Podcast Interview

Andy Gill of Gang of Four: The Void with Christina Podcast Episode 77

Iconic guitarist Andy Gill of Gang of Four is this week’s special guest on The Void with Christina podcast. Andy has carved out a unique and often imitated guitar sound that first reverberated around the globe on Gang of Four’s wildly influential 1979 debut album, Entertainment! Lauded by everyone from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello to Tool’s Adam Jones, Andy Gill is also an acclaimed record producer with a slew of releases that thrum with his trademark concentrated, lean and angular approach to rock and roll.

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In this extensive podcast conversation with Andy Gill and host Christina Rowatt, we explore creativity, his approach to production, how the band has evolved, memorable studio moments producing bands, exploring real political issues and confronting the dark forces of power and control on record, what sparked the electric reaction that created Gang of Four and more. A few moments from the hour-long show are transcribed below. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Entertainment! Gang of Four are touring Australia this November.


Andy Gill on how New York punk rock circa 1976 helped start Gang of Four:

“The first Gang of Four gig was May of 1977. Jon King and I went to New York in 1976 because I had some kind of grant from Leeds University art department. We were staying on the sofa of Mary Harron, who neither of us knew, [she was] a friend of a friend. She was writing for New York Punk magazine at the time. Subsequently she became a film director, and directed American Psycho and I Shot Andy Warhol. Because she was writing at the time for this punk magazine, she used to take us around in the evening.

We’d go to these various places, like CBGB’s. Even on a quiet night, you’d be standing at the bar and there’d be John Cale (The Velvet Underground) standing to your left and there’d be Joey Ramone on the right. We’d all be talking to each other and having a laugh. We got particularly friendly with Patti Smith’s band.

When I came back to England I was like ‘This is all very ordinary. Let’s start a band, it’s so easy … anyone can do it!’ Which is true. If you’ve got ideas, all you need is some ideas, and off you can go. Leeds was a funny place [at the time]. It was very rundown, a lot of it looked like it was bombed out. Back then it was quite an interesting environment. [The] Yorkshire Ripper, which you must have heard of. [created] a distinct air of paranoia.”

Andy Gill on producing Killing Joke’s landmark 2003 self-titled record:

“With Killing Joke, and I don’t think I’m revealing anything here .. they can be really belligerent. There were days when I was doing vocals with Jaz in my studio and we really, really worked on the expression on the vocals. And got all the terror that he could muster in his voice, and all the cynicism and bitterness and anger out of his voice. But there were times, if he’d had a few whiskies, he’d get up very close to me. Uncomfortably close. And his face would be right in my face. And his eyeballs would be bulging like they were about to pop out. And he would be screaming in my face, ‘Of course there is a god, Andy! What are you going to tell your children?!’ And you’re just like, ‘Please can you back off and stop spitting in my face?’

The project started and they said they had songs [finished] and it was a total lie. They had one song, so it turned into a long process. We basically had to write the songs in the studio, so I don’t think I was paid nearly enough for that project [laughs].  I was in charge of creating the rhythms which I did on drum machine. The icing on the cake was going to L.A. and having [Dave] Grohl play drums on it. I said, “What do you want to do?” and he said, “I want to copy exactly what you’ve programmed,” which is what he did. I’ve got to say, he is the best drummer I’ve ever worked with. So accurate. Usually I have to play around in ProTools moving beats to make it fit properly. Didn’t have to do anything at all with his drum beats. His contribution really helped that record.”

[In acknowledgement of Nirvana’s rather blatant “referencing” of Killing Joke’s “Eighties” on “Come As You Are’: “The deal was that Dave did all the drumming [on Killing Joke’s self-titled record] for free … in acknowledgement of that song ‘borrowing’.”

On collaborating with new producers on Gang Of Four’s 2019 album Happy Now:

“I just got a bunch of different [producers on Happy Now], it was a big experiment for me. I got Ross Orton, he co-produced a track with me. He’s a funny character, he’s from Sheffield, very Northern. I also discovered he was an incredible mixer. Ben Hillier (Depeche Mode, Blur) did three tracks early on with me. These other guys who go by the name of Decoy, they’re exceptionally good. They added some writing contribution to some of the songs including Change The Locks, Paper Thin and White Lies. With the combination of my angular, abstract, whatever it is … meeting with [the] soft edges, something interesting might pop out. I think that was quite a successful combination. Something that I discovered was what a positive force momentum is, to get things done. We ended up with quite a few songs that are left over from that record [that weren’t included on Happy Now].”

Gang of Four 40th anniversary of Entertainment! Tour Dates:

Saturday, 2nd November
Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Tickets: Metropolis Touring

Tuesday, 5th November
Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide
Tickets: Metropolis Touring

Thursday, 7th November
The Zoo, Brisbane
Tickets: Metropolis Touring

Friday, 8th November
Manning Bar, Sydney
Tickets: Metropolis Touring

Saturday, 9th November
Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne
Tickets: Metropolis Touring




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