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Masters of Reality are an American rock band formed in 1981 in Syracuse, New York by frontman Chris Goss and guitarist Tim Harrington. Notably the band's sound, along with their lineups, are ever-changing. After the first lineup the band's sound has ranged from hard rock to blues to progressive rock and even sixties-era pop. To date the band has released six studio albums and has managed to tour the world with various alternating lineups, Goss essentially the bandleader. In regards to the alternating lineups Goss has stated that Masters of Reality will always be a project with alternating lineups, stating "I can't afford paying people to tell they're in the band."
Notably the band has close ties to the Palm Desert scene with Goss being a producer and key player in that circle, working with Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age (Along with Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri joining Masters of Reality for a period of time.) among others. While the band's name is taken from the Black Sabbath album of the same name the band's early influences were heavily derived from Sabbath and early King Crimson among a host of other classic rock acts.
Early Years and Masters of Reality (1981 - 1990)
Prior to Masters of Reality's formation Chris Goss started out with a band covering heavy 1970s rock acts (New York Dolls, Aerosmith, David Bowie, Blue Öyster Cult, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin) and writing his own songs since circa 1975. After getting into punk rock for a while (including performing at CBGB's in 1978), he didn't play guitar for a few years, instead preferring electronic music like Kraftwerk and becoming a club DJ.
In 1981 Goss and Tim Harrington started to make experimental home recordings with lo-fi, cheap and/or borrowed equipment that included a Sanyo boombox Rhythm Ace drum machine, a Korg, synthesizers and a Fender Vibroverb amp. The rhythm tracks of synths and a beat recorded on cassette would be played back to "overdub" vocals, guitar, more synthesizers, et cetera. They considered Manson Family as a name for their act, but never actually used it for their performances. They played regularly at CBGB's with a sound reminiscent of Suicide or somewhat like how Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson would sound in the 1990s. Early original songs included "Building the Kingdom," "Voodoo Doll," "Metal Entity," "Cash," "Anchor," "Stones in Every Field" and "Doraldina's Prophecies."
By the late 1980s Masters of Reality would grow into a quartet with the addition of Googe on bass and Vinnie Ludovico on drums, developing a sound with less electronics and more of a rock sound drawing from blues and seventies metal such as Black Sabbath, Cream, Led Zeppelin and King Crimson. A demo tape would reach producer Rick Rubin, who would see the band live in late 1986 and sign the band to Def Jam. According to Goss it was Rubin who would bring out more of that blues rock side. During the recording for the band's debut album Rubin would quit Def Jam and take the band with him to his new label, Def American.
Also known as The Blue Garden, the eponymous Masters of Reality saw release on 24 January 1989 to critical acclaim at the time. According to an interview with Kyuss World, Goss would have many issues and frustrations with the recording of the album. Goss got frustrated with the band while touring the debut album. He quit the tour after Matt Dike invited him to come to Los Angeles and to get signed to his Delicious Vinyl label. They bought the rights from Rubin and released a newly sequenced version of the album with Doraldina's Prophecies as an extra track. Notably the band also played a show with Megadeth and Motorhead as part of BAM Magazine's anniversary. The band even made an appearance in 1990 Steven Seagal movie Marked For Death as Seagal was a fan of the band and personally requested them, which also led to the band interacting with Jimmy Cliff.
Sunrise on The Sufferbus (1992 - 1997)
In 1992 Masters of Reality would resurface with Goss and Googe alongside drummer Ginger Baker of Cream notoriety. Though initially Baker expressed dread thinking it was going to be a "loud and awful" heavy metal band, Baker warmed up to working with the band once he got to jamming with them. Recording in various studios in California, Masters of Reality would sign to Chrysalis Records and release their second album Sunrise on The Sufferbus on 9 February 1993. Despite their sound being altered to a degree the album was also critically acclaimed, even spawning a top ten hit in "She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On)". Notably another song on the record was "T.U.S.A.", a rap by Baker describing the inability of Americans to make a proper cup of tea to which some American radio shows allegedly used this when a British guest would be involved.
Despite this new lineup Baker would not stay with the band and leave shortly after with Victor Indrizzo (Circus of Power, Samiam) taking over on drums. Masters Of Reality recorded the song "Climb Inside My World" for a 1994 Ren & Stimpy episode entitled "Jerry the Bellybutton Elf." The song was written by Steve Mellor who also wrote the episode in which it appeared.
The lineup of Goss, Googe and Indrizzo would then record a full-length in 1994, later titled as The Ballad of Jody Frosty, intended for release in 1995 via Epic Records. However the album would be outright rejected by the label and ultimately shelved, with live and studio versions of the songs surfacing on later albums (And ultimately the entire album leaking on the internet in 2004). In an
“The Ballad Of Jody Frosty!? The record company just refused to put it out... I'm glad that they showed their stupidity before the record came out... I mean... I look at it as a fine record... But... I think that the versions of the songs on the live record beat the versions of the studio record... All in all the public got the best versions of songs like 'Alder Smoke Blues'... I just want to put my best foot forward all the time, and the way the songs ended up on the live album are the best ones.”
— Chris Goss, Masters of Reality Official
Masters of Reality were quiet for several years as Goss was occupied producing music for other bands in California, working extensively with bands that would shape the desert rock scene among others. However, the band did appear at Johnny Depp's Viper Room night club on 22 and 23 September 1996 for a two-night stand. The end result would be How High The Moon: Live At The Viper Room, released on 10 June 1997 via Malicious Vinyl. Notably this live album also featured Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) on the song "Jindalee Jindalie".
Welcome To The Western Lodge and Deep In The Hole (1998 - 2002)
Masters of Reality would establish a new lineup in 1998 to tour Europe surrounding an appearance at Dynamo Festival. This lineup of would consist of Goss, drummer John Leamy (Who would end up becoming the longtime drummer for the band), guitarist Brendon McNichol and bassist Paul Powell. Goss and Leamy would work together to record an album of new material and Welcome To The Western Lodge saw release on 21 June 1999. The same touring lineup would return to Europe that year, adding Mathias Schneeberger on keyboards. Throughout 2000 Goss would work with the likes of Queens of The Stone Age and Ian Astbury among others.
Give Us Barabbas (2003 - 2008)
In 2003 Masters of Reality would notably cover "Devil's Radio" for the tribute album Songs From The Material World: A Tribute to George Harrison. Masters of Reality would perform once that year at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles that November (With Tomahawk, The Cramps and Queens of the Stone Age).
The band would sporadically tour in the meantime, largely in Europe and with occasional festival appearances such as Azkena Rock Festival in Spain circa 2005. Goss would largely keep busy through this time recording and engineering for the likes of Melissa Auf Der Maur and Queens of The Stone Age along with participation in a side project known as Goon Moon.
Pine/Cross Dover and Recent Activities (2009 - Present) Goss would begin work on a sixth studio album (And the first album of new material in a decade) through late 2007 and early 2008 at Rancho De La Luna and The Hacienda with a wide range of collaborators. After a year's worth of delays on 1 June 2009 it would be announced that this new album would be set for an August release via European label Brownhouse and Mascot Records, described by Goss as a "rock n' roll record". This album would see release in the United States via Cool Green Records on 12 October 2010. In a 2010 interview with The Aquarian, Goss would explain the recording process of the album and it's delays:
“We do our records very spontaneously. I get together with John Leamy, our drummer, who lives in New York, and in the meantime a few years go by. I accumulate little bits and pieces of ideas on the mini-recorder and have riffs and beats and ideas, blah blah blah, and bring John to the desert—this is what’s happened the last three albums of new material—and we jam.
We expound on these ideas and in the process of jamming, come up with 20 more ideas in addition to the 20 or 30 I may have had in the first place. It’s wonderful. It said in the press release, we both were so busy with production all the time of other people’s stuff, that when we get in a room together and we just go, we’re playing ourselves, and for the pure joy of it. It’s just wonderful.
It’s us, and it’s what we want to do, and there’s no one dictating anything to us. Totally by instinct. So he comes out for a few years, and we get drum tracks out of the jams, and then I finish the record with vocals and overdubs. This last record that just happened, to answer your question, we got a lot of great drum tracks, and also a lot of jams down on tape, and the task of getting those sorted and edited and made into songs took a little bit longer than I thought.
In my world, three or four months for me is a long time to do a Masters record. In “normal world,” most bands take a year or two to garner enough material to put together a cohesive record. Even though it was delayed over and over again, it really only took, in physical studio time, maybe three months, four months, spread out over a little bit of time.
For example, the last song on the record, that long jam session. We had so many of those kinds of jams for these sessions, that to actually go through and say, “Okay, what here is cohesive? What here is enjoyable and is representative of how we feel at that moment?” what we’re proud of, I guess—took longer than it would, normally.”
Pine/Cross Dover, through both it's release cycles, saw praise from the likes of The Obelisk, Under The Radar and Rock Sound among others. In support of the record Masters of Reality would tour the West Coast in November 2010, followed by a tour of Europe that next January and February with the Cult and finishing with a show in New Orleans that June with Earthlings?.
Masters of Reality would tour Europe again two years later, with several festival appearances and dates supporting Queens of The Stone Age. The band would tour Europe again two years later but would go dormant afterwards. In 2019 and 2020 Masters of Reality would announce a tour of Europe for that May, including headlining appearances at Desertfest London, DesertFest Berlin, Kristonfest and Sonic Whip along with a marquee appearance at Stoned and Dusted. However with the CO-VID19 pandemic that would take place through the Spring of 2020 this tour would likely be canceled.
◉ Masters of Reality (1989, Def Jam)
◉ Sunrise on The Sufferbus (1993, Chrysalis)
◉ Welcome To The Western Lodge (1999, Brownhouse)
◉ Deep In The Hole (2001, Brownhouse)
◉ Give Us Barabbas (2004, Brownhouse)
◉ Pine/Cross Dover (2009, Brownhouse)
◉ How High The Moon: Live At The Viper Room (Live Album) (1997, Malicious Vinyl)
◉ Flak 'N' Flight (Live Album) (2001, Brownhouse)
◉ The Ballad of Jody Frosty (Unreleased Studio Album) (2004; Recorded 1995)
01 - Deep in the Hole 07:02
02 - Third man on the Moon 06:21
03 - Doraldina's Prophecies 08:53
04 - Annihilation of the Spirit 03:32
05 - Rabbit One 06:15
06 - Time to Burn 03:28
07 - Blue Garden 07:28
08 - Alder Smoke Blues 08:17
09 - Why the Fly 09:40
10 - Band Intro 03:47
11 - Wish for a Fish 07:03
12 - 100 Years of Tears on the Wind 03:40
13 - Twilight Zone 02:40
14 - High Noon Amsterdam 11:29
15 - She Got Me 07:08
16 - John Brown 16.17 (Talk)