Interview: Gym Class Heroes
GYM CLASS HEROES interview with Rip Nicholson for Hiphop.sh // Street Press Australia
20th January, 2010
Gym Class Stans have been counting the winter seasons since The Quilt warmed their souls. Amidst swirling speculations of another good thing fallen victim to a creative split and two years since As Cruel as School Children was followed up, fans wonder if the Yankee quottro is dissolving. As lead vocalist Travis McCoy and guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo go on solo runs and Matt McGinley lends his drumming to rock outfit Kill The Frontman, the room feels empty, however Gym Class Heroes is still in the house putting the F U back in funk. Drummer, Matt McGinley takes a time out before heading down our ways for Good Vibrations to speak with Rip from Hiphop.sh.
Matt how are you, good to hear from you man. Where are you calling from now?
I’m in New Jersey, United States. Yeah I’m at home right now, I’m originally from New York but I sort of moved ten minutes west of New York.
You guys looking forward to coming down our way soon?
Absolutely, yeah I mean we were out there last about two summers ago. That was the very first time we’ve ever been out there. We’ve released an album since then so everyone’s really eager to come down and share all this new material that we’ve written and play it louder. I get incredibly energised by that vibe from a crowd hearing it for the first time. You know, we’ve been touring-recording for quite a while now so a lot of sounds are really familiar to people, so it would be cool if we can bounce off some fresh shit for everyone. Fans seem to have been counting time from when Quilt dropped to now, waiting on your next album and worrying if it’s going to come…
Is it a factor for you guys to stay seen and heard, or can u go into hiding between albums and return with the same impact?
I guess, I don’t really know the answer to that – but this is actually like a new feeling for us. Since we’ve released our first record it’s been a non-stop schedule of touring then right into recording then back out onto the road. With this record we’re actually taking more time off then writing the record. Since we did our first record we haven’t really devoted a great deal of time to writing every song and then recording. So I’m really excited. We’d rather do this to allow our songs to develop more as opposed to jamming something out and be like, ok awesome, sounds good let’s record. I think with this way of doing it we will ultimately achieve the best songs we can give. We could probably sit and nurture songs and let them develop over time, but we’ve definitely been cracking away at it. We have about 15 songs written for the new record now. We’re looking to do some more and really make sure we’re selecting the right tracks that are popping off for the record.
I guess that helps you guys from getting burnt out. Over ten years now, putting aside friendships, did you ever envision this longevity as a band? even with success washing through you guys?
I certainly never doubted it, but I never really meditated on it too much. It was one of those things where when we started out ten or eleven years ago we’d take one thing at a time, you know. At first it was like we wanna write our songs and you know, go into the studio and record them and distribute them to friends and family. Then our ambitions grew and we started doing shows and touring regionally around New York. Once we did that, ultimately that brought us success and furthermore industry success so it was kinda like we never really got too far ahead of ourselves. We always liked to keep our goals within arms reach. So I think it’s worked for us and we continue to go down that path, making immediate goals and so forth.
On Quilt, you hooked up with the likes of Busta Rhymes, Estelle, The-Dream and then Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates and Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy – how was it being in bed with so much diverse talent?
It was pretty cool, with each song we did with that record, we weren’t really drafting people on it for name’s sake and we had a rough idea of their art that we’ve grown to know and although we wanted to make sure each song not only represented Gym Class Heroes but also suited what their attributes were vocally and I think we did a pretty good job of capturing that for the last record. It’s great to have a lot of different voices up on the record it adds to the energy of the project. Even some of the collaborative efforts the names and the lyrics are so different. It also makes it intriguing, like ‘Gym Class Heroes did a song with Darryl Hall?’
Did you try and give direction for your tracks or find yourselves letting them go off on their tangent?
Generally we kinda do want the artists to have some sort of freedom. It would take a lot of liberty to really take down personalities for the sake of one song. Travis may have already put down a rock vocal track with a specific idea for this part, so taking that into consideration an artist will know if he fits into it or not. We kinda let it play that way. Travis has something solo coming out soon, you play with Kill the Frontman – how is it bringing back cohesion between the four of you for Gym Class? For me, the priority has always been Gym Class Heroes so when I’m doing other projects it’s a good break so I can clear my head from Gym Class Heroes musically and try a stab at something else. I always say, when I play rock music I feel like I’m a hiphop & funk drummer trying to impersonate a rock drummer. For me my heart is in Gym Class Heroes and musically what embodies me as a drummer and just seems natural to me. So it hasn’t disrupted the chemistry between you guys in the studio for next album? There’s only so many hours in the day, so you may have to make sacrifices schedule-wise. But it’s cool, I’ve actually been playing drums for Travis’ solo project when he does shows as well and will be touring it around the States. So it’s a cool collaborative effort and cool to see Travis expand in other directions. Even our guitarist, Disashi has a solo project and I’m real eager to hear what he has been up to. The beautiful part about Gym Class Heroes is, musically it’s a bit of a melting pot, you know. It’s good to have each member of the band in tune with their personalities and exploring that. Disashi could rip a rock guitar solo over a jazz drumbeat or a reggae baseline. People have their own influences and inspirations in the band it’s only natural that we would all want to explore those influences wherever.
Speaking of next album, PCC II – is this album to have a distinct connection to the Paper Cut Chronicles?
That’s kinda the goal, yeah right now we have about 15 songs written and we’d like to have more so if we finish up and feel like it sounds like the Paper Cut Chronicles. So that’s where we’re trying to go with the next album. We’re also not gonna force anything.
Recently Travis told MTV you guys are looking to get back to basic, in what way?
I think in general the tone of the Paper Cut Chronicles it was a much darker record than our two previous records. So in that way I could see it being alike. So darker musically and darker lyrically as well. Paper Cut Chronicles was a record we started years back so with this record we’re getting back to having more time to write so we’re not hopping off the road and going right into the studio to work out ideas from the control room. I think in a lot of ways it will replicate that record but the record really hasn’t been constructed yet so it’s hard to compare.