Interview: Brian Goss
Guitarist Brian Goss is a New York City native who’s split time between the Big Apple and upstate New York since the onset of COVID-19, and often gets hired as a studio artist and/or touring musician by some of the music industry’s marquee names.
His credits include work with members of disparate international acts like Guns N’ Roses, Television, and The Misfits; popular New York City punk acts The Noise and Warzone, and poet and vocalist Simon Felice, with whom he’s opened tour stops for folk-rockers like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons.
Brian was also the principal guitarist who ran literal hands-on clinical tests of the initial rollout of Attak Piks.
Q: What were your initial audible impressions of the Attak and Ambush Picks?
A: Honestly, they remind me in a way of the Snark, those clip-on tuners that work off of vibrations. Every guitarist seems to have at least one of those now when, 10 to 15 years ago, they didn’t seem to exist. I remember playing with the Picks and thinking to myself, “Is it possible that no one ever thought of this before?” It’s a whole other approach, effecting your tone with a pick. Before, I always thought of a pick as just an accessory.
Q: What did you think of them visually when you first saw how different they were from flat picks?
A: I was intrigued by the mathematical aspects of them. They weren’t just in some random new shapes, but designed mathematically with an idea as to what the shape would actually do, and cause. My first inclination was to wonder if the new shapes could hinder my playing in some way, but after playing with them for awhile, I completely forgot about all that.
Q: You forgot you weren’t playing with a flat pick?
A: Yeah. At the beginning, coming from playing with a regular pick, I wondered if it would feel obtrusive. But it doesn’t take long for it to feel like a new normal.
Q: What kind of guitars were you playing when you first used the Picks?
A: Mostly Gibsons. A Les Paul; an SG.
Q: Do you use light or heavy gauge strings?
A: I use 10s, slightly on the heavier side. Most people use 8s or 9s. But I think Stevie Ray Vaughan used 13s, and what a monster player he was.
Q: When you were testing the Picks, were you doing any additional analysis, or just trusting your ears and not making it overly technical?
A: When Mark and Mike first contacted me, they had spreadsheets and lots of different Picks. And they wanted me to play and record with them all and write down comments. So in the beginning, it was quite scientific. But things really took shape for me when I let that all go and just started playing with and enjoying them.
Q: Was there an “aha” moment?
A: Yeah, because after playing with the new Picks for a while, I went back to a regular pick and it sounded dull by comparison. That was the moment. A flat pick didn’t have the same bite or attack, no pun intended. They were what I’d been playing with my whole life, but it was no longer the same. It was like a case of reverse engineering to figure that out. That’s when I could really hear the different tones brought out by the Picks. Especially the Attak and Ambush models.
Q: Regardless of what you were playing through or what effects you were using?
A: A lot of players think that their tone is the result of things like their amp and instrument. And they’re right, to a certain extent. But I’ve come to realize that it’s mostly the result of a musician’s hands. The tone is in your hands and fingers, and these Piks in your hands accentuate that theory. Let’s see if some kid from somewhere, like say Sweden, gets a couple of them and uses them to do things that no one had ever thought of before.
Q: Will Warzone come through with that rumored first reunion tour since 1997?
A: I don’t know. A lot of the main guys have died, but a couple of the surviving members got to talking about it. But doing a tour after losing singer Ray Barbieri in ’97 would be like doing shows as The Doors without Jim Morrison. It would only be like a tribute to The Doors. So I’ll believe it when I see it.
Q: Are there specific genres, like hardcore punk scene Warzone was in, where do you think the Picks might gain popularity at first?
A: I think the shredders and death metal people might love them right away, so they’re likely to do well in Norway and Germany, where musicians tend to be technical and analytical. The tone chasers will literally have fun playing with them, as I certainly did.