The Go Team – Interview – 2015

Following the releases of Rolling Blackouts in 2011, Ian Parton, founder and the main creative force behind The Go! Team, speculated that it may be the last album. Of course, in the heat of the moment things often get said that aren’t quite meant, and lo and behold, The Go! Team are back with a new album, The Scene Between, and it seems a new impetus, as Parton sets about organising their first lives shows for a couple of years.

It’s the fourth album for this one-of-a-kind band, an idea that germinated itself within the mind of Parton, culminating in the release of the debut album, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, back in 2004, an album that was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, thrusting Ian and co. into the limelight… “Yeah, it was super lo-fi,” says Ian, who has been based in Brighton for 20 years. “It was literally recorded in my Mum and Dad’s kitchen, three mics on the drum kit, just thrown together. Quite painstaking, but quite spontaneous sounding, and deliberately really lo-fi. The ambitions weren’t grand at all. It definitely steamrollered, everything that came from it, supporting the Flaming Lips, Kevin Shields (of My Bloody Valentine) remixing it, Chuck D on a song, all these things I couldn’t have dreamed of. Travelling the world; China, Brazil, Australia, blah, blah.”

This idea of mixing up different kinds of music was something Parton had been interested in from an early age. “The idea for the Go! Team has been in the making since I was 20 really. At university I used to make loops out of easy listening records and put white noise over the top. I’ve always been interested in the idea of clashing different kinds of music.

Thunder, Lightning, Strike was the work of a fertile imagination of someone who knew how to mash things up, to make them exciting and palatable, by incorporating many of things he had experienced and witnessed as a child and a teenager, mainly via the TV and radio. Blaxploitation, Double Dutch, marching bands, Charlie Brown, early hip hop, and TV theme tunes were fused with a distorted indie garage rock backbone, and in doing so somehow managed to create something that spoke of a personal nostalgia whilst inhabiting a contemporary musical space. “I always described it as your life flashing before your eyes. It’s like your grabbing all these favourite things from your life. It could be a movie soundtrack, or a Charlie Brown cartoon soundtrack, or distortion, or My Bloody Valentine. It’s almost seeing no reason why you can’t combine all these random things. I was always frustrated by the way indie music would always stay within its world. You know, it was four blokes with guitars and I was trying to get anti-that, mix up girls and boys, and confusing the indie kids. Basically, annoy them!”

Not that he didn’t like indie music; he has expressed a love affair with Sonic Youth, and of course My Bloody Valentine remains very influential on Parton. “The first decent music I got into was the usual indie stuff, I guess; Pixies, Sonic Youth, who were my favourite group since I was 16. I don’t quite love them as much anymore, but still a fair bit… But then I got into Easy Listening (here he mimics a stereotypical easy listening trumpet line), and hip hop, like Public Enemy, and experimental music, people like Glenn Branca. And I definitely had a love of theme tunes more than your average person. As a kid my ears would prick up when the Charlie’s Angels theme tune came on. I don’t know what it is, there’s something about me that likes that stuff.

“The idea was to chuck loads of stuff on top of samples so you didn’t know what was what, and change the notes around it, so it became completely different, using distortion, distorting samples, and reversing them, and getting things from random places. So, you’d have a Northern soul sample next to a hip hop thing.”

Lest we forget, the internet was a very undeveloped tool back in the early noughties; often slow, unreliable, and certainly much much smaller, as a resource. Many samples had to be got the old-fashioned way… “I just spent stupid money on records that were rubbish, come home, put it on, there’s nothing on it… Lots of charity shop stuff. I like the idea of salvaging bad records sometimes. I like the idea of giving it a new home, re-contextualising it, and actually making something good out of it.

“Now, it’s a dream for samplers. You can go on a Bollywood blog and listen to every Bollywood song ever made, and then track it down when you’ve picked the one you want… That’s what I’ve been doing recently; I’ve been listening to more psychedelic, 60s stuff. Sometimes I’ll grab just a chord from a song, and actually build the song out of chords from loads of different places.”

With the use of so many samples did he have copyright issues? “The first album was a nightmare. I had a musicologist sitting over my shoulder, telling me what I could and couldn’t use. I had to reproduce things that were atrocious. The thing about samples is there is something x factor about them; there’s something about it, the way it was recorded or played. You can’t put your finger on what you like about it, but you realise it as soon as you try and reproduce it. Basically, I don’t even worry about that stuff anymore. I’m changing it so much it’s fair game, it’s not a blurred line situation. Although, I have actually been sued before; I had a scary letter from a solicitor demanding 100k. Yeah…” Parton winces at the memory of it. “You think I would’ve have learned, but I’ve got no interest in that stuff, the legal side of it.”

Back then, it was the quintessential ‘bedroom’ project, where more than dreams are made. But, performing this stuff live hadn’t really entered the equation. Until… “We basically agreed to headline a Swedish festival without having a band, and we had a few weeks to get it together. So, I asked around… I knew I wanted it to be a mixture of boys and girls, I knew I needed a rapper, and that’s where Ninja came in. When we first played we were pretty shonky, but by the second night I thought ‘we’re onto something here’. And as we played more and more we got more aggro, and it became more lairy; the double drum kits, running around the stage, the distorted guitar. The album is one thing, but the live show is more full on, it just takes your head off.”

Much like how Joseph Mount’s Metronomy became a long-term musical force when they finally hit the stage, without taking the music in to the live arena could have meant the disintegration of Ian Parton’s dream, The Go! Team remaining a studio-only project, unlikely to remain viable in this advancing age of decreasing physical sales, and increasing reliance on playing live to keep the music afloat. With rapper Ninja, fellow Brightonian Sam Dook, Jamie Bell, Chi Fukami Taylor, Kaori Tsuchida, and Ian himself – three parts male to three parts female – the band quickly became a formidable live outfit, easily translating the energy of the recordings into something even more powerful, and fun, on stage. “When Ninja comes off stage it’s like she has run a marathon, she can’t speak for half an hour,” Ian has said about his mainstay, who once again contributes to the new album. And their internationalist sound on record, is replicated by the internationalist look of the band on stage, helping them to win fans from around the globe.

And so The Go! Team, with the help of their label, Memphis Industries, has remained a fixture ever since, their two subsequent albums Proof of Youth and Rolling Blackouts, expanding on the template first established with Thunder, Lightning, Strike. Parton even managed to persuade, via his label, the one and only Chuck D of Public Enemy to lend his voice to Flashlight Fight on Proof of Youth. “I think it was someone at my label who kept hassling him. I think he sent an email out to him, and it was three moths later when he got a reply, but he had to go through his manager, who is terrifying apparently… To date, it’s the only male voice on a Go! Team song. I’ve had a ladies only policy. Just purely personal taste really, everything from loving Phil Spector, Roxanne Shante, Riot Grrl, there’s something about the curviness of the melodies, I can’t even put my finger on it… yeah… love the cute versus nasty dynamic,” he smiles.

Set up by the brothers Ollie and Matt Jacob (Ollie used to be Brighton based, and was heavily involved in the Essential Festivals at Stanmer Park of the late 90s), Memphis Industries is one of the few labels who have managed to keep going as a small independent, run for the sheer love of alternative music. “They were one of the people who I sent my little tape out to, and it was a tape… They saw the potential. They actually encourage me to distort things more sometimes. l’ll play them back a mix, and they’ll say it’s too clean, go and distort it some more. Which is pretty cool, isn’t it? It’s the opposite of what a label should be doing! They punch above their weight, that’s for sure – I don’t know how anyone survives these days.”

And now The Scene Between, four years after Rolling Blackouts. “There has always been four year gaps between records…. I can’t explain why it happens that way. It’s not as if I am sitting around all day. It’s the way I write, I can’t write songs in one sitting; I get something from here, maybe something from three years ago, and put it with something I wrote yesterday. It’s always ramming together these ideas, to try and make every song like a greatest hits. Even with the middle eights, I try and make my best ideas.

For instance with the song Blowtorch: “You can’t really tell easily but that song is made from about 20 samples, every chord in the verse was stitched together and the guitars over the top give it a slightly weird feel somehow. I’ve tried to make more dynamics with this album, more ‘sectiony’, more dropping down, and making it count… The Go! Team in the past has been a bit guilty of being a bit ‘flatliney’.

And true to form, Parton recorded the album in bits and pieces, in various locations. “In random places really; drums in my folks house, when they are on holiday, I did the bass in Sam’s little studio space, some at home. So, no swanky residential studio. It was all pretty lo-fi. I recruited guest vocalists, so I’d write the song and try and wrack my brain about what kind of voice it needed. For instance on Blowtorch, it’s actually, believe it or not, really hard to find a voice to give it that energy. If I asked a British girl, in Brighton probably, it would sound quite polite, quite straight, whereas she (Doreen Kirchner) sounds like she’s got bubblegum in her mouth, which is really cool. I told her to sing it badass, and she got that straight away.” Other guest vocalists on the new album include the Brazilian Samira Winter, Casey Sowa (of US band Strange Relations), Atom (from Chinese band Hedgehog), and Emily Reo, and the London African Gospel Choir. “I went to their church, which was above a Carphone Warehouse, with a laptop and some mics. You could hear buses going past and things like that. Lots of it is done remotely, me sending a guide vocal over. There’s another version of the album which is me singing like a lady…”

The opening track, What D’You Say? opens with the sound of a can of soda being opened, and poured. It’s highly evocative and fitting, for such a energy-rich type of band that they are; their sound being described as ‘sugar-coated chaos’. “I really like the idea of opening with that sound. I love the idea of putting images in your head. With the record, I wanted to have the feel of being a bit sun-damaged, a bit woozy. I think the song encapsulates that. Some of the record was recorded on a dictaphone, like a picky guitar bit. You know like a dictaphone’s mini-tapes? I would record it on that, and I’d then just ram a microphone up to a speaker and press play, and record it into my computer. You can tell, it’s got this wicked, warped, wobbly tape, answering machiney thing on it. You just know it’s not digital when you hear it. “

The lo-fi, old school approach of The Go! Team manifests itself still further when you buy the pink vinyl album version of The Scene Between, says Ian. If you buy the record from an independent record store you get a free cassette of a re-working of the record called Between The Scene Between. It’s pretty cool, it’s all the samples I didn’t use, ramped together, like channel-hopping between all the random stuff. It’s like a 20 minute Jive Bunny megamix job.”

After a two year gap The Go! Team are about to hit the road again, including a Brighton date sometime in the early summer. With various members having babies and other distractions, there’s a partially new live line-up. Sam Dook and Ninja are still there, but there are three new girls, including the Brighton based Simonne Odaranile on drums, and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Maki, and Cheryl Pinero on bass. Go, team, go!

Jeff Hemmings