One of the most influential bands outta the UK has to be the Gang of Four. Combining elements of post punk electro and views and opinions from all issues round the world, Gang of Four where one of the few bands from the late 70s punk explosion to reinvent themselves and go with whatever style that suited em at the time. This year marks the 40th anniversary of their landmark LP Entertainment and the release of their new LP Happy Now. Guitarist Andy Gill joined me from a brief chat.
Munster: where are you right now?
Andy: im in London and its bloody cold I wish we could ave some of that nice weather you ave down there.
Munster: its 38 degrees I hate it, I/ll trade you our weather for yours anytime. Anyway, hows your morning been?
Andy: ah its fine we ave a new record coming out and a lot of my time has been spent on that with interviews and getting it done and ready, we had a new single out last week called Paper Thin, obviously this year is the 40th anniversary of Entertainment, a bit of the focus on this tour will be on that album on some of these shows. We go to America in February, that won/t be an Entertainment tour it will be a new album tour. Then we go to Japan and China we/ll be dong a mixture of stuff, when we come to Australian and New Zealand we/ll be doing all of Entertainment plus some other songs, some new songs, middle period Skrinkwrapped so it/s a mixture.
Munster: was Soundwave your first time in Australia?
Andy: for me i/d be there with Michael Hutchins and also producing a few bands, so I was there a few times by the time we/d done Soundwave i/d had a few experiences, especially Sydney and to a lesser extent Melbourne. I hadn/t got into the interior of the countryside I always found Melbourne and Sydney very relaxing, very modern international cities with the Australian carination, another band I worked with was a band called Mark of Cain…..
Munster: great band
Andy: yeah exactly. Another Australian band I worked with was Regurgitator, but they came to London for that. When I worked with Michael Hutchins that was at his place.
Munster: what process went into the making of the new LP Happy Now?
Andy: I think what different bout this record was I am usually the producer of the Gang of Four records, particularly because I got the ability to do it, so I might as well do it. But it/s a forward argument because when your there as the artist if you like and the performer you want someone else to help, use their imagination to how you go about the record. So I was keen to get co producers and mixtures working with me. I would get up at 5:30 sometimes and I would work in the studio start writing and recording things, and then the co-producer whoever that may be would come at 10:30 or 11 and then we/d do the days work after that. It was very productive. And I think one of the things I learned was its important to ave momentum don/t take your time because you don/t ave it, be in a hurry and that helps keep the momentum and process going and you see the songs quite quickly and thats encouraging and keeps you on your feet and keeps you going to the next thing. Every track has real drums and electronic stuff on it. A lot of the guitar is quite processed through various effects. I think thats the things that are different what I don/t want to do is repeat the past and ave the courage to make more songs in a similar way that I did 40 years ago its like answering questions like I did then. But the answers may ave changed because its a different era. I don/t ave time for repeating myself.
Munster: you mentioned not repeating yourself, you you mentioned playing Entertainment in full and doing shows based round the 40th anniversary, but your doing tours also on the new LP, so it seems your happy to acknowledge the past but not live in it.
Andy: thats exactly it any gig we do, one of the things I enjoy, its not like the new songs are designed to sit with the old songs, but its the same approach I always ave an idea in my head and often start with a rhythmic idea and it goes from there, and because I did it back then that/s how I do it now, but they cant sit next to each other. We may do a song from Entertainment then play something I wrote in the past six months and they complement each other in a way that’s quite satisfying.
Munster: Whats happening in the world right now that pisses you off to get the open n paper out and write some lyrics?
Andy: ah (laughs) I don/t know. Gang of Four tried to avoid using a sort of party/political line, and never be in a gage of trying to convince people and make them think a certain way. And I think Gang of Four songs, lyrically, are quite observational and quite descriptive, at first if you like, and I don/t want to sound quite pretentious, but I think any sort of political act starts with naming something, calling it what it is. And I think thats kind of what Gang of Four can be described as political because its naming things, describing things the way I see it. In terms of the world right now, the obvious ones, the rise of what people call populism, and people associate the populist movement, Brexit in Europe and the Rise of Trump. In the past we/ve tried to avoid being bout current affairs and the songs are much more, for example, Naturals Not In It in Entertainment, it wasn/t about any particular issue in 1979 but it is a description of relations taking on the political state. Right now, on the LP theres a song called Ivanka my Names On It. Its about her selling her brand when shes charging Chinese goods to America, and in the early months of the Trump presidency, there was this bizarre moment when she was being interviewed and someone said are you complicit and she didn/t know what it meant. It was almost like a comedy sketch. Moments like that im thinking shes writing the songs for me. My work is done I just ave to quote her, she does the work. Sometimes things just present themselves and youd be stupid to let them go when its there. That particular song isn/t about Ivanka but its about the whole way of thinking going on in the world.
Munster: what was it like working with Mark of Cain?
Andy: they were nice guys. They came to me and I guess it was because they felt something in common, I liked the way they came across as real straight guys, they might think im being rude but they had nicely pressed shirts and a pair of genios and a nice neat haircut, but underneath that was this hard and quite tough music so I ave great respect for that.
Damn, those 15 minutes just flew by and after asking bout the Mark of Cain I had to let Andy go as I was given no more then 15 minutes. Spewing I didn/t get to ask him if it was true that Mark E Smith really did throw coasters at him at the mojo awards in the 2000s. i/ll ask him at the Croxton.