Post-punk funk politicos GANG OF FOUR play Entertainment’ in full + a stack of other hits! One of the most influential and groundbreaking bands to rise from the British punk scene in the late ’70s, GANG OF FOUR finally return playing at Lion Arts Factory tonight!
Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of their debut release, Entertainment! (Damaged Goods, Anthrax, Naturals Not In It, At Home He’s a Tourist) they will play the album in full + other Hits (I Love a Man in Uniform, What We All Want, Paralysed, To Hell With Poverty) and more. Hi Fi Way speaks to the legendary Andy Gill about Entertainment! and their Australian tour.
Is it hard to get your head around the fact that it is the fortieth anniversary of Entertainment?
I suppose so, of course no one is prepared for the fortieth anniversary of anything because it has never happened. It is hard to know what to make of it. I’ve been pretty busy over the years and you go from one project to another, keep on doing stuff and then there goes another year and you don’t really notice. Suddenly it’s forty years!
What moments stick out for you when Entertainment came out in 1979?
It was funny because at that point in time we were living in Leeds but we made the record in London in the East End down the Old Kent Road at a studio called The Work House. We were living/ borrowing a promoter’s house boat in Chelsea which is West London. There was an awful lot of time driving backwards and forwards through rush hour traffic getting from one to the other. That was one of the boring aspects of it.
There was a pub next door to the studio, I think it was called the Henley Cooper after the famous boxer, in the studio itself it was quite basic. I don’t know if EMI picked it because Gang Of Four are kind of basic so we’ll give them a basic studio. Maybe that was the thinking, the actual live room there was a lot of carpet up the walls which is the thing people did in the 70’s which makes the sound quite dead. In a funny way that kind of helped Entertainment because everything is quite precise. The whole record is quite precise, the way that I placed drum beats, the fragility of the vocal , it is quite a precise thing. The dryness of the room I think enhances that to a certain extent. There’s no blurred edges, everything is where it is.
Back then when you’re mixing you have different people who have different jobs who would turn this knob up at this certain point in the song, move that fader from there to there. It was like a live experience unlike modern mixing which is done inside a computer.
What do you think it is about the record that still resonates with music lovers today?
I think there’s a couple of things. What I set out to do, people will say it has a combination of funk, art rock and disco, I think for me I saw it, sorry for sounding pretentious, I saw it as starting a new language to not be a part of some existing genre but invent something new. For me, I think rhythmically in a way and I imagine where the high hat should go, the tom tom, the kick drum, how all those things should be put together and how the guitar works with that or the other way around or how the main vocal works. They are all very carefully placed. It didn’t really sound like anything else but I think it caught people’s imaginations because they related to it. The other thing is what it was talking about.
People call it a political record and in a way it kind of was. It is very descriptive of the world around us, descriptive on the way how structures work and the way our own lives work as well as our relationships with other people. Those things make it feel like it could have been written yesterday because so many issues are essentially like that now. We’re looking at the world of Trump, this new situation in Britain with a reigning fascist at the helm, that is why it is still very relevant in what it is talking about.
Will there be much opportunity for fans to hear the rest of the back catalogue on this Australian tour?
We’ll play Entertainment then we’ll play whatever else we feel like. I’ve got favourite songs from all the albums and I’ll chuck those in. I’ll play some from Happy Now which is the latest record. I’ll mix it up definitely!
Have you been happy with the fan reaction to the new album?
We’ve had so many problems with this. The initial release was supposed to be on Pledge Music and then they went bust a month before we were supposed to be releasing. It has been a nightmare getting the record out and people have said they haven’t been able to find the record in shops in Australia. We’ve been rushing around trying to get things sorted and out in the best way we can. The people who have got it absolutely love it and we’ve been getting lots of messages back through FaceBook with people saying they can’t stop listening to this record. It is frustrating that it isn’t widely available or in Australia and New Zealand.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Gang Of Four on the following dates, tickets from Metropolis Touring…