Former Nothingface Bassist Talks About His New Group and His Future With His Previous Bandmates
In 2009, bassist Bill Gaal’s original band, late ’90s metal firebrands Nothingface, tried tried to reunite. Having broken up in 2005, the bandmates had gone their separate ways. Gaal, who is pictured left and had quit the band for a brief time in 2001, and frontman Matt Holt formed the radio-friendly Kingdom of Snakes, while guitarist Tom Maxwell and Gaal’s 2001 replacement Jerry Montano joined forces with members of Mudvayne and Pantera to form the supergroup Hellyeah. By the time Nothingface tried to regroup with original drummer Chris Houck, it just didn’t work out.
These days, Gaal has stepped up to the mic to sing and play guitar in his own project, called In for the Kill, which is more comparable to groups like Queens of the Stone Age or lighter Alice in Chains. He and the first incarnation of the band released an album titled Kingdom Sessions: Volume One in 2008, and he has recorded a follow-up with help from one of his former bandmates: Nothingface drummer Chris Houck. You can hear some of the music on the group’s MySpace page (Revolver recommends “Little Angels” and “Wrong Words Baby”). Below, Gaal fills us in on how In for the Kill got up and running.
REVOLVER What led to Nothingface’s final breakup after you tried reuniting in 2009?
BILL GAAL I’ll just go with the last one, and I think the answer may be a little different depending on who you talk to. The way I saw it, the reunion of the original lineup of Chris, Tom, Matt, and I started with great energy and what seemed like a completely clean slate. All of us had spent years apart from each other, growing as individuals, and when we came together again, it was a great feeling to work on music with no management or label, no outside opinion or expectations. We knew that we were limited in the amount of time we had to write. We all had other projects that we would need to get back to, and life is always throwing in unexpected things that you just have to take care of. There were some unexpected gaps in the time that we had set aside to write, and just when things began to get really interesting and we were writing some really great new material, we had reached the point where we had to get the songs wrapped up. In the past Nothingface was the only thing that we all had, but now we all had other projects and responsibilities that had to be attended to, and unfortunately, it was becoming apparent that we were not all on the same page when it came to getting the band rolling again in the time frame that we had to do it. Looking back on it now, it would have been pretty difficult to really pull off. I was living in Los Angeles and working as a producer and songwriter—and still am—Chris was living in North Carolina, Matt was living in Maryland, and Tom was really busy with Hellyeah. It always took a ton of luck and planning to get us all together, and when we were, we needed to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. That works for for some people, but not for others.
What did you take from that experience into In for the Kill and your production?
Originally, writing in Nothingface was always a group effort, and we spent a lot of years banging away on songs in the basement and demoing them over and over again in my studio, trying to get them to a point where we were all happy with them. That changed in the later years of the band, when we began writing songs individually, then bringing them into the band. For me, the process of writing as a group could get very frustrating. We all had very clear ideas about what we thought was the best thing to do musically, but it was rare that anyone’s individual vision was ever seen through. That was the beauty and the frustration of writing as a group. The songs would always come out in a way that none of us could have ever achieved if we were doing it on our own, so that was the beauty of it. The frustration came from never getting to see your own individual musical vision fulfilled, but of course, that’s not what a band should be about!
After Nothingface, when I started In for the Kill, it was my first real opportunity to write songs exactly the way I wanted to, which was a really exciting prospect for me. I grew up listening to rock music, and that was always the type of stuff I would write naturally when I sat down with a guitar. I’m a big fan of melodic vocals and big hooks, so that’s exactly where I went with the project. The production that I did with Nothingface was always very tight and guitar driven, and that carried over into In for the Kill. The first In for the Kill record was released in 2008, right around the time that we were working on the Nothingface reunion, and at that time I already had the second record written.
How did the sound for In for the Kill come together?
The first In for the Kill record was a carry over from my band Kingdom of Snakes, which was the band I started right after Nothingface. The type of songs that I have always been the most attracted to have big vocal hooks and big rock riffs. I spend a lot of time writing and studying all kinds of music, and I had a really clear idea of what I was looking for with In for the Kill. I wanted to write songs that had catch memorable riffs and vocals, but also had plenty of heavy guitars and bass. Oddly enough, the bass playing in In for the Kill is actually much heavier than almost anything that I wrote in Nothingface.
Lyrically, In for the Kill songs usually deal with things that are going on in my life, I’m not really one to tell people how they should feel about things.
The sound of the new In for the Kill record is a definite growth from the first one. The new songs are a bit heavier and complex, which was probably an outgrowth of the time I spent writing new Nothingface songs a couple of years ago! It’s also because of the influence of Chris Houck’s drumming on the album.
What was it like working with Chris in a non-metal group? Did it bring you closer?
It was great working with Chris again in Nothingface, but it was really amazing working with him on the new In for the Kill album. Chris and I grew up together as kids, and both of came from the same musical background. We both grew up listening to ’70s rock radio, so to have the opportunity to work on a record together that is so heavily influenced by our past was really special. The record doesn’t sound like a classic rock tribute, but it does attempt to tap into the timeless aspect that those older songs have. The songs were already written, so I would send versions of the songs, without drums, to Chris and he would work on them in his studio in North Carolina. After he had written his drum parts, he would send them to me, and we did all of the preproduction that way. It was great! After all of the parts were worked out, Chris flew out to Los Angeles and we tracked the drums over 10 days. It was the easiest recording session that we have ever done together, it just came together really naturally and ran really smooth.
During the years that Chris wasn’t in Nothingface, we really grew apart. We didn’t have much contact for many years, although there was never any bad blood between us. We were just living different lives. It was great to reconnect with one of the best friends I have ever had, and having him play on this record was perfect.
You’ve said you’re open to working with Tom Maxwell again. Would you want to continue Nothingface or try something different like you did with In for the Kill?
I’d be surprised if we ever got together to make another Nothingface record, but I would definitely not be opposed to it! Tom and I have been talking recently about doing another record together, something very heavy, but as usual, we’ll have to carve out some time to get together and write the thing!