The Go! Team
Silent Uproar: Well the first thing I’ll ask is: it’s been said that your idea when forming the band was to kind of band together a bunch of people that wouldn’t normally be in a band together - which is kind of a novel idea - but how is it working out?
Ian: I believe it wasn’t exactly that planned. I mean it just turned out that way more than anything. I think because the nature of the music is that it’s not a regular kind of indie guitar band, if you know what I mean. I figure lots of the music that’s around at the moment is being pushed to the limit. And it’s kind of hard to do original stuff in this area of regular guitar bands. So I figured it’d be quite interesting to mash up all my favorite kinds of music and get together people who wouldn’t normally be in bands. For instance Ninja, our lead singer, is sort of different from me in sound, personality, and musically - everything really.
So I think it’s a quite interesting goal to have - to try and get people who wouldn’t normally be in bands together. We’ve got a gang of girls who play with us now, who are from a hip-hop dance group. And they do all the backup singing and chanting and that’s kind of a weird combination where you have me and Sam on one side - you know, thrashing away in a kind of Sonic Youth kind of styling - and then the other side, you’ve got a bunch of tracksuit-clad girls pulling shapes and stuff. I think it’s just an interesting way things can go and sort of uncharted waters at the moment.
SU: Right. I think that’s what makes it so fun and interesting. There are so many different influences and there’s so much going on, that it’s just really different -which is great.
Ian: Yeah. I mean that was certainly the idea - to try and nail a sound before anyone else did. I’d never heard the idea of car chase kind of form mixed with distorted – Sonic Youth electric guitars and distorting drums and stuff. So I thought I’ll be that guy. I’ve never heard the recorders mixed with electro beats and stuff. So it was all more of idea-based songs than trying to nail a sound.
SU: Does the fact that you’re all coming from different backgrounds, and obviously have different influences, make it harder to relate to each other and get along on a personal level?
Ian: We are all completely different people, culturally as well and I think that’s interesting too. We have a Japanese girl in the group, and we have Ninja from North London, and there’s me from near Reading in England. But I think what unites us is a lack of ego really - we’re all quite normal. There’s no sort of attitude, there’s no – we are a rock n’ roll band type swagger about us. So I think that point of view unites us.
I think if we all picked the songs to play on the tour bus, we’d all kind of argue with each other and we wouldn’t want to listen to the other stuff, potentially. But we all kind of become a family. It’s quite weird.
SU: So if you weren’t in a band together, do you think you’d hang out with each other
Ian: We wouldn’t – there wouldn’t be an opportunity to. So that’s what’s interesting. For instance, Ninja doesn’t go to clubs or anything. So there’d be no opportunity for each of us to meet in the conventional way. But that’s what’s good about it, is that the band can bring people together.
SU: Well it seems like the band has been on quite a ride lately, with the release of your album overseas, and all the critical acclaim. And then now a US release on Columbia. At any point, has it all seemed surreal, like it’s happening out of your control?
Ian: Not really. I mean we’re really still a small band, we’re really underground. For instance, we’re playing in San Diego in a couple of days’ time and it’s barely even sold a quarter of the tickets. It’s like, you know, we’re fucking nobodies. Then the other geeks would play, and it’d sell out like weeks ahead. So there are pockets of people who dig us but we’re still very much like a cult band - there’s enthusiastic followers randomly spread around. Which, I’m cool with that. I kind of want to be on the fringes, rather than the mainstream shit.
SU: I think sometimes the press can be deceiving too. Because you hear about the band through a lot of the underground press and it’s seeping into some of the more mainstream press, it can make it seem like the band’s a lot bigger than maybe they really are.
Ian: That’s true. I mean what does a fast band mean? It’s like a fast band means journalists have heard it. But it doesn’t translate into the regular people. If there isn’t an outlet for it, then – the only outlets around music is really college radio, and people like KCRW, and KXP - the good public radio stations who have been stroking us and we’ve got a lot to thank them for. But then when you have someone who isn’t going to hear the good stuff unless you tune into those radio stations.
SU: Major labels seem to be branching out more, and aren’t signing bands that are quite as conventional as they have been in the past. Did you ever think the Go! Team would be on a major label?
Ian: I didn’t actually. I’ve always had a healthy suspicion of their practices, but all I can say is I just think they’re getting better about dealing with small bands. I think they’re leaving bands alone to do their thing. I think they’ve got a good feel that there is really no control over everything so there’s no sort of pressures on us to clean up the sound or anything. Which it had to be that way. We wouldn’t have accepted anything else.
So yeah. I’m not too concerned. I see the major label thing as using it for the good stuff. Sort of taking ideas that normally would just stay as an idea, and making it real. Because we can afford to do visuals now, and play live, and bring the girls out and stuff. That’s kind of looking at the good side of it.
SU: Right. You really have seen a shift with the major labels picking up a lot of the smaller bands, and giving them this creative control. So it almost feels a lot safer now to be on a major than it did say five years ago.
Ian: Yeah, I mean particularly for us since we’re in the domain of samples. To have the clout of a major label was kind of vital. I mean we could have either gone on a really little label, and just assumed that no one would hear it – to actually sue us or we would have had to have gone with a major, and get it all cleaned up. So like you say: yeah, it’s good from that point of view. No doubt about it.
SU: What do you think it is about your music that gets people excited about it?
Ian: I think it’s the element of surprise for me and that the music is action-packed. Those are all the kinds of things I was going for. I figured there was a freshness to it – at least that’s what people say. Often people talk about it being a nice change from all the other shit around at the moment. I’m not dissing everything around, but I like the idea of being standalone, sort of out there, and kind of carving your own path.
SU: You had to rewrite the songs for the American release of the album to deal with the whole sample thing, is that gonna affect how you record albums in the future? Are you gonna take a more live band approach in the future, or just work harder to clear some –?
Ian: I think I’ll do it a bit more wisely. But I’ll keep quiet about stuff (laughs). I’m trying not to let it affect the mindset that I have when making music. I don’t want to think, “Oh I can’t use that sample, because it’s on blah, blah, blah, and he won’t clear it.” You know? I just want to still be guided by what’s good, and what’s bad, and what’s interesting and stuff. Some people are making sure that their second album does have more of a live band to it, so they can actually get the publishing for it. But fuck it. You know? I just want to explore the sound more. That’s the kick for me really.
SU: Since you wrote most of the songs on this record, originally, does it ever feel like the rest of the guys are like a hired band? Or does it feel like you wouldn’t be a band without these specific people?
Ian: I hope not. I mean we’re still evolving as a band and you would have to ask them about it really. We’re all financially kind of equal when it comes to sales and stuff so it’s not as if they’re on a wage, and I’m trimming it all off. But then there’s not really any money to spend anyway. But they’re valued and they’re certainly better musicians than I am. So it’s kind of like the live band that we exist as at the moment, rather than as a studio’s venture. Well, actually I think it would be a combination of the two. It’ll still be my taste and my songwriting for album two, but with more input from them.
I mean I think most bands all have some kind of leader. I think particularly with sample-based music, you have to sort of collate everything together. That is the nature of the music, kind of the cut and paste necessary and it’s about sticking things together. It could become a bit messy if it was a group of people trying to do this.
SU: Well I saw that you contributed a song to the War Child Help! Album. How did you get involved with that?
Ian: We were just asked really. I didn’t actually grasp the scale of it. I just thought it was like a little tiny thing that no one would ever listen to. But I gave them a song called “Phantom Broadcast”, which is this sort of instrumental song. I mean that song has more to do with the sound that I was into a few years ago when I was getting into the more kind of windswept feel to things. So yeah, it was good to be on that.
SU: I know you’re in the US touring right now and you’ve got about two weeks of shows here before heading back to Europe. How do the two compare, in terms of touring?
Ian: I don’t know. It seems more interesting over here (in the US). It’s more fun because of the mythology of being on a road trip in America. You know? Everyone’s so different culturally and it’s a kind of voyage into the unknown every day here. Whether it be what’s the crowd gonna be like? Or is anyone gonna turn up? - that kind of thing.
SU: Right. It sounds like the exact same perspective that a band from here would have about touring in Europe.
Ian: Yeah, probably - the romance side of the thing.
SU: Are the live shows more about presenting the album sound for sound to the audience? Or is it giving them a different experience altogether?
Ian: Middle between the two, I think. I mean there’s a lot of instrument swapping, which kind of had to happen for it to actually translate. The two trumpets, a lot more sort of thrashing guitar, and the focal point of the group is a lot more about Ninja when we play live. Then Dook sort of chips in with more vocals where they weren’t on the record. So yeah. I mean they’re two different entities. Obviously the framework for every song is still the album track. We don’t kind of jam around songs or anything too much.
SU: And as far as the art for your releases - the various singles I’ve seen, all seem to be pretty creative, and colorful, and just have a fun feel to them. Who comes up with album art?
Ian: Well I kind of work with Carrie, this girl who trained in Brighton. She did the album, the album artwork, and has done for everything so far. Most of the things, the creative stuff, we usually get friends to help and people I know I can trust. Because I’ve come across people who just go through the motions, and do what they do. Every band has one name. So I directed those first two videos and a friend of mine, Bob Jerrick, is doing the visuals for us on the stage. Another friend of mine did the website and my father produced it. (laughs).
But keeping some people you know involved - I kind of like that idea.
SU: And do you see these other visual elements, the packaging, and the show, and all that, as kind of an extension of the music? Or is it just another way to kind of give people something to look at?
Ian: Yeah, it’s become a big deal for me. I like graphic design and stuff but I don’t think the videos are a massive deal, and we shouldn’t really put too much stress on that part. You should spend some time on it rather than throwing money at it because I think it’s a bit immoral to spend a ton of money - just put that money into something else. I like the idea of doing good stuff without throwing money at it.
That’s the kind of idea that’s behind everything, I suppose, is kind of a homemade approach to doing tings. Not farming stuff out to some hotshot graphic design company who charges through the roof for something that ain’t even that hard - just going through the motions of what they think they should do. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal for me here.
SU: Do you think album art in general is becoming more or less important in the world of iTunes, MP3s, and all these digital formats?
Ian: Well I mean it’s obviously slightly less, I think, but the CD will still be around. We’ve got a lot to thank the internet for and I don’t think our music could have traveled so easily a few years ago. No doubt about it. I’m always a fan of holding music, having a package in your hand, and actually physically holding it, but MP3s are like a tip-off which you can tell a stranger about. That’s kind of what we’ve got to be grateful for, that kind of technology.
SU: Well what is the worst thing about being in the music industry at this point in time?
Ian: I think the way that the sponsorship has seeped into every corner of life. It’s really, really becoming apparent and it’s almost suffocating. There’s something behind everything and that’s the kind of daily dilemma. I mean you know the pressure to play on the stage which has beer on a banner behind you - just the whole thing. It feels as though something is lost - music has changed in some way because of the tie-ins.
There’s always some kind of tie-in, somewhere, but you know you can avoid it if you’ve got the balls to. It’s becoming harder and harder too, though.
SU: And what’s the most exciting thing about being in the industry?
Ian: Oh man. I mean it’s just the most creative life you could ever have. Every day there’s something different - whether you’re doing a video, designing the internet thingy, or coming up with ideas for what to put on the stage. There’s just never an ending to the amount of things to think about and to dream up.
That’s what I love about my sort of project-based lifestyle. I mean it is the best with the way you can travel - it’s staying in a town, and you’re always meeting people who are like-minded and you enter the cool neighborhoods in the town and then you’re off again. You know what I mean? So it’s a good lifestyle.