Having spent 14 years with Omen over two stints and as a founding member of the Power Metal band Phantom-X, Kevin Goocher is currently reinvigorating Of Gods And Monsters with a new lineup, and we are hoping he is well on the way to releasing a new album.
Their third single, Eyes To The Skies, has just been released, and all three are such great tracks that we felt compelled to reach out to Gooch and find out more.
Bring Out Your Dead was the first song from the new lineup released and MetalTalk’s Steve Ritchie suggested to Gooch that it blew him away. It is a track with that great balance between melody and nice, dirty Heavy Metal. “There are two songs that we recorded with the new lineup that Ira Black completely wrote the music, the lyrics, melodies,” Gooch says, “and I just followed him. This is one that Ira wrote. I did put my spin on it as a vocalist. I changed a couple of words to suit me. But it’s pretty much him. He had a vision with that song, for sure.”
It’s no secret that Ira Black has the best hair in Heavy Metal. “I’m jealous,” Gooch smiles. “I would love to have his hair, you know. It’s awesome.”
The first single, Bring Out Your Dead, really explores the power of the four-piece as a unit. Ira and Gooch are joined by Bjorn Englen and Simon Wright. “I had worked with Simon previously just on a couple of songs that I had,” Gooch says. “I contacted Ira saying I need guys, I need a band. We have some opportunities. Would he like to jump on board? Ira was the one who said, well, we should contact Simon. He jams with Bjorn in Dio Disciples. We asked Bjorn, too, and they both said, yeah, let’s jump in on this and go and record and see what happens.”
The guitar style Ira brings to the band is inspiring. He can shred. He plays great harmonics in the right places, and he plays mean heavy riffs. “I met Ira many, many years ago,” Gooch says. “I think I’ve known Ira longer than I’ve known Simon and Bjorn for sure. I met him when he was with Lizzy Borden. Believe it or not, my daughter had a band at the time, and she was doing shows opening up for Lizzy. That’s how we met. All those guys are great.”
Gooch has a wonderful vocal style, which he expresses amazingly well on the new Of Gods And Monsters tracks. Does he think he has altered his style from Phantom-X? “I don’t know,” he says. “I haven’t really dove that far into it. I just know that the songs speak to me in a certain way. Like the newest song [Eyes To The Skies]. I wrote the lyrics and the melody line to that. The song has to speak to me and kind of tell me what it needs to be about, what the title needs to be.
“The music dictates what you can and cannot do with the melody line. So I try to push that envelope as much as I can. I like things to be melodic. I come from that style of Metal music. I’ve never been a screamer or a growler. I always liked guys like Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford. Those are the guys that I’ve always loved, so I’ll probably always sing like that when it comes to Heavy Metal.”
The Bring Out The Dead video looked fun to shoot. I asked if that was Gooch with the walking stick and the candle lantern at the start. “Yeah,” he smiles, “because I couldn’t afford to hire any real actors. So I had to venture out on my own.”
Brace For Impact was the second single. I love this one too. It’s a more straight-ahead rocker. Gooch has a great doubled vocal on there, and Bjorn stomps along wonderfully. It’s a song with another great, memorable solo section. “Ira, man,” Gooch smiles. “I can’t talk enough good stuff about Ira. He’s just one of those guys that knows what to do, when to do it at the right time, and he’s just got that beefy, beefy guitar tone. He’s aggressive the way he hits those strings. I’m waiting for them all to break, you know, because he hits them so hard. Very aggressive.”
It’s another great track, with a great riff. Again, there are super guitar harmonics, and the band has no problem throwing in an extended solo section. “Ira came to me with a batch of songs,” Gooch says. “He said check them out. We can work on some of these, or we can write some new stuff.
“It just seemed like everything he brought to the table was perfect. I loved the arrangement. I loved the solo. Man, he needs to shine out. Simon and Bjorn need to shine out when they can. All of them know when to do stuff and when to pull it back a little bit, and let the vocals do their thing. It was a fairly easy process of picking the songs. Ira pretty much had them ready, arranged the way he thought they should go. I don’t think we touched on the arrangements at all, as far as I can remember.”
The new single, Eyes To the Skies, is just another gem. “I wrote the lyrics to this one,” Gooch says. “All the music is written by Ira. He had all these songs prepared. I don’t know if he’s just been hoarding them away or whatever, but we got to do them, and I think it’s a good collection of songs.
“But this one in particular, his best friend had just passed away weeks into us doing this project. Ira sent me this song, and he was kind of giving me some emotions for it. Originally, I thought Eyes To The Skies would be a really good song about aliens. I came up with that title.”
Gooch says he had a rethink. “This needs to be about his friend Gus, who passed away,” he said. “Gus was his recording studio guru. They worked on many projects together, and when he passed away, it was a big blow for Ira. You know what we need to do? It’s time to pay tribute. It’s time to pay homage to Gus. So that’s what the song’s about him passing away.”
This puts the song into perspective, and it becomes a goosebump moment. Of Gods And Monsters let the instruments shine here, too. For the opening, it’s 40 seconds before the vocals come in. It’s a fantastic start. “You know, most record companies would say 40 seconds, that’s too long,” Gooch says. “40 seconds. Who do you think you are? Iron Maiden?”
It’s got a great chorus as well, I say, and one that is going to be a good one to enjoy when you’re in the crowd watching you guys play live.
“I think that’s what I loved most about what Ira brought to the table with these songs,” Gooch says. “I was like, man, it gives me a lot of room to be very melodic. To play with melody a little bit and find the best stuff that suits each song. And that’s one of the ones I thought just came out really, really good.”
And again, I love Ira’s solo section, I say. He’s got a wonderfully melodic section. Then he bursts into a bit of a shred, but then he climaxes with another slow and melodic burst with those harmonics again and then bash its back into the chorus again. “He’s just good at that, man,” Gooch says. “You know, that’s just Ira.”
With three singles released so far, my hopes of an imminent album release were dashed. “What we’re gonna do is, believe it or not, we’re gonna take a few tips from Taylor Swift,” Gooch says. “She delivers a song a month until her album comes out. So I thought there must be something to that. She’s not a stupid woman. She’s on top of the world for a reason. So, we’re gonna follow in her footsteps, and just every month, we’re gonna release a song. Then, at the end, the whole thing will be out, and we’ll deliver some physical copies at that point.”
Pushing Gooch for more details reveals not too much. “Man, you know, I have so many favourites. It’s hard because when you write them, when you’re a part of that creative chemistry, they’re like your babies, so you love them all. So it’s hard. I have to step aside and let other people have a listen and give me some real criticism about which one should be the lead song, or maybe we should hold on to this one and not release it.
“But on this album, that hasn’t happened. This collection of songs I really like. There’s one called Salt And Burn The Bones. I really like when I got to get really aggressive with that particular melody line.”
The storyline of the song is linked to the TV show Supernatural. “It’s about the Winchester Boys. They would always salt and burn the bones so that the demons couldn’t come back alive.”
In Wikipedia true or false, Gooch says that it’s true that he was in a Ronnie James Dio tribute before they formed Phantom-X. “I was in Omen at the time, and we had come over to Europe and done a bunch of festivals. Then a year went by, and we really didn’t do anything. We were getting closer to a second year, and I was like, man, I gotta do something. I gotta play; I wanna sing. I wanna get out there and do what I do.
“So I got with some friends, and we started a Ronnie James Dio tribute band. We played around our hometown of Dallas, Texas. That’s where I lived at the time and a few other places. It turned into Phantom-X as soon as we started writing original songs.”
Gooch has a writing credit on the Anvil movie, as the Phantom-X Song Pain Machine was used. Of course, the band were in the film as they were support on the ill-fated Anvil European tour. How does he look back on the film now, some 15 years later?
“See, we don’t get along, the Anvil guys and me,” he says. “We were friends on that tour, and they kind of blamed Phantom-X for everything that went wrong in the book. They did the movie, and then they did a companion book. They didn’t necessarily say my name, but they said the opening act that was on tour with us. Well, that was us. We were to blame for all the things that went wrong on that tour.
“I was like, whoa, hang on now. You know, we were just there to support your tour. It was your tour. We were just there as a support group. We had some fun but it was a rough tour. It was a little crazy.”
The first Of Gods And Monsters album was released just before Covid-19 hit. “We put that record out, and four weeks later, the whole world was shut down with Covid-19,” Gooch says. “It just killed it. I thought that was gonna pretty much be the end Of Gods And Monsters. I wouldn’t do anything else with it.
“And then, all of a sudden, there were some opportunities. I got the new lineup involved. We did a show at the Whisky A Go Go opening for Dokken. Hey, you know, we take whatever we can get. Simon couldn’t do the show, but the rest of the band did, and we got a fill-in drummer.
“It went well. All the guys have other projects, and I respect that because, you know, they’re in the music business to make some money. They want to play, but they want to make some money. So, everyone’s been pretty busy. I kind of just set all that on the back burner. We’ll see what happens.”
As for live shows in Europe, it’s a case of never say never. “I think I have, personally, a better following in Europe than I do here in the States just because of the style of music. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard Omen. It’s pretty stylized, kind of Maiden-ish, kind of Anthrax, kind of Megadeth-ish. We never had any problems trying to get things rolling the way we wanted to [in Europe]. In America, it never really happened for Omen. It did a little bit for Phantom-X. I actually played more shows in the States with Phantom-X than I did with Omen.
Gooch says he misses Europe, and, while he has not been over here for five years, he keeps in touch with all the friends he has made over the years.
I ask if he has any message for the fans. “Oh man, I love you,” Gooch smiles. “Thanks for hanging in there with me, with us. You know we appreciate it. We’re one of those bands that know that without you, we are absolutely nothing, and we would get to play in our garage instead of coming to your town if you’re not hanging around.
“So thank you, and hopefully, we’ll see you real soon out there on the road, and if not, definitely the music is there. It’s all on YouTube. Go check it out. You can check it out for free. Go check it out and hit us up. You can hit me up. I’ll contact you back. Always.”
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