Punk was one of the most influential periods in politics and music, and one of the most influential bands in the revolution was none other than Gang of Four. Since emerging in the 70s, GOF have been pioneers and inspiration to a plethora of bands that we know, and listen to almost every day. This year marks the 40th Anniversary of their debut album Entertainment! And since its release generations have looked back on it being one of the top rated albums of all time.
Thanks to John Howarth from Metropolis Touring, we got the chance to talk to guitarist Andy Gill about the anniversary tour as well as their amazing history!
SR: Gang of Four haven’t been back to Australia for a few years now, how excited are you to bring your 40th Anniversary tour of Entertainment! here?
I have many connections with Australia. I worked with a lot of Australian bands and musicians like Regurgitator or of course Michael Hutchence who was a great friend of mine. I have this connection and I’ve been there many times but it has been a while. We’re all looking forward to coming back, everyone is excited about it.
SR: For these string of shows you guys are going to be playing Entertainment! In full as well as another set of greatest hits. Playing these songs so many times over the years do you have any songs now dislike playing?
No, if I disliked them I wouldn’t play them [laughs]. There is nothing that I don’t like, there is an awful lot of songs in the catalog, so there is a lot to choose from. Sometimes someone will suggest play a song from something like our third album and sometimes we get around to learning it again, but we also have new songs that we have to learn how to play live too. That’s what we’ve been doing this week, figuring out how the new songs are played. One of the interesting things is playing and old song from Entertainment! From 40 years ago and then playing something that we wrote six months ago, and see how well they sit next to each other, and they kind of form into each other.
SR: In a live perspective, when you are playing those older songs compared to your new tracks do you notice a difference in reaction from the audience with age differences?
People who come to shows- hopefully you’ll get to a show so you can see what I mean, there is a very wide age range it’s like think of the younger people who have gotten into us because they’ve heard other bands they like talk about us. Or they can hear the influences. Somebody writing about a band says “oh they sound a bit like GOF” and some people go “oh who’s that?” so then they go and check us out and they can hear similarities and with that you kind of pick up new generations. It would be kind of boring if the only people who showed up were my age [laughs]
SR: Entertainment! As an album is legendary, rated top 5 in Rolling Stone and rated highly everywhere. Looking back, with that raw sound that you had with you know the recording company asking if the final product was in fact finished. Is there anything that you would have done differently?
That’s a difficult one. Over the years I would have done a lot of stuff differently, that’s life isn’t it. Because it’s impossible, I don’t think about it that much. I’ll give you an example- there is a song on Entertainment! Called Glass, and I think I made it just slightly too complicated. It’s got arpeggiated chords and more recently, about 10 years ago I found out how to play it a slightly less complicated way and I think it’s really improved it. It’s the subtle differences and probably one a lot of people wouldn’t notice, but it’s different and it’s better.
SR: Being a punk band that has lasted the ages, what do you think it was that you did differently to sustain your longevity?
I think when I was trying to figure out music I kind of lead the band to the music so, t I did the music, what I wanted was something that was almost like a new language, so not like a version of someone else, starting from scratch. It’s where every beat in the rhythm is placed- is very carefully thought out, it’s not just a bunch of drums off the shelf, rock beat number 58B [laughs]. It’s starting from scratch and that’s the way we did it. So we’d have a drum beat then I’d put the guitar riff around the drums or the other way around, likewise with the bass so everything worked together like supporting each other. Likewise with the signing, a lot of the singing is quite rhythmic with one or two voices involved with an element of call and response but it all weaves around. In answer to your question I think it connected with other types of music at the time but it got bigger.
SR: Being a punk band with that political stance even with just the sarcasm of your name, the punk revolution changed so much in this world, do you think we need another revolution?
Just in a very concentrated form. Classic punk was that thing that was musically but not particularly adventurous they were just like sticking two fingers up to everything and then so GOF kind of came along while that was happening but it was musically totally different. It took the idea that you could talk about anything, there weren’t any subjects that were off limits. In the early 70s it was a more constrained agenda of what you could talk about, and it got more open as it went along. I meant people always call GOF post punk, but that’s a good description really because it was sort of what came after. Although it was immediately after, historically time wise GOF first gig was May 1977, which is still I suppose punk heyday era, some of the things that we did that we did at that first gig were a little bit punky and a bit jokey. Over the next two years we just wrote more and more songs and the got more into that classic GOF style- and we called it summer of ’79 when were recorded ENTERTAINMENT!, so it was a good two years that we had to kind of develop what we were doing.
SR: You’ve had so many years of touring and you’ve done a million interviews, but do you have a fan story that no one has heard before?
Well stories fall into two categories- the ones that you can tell publicly, and the ones you could tell to people who already know [laughs] it’s a fine line. I think there has been 40 years plus of touring so most of it I remember pretty clearly – surprisingly [laughs]. All my stories have just suddenly disappeared.
SR: If there was any song in the world you wished you’d written what would it be?
That’s very difficult, there is long, long list. I’ll throw one out there; Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan.
Check out Gang of Four this March!
Gang Of Four March 2019 Tour Dates
Wednesday 20th – Perth – Rosemount
Friday 22nd – Sydney – Manning Bar
Saturday 23rd – Melbourne – Croxton Bandroom
Sunday 24th – Brisbane – The Zoo
Wednesday 27th – Wellington – San Fran
Thursday 28th – Auckland – Tuning Fork