Interview with Bill Gaal from Nothingface and In For The Kill

I recently got the chance to interview Bill Gaal, who was the bassist for Nothingface and, along with Nothingface drummer Chris Houck, is currently focusing on his newest project, In For The Kill. It draws from Chris and Bill’s lifelong love of classic rock, though Bill makes it clear in the interview that he isn’t entirely veering away from the heavy metal scene just yet. In For The Kill is very much “a guinea pig,” as he put it. And by no means has he severed ties with the rest of the guys from Nothingface. Anyway, enjoy:

TST: Hey Bill, how are you, man?

Bill Gaal: I’m good, I’m on my first vacation since, uh– well, it’s been a long time since I started my new company, so I’m actually out back east visiting my family… it feels nice to not work for a day or two.

TST: The production company, you mean?

Bill Gaal: Yeah, my production company [Gaal Music Group].

TST: Where are you based these days? California, still?

BG: Yeah, I’m out in Los Angeles. The new company that I started last September is out in San Fernando valley.

TST: So how’s the In For The Kill project going?

BG: It’s going great. The fist release, which I put out in 2008, I managed to finish up pretty quickly and get it out there. The second one has taken quite a bit more time, cause I’ve had so many things happen. In the meantime I’ve been contacting managing companies and stuff. This process has been stretched out over a couple of years, but I am now finally wrapping it up– drums are done, I’m finishing up guitars and bass next month, so it’s going really well.

TST: When is it out?

BG: I should have it wrapped up in July. I’m hoping for a late August release, but most likely it’ll be out in September.

TST: Cool. Are you still working with Chris?

BG: Yeah. I had Chris Houck come out and record all the drums on the new record. The original Nothingface lineup unexpectedly reunited to try and write a new record, which didn’t end up panning out, but what it did do was bring Chris and I together. And we grew up together, him and I, so we were together playing music since we were fourteen. But in the past few years we sort of lost touch. He heard some of the stuff I was working on for the In For The Kill while we were working on the Nothingface material, and he really dug it, so I sent him tracks. He worked on them in his studio in North Carolina, and once the drum parts were settled, he flew out and I actually took apart my studio so we could have more drum space. We tracked the drums for thirteen songs in ten days!

TST: Yeah, from what I’ve heard it sounds like In For The Kill isn’t necessarily a “band” per se, it’s more of a fluid situation centered around the creative output you two have been focusing on.

BG: That’s exactly where it is. It’s a project. It’s one of those things I purposely keep pretty loose. I’m a songwriter for a living, that’s what I do, but I write a lot of music that’s not really for other artists, but I do like to have my friends come and put their personal stamps on some tracks. It’s something I love to do, and I’ll keep doing In For The Kill records until the day I die. I try to set it up to function as either a commercial success or as a personal success. I mean, as a commercial success, if it began to take off, I’d certainly put together a live touring version of the band. If it just came out and people dug it, but it didn’t sell a ton of copies, that’s cool too, since it’s kind of a labor of love for me.

TST: Totally, I was always impressed with the honesty of your aesthetic output in the face of Nothingface’s commercial success.

BG: Any success we had with Nothingface was only because we were bullheaded and stubborn, we refused to be told no, we’d just keep going, working and working and working… we always believed in ourselves, just four guys thinking “who cares what anyone else thinks,” and thank God, you know? We’ve met so many great friends and fans along the way, and we did achieve success.

TST: The reunion didn’t work out very well, it seems.

BG: Yeah, it was difficult, it’s one of those situations where everyone’s story will be different. Broadly, what it boiled down to is that we’re all older now, we all have different responsibilities. Making everything line up time-wise is difficult– I’m in LA, Chris is out in North Carolina, Tom’s out on tour with Hellyeah most of the year, Matt stays home in Baltimore now. And me and Tom have families now, too. You don’t just get together and write a great song, especially with Nothingface. It takes a chunk of time, and we’d always rework songs hundreds of times before releasing them. We only had a couple of intense, 1- or 2-week writing sessions and really, we just ran out of time. We had to get a lot done in a short amount time before we had to get back to other things we had going on. So the timing didn’t work out, but that being said, it doesn’t rule out anytyhing for the future. As pissed-off as Nothingface was back in the day, we’ve definitely all cooled down, and if we could just find one week where all of us were just calm enough and got together, we could do it…

TST: So you feel like you could work with those guys again, right?

BG: Of course. Chris and I are obviously already working together again. Tom and I have been talking in the past few months about doing at least one more really, really heavy record together again at some point. But Tom and I have been discussing this for years, and what it comes down to is finding the time to just sit down and bang them out. I haven’t talked much to Matt about creative stuff, even though we talk personally a lot. You know, I’m open to anything.

TST: Speaking of transitions, it seems like you’re moving more into a rock type of sound. Or is that something you always had going?

BG: I grew up on rock music, not really metal. I didn’t get into stuff like Slayer until much later. So, I grew up on bands like the James Gang, Led Zeppelin, Yes, and a lot of radio rock, Steve Miller band… you know, melodic vocals, riffy stuff. I never played in any bands that wrote like that– Chris and I were in a jazz/rock fusion band, of all things, before Nothingface. I’ve never had an opportunity to explore the type of music I grew up with. Not that In For The Kill sounds like classic rock, but it comes from wanting to type into that sound. It’s hooky, lots of harmonies… Chris grew up listening to the same kind of stuff, and it’s natural for him to play that. I think he was actually surprised to hear what I was writing. But I also love metal, it’s just that the classic rock vibe I wanted to explore didn’t really fit with what Nothingface was doing back then.

TST: So you’ve played guitar for a while?

BG: Yeah, I’ve always been playing it, I used to write songs with Tom on guitar for Nothingface. But I never really focused on it– bass is my instrument. But when I moved to LA in 2003, I came to the conclusion that if I’m writing the guitar and vocal parts, I might as well record them. And I’m still laying all the bass parts.

TST: And you’ve been singing for a while, too?

BN: Yeah, my whole life. I would sing backing vocals for Nothingface, and in the studio Matt and I would throw melodic ideas back and forth– he mostly handled the lyrics. It wasn’t until I started Kingdom of Snakes that I started singing, writing my own lyrics, putting myself out there.

TST: Yeah, it’s awesome, from what I’ve heard so far you’ve got a really clear voice.

BN: Oh, thanks man. You know, singing physically feels good to me, so I just love doing it.

TST: Totally, it resonates all through your body, I feel.

BN: Exactly.

TST: So what other genres could you see yourself branching into?

BN: I’ve actually been writing a bit of straight-up radio, dance-pop… I’ve worked on some country. I would love to write a country record, whatever country is these days. But anything, really, though I feel like some genres are more difficult to branch into, like classical and jazz, which have a completely different conception of instrumentation. But rock, pop and metal are my thing.

TST: The mainstays, haha. Who would you cite as musical influences?

BN: Well, I was blown away by the last Black Keys record, and I’m a huge fan now. Guitar-wise I’ve always been a huge Joe Walsh, not only his playing but his attitude. Led Zeppelin and classic rock, of course…

TST: What are you listening to these days?

BN: The other day I listened to Death from Above 1979. In terms of heavy stuff, Mastodon is about the only metal I much listen to anymore. They were actually just in Sound City Studios, next door to my studio, so it was cool to see them around. I’m digging the new Arctic Monkeys record, and the last Katy Perry and Lily Allen, on the pop. I really like the new Foo Fighters record. In fact, I’d say I’d say In For The Kill is somewhere in that genre, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age…

TST: So, you briefly alluded to your songwriting process before. Is it more analytic or intuitive?

BN: It definitely starts intuitively. I like to build up the energy and the emotion first, and once the song has a pulse, a soul of its own, I can start dealing with the more analytic aspects of hook writing, song structure, movement… to me, it doesn’t matter how edited something is, it definitely has to be real before I can start refining it.

TST: That’s probably the best way to do it.

BN: Yeah, I like to get artists really emmotionall involved in a moment, since after all you’re capturing that moment, and the best takes only happen once.

MA: Totally. So tell me about your experience with production and engineering. I know you briefly left Nothingface in 2001, I believe, in order to pursue that.

BN: That was a culmination of a lot of infighting in the band, and me feeling like I was ready to make that step anyway. I was talking to Davi Bottrill while he was mixing “Violence” (2000, Nothingface)– he’s worked with a bunch of big names [King Crimson, Tool, Muse, Godsmack, Circa Survive, Between the Buried and Me], great guy– and we got into a conversation of me being an assistant for him, working with him on session, which I was ready to do, but Nothingface had just released its TVT Records debut, and we were about to go on tour… there just wasn’t time to do it, but it was a generous offer. But when everything sort of went to shit with the band, I though maybe it was the world telling me it was time to move on.

TST: Yeah.

BN: I’ve been producing music since before I even know what producing music was. I was sixteen figuring out how to do cool things with a 4-track not because I had heard anyone do it but because I was so struck by the possibilities. I was doing my stuff, my friend’s stuff… and David Bottrill really showed me that I had already been producing all along. So I got my studio set up and everything, and I actually ended up rejoining Nothingface for a few years before we managed to blow ourselves up again…

TST: Did that studio come in handy with the band?

BN: Yeah, all the pre-production and writing was recorded in my studio. It was a huge advantage for us, to be able to make a high-quality of a song, kick it around for a few months… all the way up to “Skeletons” we did all the pre-production mostly on our own.

TST: What’s this I hear about some In For The Kill songs being used on The Ghost Whisperer?

BN: Yeah, I sometimes do submissions for some television companies, and for whatever reason The Ghost Whisperer loves me. They’ve used my stuff three times so far, and it’s always for a great scene. It’s pretty hysterical, they let me know they’re going to use my song, and I can already assume someone’s going to die on the show, or something. And there’s this indie horror film called “The Caretaker,” and they used an In for The Kill song, too– “In Delirium.” This guy’s going about his business, singing along to the lyrics on his headphones, and then he gets full-on murdered. It’s beatiful, the way they used it.

TST: That’s a cool side gig, you know?

BN: Yeah, I sometimes work on writing music specifically for television. I’m a songwriter, you know, I try to get my own songs and other artists’ songs to where they want to be.

TST: So you do music for a living, I’d imagine.

BN: Definitely. I have a three-year-old daughter, so I wake up with her at 6:30 a.m, we play for a couple hours, and every day I go into the studio at 8:30 until like 6 or 7pm. That’s all I do, all day, whether I’m writing my own music, helping another artist, handling a project for another producer… I just mixed five live records with Weezer in my studio, music’s all I do, and when I’m not doing that, I’m on the phone, drumming up more work.

TST: So it seems the studio’s become more prolific.

BN: Yeah. It’s not a commercial studio or a space for rent, I built it as a space to work closely with my clients. I’m a songwriter and a producer, but what ended up happening is that other producers I’m friendly with really liked my space and my engineering, so I’ll sometimes work on their projects, with bigger names, and it’s sort of grown naturally. That’s the way it’s always been for me, even with Nothingface, I’ve always just followed my gut and done what I believed is the right thing to do, and so far so good, fingers crossed.

TST: You mentioned touring before, and I know in the past you’ve mentioned a dislike for touring. Is that still the case, given your new band?

BN: Yeah, I definitely think I was built to stay at home, in my studio. I have a family now, you know, so touring at this point wouldn’t really be about the same thing as it was when I was younger. Under the right circumstances, I definitely want to do some touring for In For The Kill. Actually, let me clear that up– I love touring a lot. What I don’t like is the space between shows, and I live for shows and connecting with a crowd, but most of touring is getting from place to place… Nothingface just bashed it out cross-country for years on a cramped little van, looking through local papers for available spaces. We definitely ran out of money at times, but later on the tour bus was obviously much more comfortable and fun, and I definitely enjoyed those last years of touring more than the van…

TST: What are some items you absolutely need when you’re touring?

BN: Well, I’m a big reader, so I’d need some books. I’ve actually always got my iPad with me now, I’ve got a bunch of books on there. Obviously I need some sort of small, portable recording device, for ideas and such…

TST: What have you been reading lately?

BN: Well, I actually collect autobiographical books dealing with music and history. I just finished reading the Bob Dylan biography, and this book “All You Need is Ears” which is about Beatles producer George Martin… it’s just crazy to see how the music industry has changed so much from the fifties, to the seventies, to now. And way back, before the big money got involved, people were taking bigger risks, and more was at stake artistically.

TST: How do you feel about the internet music phase we’re entering? I’m somewhat conflicted.

BN: A big part of me gets twisted up about the fact that the music I’ve worked on so hard will instantly be available out there for free.

TST: Whether you want it out or not.

BN: Yeah, and at the same time I think nowadays the music isn’t really the place for artists to make money. The internet and accessibility sort of pushes people to be more creative about the musical experience, with packaging, videos, merch, if you’re interested in taking it to the next level. There’s definitely a lot of opportunity to work the internet, too– it’s a great platform. But at the end of the day, bands still have to get out there and perform, move people and connect to them. That’s a whole different level.

TST: Yeah, nowadays I feel like artists on the internet have to offer a multimedia experience.

BN: Yeah, and for anyone like me who came up through the industry before that was the case, it can be a little daunting– like, why spend so much time on the music if everyone’s into all this other stuff? But we’re already seeing lots of cool ways for artists to entertain and engage through the internet as a medium.

MA: I just think it’s so unfortunate that, like you said, if you don’t have that kind of multimedia experience, the music sort of gets devalued.

BN: True, that’s the game. It can’t be just about the music, there has to be something else. But it was never really just about the music anyway, it’s just more apparent now. Like the internet, record deals in the past were just platforms for communicating with a wider audience, net presence or being signed don’t mean you’ve made it, they just give you more opportunities… [Cuts out a little]

MA: So how is that informing marketing In for The Kill?

BN: In the past I haven’t really had the chance to market In For The Kill the way I wanted to, but I definitely plan to put some money and effort on this second record. I’ve been gathering a team of people I’m excited to work with, but I’m still not set in stone about anything. In For The Kill is a bit of a guinea pig project for me.

TST: So what’s the full line-up?

BN: At the core it’s really just me and Chris, and I really like the way it’s turning out. I’ve done all the guitar and bass on this one, and Chris’ drum performance gives me a lot more space to be creative… I might just keep it to myself, but I might also have some other people come in, spice it up here and there, but me and Chris handle the majority of the music.

TST: I have to go, but any final words, maybe some shameless plugs?

BN: Ha. Well, if anyone wants to follow what’s going on with In For The Kill, definitely check out our Facebook page, or our Myspace page. You can also go to the S6 Records website, , and the Nothingface site.

TST: And you said we can expect the next record in August or September?

BN: Probably September. One thing I failed to mention, also, is that I am now beginning to actively look for artists to work with, to produce, or just to work with in any capacity. So check out Gaal Music Group, which contains contact info, band information, et cetera… I guess those are all the shameless plugs I have.

TST: Haha, very cool. Well, Bill, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. I wish you luck with everything!

BN: Thanks, likewise.

Manuel Abreu, Contributor

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