STARVED FOR LOVE, SEX & MONEY
GRAVITY KILLS discusses their new album, "Superstarved"
by Alicia Downs, February 2002
Gravity Kills is still
a name, albeit one that is associated almost symbiotically with their debut
track, "Guilty," that swept radio and movies by storm. But - almost
seven years and two album later - the band is preparing for the release of their
third album and Sanctuary Records debut, "Superstarved." And in the
process, they are setting out with a hunger and sense of freedom rarely seen
with established acts but readily heard in the new material.
Hanging out in the chill rooms of The Electric Factory in Philadelphia before their show opening for former label mates and kick ass band Sevendust, Jeff Scheel and Doug Firley discuss music and life after "Guilty".
New album, new label ...
Jeff: Finally ...
Rough Edge: Where are you all at as a band right now?
Jeff: As a band, maybe most appreciative that we have ever been as a band. We chose to leave TVT. It took Steve a while but he finally found it in his heart to let us go; great thing that he did for us to let us go. We were on a freefall for 15 months between leaving TVT and finally signing with Sanctuary. We were freaking out - we were like "Are we a band tomorrow?" We were doing all these demos not knowing if anyone was ever going to hear it. It was a trying time. So now that we are back on the road on a great tour and our recordís coming out with a track ["One Thing"] that was most added at active rock and extreme rock this week - beating out Lenny Kravitz, Static-X, Kittie - so itís like we are taking things day to day. We have very guarded optimism because we have had the best in the business. We have been on both sides of the "shoe." We have been the gum and the foot so itís like now every day is just great.
Rough Edge: Was it frustrating looking for a label?
Jeff: Yeah because at the time people were going Ďman this stuff sounds greatí but they were so afraid of getting attached to that industrial "thing" and part of what we do is imbedded in that but without sounding stupid or like an asshole I think we transcend that genre and we are more of a traditional rock band then a lot of industrial acts. Labels were just scared of that. So finally Sanctuary came around so itís all good.
Rough Edge: That brings me to the question that about six or seven years ago the industrial/
pop-metal trend was a lot bigger. How have you seen the market of it shift because in a lot of ways it is like a different world?
Jeff: I think what I see is pop music being more song driven. There are just so many sub-genres now of rock and I think we have spread across a few of them and we always did but I think that our first record was more [industrial] then the new record. But we change as a people and we change as a band. When you are doing a record you cannot just sit around and go Ďwhatí s going to be popular when we finish this record and six months after you finish the record and when it finally gets releasedí. You have no idea so you just do what you do and if we are lucky enough to have some success then that would be great. If not, then we did the best record that we could and thatís all we could do.
Rough Edge: How did this tour come about with Sevendust? I know you all were former label mates...
Jeff: We were former label mates but it had nothing to do with that. Sanctuary gave the CD to an independent radio promotions company out in New York called McGathy and Creedís manager [who is also] Sevendustís manager walked into the office and somebody is playing our record. And they were like, Ďwho the hell is this?í and they were like Ďthatís the new Gravity.í And they were like thatís good stuff [and] they were getting a tour together. So we all share, actually all three of us bands on this tour, are through the Agency. And two of us are with Dave Kirby and Sevendust is with somebody else. So it just came about that the Sevendust camp heard our record. They gave four tracks to the guys in the band and everybody made it happen.
Rough Edge: Letís talk about the New York City show. I heard it did not go over real well. What are your thoughts on people that go to shows just to heckle ... I mean whatís up with that?
Jeff: People pay their money so they can do whatever the hell they want first of all. Second of all, itís good for a band like us to be out on a tour where we are occasionally going to run into that because it makes us hungry. I am not encouraging people to do that to any band but at the same time we are not going to back down and we didnít back down. Really itís been blown out of proportion ...
Rough Edge: Internet ...
Jeff: Yeah, 'cause it was really just a couple hundred people.
Doug: There were some 3500 people there ...
Where did you all play at?
Jeff: At the Hammerstein.
Rough Edge: Yeah thatís a huge venue.
Jeff: So youíre talking 200/300 like hardcore Sevendust fans right in the middle of it so ...
Rough Edge: Did they just not feel it?
Doug: It could have been any band that was out there.
Rough Edge: Well, Iíve seen it cause Philly is a hard crowd.
Jeff: If we run into that tonight we are just going to go out there and just do our show ...
Rough Edge: Well, I give you props for not turning around and like pissing on people or cursing them out and flipping them off cause I have seen all these things happen ...
Doug: Weíve seen that happen before and itís just not cool.
Rough Edge: Yeah, itís like I might like you but then you flip me off so I am like well screw you then.
Doug: And we are not there for those 200 or 300 people doing that anyway. We are there for those other people.
Jeff: If they have made up their mind before they have even seen the band then itís like, whatever, there is nothing you can do really. We licked our wounds and went to Boston and had a great show.
Doug: Where we were actually laughing about it back stage.
Rough Edge: So much for unity and all that ...
Jeff: Well, some people are just into one style of music so ...
Rough Edge: Well, then, I will just say that I think the people that do that are assholes.
Doug: So you heard about it?
Rough Edge: Well, yeah, itís all over the Internet so I was checking up and doing a little research. And actually I heard about the DC show last night and I heard that crowd was feeling it.
Doug: And then we will get back to the mid-west to our homeland ...
Rough Edge: But the thing is with the Internet you wipe your ass and someone is posting about it three minutes later.
Jeff: The thing is that if that makes us the underdog then fucking great. Just bring it on.
Rough Edge: What mental state were you all in when you did "Superstarved." I can imagine it was back to reality.
Jeff: Yeah, you know, it was tough. We were running out of money and didnít know if anybody gave a shit. It was rough and you can hear it in the songs and the lyrical content of the music. Thatís what the songs are about, especially "One Thing" - itís like just give me some good news, give me something. That is just where we were at the time.
Were there any objectives that you all were setting out for yourselves? Like,
this is what we want to accomplish. In a lot of ways you had been there
and you did it. When "Guilty" came out it was huge and you were
all over and then reality set in.
Doug: We just wanted a chance for everyone to just hear this record really.
Jeff: And if we were going for a musical direction we wanted to do a record that was organic for us.
Doug: Something that also represented Jeffís vocals more live.
Jeff: Vocally I think it is a more passionate record then we had done in the past.
Rough Edge: Martin Atkins is just a genius in his genre. How did you all get him to produce your record? How did that happen?
Doug: Well we had met him early on so when we were kind of in this free fall ...
Rough Edge: His resume' is just huge.
Doug: Well, we were in this freefall and Matt had given him a call one time and he said why donít you send me your music and you can always do something with me if all else fails cause Iíve got a label. He got it and he heard it and he said I really get this and here is what we can do and we agreed with him totally. Then when the Sanctuary deal came up we were just like this is the guy that was most like us.
Rough Edge: Come on, heís just a genius.
Jeff: And he just pushed my buttons.
Rough Edge: I felt like the opening track "Love, Sex and Money" kind of has a Nine Inch Nails feel to it and I know Atkins used to drum for them. So how much input of that was him?
Jeff: That was really more me on that one.
Rough Edge: Itís just that I heard it and I was thinking alright there is a little NIN in there.
Jeff: Probably because when I demo-ed the track there was like that half-time drum thing so it was primarily just Kurt and I.
Rough Edge: Okay, let me set this scene for you: I am sitting on my bed listening to the album and I am chilling. I fall asleep and then all the sudden track nine hits.
Doug: Track nine, thatís after "One Thing." Which one is after "One Thing"?
Jeff: "Personal Jesus."
Rough Edge: So I wake up and Iím like ... it literally just woke me up. And I am, like, is this Depeche Mode I hear. You all Depeche Mode fans?
Doug: Yes, of course.
Rough Edge: Have they heard it, do you know?
Jeff: Donít know at all.
Doug: Well we had to get approval.
Jeff: To get permission to get approval we had to notify them, their publishing.
Rough Edge: So what made you all do it? So few bands can touch Depeche Mode and pull it off. But it was very cool cause I would be the first to tell you if it wasnít. You went there and it was ...
Doug: Well we had done it live at shows.
Jeff: Right, we had done it acoustically on and off at shows since Ď96.
Doug: And the fans got it and they would scream for it out in the audience.
Rough Edge: Oh yeah, itís just a great song.
Doug: So Jeff had been playing it acoustically and it had gone on for just years and years that is was on the back burner.
Jeff: Finally Matt and I just decided to do it. We had just spent a few days doing our own stuff so we just did it kind of like decompressing and it turned out really cool ...
Rough Edge: Yeah, it was very cool. It literally woke me up from a dead sleep because I was just like where the hell did Depeche Mode come from?
Jeff: Right, 'cause Depeche Mode is kind of like a sacred cow to some people.
Not so much for me, but that was the first thing I thought when I heard it ...
they went there with Depeche Mode so I hope itís good.
Doug: Actually we were supposed to record something for the Depeche Mode tribute album but we could not cause we were out on tour at the time ...
Jeff: And no one had done "Personal Jesus" on the tribute record.
Rough Edge: So maybe they will do a Part II tribute and then they will just have to use it.
Rough Edge: With "Superstarved" it seems like you guys are kind of taking a step forward by taking a step back and returning to your roots a little. Do you think there is any truth to that statement?
Doug: Well ...
Jeff: Well, yes and no. I think yes in that ...
Rough Edge: This is from just a fan's perspective looking in cause I have been a fan of the music for a while.
Doug: If you take a look at the three records what happened was we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted and that is what we did. On the second record our ...
Rough Edge: Pressure?
Jeff: Yes there was tons of pressure on the second record. We were getting A&R'd to death.
Doug: We felt very stifled and that is why the second album is very abrasive and just an angry, angry record.
Rough Edge: Itís gritty.
Doug: We now moved to Sanctuary and they gave us that absolute freedom again and you can hear on this record the breathing again. So that is probably what you are associating with that first record.
Rough Edge: Maybe the freedom?
Doug: Just hearing this freedom coming out again.
Jeff: So that is what we did early on. You are exactly right that we did take a step back.
Doug: Not that we are looking backwards.
No, not that you are looking backwards, just ...
Jeff: We kind of rediscovered where we are as a band. We are looking at what we are doing now not what we did back in Ď95.
Rough Edge: And Sanctuary has got some great artists on it.
Jeff: Pitchshifter is going to have a record coming out.
Rough Edge: I liked Dust to Dust but they are not on there anymore.
Jeff: Never heard them.
Doug: Never heard that record.
Jeff: We saw them but we have not heard that record.
Rough Edge: The album is going to be out March 19 ...
Rough Edge: And this tour is going to be over before then ...
Rough Edge: So what are you going to be doing next to be pushing this?
Jeff: We are putting in for some tours on a couple other opening slots on some big tours. We are just going to keep going out and preach to the non-converted. Back to the New York show stories, you know, that is what we are doing when we go out on these kinds of tours ...
Rough Edge: You just canít please everybody. 'cause then you would be Creed and youíd suck. Oh wait did I say that ...
Jeff: (Laughing) Well, I was about to say it. If you arenít pissing somebody off then you are doing it wrong.
Rough Edge: Now the first single out is "One Thing"-- any reason you picked that track?
Jeff: It was something that the powers that be decide. We would have preferred maybe a rock-ier track to have come out with and we pushed certain songs. My radio buddies in St. Louis loved "Love, Sex, and Money"...
Rough Edge: I
was about to say that I would have picked "Love, Sex, and Money" ...
Doug: Everybody had a hard time choosing 'cause there were just four or five that we were looking at.
Rough Edge: Well, thatís a good thing.
Doug: We had originally said "One Thing" and as we went along it just came about more that it was going to be "One Thing."
Jeff: And when you hear that song live itís 100 times bigger live then it is on the record. 'cause I am playing guitar on it too and you have Matt or guitar so itís just big.
Doug: Itís becoming like an anthem.
Jeff: At first it was hard because at first it was a hard pill to swallow when they picked it because we had been pushing for something else.
itís going along though it seems to make more sense now. Especially
after hearing it on radio and playing it live ...
Jeff: Itís been going down real well live.
Doug: So I think the people we talked with were onto something when they chose that.
Rough Edge: Any plans to shoot a video?
Jeff: If it continues to go well with radio I think they want to do some video thing. But a band at our level is not going to get any MTV play. We might get something on MTVX or MTV2. We would love that ...
Rough Edge: Well you donít want to be on MTV anyway cause you in a midriff would be bad.
Jeff: Yeah, it just wouldnít work.
Rough Edge: The lyrics on the album are all very smart. Where do you think that you are now professionally after having that whirlwind?
Jeff: Weíre at the beginning but not in the sense that we are at the bottom ...
Rough Edge: It does feel like you are starting over.
Jeff: We are starting over but itís different then the first time because at least people know of the band ...
Rough Edge: Gravity Kills is a name and you say it and people know who that is.
Jeff: Thatís why it is not like we are completely starting over but we are having to find people. When some people heard we were on this, some were stoked and others were like we donít get it 'cause it is a weird bill. We have to go out and find people to like this band and we are going to go out and play for everyone.
Rough Edge: What goals are you setting for yourself personally?
Jeff: Personally ... like aside from Gravity Kills?
Rough Edge: Personally. I mean this whole scene just has such a short shelf life ...
Jeff: Oh it does. We have been a band for seven years which is like an eternity. I feel like we have achieved a lot and to get this second chance. As far as the band goes we are just taking it day to day.
Rough Edge: Well, you have to.
Jeff: It was like finding out about the radio stuff Tuesday that was good 'cause I know how quickly the wind can change in this business. I called my mom and was just like right now I am having a really good day.
Rough Edge: Thatís cool.
Jeff: So thatís where we are coming from. We are on a great tour and things are going well. As far as myself I am looking into getting into the re-mix thing with some people ...
Rough Edge: Stepping on the other side so speak ...
Jeff: Yeah. Iíve got some projects coming up.
Rough Edge: Well. thatís cool and I just have one last question: Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?
Jeff: (looks perplexed)
Sorry. That was just a bad joke.
Rough Edge: Canít help it. Iím a child of the 80s so I had to bust out a Breakfast Club line once at an interview. And weíre done!
"Superstarved" will be released on Sanctuary Records March 19, 2002. More information can be found on the bandís Official web site: http://www.gravitykills.com
Gravity Kills is: Jeff Scheel (vocals), Doug Firley (Keyboards), Matt Qudenhoeffer (Guitar) and Kurt Kerns (drums).
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Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:09 -0400.