(Hey guys. Today is truly a wonderful day at MixolydianBlog as I get to show you an interview I did with Tom Thacker. Tom is the lead singer and guitarist for the Canadian punk band Gob, a band that I have loved for many years. Tom has also had gigs playing guitar as a member of Sum 41 and many other amazing bands. He is a punk musician with a unique voice and a unique songwriting ability. I had so much fun doing this, enjoy -Derek)
Derek Kortepeter: So your last release as a band with Gob was in 2007 with Muertos Vivos, can you talk about all the stuff that has been happening musically with you since then?
Tom: (Laughs) yeah, it’s been a little while, sorry about the wait! Since 2007 I’ve been pretty busy musically. Right around the time Muertos Vivos was finished I started playing guitar with Sum 41, so from then until 2013 I was touring back to back between both bands constantly. Touring slowed a bit in 2010, which allowed both bands to start making records. The Sum record Screaming Bloody Murder came out in 2011 and Sum hit the road again, in between tours I worked on the Gob record. Aside from that I played on and co-wrote a few tracks the Rain City Rockers record. I produced a few tracks and co-wrote one on Steven Fairweather (Gob’s bassist) new solo record. I also played guitar with the Offspring for a couple shows.
DK: Can you discuss the process of writing your newest album (Apt. 13) as well as the recording process?
Tom: I write all the time so I had a bunch of songs at the end of 2009. I brought maybe 30 demos to the band, a really random bunch of songs, I honestly wasn’t sure if we had a record because all the songs seemed so different to me. But we listened to all the demos, put it to a vote and it all just kind of fell into place. We didn’t even rehearse; we started recording them right away.
We weren’t signed to a label at the time and we didn’t have a manager we just had a bunch of songs we loved and we knew how we wanted them to sound, so we produced the record ourselves. I produced/engineered and Theo mixed/engineered, we kind of shared duties. We recorded the drums and piano in a studio in Vancouver (The Armoury). Steven’s parents were out of town so we set up a makeshift studio in their basement and recorded the guitars/bass and some of the vocals. We got about half done there but it was taking too long – aka, Steven’s parents came home (laughs), so I had to finish the vocals/guitar overdubs/keyboards by myself in my apartment in NYC. The mixing was done at our friend’s studio in Surrey BC- Richardson Sound.
Mixing took quite a while, Theo and I were living in different cities, he was mixing the record but I had pretty specific ideas of how I wanted it to sound so there was a lot of sending files back and forth.
DK: Gob’s music has covered so many different topics throughout the years, from relationships to socio-political issues such as war. What are some of the themes covered in Apt. 13?
Tom: The lyrics on Apt 13 are mainly personal mainly centered on themes of anxiety. I think I was going through a transitional period in my life the last few years, It was a pretty chaotic time and I was trying to let go of my angst or something and trying to be, I don’t know, normal. Anyway, now I’m back on track, fully embracing my angst (laughs).
DK: How would you say Apt. 13 compares against your past records stylistically etc.?
Tom: Every single one of our records is a reaction to the previous one. You’ll hear elements of the song writing that are similar in all our records but we try to keep it fresh every time and give our fans something new to hear.
DK: Can you talk about “Radio Hell,” what it is about, and why you guys chose it to be your first single from Apt. 13?
Tom: Radio Hell is about resigning yourself to the fact that you live and die for music. Nothing will stop you from making music. That and the desire to change the contemporary musical landscape. There’s a lot of bullshit music out there.
We chose a few songs that stood out to us early on and let our record label make the final decision for the first single. I figured we could let them choose the song that everyone will eventually get sick of (laughs).
DK: Being in the punk scene for so long you have seen many different styles emerge. How do you feel about the current state of punk?
Tom: I honestly only really pay attention to music I like so I would say the current state of punk is great.
DK: Going off of that previous question, the music industry has changed so much in recent years (in my personal opinion for the worst). How do you personally feel about the industry and the direction it is heading in?
Tom: I think the music industry has changed for the better, it’s more transparent now, you can see the major players manufacturing artists in real time on TV and at the same time you see independent artists coming up on their own. It’s pretty apparent what is real and what is manufactured. For those of us that want the real thing, it’s easy to decide.
Plus, with the accessibility of social media it takes the power from the industry and puts it into the hands of the artist. You can market your record online basically for free. It also encourages the DIY spirit. We come from a DIY background and we’ve basically returned to it after being on every type of label big and small. It makes sense to DIY, and the rewards are greater.
DK: Comparing to when Gob started and where you guys are now, how have you changed musically or otherwise?
Tom: I think we’re basically the same, but we put a little more care into our records and live shows and I can grow a thicker beard.
DK: Can we expect a tour promoting Apt. 13? If so will you do shows only in Canada or maybe come to the USA and other countries as well?
Tom: We are touring across Canada in Oct-Nov 2014. International tours will follow!
DK: Is there anything else you would like to say before we close this interview?
Tom: Thanks for doing this! Follow us at- www.gobband.com
Anyone who knows me knows that U2 has had a massive impact on my life. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without their music, their ethos, and their persona. Like my mom who introduced me to the band, I know that they have an ability to write the songs of a life. My life’s soundtrack can be filled with U2 songs, from the anguished and lost soul crying out in Achtung Baby and Pop to the dystopian fantasies of Zooropa and the soaring heights of The Unforgettable Fire.
U2 has had many incarnations, each with their distinctive musical traits. I personally have always been partial to the experimental side of U2 found in their 90’s era albums like Achtung Baby and Zooropa, but I truly love it all.
Songs of Innocence took multiple (enjoyable) listens to digest how I viewed it in the scope of U2’s sonic contributions. Even more so the liner notes unlocked the deep emotions that went into the album. This is the most overtly personal I have ever seen the band. Their lives have always been intertwined with their music, but in Songs of Innocence the band’s lives ARE the songs. Bono himself said this of the album:
“We wanted to make a very personal album. Let’s try to figure out why we wanted to be in a band, the relationships around the band, our friendships, our lovers, our family. The whole album is first journeys — first journeys geographically, spiritually, sexually. And that’s hard. But we went there.”
Whereas the other albums have multiple topics (social, personal, political etc.), the personal journey of a life well-lived is the point of Songs of Innocence. From the first time U2 heard the Ramones to Bono watching his mother die as a young boy to the band’s pilgrimage to Los Angeles (my ever so beautiful hometown)… Songs of Innocence is a moving, uplifting, jamming, bleeding, broken, and spiritual collection of songs that take you inside the head of the band.
The feel of the album, from instrumentation to overall song structure, makes Songs of Innocence seem like it is one part the direction of All That You Can’t Leave Behind, one part the direction of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and the rest is a new area. Gone is the massive amount of multi-faceted musical experimentation (which admittedly I dearly love). In its place is a raw, stripped-down album that makes you realize why the album took so long to make (a paradoxical statement I know…but allow me to explain).
The openness of Songs of Innocence is hard to achieve. There are no frills; it is just 4 guys in a room making music. The album does not feel heavily processed, but really like an exploration into what the guys sought out to make when they first started. While I was expecting a push further in the direction of No Line on the Horizon, this pure storytelling, anthemic rock album proves that Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. do not need numerous layers of instruments and electronic sound samples to create art.
Will Songs of Innocence go down as groundbreaking? I doubt it. The thing is, however, this album is not intended to be a magnum opus. The folk approach of telling a story is really what Songs of Innocence is all about. This album is a reflection on life, the band’s life. It is a window into their collective minds, and as a life-long fan it is a raw honesty I can truly appreciate. This is a U2 that is saying “come into our hearts, whether or not you understand what you hear, we are going to say exactly what we want to.”
Guys, welcome back.