England’s In His Bones:
Gang of Four Guitarist Andy Gill Discusses ‘What Happens Next’
Words by Audra Tracy
Photos by Nicole Mago
Andy Gill is a creative machine. Decades have passed since he co-founded the riotous post-punk band Gang of Four, and yet after all these years of serving up articulate angst, music is still seeping out of the guitarist’s pores. And he’s not going to let his age, his critics or the departure of lead singer Jon King stop him from writing, producing, or doing whatever he bloody pleases.
While King opted out of the new Gang of Four album to keep running his business in the “real world,” Gill opted to keep being a badass in the studio. Along with current bandmates John “Gaoler” Sterry (vocals), Thomas McNiece (bass) and Jonny Finnegan (drums), Gill enlisted fellow badasses Alison Mosshart from The Kills, Robbie Furze from The Big Pink, Herbert Grönemeyer and more to collaborate on new material. The result is a collection of songs that make up the forthcoming Gang of Four record, aptly titled What Happens Next.
From his hotel room in New York City, Gill discusses the new album, his creative process, and why he thinks Gang of Four keeps on ticking in the 21st century.
Naturally, our interview begins with some mutual gushing over Alison Mosshart, who contributes vocals on two Gang of Four tracks. Notorious for her feverish performances with The Kills and The Dead Weather, the siren of rock ‘n’ roll makes her mark on “Broken Talk” and “England’s In My Bones”. Gill recalls the day Mosshart came to his home studio in central London to work her magic.
“She’s great, isn’t she?” he remarks. “She came and spent the day, and sang on two songs in one day. It was very relaxed. Jamie [Hince, also of The Kills] came down for a while to just kind of check it out, and then we went down to the pub afterwards and had a beer.”
The experience was quite informal, much like Gill’s approach to writing the material for What Happens Next. With no particular theme in mind, he admits he let the music lead the way.
“You start with a song or two and you don’t know where the whole thing is going,” he shares. “And as you write some more songs, it kind of speaks to you. I know it sounds silly, but the record starts to kind of give you feedback. It’s almost like it starts talking to you—and it takes on a life of its own. As you keep going, you kind of understand more and more what you are trying to say.”
Gang of Four has always been known for unleashing a message through music, and the songs on What Happens Next certainly follow suit. Gill likens his songwriting approach to how one might maintain a polite conversation at a dinner party—no matter the subject, he tries to keep it classy through and through.
“You don’t want to keep making the same point,” he says of his lyrics. “When I’m writing a song, I want to make a point, and I want to make it elegantly and succinctly, and in a way that wins people over so they can see what I’m saying without feeling like they are being bashed over the head with it.”
Set for release on February 24th, 2015, What Happens Next will be Gang of Four’s ninth album—no small feat for a band that formed during the late ’70’s in Leeds. Sure, a bit of luck has a hand in any artist’s success, but there’s got to be another driving force behind Gang of Four’s longevity. Gill has a few ideas.
“With some bands,” he explains, “the accountant is the other member of the band. There’s no accountant in this band”, he laughs. “I think people know that it’s authentic and it’s not just a quick money-making exercise. People know that the lyrics come from the heart and the brain and it’s not just clichés. When people come see Gang of Four, there is no bullshit, and I think people want that and respect that. In a way, honesty and authenticity are kind of rare commodities.”
While he seems like a man with no regrets, if he could do it all over again as a young lad, Andy Gill says he would work harder and be more productive.
“Gang of Four were all about having a good time and hanging out,” he says of the band’s early days. “You don’t have spend two years making a record—get on with it. It’s like what Andy Warhol said to Lou Reed—do a song a day.”
Catch Gang of Four on tour in 2015….see all dates here!
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