GODSPEED AT BRIGHTON BAR SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10

Sometime around 1993 I was living at the 508 House in Toms River, NJ with about 7 other musicians. That was the first time I heard of the band Godspeed. A fellow room-mate, Ralph Nicastro (now of WREATHS fame), told me his band TOW was playing at The Stone Pony and I had to show up!  Over a year’s period of time I was at just about every TOW gig so why was it so urgent I be at this one? Ralph said, “not to see us, you gotta see this band Godspeed.” I went. Ralph was right. Godspeed blew my mind and I left feeling ashamed I hadn’t heard of them before.

Godspeed were the perfect mix of the punk aesthetic and feel, coupled with the riffs, skill, balls and hooks of any metal band. Aside from Monster Magnet, I don’t think there was another band from New Jersey at that time playing heavy music on the level of Godspeed. I thought for sure they were going to be “huge” and when I heard they signed to Atlantic Records, it seemed as if I was right. But like so many great bands Godspeed’s lifespan was cut short due to inner turmoil and the pitfalls of a band ascending from obscurity to international fame.

I recently heard they were playing a show at The Brighton Bar on Saturday, November 10th which seemed to come out of nowhere. I contacted guitarist Tommy Southard to conduct a short interview, see what exactly was going on with the show and give people who may have missed Godspeed a little insight into one of the great NJ bands of the early 90’s.

THE ANCHOR:  It’s been over 15 years since the release of your debut album “Ride” on Atlantic Records followed by an untimely break up soon after. Can you give us a brief history of the early formation and history of Godspeed?

SOUTHARD: Well the band started around 91/92 after the break up off Social Decay. Rob (bass) and I were in Social Decay together for years and when that fell through we started something new. We didn’t want it to be just another hardcore band so we just wrote some new riffs, slowed things down a bit and mixed in a little metal with that punk vibe. We added a second bass player because we just couldn’t find the right fit with a second guitar player which is what we really wanted. We drank lots of beer, broke lots of shit, and played out a bunch. We went on tour and self exploded!

THE ANCHOR:  When “Ride” was released you were easily one of the most promising new heavy rock bands coming out of New Jersey. Monster Magnet was already starting to gain some popularity outside of Jersey and I thought for sure you guys were going to follow suit and become huge. What were some of the factors that led to the bands demise while you were ascending towards rock stardom?

SOUTHARD: Well we were never headed for rock stardom. We were a bunch of Jersey knuckles heads who didn’t fake shit! We didn’t put on some kind of “act”. We were out of control back then and we did just about everything wrong in order to “make it”. Got drunk, broke shit, played lots of gigs and self exploded! Where have I heard that before? After 3 back to back to back tours, our personalities were getting on each other’s nerves. The final straw came when I moved out of NJ to join another band; I was pissed off at the other guys for playing all the cards wrong.

THE ANCHOR:  After crushing venues throughout New Jersey for a few years, you went out on some big tours after signing with Atlantic. You opened for Black Sabbath in Europe and Dio in the US. What was it like to go from being a fairly unknown band in the underground New Jersey scene to touring with such legendary bands?

SOUTHARD: It was mind blowing! Here we were, this little shit band playing The Brighton Bar, The Fastlane & The Pony. Then we were thrust on stage opening for the mighty Sabbath. It was crazy and we acted that way! I’m not one to be star struck, but when we first sat down for a meal on the Sabbath tour and Tony Lommi and Geezer Butler are 3 feet away slurping soup it was like, is this real? I had to turn my back to it because I just couldn’t stop looking.

THE ANCHOR:  After the band broke up most of you guys kept busy with music, most notably with Atomic Bitchwax and Solace. Both bands had made a solid name for themselves in the “Stoner Rock/Metal” scene for lack of a better term. Tell us a little bit about the musical endeavors of the members, post-Godspeed.

SOUTHARD: Well right after Godspeed I moved to California to join a band called Sugartooth. Chris formed Atomic Bitchwax with Keith Ackerman and Ed Mundell of Monster Magnet. When I came back from Cali I formed a band called Slaprocket with Chris and Ackerman from Atomic Bitchwax and Shane from Nude Swirl. When that faded, that’s when I started Solace.

During this time I started another band called Robot Dicks with Godspeed drummer Timmy and bass player Rob. We had Big Tim (Cronin) from Monster Magnet/Ribeye Brothers fame on vocals for a bit, then John Saltereli from Lethal Aggression on vocals. I also got Social Decay back together for a few gigs which was fun while it lasted. I’ve most recently been jamming in a project called the Disease Concept and 3 input woman. Vocalist Dave from Godspeed was in Dirty Johnny. So yeah, we have all been busy doing music. It’s not like we quit the band and then quit music altogether.

THE ANCHOR:  You have an upcoming reunion show in November (11/10) at The Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ. What prompted the reunion? Is this a one off show or are their plans to play more shows and possibly write new music?

SOUTHARD: Well there was some talk of it for a while but never any action. With the social media of Facebook it’s been easier to get in touch with everyone and after some talking and hanging out we all decided to give it a go. Right now this is a one off. If we can make it through the gig without killing each other then maybe, just maybe we might continue on.

But you never can tell what was or is going to happen at a Godspeed gig!

Godspeed with The Escape (featuring Mike Schweigert) & Electrikill. Doors 9pm, $7, 18 and over. Brighton Bar is located on Brighton Ave. in the West End section of Long Branch. More info at www.brightonbar.com.

Shawn Zappo is a local surfer and skater who rules the stoves at Kaya’s Kitchen in Belmar. He’s also a musician and will be writing about his surf and skate related experiences as well as reviews on bands and whatever the hell else he feels like writing about.

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