There’s something in your bio I specifically want to talk about. The part that says you developed a “potentially fatal form of skin cancer [you] acquired by playing the drums until [your] fingers blistered.” Really? Is that a thing?!
True story! There’s video of it. At my last proper gig at LA Times I was given a tongue-in-cheek recreation and adventure column, Action Man. Best gig ever. For a year I got to do fun stuff and write about it, like learning how to fly a plane, how to sail, going skydiving, etc. Anyway, the best assignment I got sent to was Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp’s 10th anniversary extravaganza. I got to play with Roger Daltrey, Slash, Joe Walsh, Jack Bruce…
Anyway, I rolled in saying, “I can play the guitar, I can play keyboards, I can play bass, I can even sing,” and they put me on drums, which is tough enough when it’s just you, but they put me in a band with another drummer! So I had to play in perfect synch with the other guy or else I fuck everything up completely! On top of that, the other drummer was DYING. I mean he was really at the end. He was on so much morphine, just holding death at bay while he lived this great dream of playing with his heroes. That experience — five days of playing drums for 12 hours a day — was part of what gave me the confidence to play drums on my album and also what gave me skin cancer!
Day one, I got a blister from playing all day. I couldn’t keep a band-aid on it, so I kept re-injuring it. Apparently sometimes when a cut heals wrong — or isn’t allowed to heal — you can develop squamous cell carcinoma. So voila, there it is! Of course, I was borrowing my drumsticks from the other fellow who was, as I said, dying of cancer, so a part of me wonders if… I know cancer isn’t contagious, but there I was trying to match my rhythms up completely to this guy beside me who was riddled with cancer, using his sticks against my fingers. Bizarre!
Definitely bizarre! Alright, so I understand you’re a multi-instrumentalist. Was it pretty much you and Jerry making this record?
It was just the two of us for the first four months. Around the time he bailed, I got this horrendous ringing in my ears. Recording the drums without in-ear monitors for hours on end had given me tinnitus, so I had to take some time off. When I finally got back to it, I was completely alone, which was a lot less fun. I finished the recordings on my own and did most of the editing and effects on my own. Then I turned it over to a friend of mine, Bill, who mixed it.
Liam, I’m going to have to prescribe you a strong dose of not playing the drums.
I know, right?! Playing drums gave me tinnitus and cancer! I didn’t even mention the two months I lost due to a hard drive failure. I thought I’d lost the entire album, but I got it all back. Whew!
You recently had a show at the Satellite. Since you handled a lot of the instrumentation on the record alone, how’d you go about putting together the live show?
My friend Bill, the guy who mixed the album, is a guitarist I’ve jammed with on and off for years. As soon as he heard the record, he said, “You need to play this out live, and I know who your band is going to be.” He and two other mutual friends, Ali (bassist) and Eric (drummer), have a lockout they share within walking distance from my house, so it was almost too easy, really.
Since they fell into my lap, I either pick up another guitar or play the keyboards live. I had to recruit two more peeps to do the harmonies since none of the guys sing, so I got my friends Michelle Johnson and Audrey Casey. It’s a temporary lineup. Right off the bat, I know Eric won’t be able to keep drumming, but I’ve got this badass, Ryan Krieger, in mind to replace him, so I plan on keeping this going.
You self-produced and released your debut. For the next release, are you looking to get signed?
I never shopped Drunk Sluts Forever; I just released it as a fait accompli. With the next one, it’d be nice to have a bit more infrastructure. If I find someone who’s down with what I do, that’d be great. I’d like to have the freedom to focus exclusively on the music. I’ve got a huge backlog of songs I’ve already written to choose from. I don’t think a major label would have me, though. I’d probably fit better on an indie label.
As an independent artist on Spotify, what is your take on Thom Yorke’s anti-Spotify stance?
Well, of course I adore Thom Yorke, and Radiohead is one of my favorite bands, but as an unknown independent artist who’s trying to get his music out via as many platforms as possible, I don’t have the luxury of withholding my music because I disagree with the pay scheme.
Theoretically, though, I side with him completely! I think after 10,000 spins on Spotify, artists get a bag of potato chips or something. You’re in a field where it’s expected that you’ll give your product away, at least at first, for exposure’s sake. Even touring is hard to make profitable. I think licensing is the surest revenue stream if you’re lucky enough to get it going.
So basically if you become strapped for cash, I’ll hear your jingles on Geico commercials?
Ha! Between the kidnapping scenario in “Pinocchio Nose” or saying the word “shit” a couple dozen times in “It’s All Sugar,” I think I managed to insert enough dark themes and potentially offensive language to scare the Geico gecko away for good! But hey, if he’s interested, who knows?! I think I’m gonna call my next album Hearts and Flowers or something and have it all be love songs.
What’s next on the horizon for Liam Gowing?
I’ve asked my friend, Neal Gardner, to produce an EP. I have two songs pretty much written, and I’m really excited about them. One’s kinda disco-punk; think LCD Soundsystem with my own weird curves in it. The other’s kind of like a Prince song. This time around, I’ll probably just play the bass, keyboards, and sing, have Neal do guitar, and have that badass, Ryan, playing drums on it. It seems a lot simpler this way.
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