The Goddamn Gallows are a four-piece touring band playing what some refer to as “Americana-Punk” or “Hobo-Core”, a fast and heavy mix of punk, psychobilly, bluegrass, and metal. I recently sat down with Fishgutzzz (bass) and Baby Genius (drums) at a tour stop in Fort Worth, TX, where we talked about their sound, their past, and where they plan to go from here.
Doors At Seven: Nice to meet you. Actually, weirdly, we’ve met before, but it was a long time ago and there’s no way you would ever remember.
Fishgutzzz: It was weird?
D@7: So I was in Cleveland, just hanging out with my friends at a bar one night, and you guys played. And we all went “Ok, this is really cool.” But we had already drunk all our money, so when you were hawking your CD’s I couldn’t afford one.
FG: Oh that was a LONG time ago.
D@7: Yeah it was Gutterbilly Blues.
FG: Aha, I remember that shit, at the Spitfire, maybe?
D@7: Yep, that’s exactly it. So yeah you handed me one, and you said “Here, burn this for all of your friends….”
FG: I used to go hawk the CD’s, yeah…
D@7: And I did. And so we’ve all been fans ever since.
FG: Now you owe us money.
D@7: So how did the original three of you get together?
BG: You want to tell the story?
FG: Well, young [Baby G] here ripped off some drug dealers for a quarter pound of weed…
BG: That was not true.
FG: And they came back to the house party, looking for revenge. Violent revenge. And they came into a room, Mikey was in there with a bunch of kids sitting down and they started whooping on them. I was in the next room talking to a lady, and I hear all this commotion. So I came out like a hero, and I fought. I fought these kids tooth and nail. I’ve got a scar on my forehead from it, actually.
BG: Not my problem.
FG: We fell through a door…I got my ass whooped pretty good. And they left.
BG: And I didn’t know these guys at all.
FG: Yeah I don’t think we even knew him yet.
BG: After hearing about mutual friends who had got beat up I felt bad, so I went to go kind of talk to them and apologize. And then we became…
FG: Fast friends.
BG: Fast friends, yeah, like overnight.
FG: Like he wouldn’t leave.
BG: YOU wouldn’t leave.
D@7: So how did you all figure out that you could play together?
FG: Him and Mikey grew up around the same town…
BG: I was in a punk band, he (Mikey) was in a ska band.
FG: So they knew each other from that.
BG: A little bit, yeah.
FG: I moved to town and met them, and I ended up living with Mikey in this big flop house. The two of them used to jam. I never really played anything at the time, but we always talked about starting a psychobilly band with our boy Desmond who was going to sing. So me and Desi went to Marshall Music and made them take out an upright bass.
D@7: So you never played electric, you went straight to upright?
FG: No I played shitty guitar, you know like teenage punk rock guitar and shit. And I don’t know, I fell in love with the bass. I ended up moving out to Portland soon after that, and I got Mikey to come out. He moved out to Portland and we started the band officially with this other drummer, we were just called The Gallows, and we put out one record. And then we moved down to Los Angeles, just me and Mikey, and we needed another drummer. And he (Baby Genius) was the only one with “The Life” that we knew. So we got him to come out from South Carolina, him and our buddy Nate.
BG: My great, beautiful life in South Carolina.
FG: We ruined his nice life. He came out to LA, and that’s when we really started it. That’s where we did Gutterbilly Blues, and started touring how we tour.
D@7: So there was an EP before Gutterbilly Blues?
FG: Life Of Sin, it was a full record. There was an EP before that, even.
BG: That was a different drummer though.
D@7: When you started to add sounds, like the accordion and the washboard when Avery joined, was that something where you decided “This would sound cool, let’s go find a guy”?
BG: Who’s “Avery”?
FG: I don’t know an “Avery”. *both laugh*
D@7: Ha, I’m not going to ask you about why he left, I don’t care. I’m just interested about the sound. Was the idea for the sound there first, or were you just jamming with people and it worked?
BG: We just wanted to be different than other bands, and not keep reproducing the same album.
FG: The first big change really, was from Gutterbilly to Ghost Of Th’ Rails. That’s when we had gotten Avery, and Mikey had just started learning to play the banjo, so we used that on some songs. And when Avery joined the band, I didn’t even want him in the band. They did, they voted against me.
D@7: So you wanted specifically an accordion?
BG: Well no, he was only playing washboard.
FG: He was playing washboard, and we gave him a concertina, and said…
BG: “You gotta learn something else.”
FG: We taught him a couple of songs on the concertina, and then he bought an accordion and learned it, and just started progressing from there.
BG: Yeah and it was like a cool, creepy tone to what we were doing. Changing and not sticking to, I don’t know, psychobilly type stuff. We just wanted to be a little bit different with it. It wasn’t super planned at all.
FG: Yeah he figured he could play the accordion and it was like “Oh that’ll sound cool.”
D@7: When you write, do you focus more on what it’s going to sound like live? Or is it more about how it’s going to sound on the album?
BG: Live, yeah.
FG: We’re not a studio band. We try to play it on the record pretty much how we play it live.
D@7: That makes sense because you’re touring constantly, right? How much of the year are you NOT touring? It’s what, a month at a time, right?
FG: It’s at least 6 to 8 weeks. At the very minimum we’re on the road half the year. At the very minimum.
BG: This summer I haven’t been home pretty much at all. Even the spring.
FG: We take winters off, basically.
D@7: Ok, alright, I will ask one question about Avery leaving, but it’s not about why. When he left, did you struggle to replace that sound in the band?
FG: Nope. We thought we were going to have to, we had a couple of guys lined up that were going to fill in. And we practiced, because we had to do a few shows without anybody because he left us at the last minute, so we made a set basically that sounded fine without the accordion. And we played a show and it was like yeah, it’s not really missing that much musically, so we just said fuck it.
D@7: So you already talked about how you want the albums to keep sounding different, and each one has obviously been progressively heavier, but The Trial is far and away, SO much more Prog-Rock and Metal heavy. What led you in that direction?
FG: *Laughs* Probably just the bands we were listening to at the time had more of an influence.
FG: We were listening to a lot of Sleep, and heavier shit. Graveyard and Uncle Acid, shit like that. So I guess we just let it influence us more.
BG: I think it still comes back to where we just want to keep changing. We don’t want to be the same schtick over and over again, you know?
FG: That was probably the most conscientious choice that we made about changing our sound, I feel.
D@7: Everything else was pretty organic?
FG: Yeah like Seven Devils was kind of all over the place, and The Maker was like a condensed, harder version of that. We just wanted to take it a step further.
BG: See what we could get away with.
D@7: Is it just the band when you go into the studio? Do you ever use studio musicians? I love the idea of like a 75 year old Polish guy playing accordion on one of your albums.
BG: Well, we actually almost used George Jones’ original piano player once to do a quick part, but it was really expensive. I was really bummed out because George Jones is one of my favorite artists, and I wanted that, but it’s all good.
FG: We had a steel player, he produced…
BG: Oh yeah we had Andy Gibson.
FG: Andy Gibson produced three records of ours and he’s a really good lap steel player.
BG: He played with Hank III and a lot of old-timers and stuff, too.
FG: That was on Seven Devils wasn’t it?
BG: Yep. We don’t go out of our way for it. I kind of wanted to on the next record, maybe bring some people in for some shit and just get crazy. Samples galore.
FG: Uh oh. Every record we always say that.
BG: We listen to a lot of rap lately, so we were talking about different gunshot noises that we could make with our mouths to maybe put in the next CD… *both demonstrate gun noises*
D@7: So Jayke has played with you guys on and off forever, right?
BG: Sadly yes.
D@7: Was adding him to the band a pretty natural decision?
BG: Yeah, when we first met him…
FG: It was a pretty good fit.
BG: We were on tour with him and .357 String Band when he was still with them, and basically at the end of the tour they kicked him out of the band. And we were like “Let’s fucking take Jayke then. Mandolin would be cool.” So yeah it worked out. And we became really close on that tour, all of us.
FG: He was with us what, three or four years? And then he was gone for four years, and he’s been back for at least two.
D@7: Was it pretty natural, then, to add his material into your set, like Dreadful Sinner and stuff like that?
BG: Yeah. Similar writing styles, and we’re all into the same kind of music and shit, it really matches up well.
D@7: How do you imagine your sound is going to evolve in the future? I guess power tools would have to be the next step, right?
FG: Yeah power tools.
FG: Dogs howling. Samples galore. We’ve been talking about maybe kind of going back to like a Seven Devils era sound a little bit more.
BG: But still with what we do.
FG: Yeah still progressive, it’ll be different. It’s not going to sound like Seven Devils Part Two, but I think we’re going to go back to that kind of….
BG: Root. But still keep it heavy and fast. Throw some of them little love hymns or whatever the fuck Mikey writes in there.
D@7: To be fair, I like the love hymns.
BG: That’s funny. That’s fine. It’s still a part of our life, so.
D@7: Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time…
BG: I have lots of it, we can keep going all day…
Do you ever think about, if you’re only off for a couple of months a year, do you think that’ll ever slow down?
BG: Maybe after we’re fifty.
FG: In another ten years or so….or if his pancreas explodes.
BG: Yeah if I die then it’s fine. You guys can just do whatever you want then.
D@7: Ok so, (Baby G) you said you started out in a punk band, were you always doing the screaming sort of vocals that you do?
BG: No, my first band was actually a death metal band. I got into punk rock later on, I was always into metal when I was growing up, like hair metal and shit.
FG: He was a huge Ratt fan.
BG: Yeah a Ratt fan, that was my shit when I was a kid. My first concert. 1988…’89, I can’t remember.
BG to FG: What was yours?
FG: Primus, opening up for Rush.
BG: Oh I thought it was something different. I thought it was some bad boy band or something, no?
FG: That was probably Mikey. No… Mikey’s I think was Billy Joel.
BG: What a weak concert to see. I don’t like Billy Joel. I hate him.
FG: Really?! Come on.
BG: It’s horrible! It’s garbage. Elton John destroys him.
FG: Are you kidding me?! 52nd Street? Have you heard it?
BG: Wow. Did you just throw 52nd Street up in there? Get out of my face with that shit.
FG: You don’t know your music. Sit down, let me learn you something.
D@7: I’m sorry, I’m with him, I own every Billy Joel album.
FG: *Laughs* That’s going a little too far, lady.
The Goddamn Gallows are on tour now through the end of October with The Urban Pioneers and Scott H. Biram. Click here to find a list of tour dates.
Click below for a bonus audio story.