An Interview with William Goldsmith of Assertion and Sunny Day Real Estate

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Today I have veteran Alt/Indie rocker and drummer William Goldsmith with us. William is a founding member of Sunny Day Real Estate and was also the original drummer for the Foo Fighters. Present-day, William is with his group, Assertion, who has a wonderful new record out called Intermission.

William and I chat about the recording of Intermission, coming back to music after nine years away, his time with Sunny Day Real Estate and Foo Fighters, and his greatest passions in life. If you would like to learn more about Assertion, you can head over to the group’s Bandcamp page. Enjoy this interview. Cheers.

Andrew:
William, thank you for taking the time to join us. How have you been holding up during “COVID times?”


William:
We’ve been navigating the circumstances the best we can. It’s had its challenges, as everyone knows. Most of my time is spent with my kids. Because shows and touring hasn’t been an option, Assertion has gone from making our first record Intermission straight into recording our second record, which is tentatively called Basking In The Gaslight. We are about 70% done with that one.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. Tell us about your early years and what initially drew you toward music?


William:
I think it was a combination of a few things. I was the youngest of 9 kids, and I grew up in a house where my siblings constantly played records. My brother also played the drums a little bit. Still, ultimately, it was a series of traumatic events that resulted in a driving motivation not just to play drums but to really express a part of my humanity that has been exceedingly difficult to put into words.

Andrew:
How about the drums? Where did those come in for you? Who were some of your early influences?


William:
I would say my brother being a drummer for a while when I was a kid had a lot to do with it. He had an old Pearl kit set up in the basement of our parent’s house, and I would often find myself going down there and just staring at it. I remember the first time he hit the bass drum; it was one of the most profoundly powerful things I had ever experienced. I was also really into The Beatles at a young age to where I almost experienced my own personal Beatlemania at the age of 5, in 1979. As a result, I adopted the whole “Ringo is the best drummer in the world” mythology.

Lastly, I had an imaginary friend named Joey Martino, who was a drummer. Kind of weird, kind of not; I was a kid with an imaginary friend. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that anomalous aspect of childhood.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about Assertion. How did the band come together? Who are its members? Take me through the initial formation?


William:
I had walked away from music for about 9 years when Justin Tamminga reached out to me through Facebook. I took an interest in his approach towards teaching music to children with Autism. This got my attention because my son Logan has Autism. I then discovered Pig Snout, the band that Justin has with his 2 children Lucien and Dahlia. It was a bit of a wake-up call for me because I realized that not sharing that part of myself with my children was literally a tragedy. It meant that they were being deprived of the magic that music can bring to one’s life.

I sat in with Justin and Dahlia with her and me playing double drums. I had thrown out the idea of me joining the band to back Dahlia up, but she reminded everyone that Pig Snout was a family band, and I wasn’t family…..yet. I, of course, understood and respected her position, and she’s essentially Buddy Rich in that band (i.e., she’s the boss). I went to see Justin’s other band, Blind Guides, and was blown away by their bass player Bryan Gorder. Justin started coming out to my house frequently and playing, then Bryan joined us. We started writing, playing some shows, and then recording — and we just never stopped recording.

Andrew:
Assertion has a new record out, which is called Intermission. Tell us more about it.


William:
2020 was obviously a challenging time for everyone, and the album is definitely an expression of those challenges by default. We put all of ourselves into those songs, but I think that’s how we have all approached songwriting. However, Justin had to navigate circumstances that no one should have to endure, but unfortunately far too many do. I don’t feel that it’s my place to get into the specifics without Justin, but I’ll just say that the record is the most brutally authentic documentation of the human experience that I’ve ever been a part of.

Andrew:
For those that don’t know, you were a member of both the Foo Fighters and, of course, Sunny Day Real Estate. With a long history in Alt-Rock, what does Assertion bring to the table for fans? Is there a through-line to your previous work, or is this a completely new breath of fresh air?


William:
I’m not entirely certain as to whether or not my perspective is objective enough to provide any insight in regards to that question. I think someone outside of the band might be able to answer that better.

Andrew:
On the subject of Sunny Day Real Estate, where do things stand there? The group reformed and seemed to be gaining steam again. I know there were talks of a new record, which never materialized. Take me through what happened there and where things stand today.


William:
Ultimately Sunny Day Real Estate has a certain process it goes through when adding the final bits of paint to the canvas, and that process is challenging and requires both patience as well as nurturing, and there didn’t seem to be much in the way of either.

Andrew:
Having been a part of some pretty special records such as Diary and The Colour and the Shape, how does Intermission stand up to those seminal albums which you’ve been a part of?


William:
The records that I have done that mean the most to me are what I consider to be the result of collaboration and honest self-expression. Another way of saying it, which I stated earlier, is an authentic musical documentation of the human experience. That is what Intermission is as well as the second record we are working on now.

Andrew:
Regarding the Foo Fighters, there has been a lot of here say as to what went down there. Can you clear up what happened, and ultimately what led to you exiting the band?


William:
As you can imagine, being in the Foo Fighters was a wild ride, and I take away a lot of great memories from that experience. But as with all relationships, sometimes things become complicated — and in this case, I would just say that some things happened, and to protect myself as an artist, I felt like it was in my best interest to leave the band. So I did. In hindsight, things could have probably been handled better by everyone involved, but it’s all part of the long journey that’s led me here, to my kids, and to Assertion.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? What are a few of your favorite albums?


William:
Any and all vinyl I had was destroyed when the basement of the house they were being stored in flooded. I’ve been all-digital since then. My oldest daughter Araiyah has taken an interest in vinyl, so I guess I get to go on her journey with her. I have so many favorite records I wouldn’t know where to start.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions influence your music, if at all?


William:
The other passion I have is martial arts and the truth, however uncomfortable or inconvenient it may be. My number one passion beyond anything else is my children.

Andrew:
Last one. It seems as if there may be a light at the end of this COVID tunnel. What’s next for both you and Assertion?


William:
Making more records and touring when it becomes possible. The amount of touring will be done reasonably and logically given that we are all fathers.

Image Credit: David Ryder

Interested in learning more about the work of Assertion? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

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