Interview and Feature by Slander Bob
Forged from the ashes of previous bands such
as The Snail’s and Gong Li, and also being the result
of an evil pharmaco experiment gone all wrong. Gorch Fock
has come out on top of the Red River trash heap as a dominant
force in the Austin / Red River rock n roll community and
a breath of well needed fresh air. Seeing Gorch Fock perform
live is quite the experience. It’s as much a sonic experience
as well as a visual assault on one’s senses which can
and will cause severe damage to ones central nervous system
if not equipped with earplugs in one hand and a nice adult
beverage in the other. Any true fan of loud retching brutal
noisy heavy trombone driven thundering noise rock can not
deny the fact that when watching Gorch Fock perform live questions
start to stir in the brain. At some point, days later, when
you least expect it, maybe over dinner or enjoying the aftermath
of a heavy fiber diet, it will come to and you will say to
yourself, Godamnit!! I need answers! Well after spending some
time with members of Gorch Fock at many LOUD practices full
of endless frop sessions and destroyed hearing, I came to
get to know and semi understand just what makes this band
Unlike most bands, where the rock n roll goods
are delivered in a very cut n’dry formula, the music
of Gorch Fock has many layers and is much more involved than
your average band. Being a seven piece band is just one of
the hurdles of pulling it all together. It has it’s
perks and it has it’s difficult moments, not only inlays
the problem of getting everybody together on the same schedule,
but it creates a very interesting approach to song writing
and performing live. There is also the ongoing struggle for
ways of getting equipment from point a to point b (especially
when traveling to other states and touring). Gorch Fock has
only embarked on a few road trips. Most recently playing live
outdoors on Canal St in New Orleans on Halloween.
A very diverse and unique approach to song
writing is only half the story. Gorch Fock is most defiantly
in every sense of the phrase “a live band”. Forget
about the usual way you are used to seeing most bands play
and perform live because a Gorch Fock show is a whole different
monster than what you are used to dealing with, from the stunning
films and visuals projected behind the band by the former
Butthole Surfers projectionist / film maker Lori Surfer, to
watching drummers Aaron Seibert and Jason Morales pound the
skins off of their drum sets. Watching the two play together
is like witnessing Japanese fighting fish going head to head
and every time they just fall short of murdering one another.
The thundering bass lines that are laid down by Win Wallace,
lays the background to almost all the songs during their set
and rolls along beautifully against the thousand gallon’s
of whup ass that are spewed from behind the Siamese drum sets
and out of the amplifiers of guitarists Kevin Stack and Bryan
Nelson. Almost every show Vocalist Joey Ficklin can be seen
wielding his trombone like a semi- automatic assault rifle.
Sometimes not even being on stage with the band at all. One
show in particular resulted with the band on stage and Joey
across the room atop of a crows nest that they built just
hours before the show, aiming his trombone like a weapon of
mass distraction at the audience and being possessed by the
onstage mayhem. Joey Ficklin is to Gorch Fock and a crows
nest what Charles Whitman was to the UT tower. Then there
is the electronic mayhem that is produced alongside the stage
by noise merchant, Jeff Swanson. I’ve watched several
shows and to this day I still can’t figure out what
the hell he doing over there with all his gadgetry. He’s
explained it to me on numerous occasions and I’m still
clueless. His creative molding of sounds and electronics really
do act as the icing on this completly strange and sinister
upside down cake of musical monstrosity.
The following interview was done before a
show upstairs at Room 710. This particular night was a very
special show. The band was playing a two set show in which
the first half of the set was all the material from the latest
record that they have been playing for the last 8 months in
which this was to be the last time they would play all of
these songs in this order, live in Austin ever again. The
band then took a short intermission and debuted a whole new
set of material which was introduced by a marching drum corps
that started out in front of Room 710 and was lead throughout
the club until securing the drum circle in front of the stage
and leading into the bands second set.
GORCH FOCK IS:
Aaron Seibert – Thing 1, Jason Morales
– Thing 2, Win Wallace – Bass, Kevin Stack –
Guitar, Bryan Nelson – Guitar, Joey Ficklin –
Trombone / Vocals, Jeff Swanson- Electronics / FX, Lori Surfer
– Live Visuals
Slander Bob: So I guess the first order of
business here is exactly how did this all come together and
who came up with ideas and concepts behind Gorch Fock?
Win Wallace: I was in my hammock one night
pondering the idea of combining the sounds of Gong Li and
The Snails and decided to set out and do just that. I was
listening to a lot of Chrome at the time and the whole thing
just became an idea that evolved into a band. It took about
five months to get everybody together and on the same page.
The basic idea here was to be completely over the top, The
Snails were halfway over the top and Gong Li was halfway over
the top so by joining the two I think we have achieved what
the original idea was.
SB: So is it true that you wrote almost the
entire first record by yourself in one night?
WW: I got the idea in the hammock and I wrote
the whole set in one night. I just came up with the basic
ideas and backdrop for what became our first set of music
that we played for 8 months and what eventually became our
SB: I’m just trying to get an idea of how this was incorporated
into full working songs.
Aaron Seibert: Win was the commander for the
first 9 months
WW: Everybody in this band helps with the
Kevin Stack: He had a piece that was laid
out and there was no set list and then he taught us another
chunk when we were ready.
SB: Ah, the old Captain Beefheart method.
SB: So how did you come about to deciding on the name of the
band, I’ve only met one person who actually knows whom
Gorch Fock is, everybody else is like, what the hell does
that mean? (Laughter)
WW: it’s an engraving that Kevin’s
SB: of the ship or the actual guy Gorch Fock
for whom the Russians named the ship after
WW: No it was an engraving of the ship. We
liked the name and in some weird way it’s just very
fitting to what we are doing.
SB: It’s cool how the name ties into
Win’s artwork that he does for the band and how a lot
of the songs and the way Joey dresses up like a sailor has
the underlined seven seas type theme. Especially when Joey
climbed up on the crow’s nest that you all built and
did the whole show from in the middle of the audience while
you guys were on stage playing.
WW: yeah all that started coming about as
we really coming into our own as a band with practices and
all and we started bouncing ideas off one another for things
that would go hand in hand with the band name. Things like
flyers with a nautical theme and the crows nest idea and Joey
took it one step further with the sailors costume and then
having it bleed over into the lyrics.
SB: Yeah how did that idea come about? Were
you guys just joking around after a practice and throwing
around ideas about silly off the wall things to do live?
AS: That’s exactly how it happened.
I actually built it. I remember calling up Joey and saying
“Man you gotta come over here and see this”. I
remember him in the backyard of my house around three in the
afternoon looking at it and saying “Um…yes and
um…no” (laughter) and to add more to the whole
naval aspect of the band I actually had to anchor that thing
so it wouldn’t topple over.
Joey Ficklin: A lot of my lyrical and stage
work kind of evolved from conversations we had at practices
about how we wanted to approach our live shows and song writing.
I started playing trombone for a large part of the songs and
the rest of the band was kind of asking if I was going to
do any singing or vocal work with the songs. Not having really
any experience with lyrics I just kind of latched on to the
whole ship and sailor theme that goes along with the name
Gorch Fock. The ball started rolling from there.
SB: So after you guys had played a couple
of shows and kind of realized that it was always going to
be a bit strange and you would most likely always be dealing
with stages that don’t have the room you need to set
everything up on one stage, did that also inspire some of
the live show?
Our stage setup is always so awkward, with so many people
up on stage already that as a supposed vocal / front man I
would end up on the back of the stage on top of some cabinets
with the drummers up front. We would spend time hanging discussing
the next show and it would evolve into “well next time
lets just put you on the other side of the bar” or when
we played the chicken wire ranch it was like “lets put
you on top of the roof” so I would do the set on top
of the roof. It kind of just became part of our shows where
at every show I will always position myself somewhere awkward
and annoying like the center of the club or way off the left
side of the stage suspended from a plank. We come up with
all these ridiculous ideas of where I should be. We are just
one of those bands who are either crazy enough or stupid enough
to pull it off.
SB: That’s one of the things that I
have really enjoyed about seeing you play live is trying to
figure you guys will come up with at the next show . I remember
the first time I saw Gorch Fock play it was at a show upstairs
at The Ritz. Joey wasn’t there physically. He was in
a New Jersey hotel room because of his job so you guys played
anyway and had Joey piped in and shown on monitors via video
phone while you played your set. It was one of the coolest
things I’ve ever seen a band do. How did you pull that
JF: The secret is just quite easily a construction
made up of web cameras and then a direct digital effects telephone
line so that we could establish a live feed. What happened
was that the show was already booked and I unfortunately had
to go to New Jersey because the kind of work I do requires
that I travel from time to time. They were all upset because
I wasn’t going to be able to make the gig. Everybody
seemed so bummed out that I wasn’t able to play the
show and I was like “look guys. There are seven fucking
people in this band and I really don’t always have to
be there for us to play. We have a world of huge technology
out there and we’re all pretty smart guys, why don’t
we try to pull of some kind of remote feed with me in New
Jersey and you guys can pipe my vocals in through the PA or
something,” and they were all like “That’s
so crazy and that it just might work.” We could never
establish the PA thing correctly so I just yelled into the
camera and jacked around with a bottle of whiskey.
SB: Does it get hard sometimes with having
so many people in the band? I’m sure it can be a little
tricky getting everybody together and on the same schedule.
AS: as far as practices go because there are seven of us,
two of those seven being drummers, we can always work around
people not being able to make it. Sometimes it works to our
advantage because we can simplify it down to like a four or
five piece and concentrate on getting parts of a song or all
of a song written so that when we are all together we not
all pulling our hair out trying to teach everybody at the
same time. So it works out pretty good.
SB: The way you guys write is a lot different
from most bands and I can see where with so many different
people in the band contributing to your song structure that
it probably takes awhile sometimes. Care to elaborate on how
piecing together songs works out?
WW: It’s all a matter of working stuff
out because some of the songs we can usually write and learn
how to play them in a practice or two. Then we will go through
that arrangement and parts get worked on and changed, as it
seems necessary for that particular song. Some songs have
taken as long as six months to complete depending on how comfortable
we feel with the way it all blends together. We try to have
as much input from everybody in the band to keep it interesting.
SB: So how did the whole idea of having two drummers come
WW: well the whole idea from the beginning
was that this band was going to be the equivalent of seeing
two bands playing together at once. Kind of like a perverse
version of the Doobie brothers (laughter). Like arena rock
but a more twisted version of arena rock in more of a like
hardcore punk sense.
SB: The visual aspect of your show is also
an added plus how exactly did you hook up with Lori Surfer?
WW: I met Lori a long time ago when she was
doing films for The Butthole Surfers through some friends
of mine who already knew her. Jason played drums on the last
Butthole Surfers tour and knew her from that. I think it was
at show that friends of ours in the band Confuzatron was playing
and she was doing screens for them while they were playing
and offered to do them for us as well. After the first time
she did it we were very happy with the way it turned out and
she has been with us ever since.
Lori Surfer: I really got off the first time
it I did films with the band and I’m still getting off
on doing films and visuals for the band. It’s almost
like a ritual for me now. I love the way the films and the
music collide against each other and create this really wonderful
chemistry. Overall I can see the creativity on a visual level
getting better and better. I really want to see this thing
go full throttle with more of the drum corps type thing going
on, Hell, if we could construct an entire boat for us all
to play out of live on a stage I’d be all for that too.
SB: What I really find interesting about the
way you approach playing live is that there is always that
element of wondering what’s next. Every show is a little
different from the last one and sometimes completely different,
for example, tonight you are introducing an entire new set
JF: yeah I really like the idea of us having
an entire new set to present to our audience this evening
instead of doing what most bands do. You know, add a new song
here and add a new song there into an already existing set.
This way it’s like starting all over again and adds
a freshness and newness to it. All. It makes it more exciting.
That’s one of the things I really like about being in
this band. It’s always changing and the possibilities
seem endless. Especially when we all start knocking our heads
WW: Originally the initial concept was for
us to only play 5 shows, record an album and then breakup.
We have had such a blast doing it that by the time those five
shows had past we all wanted to keep going. It was like “were
just getting warmed up”
SB: So what’s on the horizon for Gorch
WW: Well the Shirts VS. Skins Video is out
and being played on Austin Music Network, we are working on
an acoustic EP and we are already starting recording some
of the songs from our second set. We are going to be playing
a show in NYC with Alice Donut sometime in 2004, hopefully
around early spring. Hopefully the stuff we are recording
from the second set will wind up coming out as another full
length sometime in the spring.
SB: Cool, I for one hope to see you all continue
with what you have been doing. With that said are there any
parting words you have me?
WW: Were not really a stoner rock band; we
just play one on TV.
You can Download Gorch Fock MP3’s at
And you can get info on their record at http://www.pervertedson.com