Simple Rock, Western style metallic guitar riffs, and a bunch of guys in the middle of the woods in Sweden: welcome to The Goners. Their debut album Good Mourning came out this Spring from RidingEasy Records, and a glance at the biographical/music history implications of their band lineup will take you into the annals of several other bands that the members have been previously associated with.
But that was then and this is now. Now they are The Goners who, at the time of speaking with Nate Gone, had just made a more formal commitment to stick together following their positive experiences working on this album. Most of the members have known each other for years in various capacities. All were looking for a new project that spoke to them and found it.
Nate Gone video called me from the middle of the woods to talk about Good Mourning and why the album came from a place of "rock bottom" for him but now finds him in a place of "coming back to life".
Hannah Means-Shannon: What was the origin point for creating Good Mourning?
Nate Gone: It started out with me having a bunch of songs that I wanted to record, and then stuff happened with my old band. We did our last tour and then didn’t talk to each other, pretty much. But I still had all these songs, so in a fury, I called some old friends and said, “Can we just record these songs? I just want to get these songs out.” That’s pretty much how it started. Then those songs led to other, new songs. We only ended up using, probably, one of those first songs, since there were others.
HMS: It’s great not to put things to waste. If you’ve got material, find a way to work with it.
NG: We had something going and didn’t even realize it. It was just like, “Let’s just use some clean guitars and record some straight-forward rock songs and see what happens.” We didn’t put that much work into producing the album or anything. We just had a good sound from the start.
HMS: So, you just did a lot of live recording?
NG: Exactly. We put like a day or two into it. We had a day for drums sounds, another day for guitars. Then we said, “Yeah it sounds great.” We recorded everything, then put some vocals and bass and things in. It’s all pretty basic.
HMS: It sounds like the other band members have a similar story of having been in other bands before and having learned from that. Do you think that creating this project will keep you working together as a band?
NG: I really hope so. We were actually just talking about that. It’s all pretty lose, since we all have other stuff. I’m becoming a father, and getting my driver's license, and getting my shit together. David, who used to be my teacher, plays in several other bands on top of having two small children to take care of. and Viktor, who is here with me, also has a kid, who is outside playing. Mick is getting his teacher's license when he is not out hiking, and Timmy has a band called Doppalgangar with Viktor on drums. We were just saying, "Let's keep this formation that we have now, whatever happens." We've all known each other for 15 years or so and feel pretty safe together.
HMS: The area you all live in is not a large town or city, is it?
NG: It’s not large. It’s about 100,000 people. Now I live a bit outside of town in the woods so it's definitely too large for me. I work in town, though, and have found my way back to some old, and even new, friends. It’s really cool that we spent a lot of time away from each other, though, so it feels comfortable to come back together and have people that we know and can trust. It’s the same with David, the guitar player, who played in a huge band in the 90s in Sweden, called Yvonne. He’s been sober for 10 years prior to me introducing him to the band. He was the first guy I called, and he wanted to play. That’s an honor to me. He’s been there as support for me. I actually had to go to rehab before we could record the album. It turned out great.
HMS: So, the people who you called on in your need have actually become a lot more than that? This has galvanized into something substantial.
NG: Definitely. Because we haven’t been rehearsing a lot or practicing this summer, I’ve said to them, “I don’t want you to think I’m not interested in this. It’s just the whole Corona outbreak.”
That became a great excuse, though, to say, “Can we not go on tour, and let me focus on becoming a father, and stuff like that?” To pump the brake a little. Corona isn’t a good thing, but for me, it has worked out.
HMS: I’ve seen a lot of musicians posting about how this has been a helpful time for them because they are not on tour. And even though they love touring and they love their fans, they are getting some time with their families, or some time to work on new music.
HMS: Though I think in Sweden things have been pretty laid back during Corona from what I’ve hard.
NG: It’s been pretty much life as usual. I hate to say it. Yeah, you have to stand two meters from the other guy in line, but at work I don’t notice it at all.
HMS: What kind of words would you use to describe the sounds your working with now, as heard on the new album?
NG: I guess we’re just a straightforward Rock band, but the whole idea when we started talking about making these sounds was, “Let’s play fucking Hard Rock, with harmonic guitars, but keep it Western.”
HMS: Yes, I like the Western elements a lot. What inspired you to head in that direction?
NG: Me, personally, I have always been a cowboy, I guess. [Laughs] It’s just a metaphor, I guess. I love the old Western movies. I love the Ennio Morricone stuff. I love Dead Moon. It’s pretty much a lifestyle. It’s a metaphor for being on the run. I wear cowboy boots, and a big belt buckle. I wear these silly cowboy shirts and I don’t know why. Let's say that the guitar sound came pretty naturally.
HMS: I love the Western metal sound on the guitar, when you get that echo. It’s so cool. I can definitely understand the appeal. There’s a whole vein of Rock that’s drawing on that tradition.
NG: Yes, and I’m starting to listen. I love the old Country stuff, and the 50s and 60s Rock stuff. It took it’s time for me to mature into that guitar sound. I used to hide behind a lot of fuzz and all that. When I got sober, I started to focus a lot more on playing the guitar. It’s true! I’d been out on tour for years, playing the same thing, and not even caring.
HMS: You’re trying to expand more in terms of what you’re capable of?
NG: Exactly, because it became boring to play. It was like, “Evolve. Do something.” And you don’t really write that much when you’re going out and getting smashed every night, either.
HMS: Touring is so exhausting, too.
NG: It is. Every tour I say I’m going to write so much, and I’ve written like one sentence in four tours. But I’m looking forward to touring again, and Victor is going to play a big role in that. It’s really important to have people you trust around you when you’re on tour. People like to drink and give you drinks. I’ve been sober for two years and two days.
NG: Thank you.
HMS: You’re welcome. When you do tour, what kind of venues do you like best?
NG: Small shitty venues in Paris. One of my favorite venues in Europe is in Innsbruck, in Austria. Do you know it?
HMS: Yes, I’ve spent some time there, actually.
NG: It’s a beautiful town. They have a club called PMK, I think. It’s really cool. We’ve played there a couple of times, and we loved it.
HMS: It seems like a really chill place to be.
NG: It is. Personally, I love playing a basement with a good atmosphere before playing a festival stage. I like to interact with people afterwards. I want to have connection. Viktor and Timmy have mostly played small venues for years.
They used to be in the Punk scene and mostly played Punk bands around Europe. They've probably been on harsher tours than me.
HMS: I imagine a Punk band will choose the smaller venues on purpose.
NG: Exactly. In Vienna, I think, they have a place called Arena, that’s like an occupied building with a wall around it, with different clubs. We played a medium Rock bar. I love venues like that. That’s where I feel at home. They played Vipers and Dead Moon and stuff like that all night.
HMS: I think the sounds you’re coming up with on this album could work in a smaller venue, but also in a larger one because it has kind of a clean, projecting style. You might get lured into larger venues for it.
NG: I hope so. I’m a bullshitter if I say that I don’t hope for it.
HMS: Can you tell me about the artwork for the album cover? I saw something you said about the band being about Death and Rock. Then I looked at the album cover and thought, “Well, there you go.” But which is which, right? The bikini babe or the devil-horned skeleton?
NG: We had some issues with the cover at first, because we wanted a different background. We liked the skeleton and the girl, but the sky was bright. This record is a dark record. But the record label said, “This is a dark image. It’s like you, coming back to life.” They had a point. I actually didn’t see the horns until after the record was pressed, then I thought, “Whoah.” It means a lot to me. To me, this record means coming back to life and trying to survive. The whole death concept is because I’m through, I’m done, and I’ve been done for years. In that sense, even though I’m becoming a father, and that’s a beautiful thing, I’m still fucking dead in a sense.
HMS: Is that a freeing thing? I wanted to ask you about whether you thought rock bottom was a good or a bad thing.
NG: I heard that an old Indian said, “Burn all your bridges.” And I burned almost all my bridges. But that saying makes sense. But it wasn’t until I stood alone, facing my demons, that I’ve been hiding from for years, that I understood. Because when you’re alone, why stay sober? No one is left. But it hit me, “I have to do it.” I still had my mom and a couple of friends left, and everything became so real. I think it is a good thing. The first year was hell, but if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t be here.
When you hit rock bottom, nothing really matters, so you can do what you want. You can sit back and be sad about it, or you can do what you want. As long as you do good things. I know that. Even though I still carry a lot of sorrow about things that happened. To be honest, Salem’s Pot was pretty much my family, and I fucked that up. I lost my family. They couldn’t deal with me anymore. But apart from that, it’s been fucking amazing. I’m sitting here with my old buddy Victor and we play in the same band. And my girlfriend is pregnant. And I got a new job as a music teacher.
HMS: I was going to ask you about the teaching, yes.
NG: Yes, I’ve been working as a teacher for almost three years. Now I’m officially a music teacher and I’m mentoring a class. It feels like I’m doing something. It sounds cliché but it’s about giving back.
HMS: That’s not a cliché. It’s a real thing. A lot of my family are teachers and what I say about teaching is that it’s a “known good”. You go to bed that night and there’s no question as to whether you did something good that day.
NG: I actually had an argument with my girlfriend about that since sometimes she says that I seem to care more about my job than about my family. It was so hard to explain, “Yeah, but I’ve never had a job like this before.” Now, for the first time in my life, I have a job where I care about things. I care about these kids. It’s hard to come home and let go of all that. I’m getting there.
HMS: Do the songs on this album speak to the experiences that you’ve been through? I know that some of the titles and lyrics sound like they do.
NG: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s pretty much all about that. It’s a big, “I’m sorry. I fucked up.”
HMS: What’s it like to have to say “Sorry” so much? I’m sorry if that’s a weird question to ask, but I’ve had some friends who have been through some related experiences, and I’ve watched them having to apologize to people in their lives. To me, that would be very difficult. How do you live with that and still realize that you’re valuable?
NG: It’s a tough balance. Because I have one foot in each world. I take it as a useful experience. I was watching a theater show with some kids that was about bullying and abuse. And I almost started crying, but I thought that I better not cry in front of the kids. Then I suddenly realized, “Fuck, all the stuff I went through. They can’t even imagine.” I’m so grateful that they have not had the experience that I’m dealing with. Then that part of me takes over and I think, “Fuck that, let’s protect these kids.” If I can survive that, I can deal with this. I try to look at it from a positive angle. It’s hard sometimes. There are ups and downs.
HMS: That’s wonderful. Thank you for being willing to talk about it. I’m sure that helps people, too.
NG: That’s pretty much why I’m so open about it. Dead Moon, for example, have helped me so much. They talk about a lot of stuff in their songs.
HMS: You have a cover for Dead Moon on this album, the American Punk band from Oregon? How did you come across them and how have they influenced you?
NG: My first interaction with Dead Moon was when I lived in a shitty apartment, where I had spray painted my walls. Some friends were over and playing music and I’d ask, “What is this?” They’d say, “Dead Moon”. Three songs later, I’d ask, “What is this?” And they’d say, “Yeah, it’s Dead Moon.” So I just wrote Dead Moon on the wall in my apartment. It took a while, but I kind of settled on that Western theme. I’d be in the car, asking, and they’d say, “Stop it, dude. It’s Dead Moon.”
HMS: Every time.
NG: Every time. They have a really cool story and are really down to earth. They don’t wrap anything around anything. They just say it like it is. It’s like reading Hemingway or something like that.
HMS: Oh, like a very direct style?
NG: Yes. I write like that, too. Just say it like it is.
HMS: I love their sound. That Desert sound mixed with Punk was something I did not expect. I found out about them because of this album, so thank you for putting me onto them. I love the cover you did, too. It was a great song to choose.
[NG shows his tattoo on his arm of the symbol for the band Dead Moon]
HMS: Oh, look, that’s them!
NG: It was my first tattoo. That’s how much I love them. I got to meet Fred [Cole] and Toodie [Cole] before Fred died, but I didn’t get to see them before Andrew [Loomis] died. He was the youngest.
HMS: Obviously, you’re dealing with a lot from your past, and you’re past 30 now. When you look back at your 20s, do you see that as a kind of battle ground to get through, to survive?
NG: Definitely. Definitely. And I’ve heard a lot of people say that. A lot of other people who have managed to get away from it, they realize it can’t go on because their body starts to feel old. It’s a new battleground. You can do a lot of good if you have some self-esteem. I’m getting there.
HMS: That sounds like the next step, the next thing to work on.
NG: Exactly. Sometimes I stand in a pub drinking alcohol-free beer, and I say, “I’m just practicing.” Because I want to go on tour. And I know that I will have to deal with that every night. I’m working on it already, because I don’t want to get tired on day 13 and give in and have a beer. I want to stand with my phone and show people pictures of my daughter instead. Or fuck the phone, I’ll take an actual picture.
HMS: That’s awesome.
I’ll ask you about a couple of the songs. For the title of the album, and also the title song, “Good Mourning”, what was the thinking behind that? How did it come about?
NG: It actually came very naturally. I think it was me who came up with it. It was the title for a song for a friend of mine who was murdered 12 years ago, and they never found his body. I wrote him a song called “Good Mourning” and the phrase was kind of a joke. It seemed like a very natural title for the album, saying, “We’re dead. Here’s our sorrow. Just listen.”
HMS: That’s really great.
NG: I read a fun review that said, “I don’t appreciate what this band is doing, making fun of sorrow. They play this cheerful music and have all these depressing lyrics about death.” They got offended that we joke about death. We made some simple Rock songs, and if you don’t listen to the lyrics, I mean, it could be cheerful.
HMS: There’s one rule in music. You’re not allowed to joke about death, I’m sorry. The law has been laid down.
NG: Yes, he thought the cover was too much as well! What you mentioned, about being open about things, goes the same for the music. I want to talk to someone who might relate. And maybe I can help that someone with just one thought. That’s good enough for me.
HMS: Well, if you think about how music has affected you, like with Dead Moon, you know that’s true. Someone can connect just by hearing something. It can make a difference for them.
I’ll ask you about one more song: “High, Low, and Never In Between”. Is there an origin story for that one?
NG: Well, it’s pretty much about touring. I can put it like this, the title “Bipolar Bear” was taken.
NG: I wanted to call it that. But there was some old indie pop song with that title. Townes Van Zandt had this song, “High, Low, and In Between” and I thought, “I’ve never seen ‘in between’. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Townes is a big inspiration for the whole lyrical concept. It hurts listening to Townes.
HMS: Have you ever been in a Tower Records?
NG: I have. Wasn’t there one near Capitol in LA?
HMS: There was.
NG: I think I’ve been there.
HMS: Yes, that was a famous one because everyone from Capitol would go there on their lunch breaks.
NG: I’ve been there, and I’ve been to one in Frisco as well.
HMS: Wow! You’ve been to two of the most famous ones. Was it fun? What did you buy?
NG: Yes. It was a while back. I don’t remember what I bought. Probably some shitty Black Metal.
HMS: Well, Tower Records has a motto and we usually ask people what they think of it: No Music, No Life.
NG: I’m a pessimist, so I like the “No” part. It makes sense, and I can agree with it. It’s true. Music helps. I live out here in the forest, and I’ve always had a way to get around my anxiety before. Now I don’t have that option. So I have to find other ways. I go walking out in the forest with some blasting music. I remember, I had a panic attack a couple months, and I just put on Thin Lizzie, “We Will Be Strong”, and I just started running, in the dark in the woods.
Then I started crying. He started saying, “Does anyone understand?” And I looked at the sky and started laughing, wondering what I was doing. I said, “You’re just out running in the woods with headphones. It’s healthier than anything else you’ve been doing for years.” Then I discovered that music in the woods works pretty well. No Music, No Life, No Life, No Music, indeed.
HMS: [Laughs] I consider that an appropriate reaction to the problems of human life.
NG: I just stopped and laughed and said, “You can do this.” When I get really anxious, I have to pick up a guitar. Then I start playing and just think about the notes. Music is Life. Or Death. Or whatever you want to call it.