Bill Gaal might be best known as the bassist for DC metal band Nothingface ( and also having produced a majority of the band’s catalogue). However, Gaal is also a heavy hitter behind the scenes. He’s served as an in-house producer and songwriter at Level 7 Artists, created his own production company/studio GMG, and even runs his own digital label S6 Records. Despite keeping himself busy behind the sound board, Gaal still finds the time to create new music through In For The Kill (which now also includes former Nothingface drummer Chris Houck).
In the midst of recording In For The Kill’s second release (the follow up to 2008’s Kingdom Sessions: Volume One), Gaal took the time to talk with Metal Insider. During our chat, Gaal discussed the rock oriented project, his experience as a producer and artist manager, his opinion on the DIY model, and also about what happened with Nothingface’s attempted reunion.
Let’s talk about your new group In For The Kill. What gave birth to the band?
The band ended up coming out of a group Kingdom of Snakes, which was the band I started right after Nothingface. What ended up happening is Kingdom of Snakes had written an EP and put it out, and we’d been playing shows while working on a full length. There were two primary songwriters in our band. It was me and Jason Blackmore. Basically with the record he wrote one half, I wrote the other, and right as we were finishing off that record the band disintegrated. So I had this group of songs that were just all me. I was like “I don’t want this to get away, I want to have this be my new band.” So that’s sort of what gave birth to it. Then I sort of readdressed the songs that we had done and put together the release and founded In for the Kill. All In For the Kill really is for me is a direct pipeline to me musically-everything I want to do in songs, and in music, unfiltered without any outside opinion or influence other than the influence that I bring in or when I ask friends from different bands to come play on the song.
How would you say the music differs from your previous bands like Nothingface or other projects?
Well Nothingface was very much a democracy. Everybody had their say in what everyone else was doing before anything was ever released. So it was very much a band in the classic sense in that we all worked together, but you would always compromise in the band. Most people when they write something like it that way because that’s the way they wrote it. Being in a group like Nothingface, you write a part and everybody puts in their two cents, and that becomes the sound of Nothingface. Without that style of writing, Nothingface wouldn’t have sounded like Nothingface.
So this is very different in that I write everything, all the parts, and then I have different musicians come and put their interpretation on it. Not to the extent that you would in a band situation, but more so add their flavor to what I’ve already written. Or in the case of this new In for the Kill record, Chris’ drumming is actually quite a bit different than, well for the most part than the stuff that I had sort of written and programmed, and it made a huge difference in the sound of the record. It’s amazing.
Can you tell us who some of these guest musicians are?
Well in the first record I did, which was an album with Kingdom of Snakes, I played guitar on the majority of it, and some of it was Jason Blackmore. He used to be in a band called Molly McGuire, which was a band Nothingface used to play with and were huge admirers of. And the drummer for the band was Jason Gerken [who played on the first In For The Kill release]. He was in bands called Shiner, Open Hand, and was also in Molly McGuire with Jason Blackmore. And then on bass and keyboards was a good friend of ours named Gabe Cardinale, he has a band called Dead Twins. Actually he’s a singer and a guitar player but in that band he was playing bass and keys. And the new record obviously Chris Houck, the original drummer for Nothingface, plays drums on.
Oh, I actually didn’t that realize Chris Houck was drumming on this new record.
Yeah, that was sort of an outcome of the attempted Nothingface reunion a couple years ago. Chris and I reconnected and that’s how he ended up playing on my new In For the Kill record. The one thing that’s going to be a bit different on this one is that I’m going to handle all the bass playing and the majority of the guitar playing. On the first release, although I had written the bass parts, Gabe played bass on it., I’m liking the way it’s sounding with just Chris and I doing everything. The only exception is going to be I have a good friend of mine, Mike Longworth, doing some leads. He’s in a band called Kisses for Kings, another band called Mest, and for years he played bass in Prong. But other than that I don’t have, for this record, any plans for anyone else to come in and play on it at this point.
You mentioned just now about Nothingface’s attempted reunion in 2009. Last I heard you guys were in the studio recording a new album. What happened?
It’s kind of a long story [laughs].
[laughs] Well as long as you don’t mind discussing it, of course.
No, no, of course not! I’m just trying to figure out a way to keep it within two hours. [laughs] Really what happened was I live in California, Chris [Houck, drums] lives in North Carolina, Tom [Maxwell, guitar] lives in Annapolis, and Matt [Holt, vocals] lives in Baltimore. Just the logistics of getting us all together in one place is difficult enough, and I have a family now and everyone has families in their lives. Just getting us all together to begin with is always tough and then when we did we really had to get a lot done in a very short amount of time. And we were in the studio, we were writing, we’d written four, five or six songs-just music, no vocals at that point. That’s definitely Nothingface, we’d write music and show it to Matt and he would put his vocals on it. We got to that point and we were really just running out of time. That is what it boiled down to. Tom had to get back to Hellyeah and they had to get back to writing what would end up being their second record. I had to get back out to Los Angeles. I had a bunch of production and different stuff I needed to do in my studio. Chris had his work he needed to do. And so between all that and needing to get things done very quickly, we just weren’t able to wrap it all up in time. so we just had to move on, as much as we wanted to see it to come to fruition and finish up. That’s not to say that we would never attempt to do it again because the stuff we were working on was really cool it’s just all It’s just timing.
In for the Kill is a heavy rock band. It’s definitely not a metal band. And then the music that I work on with clients in production and engineering is generally pop and pop rock stuff. So you know I need my fix of heavy and Nothingface gives it to me and I miss it. [laughs]
Well hopefully you’ll get your dose of heaviness soon! [laughs]
Yeah I know. [laughs]
As you just mentioned, in addition to your work as a musician you also have gained a lot of respect as a producer, engineer, and mixer. And you’ve even formed your own production company GMG. Do you find working behind the soundboard as creatively fulfilling as writing or performing music?
I do. I really do. It’s a different sort of challenge obviously when you’re writing. It’s a creative, artistic challenge. When you’re performing it’s, I don’t know how much of a challenge it is. The only challenge I guess is keeping enough control of yourself so you can play the song properly instead of going completely nuts. But as far as working behind the board and working with other artists, in the engineering profession the challenge is obviously to get the right sound, to capture the artist’s vision they’re going for. And also to help guide and sort of give people an idea through my experience in the studio how to achieve what they’re trying to get sonically with different amps, guitars, sound, performance style, and things like that. That’s the engineering challenge, but I really enjoy it. It’s an art in itself.
When it comes to songwriting with a client the challenge is a bit closer to a creative challenge in that you don’t want to change who they are as a musician. You want to help them create a very clear vision of what it is they’re trying to do in their song and not let it get too convoluted. Especially when you’re dealing with pop, you want to make it very obvious what it is. You don’t want to go all over the place and get all wild like you’re writing a metal song. So there’s different challenges, it’s all artistic in a way and I enjoy all of it. I think I’ve always been like that. I can’t really get too pigeonholed into one little thing. I tend to get bored so I have to surround myself with a lot of different challenges all the time.
Music ADHD eh?
Maybe, I don’t know. [laughs] I think I’m just curious. I just gotta do it.
As if you’re not busy enough, you’ve also worked at Morey Management Group. Do you think your experience as a musician and producer helped you in the field of artist management?
Well when I first started working there I thought that it would be sort of a plus for me. I’d sort of have a different understanding of where the artists that we the company represented were coming from and maybe give them something that someone who hadn’t worked as a musician could. But when I went to work at Morey Management, I worked with Bobby Colins who was Nothingface’s manager, and it’s a difficult world to exist in. So you have to be able to take a lot of abuse from everybody on every angle. You’ve got your artist who if they’re not getting what they think they deserve and what they think they hired you to get for them as a manager, they’re pissed at you. If you’re pushing the band’s label to do what they said they were going to do and then they’re not doing it, the label’s pissed at you. [laughs] You’re sort of in the middle, you’re stuck. You’re going to look bad no matter what unless something great happens.
The best way to talk about it is that after working there for a year and a half, I realized that it wasn’t the world for me. It was a difficult world. It takes a special person to really be a successful manager and really deal with all the bullshit you have to deal with everyday for the small victories that you get. So my experience as a musician going into management, the only thing it really ended up helping me with was communicating with an artist to sort of speak their terms. But other than that I guess I had a bit more sympathy for artists on the road when they needed things or when things weren’t going the way they expected them to. But I don’t think that unfortunately helped my experience being in a band helped me much when it came to trying to be a manager itself.
Did your time as a manager sour your enthusiasm as a musician at all?
No, it didn’t sour me at all. It wasn’t a bad experience; it was just an eye opening experience. It really made clear to me that to be a successful artist you really need clear focus, and you need people around you to help you deal with…there’s certain things that you’re just not going to deal with, certain people that you’re not going to be able to get to because you’re not in the industry generally when you’re a musician-your industry is your peers, other musicians not record labels and promotional people and such. So it didn’t sour me it just sort of opened my eyes to what is going on in the industry and different ways it looks like you can succeed. So that’s sort of what it did for me, it didn’t sour me though.
Taking for granted your experience in the industry, I wanted to ask you your thoughts about the current state of the business. As the industry and album sales continue to do poorly, the do it yourself model has really been talked about by many. Do you think the DIY model is a viable route for bands heading into the future?
I really do. I think it’s absolutely the way to go. There’s so many opportunities out there now that just weren’t there 15 years ago. I’m not talking on the mega giant level. I’m talking smaller and midlevel bands just getting out there and promoting yourself and working your product, doing your own releases. You can make more money as an artist selling your own release and selling less of them than if you were on a label just because you’re going to keep all the money. And now artists have distribution networks to actually do that. So I think the do it yourself model is absolutely where it’s at and that’s what I do with these In for the Kill releases. I don’t shop them and try to put them out on major labels. I do it all myself and put them out there.
I don’t know it it’s the future because I think the future is constantly changing, but I think that’s the way things are going. You can be successful right now in doing it on your own as long as you’re setting goals that are attainable and reasonable, and being smart about it, doing your research, seeing what’s out there, seeing what everybody else is doing. But as an up and coming band now, it’s about so much more than just your music. Your music is just one small part of the puzzle now because obviously once music is released digitally you can get it for free. So the music is, I don’t want to call it just a promotional tool for who the act is, but it almost becomes that after awhile. To really make your money you need to be smart and have merch and get out there on the road, do videos and all the normal stuff everyone’s doing. It’s not like a magic formula, you just gotta do it right.
Well what advice would you give to a band just starting out both in regard to production and also management?
Well I don’t think that bands starting out need necessarily a manager, per se, but definitely if you know anybody who’s had any success at all it’s always good to pick their brain and find out what they did to get where they are. But I think the smartest thing you can do as a band is really get your act together internally before you put your product out there. Make sure that your songs sound good, that you’ve really worked on your material, you’ve worked on your live show as much as you can before you get out there, and start putting yourself out there so that when you come out you come out with a bang and you stand out.
Again the same old story for the past ten years, but use the internet because it’s your friend. You can connect with a lot of different people doing a lot of stuff all over the country. I remember when Nothingface was first starting out when we were touring, there was no way to do that. So we would literally get in a van and start driving across the country and get local papers, call clubs and try to get shows. We would tour the country that way; it was crazy! It was insane. There was no way to connect with anyone else around the country without just being out there and doing it. Nowadays you have a lot of tools online to really connect and grow your fan base. Just work it, be relentless.
I take it that In For The Kill will always be a DIY band, correct?
Correct. I’ll do these In for the Kill records probably till the day I die because I love doing them. It’s a labor of love for me, but I put them out on my own. I have a digital only label called S6 Records that I put out the first In For The Kill release on. The Nothingface re-release that we put out a couple years ago was put out on that, and that’s how I’ll be putting this album out. If something happens and the record begins to get some feet underneath it then possibly I could upstream it through a larger label, but that’s not really the plan. The plan is to put it out through my label.
When will the second release come out?
I’m looking at probably an early September release date at this point if everything goes well. I don’t have a specific date yet though.
Are you guys going to do any touring behind it or is it kind of more of a studio project?
It’s kind of up in the air. Right now I plan on doing some touring. I definitely want to do some shows whether it’s just out here on the West coast and maybe some in the Baltimore/D.C. area. I definitely want to go out and play these songs, but I’m past the point in my life where I can just jump in the van and go play shows all over the country just because I want to. [laughs] It’s gotta make sense but if it does make sense, we’re ready to go. I’ve talked to Chris about it and he’s ready to do it on the drop of a dime. I’ll do what I did before with In for the Kill: I put together a live version of the band that I think can pull it off really well and get out there and get out there and play. I would anticipate that there will be some kind of tour, but I can’t say for certain.
To keep up to date on all things regarding In For The Kill, you can check out their official website.