» Gina Gleason - Baroness
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Interview conducted November 29 2019
Interview published January 26 2020

"I remember I was so frustrated when I first started learning."

Baroness was out in Europe supporting Volbeat and Metal Covenant hooked up with guitarist Gina Gleason.

Tobbe: Tell me about your first years with Baroness now.

Gina: It's been awesome. I was a really big Baroness fan before I joined the band. I first heard Yellow & Green [2012], as the first record. I really liked them, because they had Queen harmonies, but some of it almost remind me of, like, '90s, or, like, early 2000s, like more alternative stuff, you know. Some of it even remind me of, like, Weezer or something like that. It feels like a really unique band.

So it was fun learning all the back catalogue of Baroness songs that I was a big fan of. And then it was really cool when we started writing the record and all that. Yeah, it has been a really positive experience. And touring is cool. We've been touring a lot this year. We've been on tour pretty consistently since March.

Tobbe: If you hadn't joined Baroness, what would you be doing right now instead?

Gina: Well, I always played in, like, punk bands, metal bands and stuff, and then right before I joined Baroness I stumbled upon a job working for Cirque Du Soleil, playing guitar in, like, theater shows. Which is a really cool experience as well, but for me it wasn't really as fulfilling, like, creatively.

It was a really cool experience, but didn't feel like that creative outlet that I was used to and I really missed touring and the camaraderie of being in a band and stuff like that. So I don't think I would still be there. I would probably just be in a different band, but definitely not as big as Baroness. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Tell me more about what you did musically before Cirque Du Soleil.

Gina: I played drums in this punk band in Philly. We just did house shows and stuff like that. And I played guitar in two tribute bands. One was a Metallica tribute band, where we played all the first 4 records and one was a Mercyful Fate/ King Diamond tribute band, and we did all, like, the dual leads. So that was when I was, like, in high school. But I just had fun, like sitting at home and trying to learn all the solos and stuff like that.

The musicians that were in both those bands; we kind of formed other bands, or kind of the same band. So we had, like, a kind of blackened death band. Same thing, we just played house shows, and dual van tours and stuff like that. Nothing like, you know, the amount of touring that we're doing now. Just really van tours and basement shows and stuff like that.

Tobbe: So in what way have you been able to, like, survive the transition from being an amateur to going professional?

Gina: I love playing music. I love touring. I'm used to the kind of routine of touring. I just kind of shower wherever and sleep wherever, you know. And not only am I accustomed to it, but I like it. I think if you don't like that kind of stuff, you're not gonna love being in a touring band. I just love playing music, so whatever comes along with that, you know.

Tobbe: To what extent is it possible, as a new guitarist in a band coming in for a new record, to affect the songwriting and the whole process of making an album?

Gina: I didn't know what to expect, like, when it came to that, 'cause I think initially when I tried to write stuff I felt like I was limiting myself 'cause if I was on to something I'd be like "Well, does the suit Baroness?", you know. But John [Baizley, vocals and guitar] and Nick [Jost, bass and keyboards] and Seb [Thomson, drums], luckily, they don't care about that. They just wanna make cool, unique music.

So it took me a little while to get over that, like mentally, like "It has to sound like this and that.", but it's like "It's just gonna sound like the 4 of us.". I think the vocals is really what's gonna tie it together. It's always gonna sound like Baroness 'cause it's gonna have John singing on it, so.

Tobbe: Like, a landmine question. Is Gold & Grey [2019] Baroness's greatest album so far?

Gina: I mean, I don't know. It depends on the listener. I really like it, because I think it's really unique. But I can't separate myself as being a part of it, and I even listen to it pretty often, like I listen to it on this tour. It's even still hard to separate, like to listen to it without thinking about all the discussions we would have about each song, and the process of each song, and, like, everything that went into it.

I think it makes sense as the follow-up to Purple [2015], because each Baroness record is a departure from the thing that came before it. And this thing is a huge departure from Purple. It's like if I wasn't in the band, "Yeah, it makes sense that they would do more of, like, psychedelic, and explore a little bit more of the acoustic stuff that Yellow & Green started tabbing in to.".

I think it's an extreme record, just not, like, traditionally extreme. I think it's an extreme production and it's kind of extreme in just how weird we allowed ourselves to get with it, you know.

Tobbe: John has stated that the record is the last in the series of chromatically-themed records and in what way will that affect a coming album?

Gina: I don't know. I mean, it makes sense for, you know, it's the end of the colors and all that. I just think whatever we start making next will be a departure from Gold & Grey. So, whatever that means. John and I have started writing some guitar stuff on this tour, 'cause we've had a lot of time, and me and Nick have been playing a lot of acoustic guitar stuff together. Nick's really, really good at playing acoustic guitars.

Tobbe: In your opinion, to what extent is musical change or progress necessary when making a record?

Gina: I think it depends on the band. Some bands get stuck in this, like, pigeonhole thing where it's, like, their sound is so consistent I'd imagine creatively that you can get stagnant and then the minute that you start to make a departure your fans could be disappointed or, you know, critical, or whatever. I think John is smart, because he kind of set up Baroness to have the expectation that it's constantly gonna evolve.

But I think it's great to just keep pushing yourself and not just make the same sounding kind of thing over and over again. To me, if Baroness was like that, it's like "Well, I might as well work still at Cirque Du Soleil or something, where it's the same thing over and over again.".

Tobbe: Let's go back to your younger days. Tell me what you remember from picking up the guitar in the first place.

Gina: I remember when I 13 or 14 my dad had a Squire Strat. In the States it's, like, the first guitar that everybody buys, 'cause it's $100, so you get the cheap guitar and a tiny amp and then, like, a strap or something. And he just had it laying around the house and it came with this VHS tape of, like, "How to play the blues." and I remember watching that, like, "Oh, it's looks so fun to just get some pattern under your fingers.".

I remember I was so frustrated when I first started learning. And then I was just addicted to it, you know. Just always have the guitar on me, bringing it to the dinner table and all that stuff. I have an older brother too, who is a big music fan. So I had somebody older than me being, like, "Listen to these records!" and kind of steering me in the right direction.

Tobbe: What was your first contact with heavier music?

Gina: I think the first contact with heavy music… I remember hearing, like, Slayer, for the first time. I remember hearing Kill 'Em All [By Metallica, 1983] for the first time. Something like that. Before that I had heard just, like, classic rock; whatever was on the radio, like The Ramones and stuff like that.

I remember hearing thrash for the first time. It was, like, "Oh, this is, like, powerful, like punk on steroids, with shredding guitars.". And then from there I remember getting into The Melvins and [The] Jesus Lizard and stuff like that.

Tobbe: Besides your brother's record collection, what has been your biggest source of inspiration over the years?

Gina: I think initially getting into the more accessible bands like Metallica and Slayer and stuff. When I was in my later teens I became really, really into figuring out what inspired those guys. So, like, Angel Witch and Venom and Mercyful Fate and all that shit. And from there more of the, like, Swedish death metal stuff, like Entombed and all that. I didn't dive too deep into punk until, like, my earlier '20s. Discharge and all that.

Tobbe: Some of those bands are quite heavier than what you're doing now with Baroness. So how do you see that connection?

Gina: They're just extreme bands that also pushed boundaries and were doing their own thing. And aside from all that, like, heavier stuff, I really liked singer/ songwriter music too. Like, I liked Gillian Welch and, like, more country stuff. So maybe somewhere in those two worlds is Baroness. There's psychedelic stuff too, that the 4 of us enjoy, like have in common, like King Gizzard [& The Lizard Wizard]. It's a newer band. The 4 of us are pretty big Pink Floyd fans. I think that definitely shows.

Tobbe: And my final question. To a more serious subject. Did you ever feel, like, disrespected or were not taken seriously, just because of being a woman?

Gina: I think earlier, when I was younger, for sure, yeah. It felt like people would sometimes come to shows or come watch us or watch me, because they thought, like, "Oh, this is gonna be horrible.". But I just don't care. You know, I find more often now that people are, like, "I feel like an asshole now, because I was wrong.". [Laughs] No, I don't know. I mean, there's assholes everywhere, but I just don't care, and especially now when there's so many women doing this. It's awesome.

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