ve mixed everything down & I want it tweaked. Like an inflection or since I only have 8 tracks to work with, if I want to go beyond the 8 tracks I’ll record the extra track & go into the studio (it’s not really a studio, but a friend’s home studio (he does have a real studio, but he masters at home)) & with ProTools Fred Freeman will help me piece things together.
QRD – What do you usually use for your 8 tracks?
Max – Generally the formula has been since we got the 8-track: three mics for drums, one or two mics for guitar, & the rest for Leslie’s vocals. Leslie usually has two vocal tracks for each song, sometimes she doesn’t, but usually she does.
QRD – Do you do overdubbing or are things usually pretty live?
Max – It varies from song to song. “Own a Car” on Grandeur of Hair was probably the purist thing in terms of no overdubbing at all & just being “here it is.” But on that same album on other songs I’d go in & lay down a lot of extra guitar & Leslie does most of her vocals in an overdub fashion. There are field recordings I put in their & stuff & of course that’s all overdubbing. But the bulk of the recording is at the rehearsal space & then I bring it home & fuck around with it & add things & subtract things & shit like that. But the bulk of the recording is done in this little space that we rent for $15 an hour.
QRD – Are your bass tones guitar recorded at the wrong speed?
Max – No, not after I got the 8-track. But before that when I was recording on 4-track cassette yeah a lot. Like Spaceheater & Perfect Interior & Oleta have a lot of stuff that is absurdly slowed down like a Butthole Surfers thing because with our 4-track we could record at super super high speeds and then slow it down dramatically. The problem is that our reel-to-reel doesn’t have that big of a variable of tape rate. Once in a while if a drum sounds tinny I’ll slow it down a little to make it deeper or if I fuck up on guitar I’ll speed it up to make it sound a little tighter, but nothing like I was doing on Spaceheater.
QRD – Do you do something to try to get your guitar more bass-y? Like an octave pedal or something?
Max – No, there is actual bass guitar. Some songs don’t have any bass guitar and you can tell because it sounds “thinner” but I generally go back and overdub bass guitar on all the songs since we got the reel-to-reel – I wish I was a better bassist though all my bass lines pretty much just do what the guitar does and I bet a lot of the songs would’ve turned out better if I had a more interesting bass line.
QRD – Why do you mix the vocals in at such a low volume?
Max – I don’t know. I just think it sounds cooler that way.It’s funny because when I’m in the car & I’m listening to the radio, I am always conscious of the fact that they have the vocal tracks way on top of the music, they’re just sitting there. So I mix it low because I like the feeling of the music enveloping the vocals & the vocals blending in more as an instrument.
QRD – Some of your releases are in really limited quantity & some are commercially available. What makes you decide which way a release should go?
Max – There’s no plan for that. That really comes down to the labels we have to deal with to release things.
QRD – So it’s up to the label.
Max – It’s up to the label & what the label is capable of doing. We did Between the Dead ourselves & could only afford a 500 disc run of it. So it wasn’t that we wanted it to be limited, but it was what we could afford. I didn’t think at the time that it would sell out. We were laughing about it saying we were going to have those things as coasters. With Spaceheater/Perfect Interior it was put out by Crucial Blast & they have the ability to get it distributed well & I think they pressed 2000 copies & that thing is everywhere, and its our oldest material.
QRD – Do you do any live shows?
Max – We don’t. We get a lot of requests to tour. I don’t think we’ll ever properly tour, but we are talking about playing some festivals here & there in the next year.
QRD – You used to record under your own name doing cassettes & CD-Rs. What’s Leslie’s musical background?
Max – She has no background, never even wanted to be in a band. I kind of had to bully her into it when we first started. But I knew she could sing and I knew she’d understand where I was coming from so I just hounded her about it. But once she did she couldn’t deny that it “worked” and it became a thing pretty quick.
QRD – What are the assets & deficits of being in a band with your spouse?
Max – I guess the benefit is that your musical partner is as close to you as it can possibly get, so there doesn’t need to be a lot of discussion as far as where things should go. We don’t have to think about or discuss how songs are going to shape up or how albums are going to flow because we’re very much on the same wavelength. So that’s good. The detriments are that you’re married to the singer & if you get into a fight or something, then practice is off. I’m joking, but you’re married to the person & that’s got its own dynamic. I wouldn’t say it’s a detriment because I don’t want to get killed here & Leslie is sitting in the other room looking at me like she’s getting ready to come in here, so let’s move on.
QRD – Do you have a set drummer? It seems like you used four in 2006?
Max – Yeah, that’s because it’s hard to find people down here. It isn’t even really a “band” because we don’t have people with us saying, “This is what we do.” What I mean by that is that they’d have their day jobs, but as far as music goes what they do is The Goslings. Everyone we’ve met so far has a lot of their own projects. So they have to divide their time between their own projects & working with us, so they turn out to become more like session drummers than band drummers. That’s part of the reason why we’re not out their touring. We just don’t have our shit together like that and I’m not going to waste our time shagging ass show to show to wing it. If we’re going to do the tour thing I need someone to come & rehears with me & learn these songs because we are not a jam band or making “improv” music. A person has to come & learn the songs & that takes time & it’s hard to find a person who is willing to do that.
QRD – It seems like you might be able to get a good metal drummer from Tampa?
Max – Yeah, right. I’ve reached out to people in northern Florida, but who the hell wants to travel all the way down to south Florida to rehearse in a miniscule insignificant band? I’m sure that’s how they think about it & I understand. What I’d like to find is someone who wants to fucking play in The Goslings & can put a little time into it. It’s hard to find that in south Florida. Maybe it’s because I’m not out there networking. We hardly ever go to shows & aren’t in “the scene” at all, we hate that shit. But I do put out ads every once in a while & I do contact people & I try, but it’s hard if you’re not out there meeting new people and making friends and shit. Maybe if I was living in New York or some other city that was jam packed with people into this type of music it would be a lot easier to find somebody, but down here it’s difficult.
QRD – What do you use for making your loops?
Max – Just delay pedals.
QRD – A Line 6?
Max – No, it’s a Boss Pitch Shifter/Delay. They don’t make them any more, but that’s what I use.
QRD – What’s your favorite piece of musical equipment?
Max – In terms of what I get the most use out of, I would say that Boss pedal. I use it in almost every song for something. The only other pedals I own are a Sans Amp & a blue MXR distortion pedal. I don’t have a lot of gear. I have a cheap guitar & a Roland synthesizer. The practice space we go to has pedals and amps and we use those too.
QRD – What piece of musical equipment are you currently pining for?
Max – For a while I really wanted to get my hands on an electric sitar or a sitar. And I’ve always wanted to try out that Wooly Mammoth pedal, I mean I’ve been wanting to try that thing out for seven years. The descriptions I’ve read make it sound like it’s going to melt my house when I plug my guitar into it. So I gotta get my hands on one of those when I make some money one day.
QRD – I hear good things about the Super Hard On 3.
Max – Yeah, by the same guy, the Z-Vex guy. I’ve never tried any of the pedals because they’re so expensive. I’m not going to spend $350 on a pedal, that’s crazy.
QRD – & if you do, it better have diamonds in it.
Max – It better transform our sound in a fundamental way & pedals don’t usually do that.
QRD – How did you get hooked up with Hand/Eye & Crucial Blast?
Max – I met both of them through a friend of ours named Neddal Ayad. He knows Adam from Crucial Blast & Timothy from Hand/Eye & he got us on the 3” disc series from Hand/Eye.
QRD – When the re-issue came out on Crucial Blast, were you kind of surprised by the reaction since for you it was such old material?
Max – I haven’t seen a ton of feedback since it was released, but yeah it’s everywhere. The reason Spaceheater is so much more out there than anything else is because Crucial Blast is a bigger label than Archive. Archive is a smaller label. Slimm mainly deals with retail sales through a mailing list & a few distributors that are loyal to him, but he’s not getting Grandeur of Hair onto Amazon or anything. Spaceheater is on Amazon, I’m gonna have to review that thing & give it five stars.
QRD – Would you have preferred if Grandeur of Hair had been put out on Crucial Blast instead of Spaceheater?
Max – No, I think Archive was the perfect label for Grandeur and we really like working with Slimm. & Adam from Crucial was always really into Spaceheater so it’s great that it’s on his label. But yeah, in terms of distribution, sure you always want your latest thing to be really available because it’s newer & I’m more emotionally attached to it. But at the same time I am totally content with where we’re at. Archive calculates that about 800 people own Grandeur of Hair & that, to me, is a fucking lot of people. That is a lot of people for a band that’s not out there touring & doing this kind of music & I don’t have any desire to get any bigger than that. I think if half the people that own Grandeur really dig it, then that’s amazing for what we’re doing.
QRD – You’d rather sell 800 & have 400 fans than sell 2000 & have 200 fans.
Max – That’s what I’m saying. I’m playing music for a small group of people who are going to find this music psychedelic & I figure we’ve already reached our audience. Which actually makes putting out our own records more and more appealing.
QRD – I think at a certain point in music you feel, “I understand this part of music, now I want to learn about this other part.”
Max – Yeah. When we did Between the Dead we got the CDs professionally printed & we basically did the art at Kinko’s & we put it all together. At the end of that we were like, “There’s no way in hell we’re ever going to do this again.” Because it was such a manual labor task. But I liked the feeling when I did Between the Dead of being the captain of my own ship & not dealing with anyone else & having control over every aspect of it. To me that was really nice.
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?
Max – We can pretty much only do one release a year. It’s not feasible for us to put out a lot of material. It takes us a long time & is excruciatingly slow.
QRD – Didn’t you do two in 2006?
Max – No, in 2006 we just had Grandeur of Hair. In 2005 we had Between the Dead & Folklore of the Moon. But that’s not a lot. You look at a lot of the bands that are out there, especially on the more underground side, & these kids are putting out three, four, five albums out a year. People are putting out music what seems to me constantly & makes me feel like we’re fossils because we only put out one thing a year. We only have five releases & we’ve been doing this since 2003.
QRD – Do you have any current side projects?
Max – Goslings is pretty much where it’s at. Whenever Leslie can’t put vocals on a song because it is just not something that she can work with or the vocals don’t add to the music & it’s better off instrumental, we put those a side & look towards eventually releasing them under a different name. Like the Oleta CD-R. It was music recorded at the same time as Spaceheater, but she never put vocals on it & kept it as instrumental.
QRD – What do your parents think of your music?
Max – They’ve never heard it. My dad’s never heard it & I don’t think my mom has either, but she knows about it. I’ve talked to her about it, but never played anything for her. Leslie’s family doesn’t know about it at all. No one in her family knows she does this. I think it would blow her family’s minds & probably offend some of them. They’d think it was satanic. It’s not, but they would think it has a satanic connotation because they’re pretty religious.
QRD – It’s all what you’re used to. Like Ministry scared the hell out of me as a kid.
Max – Yeah, Ministry’s heavy.
QRD – & now they sound like pop music to me. It’s all what your used to.
Max – Of course. A lot of what I listen to people think of as utter noise & to me it’s rock & roll.
QRD – Anything else?
Max – I feel like this
is going to read totally stilted & awkward. It’s always weird
talking about your own stuff.