JEFF SCHEEL: VOCALS/GUITARS
KURT KERNS: BASS/DRUMS
MATT DUDENHOEFFER: GUITARS
DOUGLAS FIRLEY: KEYBOARDS
"We wanted to incorporate into this record things that we've discovered about ourselves, as a band, since the first time we recorded 'Guilty'," describes Gravity Kills frontman Jeff Scheel of Perversion, the much anticipated follow-up to the band's self-titled debut. "We didn't do any more of a Gravity Kills record this time than we did the first time around, but now we have a better idea of what Gravity Kills actually is we do play hard music, we are a live band, and we do use computers and samples."
The elements crash together with heavy impact on Perversion, exploding from the digital base of their gold selling debut (the top New Alternative Artist debut of 1996) into a guitar-driven sheen of sonic mutations, musical manifestos, and orchestrations befitting the upcoming millennium. Gravity Kills' history is rapidly expanding, forging a brilliant future for the St. Louis quartet.
Things happened rather quickly for the band. It started innocuously enough, with a last minute entry submitted to radio station KPNT for a compilation album. In a short time the track became the station's #1 song and most requested of the year. They signed with TVT Records soon after, released a self-titled debut in March '96, and followed by landing cuts on the platinum Mortal Kombat soundtrack, and the soundtracks to Seven and Escape From L.A. In the midst of it all, the band was climbing various charts from club play to multiple formats at radio. In fact "Guilty" remained on the modern rock radio chart for a remarkable six months (and didn't fall off, but was taken off due to a chart rule of a six-month maximum), and Gravity Kills spent more than a year on the road (more than 300 shows in fourteen months covering 16 countries), an experience that would prove pivotal when they began work on their sophomore release.
"When you go out and start playing live shows, the material changes for you," Scheel continues. "It's like looking in a mirror-you see one thing, and somebody else looks at you and sees something different. The response we were getting from broader audiences than we expected to reach was a real eye opener for us. It didn't effect what we did musically, but it did reinforce the direction we wanted to go in."
Once on the road the band quickly earned a reputation as one of the best live acts on the circuit. The band erupted in concert. Scheel's cathartic front and Firley's manic presence behind the keyboards mixed with Kerns rock solid beat foundations and Dudenhoeffer's grinding guitar rhythms formed a live front that muscled a metallic din amidst their melodic sensibilities. They soon caught the attention of none other than The Sex Pistols, who tapped them for a support slot on their entire 1996 reunion tour (the only supporting band asked to play all dates on the tour.)
Toward the end of the band's hectic tour schedule new songs were coming to them and so they built their own recording unit in the back of their tour bus to demo new material. The touring finally wrapped up and in November 1997 they entered Upper Room Studios in their hometown of St. Louis to begin laying down album number two.
Without losing their signature style, Gravity Kills up the ante considerably on Perversion, with production giant Roli Mosimann (Faith No More, New Order, and a "Guilty" remix on Manipulated, last year's Gravity Kills remix album) uniting with the band to capture a sound that is guitar-driven and electronically-enhanced, not production heavy and not computer-reliant. The seasoned Mosimann also helped bring the band together to create a true group effort. While the first record was largely the result of individual efforts coming together only in the end, Perversion is just the opposite. "Making this record was an extremely painful experience for all of us because we feel so passionately about our individual ideas." says Matt Dudenhoeffer "I think that the added tension and aggression comes through in the music. In the end I thing this album is something we are all proud of as one group." The results are noticeable from the outset, as grinding guitar grooves and incendiary vocals are laced with lush samples to fuel the first single "Falling," the colossal "If" rages with an electronic pulse and agitated front, "Wanted" throbs like a dark, lurking beast, and "One" takes Gravity's techno beat to breakneck pace, surging into the rapid-fire 180 beats-per-minute "Disintegrate." "We explored jungle music and sped things up," offers Firley of Perversion's outside influences. "Touring in Europe, we would go out to these clubs and groove to jungle, and we really became attached to it." Adds Kurt Kerns "We've always fused electronic and guitar rock since we were teenagers playing bars in the late 80's, and we have always experimented with the latest electronic rhythms and tempos, so jungle and drum'n'bass were natural spices for us to flavor our music with."
"It's funny, because the last record was more introspection, good and evil inside yourself, and that original sin kind of imperfection that humans have about them," says Scheel of the lyrical slant on Perversion. "This album wasn't meant to be conceptual, but it's about how you're influenced by the external world, the external influences on your life. But I'm not complaining about them, I'm far more of a 'fuck you!' mindset, than 'fuck me.'"
Take "Always," an eerie, moody psychosis that examines the inner workings of a mind adapting to life on the road. "It's about separation from the things outside your musician persona that you really love," Scheel explains. "To hear a voice or have a physical touch when you're a thousand miles away, sometimes it's just easier to bury yourself and not have to deal with the contact from people that give a shit about whether you play in a band." "If" similarly tackles life on a tour bus, but from the perspective of the outside looking in. "Depending on their perspective, some people will look at you and envy you, some people will pity you, and some will look and be disgusted. It depends who's looking."
Perversion concludes with the haunting, strenuous tones of "Belief." "It sums up the journey we've taken so far," Scheel says of Gravity Kills. "Sometimes, when you're knee deep in shit, you realize that you're no good to anyone. It's not a 'poor me' kind of thing, it's just that you're expending so much energy trying to survive sometimes, you don't have the energy to be the three-dimensional person we all are."
Concludes Scheel, "As a band, your record is like your house, you don't want to leave yourself only one door to go in and out of. On this record, and the first record as well, we've given ourselves more than one direction to grow in, that's what makes the future so exciting."
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album release info and Perversion cover Copyright 1998 TVT Records