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gorch fock photo by larry stern

gorch fock photo by larry sternGO FOCK YOURSELF

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 tick.

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

gorch fock photo by larry stern

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 first record
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 writing process.

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.

KS: Exactly


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 mom did

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?

gorch fock JF: 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 off?

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 about?

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 together.

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 Fock?

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 http://www.butterylicious.com
And you can get info on their record at http://www.pervertedson.com

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