Just Say Gnod

 

Gnod Zammo

A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to interview Paddy Shine from Gnod for Narc Magazine, about their recent Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine album (probably my favourite album of the year so far) and the current tour, amongst other things. Paddy was open, honest, funny as fuck and generous with his time, which meant there wasn’t room to include the whole interview in Narc. So here is the largely unedited full transcript…

Salford-based collective Gnod have been making music in all manner of styles and configurations for over a decade now, embracing everything from psych and doom to techno and at the same time becoming key figures in the development of the community of artists and musicians working within the now essential Islington Mill complex. At the end of March, the band released perhaps their most astonishing and uncompromising album yet, the bluntly titled Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine, a five-track howl of anger delivered in a particularly ferocious style. But as Paddy Shine, one of the central members points out, it’s not necessarily what people imagine it to be.

“Let me start from the beginning, actually. The album tracks and the title were all written pre-Brexit, pre-Trump,  yeh? Everything was already decided, you know? And the album is as much introverted as it is screaming out about things. It is definitely calling out what’s going on around us , that’s pretty evident from the title and the songs – the anger in it – but the title was as much a poke at our collective apathy. It’s like that old ‘Just Say No’ Zammo campaign and all that… we thought, this is a good little poke at ourselves, how the fuck are we supposed to change the situation here. It’s funny, it is a political statement but it’s also taking the piss a bit too, and I think a lot of people have missed out on that side of it, because the album got released after Trump got inaugurated. All of a sudden we started getting all these email from people going “Yeh! A fucking anti-Trump album”, and we’re like “yeh, alright, it is that but it’s not just about Trump, you’ve got to take a look in the fucking mirror.” Change starts at home, doesn’t it? That’s the point we were getting at and the last three albums that we’ve done have been this progression – Machines was a very introverted look at our living situation, and how we felt we were contributing to our community. And Mirrors was sheer rage, basically. And this one was supposed to be a kind of raging bit of fun. When we play these tracks live, we’re playing them like there’s no tomorrow, really. It’s nice to finally tell someone what the album is, because a lot of people think we’re jumping on some sort of political bandwagon, whereas to us it was a continuation of what we already do, really.”

And what came first, the content or the sound?

“We started writing those songs well over a year ago, 18 months even, that’s just how they were when they were written. And how we always seem to work is that we start writing and a developing a new set before we go on a new tour, hone it down on the tour, and as soon as we get back we go straight into the studio and record it. So there was no great agenda, it was just a constant natural process, no “okay, let’s get angry and some political stuff”, that’s just how we roll. “

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How’s this tour going to work live, in terms of line-up and instrumentation?

“There’s new tracks, old tracks and stuff from Just Say No. Personnel-wise, it’s the core four of us, with a new drummer and Fish (aka Neil Francis) joining us back on the vocals again. We’re pretty stripped down instrumentation- wise, for the full band stuff it’s just two basses, two guitars, vocals and drums. Pretty stripped down for a Gnod thing. But we’ve been getting more interested in electronic sets, so we’ll be doing some of those on this tour, which is nice because hopefully people are starting to get into the weirder electronic things we do. “

Have you found that the way you constantly shift styles has alienated people?

“It’s cool, people are starting to get down with that, At first, we had so many weird reactions, throwing things at us and shouting [adopts French accent]: “where’s your fucking geetars, what iz this shit?” But we love that, it’s great to do people’s heads in. I love going to a gig and getting my head in by a band, I might have some expectations and I want them blown out of the water!”

(There follows a long chat about the first time each of us saw Circle, followed by a discussion of possible musical influences in which I suggest the blend of anger, dub and fucked up guitar sounded like World Domination Enterprises. Surprisingly, Paddy hadn’t heard of them so I sent some links. Response? “That guitar sound man whoaaaa, fucking sick!”)

I wanted to ask you about Crass – to me there seems to be a parallel in the way Crass operated and the way Gnod do now – involvement in the underground, Islington Mill, things like that. Were they an influence?

“Definitely! It’s simple really: when I was about 12, 13, I discovered Crass through a friend’s uncle’s record collection that he gave us, and after about a year of us deciphering what the FUCK they were on about – we were just young lads growing up in Ireland, we could barely understand a word they were saying, know what I mean? Ever since then Crass, and Penny Rimbaud and Dial House, have definitely always been hugely influential, the way Crass went about doing what they did and pretty much changed the record industry and showing young punks that there was an alternative to big business. I don’t think they get enough credit for doing all that… People slag them off because they think they were some sort of rich kid punks or whatever, but they were true punks.. they set up spaces, and a lot of the bands I love from the late eighties and the early nineties, the weirder stuff, that all comes from Crass somehow “

And does that feed into Islington Mill?

“I don’t know how many people in the Mill are aware of Crass and what they did, or Dial House. We’ve got so many different people from different backgrounds…  we’re just doing what we do. I mean, obviously I’m influenced by Crass because I grew up listening to that stuff and being really interested in how they approached things. But I can’t speak on behalf of the rest of Islington Mill. The only way I could answer that would be in about ten years time when I’ve got a bit more perspective into how it all happened and how it all worked. Because when you’re in the middle of it, you’re just doing it, aren’t you? This place is organised chaos and that’s the glue that holds it together really, the chaos.”

Mill

Can I ask about the track Real Man? Is it a particular person or a composite of a particular type of bloke?

“It’s a whole bunch of people, that’s kind of been whittled down to one head, but it’s a head with a million split personalities.. . (laughing) You’re going to ask me about the Mark E Smith lyric aren’t you?  (Real Man has some lyrical nods to Hip Priest). It’s not about MES but I just had the opportunity to rip off some Fall lyrics cos they fitted. I have to work for a living, I’ve got a job, and a lot of my lyrics are informed  by what winds me up. And work FUCKING winds me up. Being surrounded by fucking dickheads particularly informed Real Man. I don’t like to explain my lyrics too much, it might ruin someone’s own interpretation.

Since I lined up this interview, I found our you’re releasing a live tape through Joe Maclaren’s Concrète label and now I’ve heard about yet another Gnod project, the Temple Ov BBV – can  you tell me something about that?

“We got invited to go to Eindhoven Psych lab last year, to do a residency which was to go in and jam with Radar Men From The Moon and then do a gig with them at the festival. But we said ‘fuck jamming, let’s write a really sick album!’. We had to jam a bit to get to that point obviously, but the idea with these things is usually the bands go in and wig out and play over each other and hope that something good happens. But we wanted to write four or five really good tracks and team up as Temple Of BBV. BBV is brain – blood – volume, which is directly linked to trepanation…

(There follows another long digression about trepanation, which seems to be cropping up all over these days, before moving onto microdosing)

 

“I’m a massive advocate of that, I’ve been microdosing myself for two years on various things from psilocybin to LSD and it’s had a massive impact on my personal life. I’d be well up for giving trepanation a go if I could find somebody to do it. I  just want the right medical procedure, you can do it in South America for a couple of grand. It’s only in western Europe where it’s taboo. It’s the oldest surgical procedure In the world, and it still gets practiced.

Anyway, going back to the album! This album was themed around BBV and… I don’t want to use the word enlightenment…  but something LIKE enlightenment through trepanation, or the idea of it, freeing yourself and regaining some kind of paradise lost, you know? I’m fucking pleased with it, there’s 11 or 12 musicians playing on it, a lot of it’s live, and everybody worked really hard. We only had 3 ½ days but it was one of those things you walk away from and go, “yeh, this is why I do music…“

When you play Newcastle in May you’re sharing the bill with White Hills, and  I know you go way back with them?

“We nearly always do a show with them on every tour, and we see them at festivals. We’re good friends… We did the Liverpool Psych Fest and Dave joined us on guitar for the gig, which was good craic but I don’t think he’ll ever do it again! We were out of minds and he was like, [American accent]: “how my god, how do  you guys fucking do this?!”

 

I’d really like to thank Paddy for taking the time to do this….

 

 

 

 

Monkey’s Claw Vs April Fishes

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Les Poissons d’Avril as our French comrades would have it. Despite the obvious problem with releasing anything on April 1st (rather than the 2nd or March 31st) plenty of people went ahead with it. Competition for which of us is the most foolish around here remains stiff nevertheless it was Thee Monkey’s Claw who sat irritably through a pile of new releases to bring you all his uninvited and curmudegonly views on a few so you could save precious time and brain power for more worthwhile things…

First up then this Electric Pencils album which isn’t out April 1st but has been out since Feb 29th, a much more intriguing release date. It has a spring into summer, bright and breezy feel to it, short sharp pop punk songs with sing-a-long melodies. Ben (on the left of the cover, which he painted) was formerly in Thee Spivs but this is a more melodic, less snottily punk rock affair. The love of Billy Childish is still there, his voice has something of Mick Jones in it and it often, if loosely, reminds me of Buzzcocks. There’s that energy and youthful brightness to it. Steve, as you can see from the cover, is a one man rhythm section and plays the drums with his feet which gives it a very simple, direct feel. I don’t think they’ve even taken advantage of the studio to put any cymbals on the record, I’ve not noticed any and it’s a nice touch if true. So the drums recall the stand up kit of The Shop Assistants or Bobby Gillespie pounding away in the early Mary Chain. It’s actually the more punk mid 80’s indie bands they most sound like though I hesitate to say it because I don’t mean it in a bad way at all (The Shop Assistants were damn perfect). Actually English bands because they don’t cop any American garage band/rock ‘n’ roll clichés either, they’re quietly and politely English without making a fuss about it (because that would be vulgar). I’m of the right age and inclination for this to scratch a nostalgic itch in just the right way. On repeat listens it’s clear just how well they’ve pulled off a remarkable trick, the descriptions ‘punk pop’ or ‘indie pop’ rightly strike indifference into the heart in any context but retrospective because there have been so very many crappy bands unimaginitively flogging that dead horse for 30+ years now. But they are perfect descriptions of this record, and it’s really good. It reminds of a lot of things without being embarrasingly indebted or tiresomely generic, and the writing, playing and production is a cut above a lot of those 80’s indie records without being all shiny and happy and Californian…

Which brings me embarrassingly to Bleached, scrappy punk rock sisters from California who have made a shinier, brighter pop punk record than previous. I’m not slagging it though, no sir. Where the comparisons above were vague signposts and suggestions this one is straight up The Runaways + The Go-Gos = YES. If you don’t like The Runaways or The Go-Gos you are wrong and there’s nothing for you here. Still, those records are 35 – 40 years old and maybe something to add to the pile wouldn’t hurt? I’ve already played ‘Beauty and The Beat’ a few times this year. Have a listen to ‘Sour Candy’, that should be a proper pop hit shouldn’t it? Not even impossible that it could be. No-one’s reinventing the wheel here or anything but sometimes it gets really boring listening to another bunch of stoned half wits digging into the same riff for 15 mins pretending they’re gifting us conciousness expansion. I think you know what I’m saying. Even I’m in a good mood sometimes. It is 1000% better than what I’ve heard of the new Cherie Curie record so, you know, a young ‘un’s game. Take a look at the cover too, they look like a less glamourous version of The Faster Pussycat gang, drag you out to Barstow and kill you in the desert.

There’s a limit to the sweetness and summery vibes of the last two records though, something in both about finding the positive way out of life’s darker moments, the last track on the Electric Pencils is about a neighbour being killed, nothing much seems to have ever troubled this guy. The Burning Hell may be sarcastically or inappropriately named. They are basically Matt, a nice Canadian, and any number of others from time to time although improbably they recorded this in Kent. Which apparently soured the mood nowhere near as much as it should have. They seem nice. I don’t want to be mean. I’ll suggest you listen to “Fuck The Government, I Love You” because it seems to neatly encapsulate the problem here. It’s quite a smart lyric in it’s way but it’s a pretty shit song. So smug you want to punch everyone. I don’t just mean everyone involved either, I mean EVERYONE.

Enough happy upbeat pop, lets have a little intellectual heavy lifting in here again, my teeth hurt. The name The Comet Is Coming has a pleasing 23 Skidoo echo to it so I thought I’d give them a go. Tries the patience somewhat but it’s not an entirely off base assumption. If you know 23 Skidoo’s self-titled album from around 2000, the one with Roots Manuva and Pharoah Sanders on, this isn’t too far away from that sort of thing but coming from the Jazz direction rather than heading towards it. I am again regrettably drawn to the issue of shininess here. Like the glistening cover there is much going on but it appears to be all surface. Perhaps it would sound better had I not been listening to pretty straightforward pop songs all day, there are enjoyable moments here and there but I’m torn between thinking it might open up and reveal secrets or just be a load of old tosh. They have stupid stage names and ancient hip hop beats, the titles suggest a space adventure type narrative theme ‘Journey Through The Asteroid Belt’ and so on. It reminds me of stuff from 20 odd years ago which does not seem at all the point of what they’re doing, and then it packs a little wonky surprise now and then. The truth of the situation is I am just not interested enough by it to give it the chance to impress me on a second listen. From the blurb “Listen! As a trailing meteor shower drops hot coals hissing into topographical oceans. Inhale! The burning funk of strange new flavours. The sound of the future… today.” Lucky they got a first go reading that to be honest. I must have been in a good mood. Jazz Wankers.

Fucking Gnod eh? What are we gonna do about them? They do almost everything right and yet I still don’t like their records. Noticing that topographic oceans nod just now I’m sure their last one earned them some unfavourable Yes comparisons. Not a place you want to be. I’m starting to feel mean. If the uk’s underground/avant garde rock scene/whatever was pub, Gnod would be the pub dog or cat, and everyone would love it except me. I’d be the cantankerous old drunk bastard who kicked it if he got a chance. Why is that? I like this one more than others and I can see me enjoying this version of the band live, if they’ve not transformed again by the time I do. It claims to be channelling PiL and Swans this time out which is a welcome development. More accurately they are the obvious reference points when listening to it. While it might be easily better than the last Pil album and the influence of Swans is pretty clear it’s no match for actually listening to Swans. Not a lot is of course, the recent run has been particularly overwhelming. It’s earlier, dragging, sludgy, darker Swans they’re tapping into here. The vocals are surplus and slightly annoying but the music is pretty impressive for something recorded in a very short time. Still, I’m not having it. One day they’ll make a really great record and I’ll have to admit it, this isn’t it but it’s another step on their intriguing path. It’s possible the problem with Gnod is they keep seeing shiny things in the woods and veering off that path to have a look and when they come back they haven’t moved forwards.

Thank God for Mogwai. How do they do it? We’ve had ourselves a good old chuckle about the purple prose this latest album has inspired elsewhere, so best be careful. Especially this far down the bottle. Firstly and most importantly it does not contain a cover of Blondie’s ‘Atomic’. Once you get over that little heartbreak you’re good. It’s a Mogwai record, a particulary good one, a better Mogwai album than ‘Rave Tapes’ was and a better soundtrack than ‘Les Revenants’ which I liked a lot. The first track here is so beautiful I keep expecting the wonderful voices of The Unthank sisters to chip in, it’s the very sound of spring. The rest of the album is equally good, the fierce noise beast of the live band kept on a short leash but to no detriment, there’s a lot more electronic tinkering as well but perfectly combined. They seem completely in charge of their wide sound world, subtler than before not so reliant on dynamic drama. Not that such comparisons make much sense but if we look to Tortoise’s recent water treading effort and Godspeed’s ‘We’ll do another one the same in five years eh?’ approach it seems the plucky Scots lads have emerged victorious from the post rock wars…

 

Paget_holmes