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. “
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.”
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….