GØGGS: THERE’S NO “COME TOGETHER”
illustration by dave van patten
GØGGS is Ty Segall, Charles Mootheart, Chris Shaw and the until-now-never-discussed Michael Anderson, and together they make a post-apocalyptic kind of sci-fi punk that relocates Black Flag’s bleakness to Chrome’s (or Hawkwind’s) alien soundscapes. Think of that scene with the technical escaping Terminators, filmed circa 1984 and set in 2029—there’s a lot of GØGGS-ness happening there. Their recent Pre-Strike Sweep (out now on In The Red) is a record at the edge of overload, delivered with determination by dudes who seem totally undisturbed by the metal melting all around them. Singer Shaw—also of Ex-Cult—discusses life, punk and the way the internet turns bands into cartoons. GOGGS plays an early-ish all-ages show at the Echoplex on Wed., Dec. 5—get tickets here!
I want to ask you something no one has ever asked you: Who is Michael Anderson? You, Ty and Charles get lots of credit, maybe because of your other bands. But Michael is a mystery to the world.
Chris Shaw: (vocals) I’m glad you asked. Someone even went as far in a review to not include him at all. Michael joined once we started playing live shows, and he’s been a steady member ever since. Him and Ty go way back—I think second or third grade.
So tell the world about him. Is he a funny guy? Sad guy? Silent shredder? Surprisingly talented chef?
Chris Shaw: I’ve never eaten anything Michael Anderson prepared. But he knows how to pick a restaurant and he knows how to order. He does it all mentally and culturally. No Yelp. He’s amazing. And he’s never wrong. Recently he took me to a spaghetti house in Oakland that was pretty much someone’s house. Some random exit off the interstate. I have no idea how he found it.
Was it like the scene in Goodfellas with Scorcese’s mom?
Chris Shaw: It was a heavy jam band presence.
I forgot spaghetti is a hippie thing.
Chris Shaw: It’s cheap and it feeds a lot of people.
A lot of the songs on this record come from an isolated point of view—it’s like first-person alone-against-the-shitty-world sentiment. Why?
Chris Shaw: I don’t think I’ve ever written a skate rock being-with-the-crew type song. It definitely comes from a place of isolation—an isolated perspective. There are also multiple songs about changing. ‘Pre-Strike Sweep’ is basically about change—drastic change. So is ‘Burned Entrance’ and really ‘CTA’ too. When I think of my favorite hardcore albums, I like shit bleak. Like later-era Black Flag. There’s no ‘come together’ on those type of records. I like all the weird shit I grew up on. The shit I really tripped out on—Midwestern hardcore like Jerry’s Kids or even bands like Battalion of Saints—is all pretty raw. When I get in a state of mind to write an album’s worth of GØGGS lyrics, that’s where I wanna come from—that’s the school I go by. And the first thing that comes to me … when I do a GØGGS riff, I don’t think like, ‘I wanna call my friends and family.’ It’s like, ‘I wanna punch a fucking window! I wanna drive over the speed limit and run my car into something!’ That type of music makes me feel like that.
Are you gonna mention Void or does that go without saying?
Chris Shaw: I feel like people talk about Dischord enough.
Counterpoint—people can’t talk about Void enough.
Chris Shaw: I don’t remember the first time I heard Void. No Trend is more influential to me. When I heard No Trend, I remember that first time.
Was it some special Christmas morning?
Chris Shaw: “Here you go, son!”
So you’ve been listening to punk records for probably your whole adult life. What’s an album you’ve never stopped caring about? Why?
Chris Shaw: I still love the Urban Waste record—that’s gotten reissued or repackaged over the years, I guess. One of my favorite NYHC records. It’s amazing. That record stands up years and years later. As far as west coast—
You don’t have to say that just because you’re in L.A. now.
Chris Shaw: No—honestly I always leaned more to L.A. and California stuff in general. But honestly, Urban Waste—every couple years something comes up and I think of it and throw it back on like, ‘Yeah—dope.’ An amazing hardcore record. As far as punk, all the stuff from the first wave of L.A. punk and subsequently the first wave of L.A. hardcore. That’s some of my favorite stuff. On the last Ex-Cult tour I was blasting Los Angeles by X—one of the best punk records ever. Even though I found about that when I was like 15 years old. I don’t wanna pretend that’s the only type of stuff I listen to anymore … I don’t wanna be the 31-year-old with the bone through his nose and the dangling earring. Maybe part of me somewhere inside is already that dude. But he doesn’t need to be shared.
Which Flipper song would you be more likely to cover: ‘Ha Ha Ha’ or ‘Living For The Depression’?
Chris Shaw: Probably ‘Ha Ha Ha.’ That’d be sick. I dunno … I feel like covers are rad, but now that everyone puts everything on YouTube, it’s not as fun anymore. It’s fun when you bust out a song at a house show or dive bar. But if someone was like ‘GØGGS COVERING “HOLLYWOOD BABYLON”’ … we didn’t do it for some jackass to put on YouTube. If we did do Flipper that’s what would happen. It’d be more fun to do a ZZ Top cover—that’s funnier to me—than obvious clickbait. Sometimes I wonder if half the people would show up if they couldn’t put it on Instagram.
Do you think about bands like Urban Waste and No Trend now differently than you did when you were a kid?
Chris Shaw: Hardcore and punk allowed me to express feelings of isolation or whatever you wanna call it. That type of music is for people feeling anti-social, for rebellion against some aspect or facet of society or whatever you’re rebelling against. That’s why it’s created by young people—it’s action against something. I still feel the same in terms of wanting to act against whatever—the ‘establishment’ or whatever. That feeling is all the same thing. I mature and the situation changes. I write songs a year ago I wouldn’t write today. But the reason and the reaction is still the exact same. That’s the reason I’m into this type of music in the first place. That’s why it’s different for everybody. Even though the music sounds the same, the subject matter is usually different. For me … that’s what people always told me I was like.
I thought I would grow out of that kind of sentiment, but it got even stronger as I got older.
Chris Shaw: It’s definitely more fucked up the older you get. The more doors open …
And there’s nothing behind them?
Chris Shaw: I agree! The scope just widens.
And it seems even worse than Black Flag told you it would be!
Chris Shaw: Yeah! This comes up in like every interview. ‘Are you not like a happy guy? Why are all your songs so negative?’ Not all music has to be positive! Also when it comes to hardcore and punk in general, what fucking memorable hardcore or punk band has some positive like, ‘Everything’s alright! Society is great!’ People put weird terms and definitions when they’re reviewing it—around bands like GØGGS or punk in general. Why apply rules that never applied? That type of shit isn’t what makes music what it is. Like a band like GØGGS would go, ‘Here’s what’s going great in the world today!’ We’re not a band like that. It’s pretty fucking obvious! I don’t really understand. It’s not an album you put on for the whole family—it’s a fucking punk record. I feel like people can’t let it be a punk or hardcore record. They have to put other terms on it that have no business being applied. It happens every time people write about this band. People look at it from any other standpoint than what it is. That’s why people are so confused by it. ‘Why so negative?’ Just listen to the record, man. It’s not supposed to be a statement on my psyche in 2018. It’s a fucking punk album! It’d be weird if the next GØGGS record had like really positive lyrics. Like anthems of togetherness. People would be like … ‘What the fuck?’ Maybe it’s the information overload. People are able to read that twenty other people said GØGGS has negative lyrics and that becomes a thing. Instead of from the beginning looking at it objectively, and land making their own conclusion. It’s hard to do that in an age of instant gratification—once you get into something, you wanna know everything about it. You wanna read the interview, get the backstory … and at some point, if something gets spread around it’s obviously gonna keep being repeated. Instead of, ‘OK—we established the fact the band sounds like this. Maybe we should figure out why?’ Instead of just saying, ‘Why so negative?’ That’s step one. Let’s go to step two now. In terms of overload—at what point does all this shit on the internet start to influence real life?
The internet is real life.
Chris Shaw: Exactly. And it’s weird because in terms of that shit, people become cartoons of themselves.
You’re not the first person I know who’s said that.
Chris Shaw: The image you put on the internet—what you’re supposed to like or people think you’re supposed to be, and how you’re represented and talked about and the persona you have to keep up. A million photos on Instagram—you have to upload appearances. The whole concept applies to music and to bands. If someone doesn’t understand what the band is about, people read that and that becomes the reference point for what people think the band is. And that’s weird. All of a sudden you’re a cartoon of yourself. Like if you had a stage persona and a real life persona, you’re stuck in your stage persona.
I always naively thought that the more music was ‘out there,’ the better the world would be in some way. Turns out we have more music than ever available all at once and the world is an insane mess.
Chris Shaw: It’s like what people said: ‘Music will be so much better now that Trump is president.’ I thought that was really fucking stupid!
Especially since the best punk was when Carter was president.
Chris Shaw: Yeah—ha! No matter what, people are always gonna turn to music as some form of escape.
Is GØGGS that kind of escape to you?
Chris Shaw: No. It’s something I enjoy doing. I dunno if I’d call it an escape. Or catharsis. It feels like I’m doing something. I try to make everything I do so I don’t have to escape. I’m somebody who likes objects and likes tests and likes completing things. It makes me feel like I contributed. It’s cool when people come up to you and tell you all the different things they experienced while listening to your album or your band. People come up like, ‘I got divorced and I listened to your record the whole time.’ Whoa—I never would’ve thought that would apply but cool. Someone contacted the record label and was like, ‘Our four-year-old daughter’s favorite band is GØGGS—that’s all she listens to!’ We signed a birthday card for her. Something like that is fucking rad. It’s just something I always felt needed to be done as far as I’m concerned. As fucked up as the world is, do we really need another negative record? But I’m not gonna make a positive one.
Also it’s not all that negative.
Chris Shaw: I know! Probably one of the most positive records I’ve ever written. One person reads I have negative lyrics and it’s in every interview. Also ‘his voice doesn’t change for the whole album.’ Sorry I’m not fucking Prince! It’s a punk record. On what classic punk or hardcore record is the singer changing?
You did something rare among people I interview—you went to journalism school.
Chris Shaw: In high school that’s really the only thing I showed any skill in. I pursued it in college and graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism in 2012.
No one tried to stop you?
Chris Shaw: There were definitely people who came to our class that were like, ‘Switch to online’ or ‘switch to TV and web’ and ‘don’t go down the path of print journalism.’ For some reason I still did it. I had to learn the hard way, I guess. It was an expensive lesson to learn. But I wouldn’t call it a mistake. A lot of the reason I started doing things in the first place was no one else was really doing it in the city where I live. That’s why I started writing about music in the first place. There were a lot of good bands in Memphis and a lot of goof bands coming through, and no one seemed to have any interest. So I took it on myself. It was in the form of a zine for a long time. But that’s also why I started Ex-Cult. There wasn’t much going on. It was born out of necessity. Part of that was being so immersed—writing and playing music, having a day job writing and then a gig and playing shows. I wanted all that to happen. No one else was doing it. If I had been a really good music writer, I might not have done it. When you live in a place like that were no one is really encouraged or do anything and there’s no infrastructure for a music scene—and yet you want it to exist—you have to do everything yourself. Writing about the scene you’re creating sometimes gets a little kitschy … but it had to be done, I guess. For me … as soon as I got to the age of playing music, I was all in. I was never one of those people into being like a weekend rocker, working some steady job to where I can afford to buy rare records.
Like hip tech guys chasing Crime 45s?
Chris Shaw: Fucking lame! This felt like what I was supposed to be doing. I like writing, I like getting the chance to grab a mic and front a band … it made perfect sense to pursue it. That’s a good question. I don’t know why it was necessary. Destiny? If I believed in it. I’ve always been able to set goals and figure out what I wanna do. From an early age I’ve been like, ‘This is what I wanna do for myself—fuck you if you’re not interested in it!’ That’s the attitude I always have. It’s been part of what I do for so long I don’t think about it too much anymore.
Too far in to ever get out?
Chris Shaw: Too dumb to quit!