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Interview Wed Feb 18 2015

Four Questions with Andy Gill from Gang of Four

The post-punk band Gang of Four have a new album, What Happens Next, which is being released on Feb. 24. It features collaborations with Alison Mosshart from The Kills, Robbie Furze from The Big Pink, Gail Ann Dorsey, German superstar Herbert Grönemeyer and Japanese superstar Hotei. The band is coming to the Park West March 13; I reached frontman Andy Gill over the phone last week to ask a few questions about the upcoming show.

I had a chance to listen to the new album a bit, and each song is distinct, giving it a sound like a compilation album. I'm curious if one of these songs is going to be the new GOF sound, or if the new sound of GOF is collaborating with other artists.

I think you kind of take it one step at a time... I always felt that when working on a new record it is like starting from scratch. I know there are some bands that kind of plowed their furrow and they're gonna stick to it -- they've got their sound and the way they do things, and stick to what they do. Right from the beginning GOF was different with every record. It's like if you're asking similar questions but coming up with different answers. To me time moves on, I move on, I'm not exactly the same as I was four years ago, and when I was 27 I wasn't the same guy as when I was 22. Time moves on and you come up with some different answers to the way to proceed and the way to make songs and the way to make records. I think with this record I think even more so because Jon King who's been on previous records is no longer in the project, so that makes it even more the case of reinventing the wheel.

Doing the collaboration thing was something that I had felt like doing for quite a long time, it's something that's quite common in hip hop bands and I think that's quite healthy -- you can do some things that perhaps might surprise you. In terms of defining the GOF sound, the next record -- for which I have ideas and songs, will probably involve collaborations. Beyond that can't say where it's going, with each album I didn't know quite where things were going, once you've got four or five songs on the go you start to see what direction its taking.

Are any of the guest artists on the new album touring with you?

No, it turns out, everyone's really busy: Alison's got at least two major projects on the go plus all her painting plus other projects -- she's a workaholic -- and Grönemeyer has had a number one album in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, so he's pretty busy with his thing -- everybody's pretty busy. The Big Pink just finished their album -- not sure when it's coming out.

There were a lot of bands in the '80s that were political, including GOF, with songs like "I Love a Man in Uniform," which got banned in England under the Thatcher administration. It doesn't seem like underground bands are very political anymore, that politics is not a big part of independent music the way it was in the '80s. What's your take on that?

Absolutely that's the case, I think it's partly to do with the fact that the world was very polarized at that point, you had the Soviet Union and its allies -- the communist bloc, against America and the west, and people were kind of forced to align themselves somewhere along that spectrum. A lot of the time it was a question of finding fault with the Western capitalist system and the inequities and injustices that were perceived to be happening. When the Soviet Union collapsed the whole ceremony of things collapsed, and continues to have massive ramifications. The world is, in many ways, a less straightforward place and I think people find it more difficult to set up allegiances than they did back then. With music so much is cyclical and fashion driven, and I think in certain respects politics is sometimes perceived in music as being a bit dull, and I think a lot of bands are afraid of losing their audience if they get into that kind of area. Also, now it's a bit harder to know what to say -- especially for younger bands.

The thing I would stress about the political tag is that GOF was never about promoting a political solution or promoting a particular party or any of those things, and GOF got a political tag almost by default -- it's like if you make music that's perceived to be a bit intelligent and is making observational songs about personal, political things, almost by default you get called political even though you're not particularly promoting any particular party political view. I think a lot of bands feel a kind of obligation. I feel I'm drawn to writing, in some way even tangentially, about the things happening around us, and not to retreat into a world of talking about, I dunno -- glamour or sex or love, or in the case of hip hop -- violence or "bitches" or all the stuff that popular music seems to talk about. A lot of that doesn't particularly interest me.

Is there anything you want people to know about this tour?

I'm super pleased we're doing this new record, and I'm pleased at the reception its getting, and I'm particularly pleased when people single out Gaoler (John "Gaoler" Sterry) singing... when I see carefully articulated articles of people saying GOF is a really important band, and how great Gaoler is, I get a kick out of that -- he's getting the recognition he deserves.


Gang of Four is playing with Public Access T.V. at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., on Friday, March 13. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online or in person. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 8pm.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
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Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
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Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
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UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
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