After a nine-year hiatus, William Goldsmith has recently been active with a new outfit: Assertion. We caught up with the former Sunny Day Real Estate and Foo Fighters drummer to see what’s ahead for him and his new project, and to ask a few other burning questions.
Hi William! It seems that you have a new project in the works called Assertion. Who is involved, and how did it come about?
WG: Myself and two other gentlemen: Justin Tamminga and Bryan Gorder. Justin reached out to Channeary Chea (being the mother of our 3 children) and said, “Tell William thank you for the music he has done, and that I started learning to play drums by trying to play ‘7’ by Sunny Day Real Estate”. She proceeded to tell me about him and was going into detail about the fact that he had a band with his son Lucien and his Daughter Dahlia, and that Lucien was autistic. She also told me that he teaches music to autistic children as well. This was of great interest to me, being that our four year old son Logan is autistic and I wanted to essentially copy off of his homework so to speak (i.e. learn from him).
Then I heard the band, being Pig Snout, and was totally blown away. I found myself asking if I could join their band, backing them up as a second drummer. Unfortunately Dahlia vetoed my request stating that, “It’s a family band”. I of course respected this, however I ended up going over and jamming with Justin and Dahlia double-drummer style, and that was actually the first time I had sat down behind the kit and played in 9 years. I had essentially walked away from playing due to something I can really only describe as musical PTSD.
After that, Justin and I started getting together and playing occasionally… just the two of us. Then, occasionally became frequently. I had also gone to see his other band called Old Foals with Bryan Gorder and was completely blown away by Bryan Gorder’s bass playing. I knew that I had to play with that guy someday (that actually happened before Justin and I started playing together). The Old Foals drummer, Josh Kilpatrick, left the band and they changed their name to Blind Guides – they asked if I wanted to possibly fill in for a while and I said no, but wanted to know if they would be up for starting a new band from scratch. So that’s what ended up happening, and Assertion began. Blind Guides is still together, with Bryan’s life-long friend Jay Clements now playing drums.
How would you describe the music in Assertion?
WG: I have no idea – kind of like how I don’t really know how to categorize Sunny Day Real Estate. I know that thus far, it’s heavy and driving, and the songs are deeply personal. The only comparisons I’ve heard made thus far have been to a band called Hum and another band called Queens of the Stone Age. I personally don’t see much of a similarity between us and either of those bands, but I don’t really have the most objective perspective.
Do you have any specific recording plans or show plans?
WG: We have been recording quite a bit, and we’ve played four shows with a fifth coming up at the end of this month (being November). There will be a lot more of both going on in perpetuity as far as I can see.
You mentioned Sunny Day Real Estate, who has had a few splits over the years. Do you ever foresee another attempt to finish what started in 2009? Is it something you’d be open to?
WG: Yes I would be open to it – as to whether or not that will happen is absolutely impossible to predict. As far as that record (that I have come to refer to as LP5) is concerned – I’ll just say that it not coming to fruition was one of the contributing factors to me having the wind taken from my sails. At this point I’ve had to just let it go, and if it somehow magically becomes a record some day then I’ll chalk it up to one of the few miracles I’ve experienced in my life – but I’ve had to just let it go. Expressing my frustrations has done nothing but cause problems, as well as leading to being misunderstood. For example, my statement about the Sunny Day album being abandoned “within the murkiest depths of Dave Grohl’s sock drawer” was an analogy for the Foo Fighters 606 studio, where the record was left. Granted my cynicism didn’t help the matter, but that statement was misconstrued as me stating that Dave was purposefully preventing the record from being made, which was incorrect. Unfortunately the click bait media picked up that ball of misinterpretation and ran with it. Even with my later public statement being made to clarify things, they are still running with it. It’s even one of the highlights of my Wikipedia page which Justin attempted to remove, but was not allowed to do so. Makes you wonder then why others are so freely allowed to add such things.
You posted a video clip of a rehearsal that included Jeremy (Enigk, of Sunny Day Real Estate) sitting in. Do you see any of your SDRE folks periodically?
WG: I have only seen Jeremy, and that’s just been a few times. Granted that I basically dropped off the face of the earth, and did not talk to literally anyone for those 9 years I wasn’t playing. Well again, with the exception of Jeremy, which was still far and few between.
How complete was the music from those last Sunny Day sessions?
WG: All the basic tracks (being guitars, bass and drums) were tracked. The only song from that session that had vocals put down was”Lipton Witch”, which was actually released.
What would you say is your favorite Sunny Day album to revisit? Favorite to play on?
WG: I would say How it Feels to Be Something On and The Rising Tide. And The Fire Theft record.
Didn’t you used to keep your hi-hat stand chained to the kit, or something like that? I think I remember seeing that when I caught SDRE in San Francisco in ’98, at the Maritime Hall. That whole show is on YouTube now, by the way. Crazy.
WG: You know I can’t remember – I think there was a chain involved with my set up at some point, but I can’t remember why or where or to what. You would think I would remember something like that but I don’t, as crazy is that is. I had no idea that show was on YouTube.
Your drumming was certainly a huge part of the Sunny Day Real Estate sound, and when Dave Grohl grabbed you and Nate (Mendel, of Sunny Day) to fill out the first Foo Fighters lineup, it made total sense to me. How did that come to be? Mutual awareness, or something like the Sub Pop record label?
WG: I’m not 100% certain, but maybe because we were on Sub Pop. I don’t know. He came to see one of our last shows.
Do you know if any recordings exist from the Foo Fighters’ Colour and the Shape sessions with your drum takes?
WG: I had a cassette that had the rough mixes of the record with me on it, and I had given it to my sister. After everything went south, I removed myself from that project and didn’t want to even think about it. So I never asked for the tape back, and it was lost in the shuffle as a result. As to whether or not any of the reels still exist, I don’t know and never will. If they do, I guarantee you that they are under permanent lock and key, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were just erased all together. I’ll never know.
You became a father. How has that changed things for you?
WG: Originally, for me, the music always came first then martial arts second. Now the kids come first, and everything else has to settle for second and third place etc.
Will you be passing along the drum skills to your kids?
WG: Yes, if they have the desire to play.
Do you see yourself getting back out into the music scene full time at some point? Or are you content to let some of that rigorousness stay in the past?
WG: My plan is to eventually get back into touring, but reasonably so. How that is going to be balanced out is unexplored territory at the moment, but I’ll know when I move into that phase of playing again. It’s something I’m constantly trying to figure out on a subconscious level. It’s on the laboratory bench but, no where near a litmus test.
What do you hope to achieve (music or personally) in the next few years?
WG: Stability and happiness for my family, and more records (my life with music being a part of my family). I want them to be a part of all of it, and that’s already been happening. Also to eventually see justice regarding a few things, and by default some resolution. That may take some time.
Do you ever miss the crowds/shows?
Conversation with Clay Lancaster for theFIVE10.com