The Midnight Ghost Train – Never SatisfiedSunday, 22nd March 2015
Starting as a eulogy to guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss’ best friend John Goff who died on August 1st, 2007 due to a severe asthma attack, he would move from Kansas to Buffalo, New York and assemble the first lineup for The Midnight Ghost Train. Taking inspiration from the blues, they’ve crawled up the ranks even as lineup changes or relocation activities took place amidst their crisscross touring journeys.
Releasing a series of albums, EP’s and even a live document from the Roadburn festival in their previous 7 years, their third full-length studio platter Cold Was the Ground should ignite a lot of buzz if you love everything from Clutch to Kyuss, Black Sabbath to even southern rock. The riffs entice, the grooves launch and that deep bass fuzz tone makes such an enormous wall of sound, and to think all of this is coming from only three players.
After adequately consuming their new record a multitude of times, it only seemed appropriate to fire off questions to Steve as The Midnight Ghost Train rolls around the touring trail, in the midst of their current European dates. Prepare for a boatload of chances to see this trio live in the coming year, and if you desire to heckle the man for his love of the Yankees as you’ll learn about here, understand he also digs the Royals. Read on to learn more about the band, the road, and what success truly means to him – and so much more.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the overall progress of the band from your 2008 beginnings in Kansas to your current stature on Napalm Records with album number three Cold Was the Ground?
Steve Moss: To tell you the truth, we’re never satisfied. It’s what keeps us going and keeps us pushing forward. Sure we’re grateful for the small success we have had, but we won’t ever be satisfied until everyone in the solar system knows our name. Being content just allows you to become complacent.
Dead Rhetoric: The new album gains a lot of subtle appeal because of its all analog recording. What other qualities do you feel separate the current record from your previous discography?
Moss: Well our last album Buffalo was also completely analog. We haven’t done anything on a computer since our self-titled record when we had no money, and recorded it ourselves in my basement. But this new album is by far superior to our previous releases, the musicianship, the structuring, it’s faster, it’s heavier, it’s just all around a much better more advanced album.
Dead Rhetoric: What the back story regarding “BC Trucker” and “The Little Sparrow”? Are you consistently looking at what goes on in your life to inspire your lyrics?
Moss: No not at all, most of the time the lyrics I write have nothing to do with my personal life. “The Little Sparrow” was actually all improvised on the spot, and a one take recording. All the lyrics and music were made up while we recorded it. So since it was lyrics off the top of my head, and never written down or revised those tended to be much more personal. But the song is in a way dedicated to Edith Piaf who is a huge inspiration for me. Her nickname was the “Little Sparrow”, and the words padem padem that I use, come from one of her most famous songs.
Dead Rhetoric: I’m curious to know if living in the heartland of the United States protected you from certain trends that may come from larger cities like Los Angeles or New York when it comes to musical direction/ dedication?
Moss: I have no idea, we’re kind of a bunch of losers anyways so even if we were living in the big cities, we’re not cool enough to be a part of the new trends. We just have a determined and hard work character and we drive on that, instead of what’s cool or accepted.
Dead Rhetoric: Where would you say the amalgamation of your sound comes from – as it seems like a mixture of doom, sludge, southern rock, and even the blues are elements you roll together to come up with The Midnight Ghost Train template?
Moss: Everything we’re playing and doing comes from the blues. All our riffs, and changes, and structures are all based from the blues. I just cover it up and disguise it real well by speeding it up and adding overdrive. But it’s all just blues. I wouldn’t even be able to name a single doom or sludge band, as I have no idea what the heck that even is. I don’t listen to heavy sounding music like metal or stoner rock etc. I like heavy feeling music like blues, jazz and gospel. So that’s where it all comes from. But it’s just so much fun to play loud and heavy.
Dead Rhetoric: Who came up with the cover art for Cold Was the Ground? I felt like I was staring at a still frame from an episode of the television series Justified…
Moss: My wife had a lot to do with it, she took all the photos for the entire record so a lot of it is her inspiration, and vision. But we kind of all just put our heads together for it. Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album was a big influence for the photos.
Dead Rhetoric: You are in the middle of your European tour and have plans to hit North America, South America, as well as Europe again to cover most of 2015. What is the Midnight Ghost Train like live, and how do you survive the rigors of the road without wanting to kill each other?
Moss: We’re a family, and just as a family fights so do we. But we still love each other and support each other like a family. We all have the same exact goal, so we’re all on the same page. Having the same goal is what keeps us going together. Live is what it’s all about for our band. The performance of our live show is the most important piece of our band and we take a great deal of making it as perfect and as intense as possible. We give every last bit of energy and power and strength into every single show we play no matter what. You won’t catch us live on an off night, because I’m proud to say we don’t have off nights live (anymore). This is our job and our craft, and we make sure we are always on. Because if we aren’t doing our job at 100% at all times then what’s the point of people paying to come and see you. We owe our fans something, and that is the best part of us possible so we always give it.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider success for the band? Do you ever worry about compromising musical integrity or losing the early followers as the band gains more fans?
Moss: Ah… you’re speaking of selling out. Success for our band would be to continue growing and never stop growing. There is no level that I would be comfortable at stopping at and calling it success. As long as we’re playing and performing music that we enjoy and like then our integrity will always be there. I think our fans believe in us and want us to continue to succeed and grow, and wouldn’t be upset if we weren’t “underground”. At least I hope so.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you see major advantages in the power trio format?
Moss: Oh yeah. It’s just an easy dynamic to work and write with. Easy to be on the road with three guys. Plus I think we do a damn fine job of making our band sound, and performing like it was a five piece.
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve read in a recent interview a quote from you regarding finding proficient people in their craft and allowing them to do their job without interference. Would you say overall you are very trusting person, and have you assembled the right team to build The Midnight Ghost Train in the long run?
Moss: No sir. I’m extremely untrusting. It takes a lot of proof for me to trust you to handle anything with our band. I’m insanely paranoid, so if we give someone a job to do for us you better believe we put them to the test. We don’t accept excuses we accept a good product or service. If we don’t get that then we won’t use you. We recently fired our USA booking agent for that reason exactly. So I’m currently doing our USA booking, until we find someone right for the job.
Dead Rhetoric: What is your personal preference when it comes to listening to music: vinyl, CD, or MP3? And are you the type of guy that needs headphones and to be alone to absorb the best artists – or can you equally enjoy music in the company of others?
Moss: Vinyl is definitely my preference. I’ve been buying music on vinyl since I was a little kid, so I have an awesome and big collection. Just sounds way better. I really enjoy sitting alone and absorbing music. I like to give my full focus to an album or artist I love. BUT on the other side of things since we’re on tour a lot, mp3 on our iPod for the van is important as well.
Dead Rhetoric: When not doing music, what activities or hobbies do you pursue to maintain focus and re-frame yourself?
Moss: Baseball is a big time love for me. I’m not into any other sports but I love baseball, it gives me freedom from work. I also love to go fishing, and going for walks and playing with my two dogs. My wife and I also really enjoy going to the movies, it’s probably our favorite thing to do together, other than playing with the dogs.
Dead Rhetoric: Being a baseball fan, who are some of your favorite teams and do you have any early predictions for who may make the World Series this year?
Moss: I’m a gigantic Yankees fan. I know, I know, bring on the haters. I’m from NY originally so the Yankees are in my blood. I’ve been in Kansas for twelve years so I’m a Royals fan as well. Was really proud of them this year, getting to game seven of the World Series. Was a great series. I have been watching all the trades for this season, and I think the Nationals, the Angels, and the Red Sox are gonna be damn good contenders this year, and the Yankees, of course.
Dead Rhetoric: What sort of advice would you give to up and coming musicians in the heavy music scene?
Moss: I would say, if you’re afraid to give it your all, go insanely in debt, burn all your bridges so you can never retreat, and work nonstop then don’t bother. This world is already filled with bands just half assing it. It needs more serious players.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you think the late John Goff feels about The Midnight Ghost Train rolling along in his memory all these years later? What’s your favorite memory of his life?
Moss: I think he is damn proud of what we are doing and how we are growing. He too would also not allow me to ever be content with where we are at. That’s why we keep pushing forward. John and I spent countless hours fishing together, and taking ridiculously long road trips. Fishing is definitely the (main) memories I’ll hold on to.