With a fresh move out West and an album shaped by time lived in NYC, Upstate, Zurich and now Southern California, Christian Gibbs returns with his 8th album under the C. Gibbs moniker. Tales from the Terramar (out on September 17, 2021) touches on themes of addiction, renewal, temptation, and a coming home of sorts.
Gibbs has had many musical outlets with over 15 albums as principle songwriter for Lucinda Black Bear, He Arrived by Helicopter, and more. The songwriter has also doubled as a session musician with an impressive list of bands – JG Thirlwell (Foetus, Steroid Mazimus), Stew and TNP (Passing Strange), Dave Vanian (The Damned.) He also occasionally dabbles in theater across the globe (Gessnerallee Theater, Broadway, OSF, and BAM) as a songwriter, actor and multi instrumentalist.
With a daunting winter back east during the pandemic in 2020, and a challenging experience with restless young kids in self quarantine, Gibbs threw a couple air mattresses, guitars, an amp, a keyboard and some other essentials in a moving truck and drove West, with family in tow, back to his childhood home of San Diego and set up shop for what was supposed to be a temporary 6 month sojourn. Diving back into his love of surfing and Southern California, they renewed their lease and are staying for now.
Gibbs worked remotely in his van by his favorite cliff lined surf spot Terramar which inspired the title track off of his new album. The song enlists The White Buffalo rhythm section from San Diego, Matt Lynott on drums and Christopher Hoffee on bass. The rest of the album uses Gibbs’ Brooklyn band of the last few years, who he also used on some of He Arrived By Helicopter’s last release – Tim Kuhl (Sean Lennon, Margaret Glaspy) on drums, Philip Sterk (Midland, The Woes) on pedal steel and Matt Brandau (The Old Ceremony, Dex Romweber) on bass. Gibbs also enlisted longtime collaborator and ex London squat mate Austin Lynn Austin (The God Machine, The Cure) who directed the video for the title track.
After a previous dance with substance abuse and other afflictions, the new album touches on some of these themes. “A Knife Named Clara” with its Nick Cave-esque leanings foray into commentary of temptations, struggles, and loneliness with lines like “The emptiness, can it be filled by Stranger’s Gold?” referring to a 4 month stay in Zurich in the red light district there. “She’s The Gun of Me” also touches on some addictive/dependency themes; “Lady I know, the darkness is mine, but you’re the gun of me, with a trigger so fine.”
With the help of a friend in San Diego, Gibbs now puts his mix of history and musical talent to use as part of the Rock to Recovery team, going into recovery centers and mental illness facilities in Southern California and teaching songwriting in 1-2 hr session’s to non-musicians. They write a song, play it, record it, and put it online all in 1-2 hrs. Gibbs lost his mother at a young age when she took her life after a long struggle with mental illness, so this work is especially meaningful to him.
While Gibbs last venture under the name He Arrived By Helicopter was more an experimental instrumental project with synth and loop heavy songs, Tales From The Terramar finds his emphasis on good old fashioned songwriting with a heavy emphasis on lyrics.
Some of the new album was written in Zurich while Gibbs was doing an extended musical theater piece, most notably the more assaultive “Gemini” and “A Knife Named Clara” which are musical opposites. Here Gibbs used a European live touring version of his band with Frank Heer (Switzerland) and Kristin Mueller (Abu Dabai) – who also played drums in Lucinda Black Bear.
Back stateside he recorded section of the new album in Brooklyn at various studios (Trout Studios, Grand Street Recording, Red Panda Recording) doing most of the overdubs either in upstate NY or in his tiny Brooklyn railroad apartment. Other songs were written by the fire in his backyard in Western Catskills like “Angel Moss” with Gibbs’ son’s miniature guitar.
Now settled for the time being in his humble apartment near the ocean, a line from the title track probably sums it up best “some places must be left to know what you miss.” Whether C. Gibbs will have to leave again to appreciate his new temporary or not-so-temporary home, time will only tell.
Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy Tales from the Terramar.