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Gonzo Latest News: BRAND X

Date Published: 25th January 2014

Brand X was another one of those bands who were beloved of other musicians and the more discerning of critics, but which despite everything never had the commercial success that it deserved.

They were a jazz fusion band active 1975–1980. Noted members included Phil Collins (drums), Percy Jones (bass), John Goodsall (guitar) and Robin Lumley (keyboards). Not long after jazz/rock fusion greats Brand X put out their 1980 album, ‘Do They Hurt?’, the band members went their separate ways (until their comeback in 1992 which only featured Goodsall and Jones).

I caught up with John Goodsall just before Christmas:


JON: I thought there was always some very cinematic about Brand X.

JOHN: If you look back through the old catalogue, X-Communication, when we were a trio, it was pretty much pure jamming on themes – a lot of improve. in between – it was like it could be an opening theme. An eight-minute jam. It was just magic stuff.  And a lot of it was cinematic and it was dynamic, and it would go quiet, and it would go spacey and it would come out strong, and that particular album, Steven Segal wanted to use it on Under Seige 2.  And I still think we could go back through the catalogue which we own, which is the stuff after the ‘Hit and Run’ track with Collins, everything after that Percy and I have the rights to, I’m pretty sure – well I’m not sure those companies exist anymore, and publishing wise and all the rest of it.  All that stuff is pure Brand X and it’s just pure improv. and it’s a lot of great incidental type music.  There’s even themes there. It would be great music for movies.  If you guys could try and get us in a movie we would all come out smelling like a rose.

JON: Sounds wonderful

JOHN: I’m about ready to go into the studio and lay down some new tracks.

JON: That’s fantastic.  Are you going to be playing live with them?

JOHN: There are not a lot of musicians around here, but there was one band that was great called Cat Blue – they were sort of a hard rock trio and they do originals and they’ve got two albums but they do mostly rock cover tunes but the drummer sings and plays great and their bass player is an awesome musician.  The guitar player moved 800 miles north of here and the recording studio I mention is their recording studio and I’m supposed to go in there – they are having an open house; they have just rebuilt the place – it’s called Dungeon Studios – and I’m probably going to get to use the remaining two guys for some of my tracks and hopefully I’ll take them out and we can either do live or at least they’ll have me replace the other guy in what’s basically a cover tunes band playing classic rock, but it’s fun and they play good.  And I think I could probably use them because the stuff that I’m doing now is a bit more prog; it’s not quite Brand X’s stuff I’m doing now.  It’s like thematic prog; big, long Yes type arrangements.

 JON: That I’d like to hear.

JOHN: It’s good stuff and I’m excited and I think I’ve come to a certain point here and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and a lot of time to come up with what I really want to do. I’ve always loved the big, grandiose prog like Transatlantic, Neil Morse and all that, and Yes and all that, and I’ve always kind of aspired to that and I’ve come from the same part of the world as a lot of those people and now I think I’ve got my hands on to some tracks and some musicians that might be able to pull it off.

JON: Have you done demos of any of these songs?

JOHN: No, what usually happens is I just put a little guitar note down on a cassette usually, you know.  I’m not really savvy, I’ve got recording software in both of my computers – well I’ve got rough bits and pieces, but nothing’s finished.  You know what I mean?  It’s all work in progress, so what I’m doing now is just looping it all together in some type of structure and hopefully I’m going to go into the ‘Dungeon’ sometime in the next few weeks and start laying some of it down.

JON: Is this stuff going to be instrumental or will it have vocals?

JOHN: There are vocals in it.  There are words, there’s lyrics, there’s beautiful melodies in it. It’s a lot of instrumental though; it’s a lot of open sections for jams, for solos; piano solos or guitar solos.  There are a lot of like pretty intense – if you can imagine the prog type riff music – it’s pretty wild stuff.  It’s mostly instrumental, but there are vocal themes and there are some great songs in there too.

JON: Will you be doing the singing or are you going to find another vocalist?

JOHN: When I write it, I sit in the house here and sing it.  People tell me I sound great, but as a performer I am not really used to doing that and that’s why I am interested in having this drummer, because you won’t believe this guy – he’s a f*****g animal. He can knock a beautiful, heavy rhythmic beat and scream his head off at the same time. The guy’s a monster really – this guy can really scream his head off - Larry Crawford – he’s a great drummer and when I need the vocals done I’m thinking it’s going to be his high voice doing the lead vocal and I’ll probably chime in a little bit too, you know.

JON: I’m looking forward to hearing this stuff.

JOHN: It’s almost there.  It’s probably been twenty years in the making and I want to just make sure nothing goes wrong because it’s almost there, and I’ve got the studio lined up, and I’ve got the arrangements worked out – some of them anyway – and I’ll go in and finish it in the studio. I’ve developed stuff in the studio as well. That’s how Brand X, and a lot of those bands like Weather Report, they just went in and jammed in the studio – a lot of their stuff was created right there while they were recording it, you know.   And there will be some of that on my new stuff as well.

JON: That’s wonderful. I really look forward to hearing it.

JOHN: I don’t want to let you down, and I hope I can deliver something soon. This is my swansong, if you like.  This is my thing that I’ve always tried to do and it’s a lot bigger; it’s a huge thing, and we all have our personal lives that get in the way and this and that, and problems and all this crap. It’s a huge thing and meanwhile I am right there for anything that comes along – Fusion, going up and jamming with Prince or whatever, you know. Whatever opportunity arises, I’ll be right there with my guitar, but meanwhile behind the scenes this is the thing I’ve been trying to build for the best part of my musical life, and it’s getting very close to being realistic.

JON: Of course, Prince is Minneapolis isn’t he?

JOHN: Yeah, he runs a jam session up there – they want 120 bucks to get in through the door if you are going to jam with him. But I’ve been intending to go up there and do that.  He’s two hours away up in Minneapolis. I’m down in the south end of Minnesota, by the Iowa border.

JON: What was the last recording you did then?

JOHN: The last recording I did was – I believe it’s on your label – it’s called Cymbalic Encounters.

JON: Oh, I’m talking to Mark Murdock soon.

JOHN: That’s me and Percy all over that record, yeah.  We’ve even started a new one with him actually.

JON: Oh cool.  He’s in Japan, isn’t he, at the moment?

JOHN: Yeah, he sends the tracks over here and I go down to my little local studio down here – not the ‘Dungeon’, there’s another place I’ve been using called The Red Star which is really great. Some of the results we’ve had out of there is some of the best stuff I’ve ever done. And it’s all through the internet, you know. We never actually sit in the studio together, but sometimes we do. I did a lot of his record there.

JON: That’s cool.  I like this 21st-century method of working.

JOHN: The digital stuff has made it so much easier to do everything and everybody said at first, ‘oh the sound ain’t as good, CDs don’t sound as good as vinyl, la-di-da-di-da,’ well guess what, now people are beginning to understand how to use digital and the possibilities are endless. Mankind is not going to go backwards, you know what I mean?  And the sound quality is better, if you know what you’re doing. 



Gonzo Issue # 58

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