“Take from me now;
I give it to you;” — from “Mask of the Red Death” by Cinema Cinema
“Every night we are going to play to the point where we try to die.”
This is how Ev Gold, guitarist and vocalist for the band Cinema Cinema, described the band’s full on, all-encompassing approach to their music and live shows.
One wonders whether he had a choice. From an early age, Gold understood music as only one thing—total immersion.
“The house I grew up in was a total Deadhead house…I inherited my Uncle Paul’s room as he grew up and moved out of my grandparents’ house. And there was a huge Grateful Dead Steal Your Face painted—that fucking skull with the circle and the red white and blue and the white lightning bolt. That steal your face was painted right next to my bed in my bedroom when I was six years old,” Gold recalled. “They painted all of these murals all over my Uncle Paul’s room; Grateful Dead Steal Your Face, Jethro Tull Aqualung, Jimi Hendrix’s side-view backward head from Woodstock. There was a Hot Tuna caricature. I think there was also (Lynyrd) Skynyrd.
“I inherited this music-soaked room.”
As a teenager, Gold discovered Black Flag, a hardcore punk band that embodied what music was all about to him. Not only was Black Flag’s music and live shows a completely immersive experience, but also the band was legendary for its non-stop work ethic of living together as a band and constantly practicing and touring. And while many people had a narrow view of punk rock music, Black Flag—and band leader Greg Ginn—seemed to delight in pushing musical boundaries.
“Punk rock has been made into a really small word. And it’s such a large, broad term. It for the most part stands for being yourself—being who you are. It’s not just a sound. And when I was listening to it thinking it should be a certain way, what blew my mind was when Black Flag didn’t sound a certain way,” Gold explained. “Buying Black Flag’s Damaged album when I was 14 and hearing these songs where the guitar work is exploding out of the lines…And then I bought more of their later albums—My War, oh my god. And Family Man. What can I say? The instrumental stuff at the end, you can’t even use words like hardcore or punk when you’re describing The Process of Weeding Out. That’s Ginn and Ginn’s majesty and Ginn’s amazing musical scope."
“That grew out of something that started as the word ‘punk.’”
Soon Gold was playing his own music. And in the spirit of his heroes, he threw himself into his music with no reservations or boundaries. Of particular importance to Gold’s approach to his music was that it was always process-driven, rather than outcome-driven.
“I was definitely inspired to create at a young age. It took a while for me to figure out what medium was right for me. Once I did, I dove in with all reckless abandon, and did my best to contribute back to this canon that I’ve so freely taken from,” Gold explained. “It’s been this constant forward progression of giving back what has helped me…So it’s not a success based journey. It’s not about the results.
“It’s about staying in the equation.”
For Gold, “staying in the equation” means two things: simultaneously committing to music as a process for life, and then letting go of expectations as to how that process will unfold. “I’m a music fan first. And a musician comes along with that. I have something that burns inside of me that I have to get out…I’m committed to this for the long haul regardless,” he said. “You can’t get focused on expectations. My goal when I was 13 was to be on MTV and be in heavy rotation; and be on the cover of Rolling Stone, of course. But the world evolved. So why wouldn’t your dreams evolve? People have a hard time accepting reality even when it’s really good, just because it doesn’t match the movie screen version of it.
“Life is on its own terms.”
To that point, Gold feels grateful that he is able to play music. More, he is ecstatic that he has been able to do so with band mate and cousin Paul Claro (Uncle Paul’s son).
“You think it takes all these planets aligning to get some sort of break. And that break is many people find out about your music. But the truth is it takes planets to align just to get a couple of other guys or girls together with you to practice and work on songs and even have a band. That’s the get. If you can’t get grateful from the beginning this is going to be a gruesome and cruel and back breaking endeavor.” Gold described. “I get to share all of this with my cousin…I didn’t expect to start a band with a family member. It kind of happened that way. To be able to share this human experience with someone who’s on the same page as me, that also helped with the balance. We wouldn’t be doing the band together if it didn’t matter to us and wasn’t of deep therapeutic value and unbridled joy…the beautiful simplicity that happens when you turn on the amps really loud and the drummer starts going insane, and all of a sudden, you’re out of the body."
Soon Gold realized that he and Paul shared the same approach to music—and it just clicked. “Paul and I become this two headed monster. We tune into the one mind…Once he hits it and we’re in it together, it’s like everything else goes away,” Gold described. “We’re in this moment. We’re in this moment entirely. We don’t stop at the end of each song for clapping. There’s no pause. It’s one continuous movement for the whole set…It’s entirely its own thing."
“It exists in its own ecosystem.”
As such, it is important to Gold that Cinema Cinema not feel confined to a specific style of music—even if it makes it a bit harder on the band. “We aren’t a band that fits in a specific genre. It would be a short cut going one way with a genre. That would be denying everything that we’re about,” Gold said. “We are what you might call cross genre – and for as cool as that might sound, let me tell you, it’s not always the easiest thing. There’s a million metal or punk fanzines that won’t touch us that would be into us if we stuck with one thing. The punk rock writers are kind of like, ‘Well this isn’t punk.’ But the metal writers are like, ‘This isn’t metal.’ And the prog people are like, ‘This isn’t prog.’"
“It kind of dances wherever it wants.”
But Gold received perhaps a more important validation when they received a call from childhood hero Greg Ginn asking Cinema Cinema to open for Black Flag on its 2014 tour. “When I was able to field a phone call from Greg that had me hearing, ‘I want to take you guys on the road with me for the whole tour,’ the next thing, I’m finding the boss at my job and saying I got a phone call from a guy who can kind of change things. And things just changed,” he explained. “I quit a really good job to do that Black Flag tour. What do you say? Yes—and then you figure out stuff later…The tour was the tour of a lifetime. It’s opened up other doors. It was a great experience.
“It was a once in a lifetime type of thing.”
And Gold is grateful that he continues to have the opportunity to pursue his dreams—even if his path as a musician was not exactly what he imagined it would be when he was a kid. “My goal was to play music in all 50 states. And in the last ten years, I’ve played in 42 of the 50, and nine countries. And that was goal,” Gold described. “I just did a podcast feature interview with Mike Watt an hour ago. Mike Watt is one of my heroes. That’s living a dream. Am I in a Beverly Hills mansion in a robe with a Rolls Royce and a champagne flute? No. I’m in my humble apartment in Brooklyn.”
And people seem to be supporting Gold’s dream. Village Voice sums up Cinema Cinema’s sound by saying, “…Cinema Cinema have cojones as big as the deafening wall of eardrum busting noise that cutthroat guitarist Ev Gold and his drums-bashing cousin Paul Claro cook up. And Brooklyn Vegan calls the title track from their new album Man Bites Dog, a “bolt of adrenaline.”
Still, not everyone is on board just yet. Gold described that while the Black Flag tour was a rousing success for them, not everyone at the shows appreciated what Cinema Cinema is about.
“We finish our set, get our gear off and run as fast as we can to the merch table—because we needed to. So we’re at the merch table. We’re dripping sweat. And anyone who wants to buy something we’re willing to work it out—let’s do it,” Gold recalled. “I’m panting. I’m still out of breath. I left everything up there. And I also didn’t close with some gaudy cover and make you clap. I celebrated with you screaming, ‘Black Flag’s next!’ And this gentleman comes to the table and walks right up to me, looks me right in the face.
“And he says, ‘You call yourself punk rock?’”
Michael A. Friedman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with offices in Manhattan and South Orange, NJ, and is a member of EHE International’s Medical Advisory Board. Contact Dr. Mike at michaelfriedmanphd.com. Follow Dr. Mike on Twitter @drmikefriedman.