GRAVITY KILLS  "Starving For Attention"

by Dr. Abner Mality

You know, I try to stay positive, I really do, but sometimes I just gotta ask myself: what the fuck is wrong with Rockford, Illinois? What is it about the town and any sort of serious rock and roll? Why do bands avoid us like the plague? Maybe it's because, when they get here, they get ignored anyway?

The Midway Theater. February 11, 2002. One of the hottest of the nu-metal bands, Sevendust, comes to play. With them, they bring Gravity Kills and Flaw. How much coverage do you think this gets in the Rockford Register Rag? JACK ALL! But in the Go Section of the Friday paper, they have enormous full page write-ups on hacks like Dan Voll, who's been playing the clubs since Al Jolson donned blackface, and "coming soon" blurbs for some obscure folkie down at Memorial Hall who will draw about ten people. Then, in Rock River Times, we get some sort of write-up but it's real tepid, "review-by-the-numbers" stuff.

Screw 'em all! Wormwood Chronicles is the ONLY thing happening in Rockford as far as heavy metal and cutting edge rock goes, no question! This just ain't tootin' my own horn either, as there SHOULD be more going on here than just Wormwood. I dunno, it's just a symptom of the town that time forgot.

End of rant. Let's talk about Gravity Kills. Arising out of St. Louis here in the Midwest, these guys were on the verge of enormous break-out success six or seven years ago with their high-energy combination of metal, pop and industrial. Then, the wheels came off. Their record deal with TVT evaporated in a fit of acrimony and Gravity Kills fell to earth in a hurry.

But the band wasn't finished by a long shot. They sucked up, gathered their nerve and dove in for another chance at stardom. The result is a crisp new record "Superstarved" that may just be their best. It's got the catchiness of good alt-rock, the danceability of prime Nine Inch Nails and the mega-crunching aggression of heavy metal.

Thrash-head and I braved sub-freezing temperatures and long lines to get our chance to speak with Jeff Scheel, the charismatic front man of GK. We got invited onto the GK tour bus, where we were treated like old friends by Mr. Scheel. Guys like Jeff seem too nice to be in this kind of music. But he makes up for it on stage, believe me!

True to Rockford form, the band's show was marred by a very unfortunate incident. While the band was going balls-out to get the crowd rocking, somebody in the front apparently had some kind of seizure. Realizing the seriousness of the problem, Jeff and the band stopped playing immediately to allow the EMTs to aid the victim. In fact, they had to cut their show short, leading to a lukewarm reaction from some assholes in the crowd. There's no doubt Gravity Kills did the right thing and they should not be held accountable for bad luck.

Guys, I feel for ya, this was a bad break, but please don't hold it against us. Now, on with the interview...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: After a long layoff, you guys have been back out on the road for a while now. How's the road been treating you?

JEFF SCHEEL: Good! We did 38 shows in 39 days with Pigface on the "Preaching to the Perverted" tour. That was a kind of "knock the rust off" tour. The shows we've done with Sevendust have been great. The fans are taking us back, it seems. Getting on this tour was very instrumental for us to relaunch ourselves as a band..

WC: How did you wind up with Sevendust? That was a big break...

JS: Yeah, it was. It was a really interesting story. A guy in New York, Creed's manager and Sevendust's manager, walked into the office of a guy who does independent radio promotion. and we were on the sound system. The manager asks him, "what's this, what are you playing?" and the promoter tells him it's the new Gravity record. The next thing we know, we're getting the tour offer!

WC: You've got a pretty good camaraderie with Sevendust?

JS: Yeah, we've known 'em for a long time. We were both signed to TVT Records about the same time. We've played some radio shows with 'em and always gotten along with them great. Who doesn't get along with them, anyway? They're great guys. In fact, I hadn't seen Lajon (Witherspoon, Sevendust vocalist...Mality) in a couple of years and the first thing he said to me when we met up wasn't "How are you guys doing?" but "Have you guys got enough booze?" (laughter) It's like they hadn't missed a beat.

WC: When you guys played with Pigface on the "Preaching to the Perverted" tour, you were in front of a more industrial crowd. Opening for Sevendust, you reach a more metal audience. Do you approach those audiences differently or do they both get the same show?

JS: Ummmm. I guess, we do approach the shows differently. The set is different and the attitude has to be different when you walk on stage as well.

WC: How would the attitude differ?

JS: Well, when you do a show like this (Sevendust), you don't know quite what the crowd response is going to be. We're kind of in a purgatory of musical styles. On this tour, Flaw comes out and they do the metal thing. Then we come out and people aren't quite sure about what we're doing. There's more of a catchy, pop side to what we are doing even though we fall on the hard side of the fence. So, attitude-wise, you have to come out knowing that the crowd might even be hostile to you. You have to come out and not back down. Stick to your guns. When you're opening for a band like Sevendust, you've got fans that probably don't even want you on stage. You have to prove yourself.

On the "Preaching to the Perverted" tour, it was odd for us because we never wanted to be seen as an industrial band but that's what we've gotten lumped into. Our new record is far more of a metal record than the previous two, though it still may not be quite as heavy as Sevendust.

WC: On that "Perverted" tour, you played with Pigface and their main guy is Martin Atkins, who produced "Superstarved" for you. What was it like working with Martin, was it pretty relaxed?

JS: No, it wasn't relaxed at all! I've actually known Martin for a long time, I met him in '96 at the Sex Pistols show at the Aragon in Chicago. Before he did the record for us, he flew to St. Louis to meet us and ask us what we wanted from the record. We told him we wanted to do some more organic things and some new things with Brad our new drummer. I said I wanted to represent myself vocally more like I am on stage. In the studio, that's a hard thing to do, because the studio is a very controlled environment. So from Day One, Martin pretty much started pushing my buttons. A producer is like a psychologist and like a jockey as well. You're trying to get the most out of the horse you're riding. He just started pushing my buttons. We'd get into heated arguments with lots of "fuck you's" in them. But if you go back and listen to the new record, there's an edge to my vocals that you don't hear on the first two records.

WC: There was a method to his madness...

JS: Yeah! At the end of every day, we were always civil to each other. But he would back me into corners to try and get me to do things that I may not have wanted to do and it pissed me off but it got the performance out of me that I told him I wanted.

When you perform material, do you do things spontaneously, on the spur of the moment or are they well thought out?

JS: Both, really! One, you are performing and two, you are performing a lot, not just once a week but four or five times a week. You do sometimes get in a rut, where you keep saying or doing the same thing. Doug and I, before we go on stage, look at each other and say "achieve consciousness". We've been doing that since '98. Sometimes when you're out touring, you'll hit that wall and your mind will start to wander on stage, you'll start thinking "I hope the pizzas come after the set". Lyrics and vocals will be coming out of your mouth but you're not really thinking about the show. This just can't happen! It can't happen because we're so lucky to have a second chance. It can't happen because of the fans. If somebody came to see us in Chicago or Milwaukee, yeah, we'll be playing the same songs but you don't want to give them the same performance . You try hard not to do that but it's hard sometimes not to get into a rut.

WC: Was there ever a time in the last few years where you guys said "that's it, the band is done" or did you always know you would fight your way out of it?

JS: We didn't know, for a while. We asked to get out of our TVT Records contract and we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. There were literally days when we walked into the studio, looked at each other and asked "man, are we gonna be a band tomorrow or what?" We'd work our asses off in the studio, we'd be in there at 3 or 4 in the morning, and you're wondering, is anybody ever gonna hear this? I turned to our manager at TVT and said, I just want the chance to release a record. It got really hairy there for a while.

But you got through it and it made you stronger.

JS: I think a lot of things happened. I think we made an incredibly honest record because of it. You always write lyrics based on experiences but the things that we were going through were so profound that the only way to actually get through the day was to write about them.

WC: A lot of songs seemed autobiographical on "Superstarved" but the track "Forget Your Name" seems especially so...

JS: "Forget Your Name" was a kind of tongue in cheek thing. It was a twofold kind of song, it could be about some "Backstage Betty" you'll meet at a show but at the same time, it could be about some industry meet-and-greet where you're meeting whoever from the XYZ music label and all they do is blow smoke up your ass. People who don't care about you, you're just a two-dimensional character to them and it's all about moving units. It's all very fleeting fame. So the song did have a kind of duality to it.

WC: What Spinal Tap moments have you had that you'd like to share with us?

JS: We've had an exact Spinal Tap moment somewhere in Holland where we couldn't find the stage. We've a lot of those moments. On the Pigface tour, we changed tour buses seven times. We broke down in the middle of West Texas on that tour and we had to jump on another one. We were sharing a bus with Godhead and we had crew people on the bus as well so there were 13 of us on the first bus. Then we are all on the second bus and there's 26 of us on one bus going from(Kind of like having your set in Rockford Il, cut short by having somebody overdose in the crowd... Dr. Mality) West Texas to Phoenix for 13 hours straight. Just a stupid ass kind of experience...

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