Interview with Gnod, trickster sound research unit from Salford. Part II


Jakub: Our conversation is circulating around Islington Mill. Did you find that place before or after you set up Gnod?

Paddy: Just before. The first time i came here was after sound of the city festival. It was first SFTOC I think. Somebody said there was an after party in Islington Mill and we were like, “where? Where the fuck is that?” So we go there and it was this fucking crazy party with like 300 nutters all dancing, all partying like crazy. I was quite young and was just like “what is this fucking mad place”. And then it became the place to go to for little parties, then they starting doing gigs there and we stared doing gigs there, one when me & Chris were in Stranger Son of WB supporting The Fire Engines in 2006. Then Gnod started up and started playing here as Gnod. We became friends with an owners Bill, Morry & Mark and they said why don’t you move onto a studio so we started to rehearse there.

Chris: When we first moved in we didn’t realise at that time how much we would become involved in the place. When we go on tour it’s like 50% of the staff that actually run the place have suddenly gone on tour. And they do struggle because we do a lot jobs here.

It’s kind of like an eggs in one basket kind of thing. We have invested so much of what we do in this place. If we had to move out now and find something else we’d find it really hard because there’s no other place like it in the UK. We’d have to start something ourselves I think. It’s become a place to live, a place to work, a place to hang out. We have people dropping in from all over Europe to stay at the mill. Just to have that community around you, being able to bounce ideas off people. And we’ve got everything in one place.

But in the future it would be good to have own base somewhere. I mean, living here for just over five years and in that time I’ve got to see how it’s run. You get the idea that it’s possible to get somewhere, a building, and do something with it creatively. It would be a lot of work to do it but possible. Like a cafe or something??

J: Do you think about to set up something only by Gnodians?

P: Yes it would be great to do that. It will take obviously take a little bit of money, but it’s all possible. I’d love to have a place not so big as this, but like a place where Gnod could live, do stuff, and use it as a HQ but also be free to move around. I’m always looking for somewhere like that.

Ch: That idea has been with us from the start. I read somewhere that Sunburned Hand of the Man used to do that. They were based in a big barn in Boston where some of them live. They have a big room to jam and people come over, they record it and that’s how they made most of their records. We liked the idea of that. Not being a commune band but having somewhere as your base where you can live and rehearse in one place, that’s essential for us I think.

J: When i read an interviews and papers about you is an opinion about you that you are commune band, everybody is coming in coming out.

Ch: We had never been a nine to five band, or one of these bands that do a rehearsal for two hours on a Wednesday and Thursday.

P: We operate definitely different to other bands. We do all kind of live in each others pockets. So it is kind of commune in a very modern sense or post-modern sense? Not in a hippy sense of the word commune but it’s communal living. It’s become a community. We are living in each other pockets more than many other bands will do.

J: Have any of artists which you met in Islington Mill, which you hosted made an influence on you or changed you view on music, or how to reflect music?

Ch: Charles Hayward definitely, is good example.

P: lots of them. Charles Hayward, Chago, a guy from Cuba who has been here recently. Im not particularly knowledge about Cuba music. Watching him, the guy is 50 years of age whatever. Every morning for 2 hours he gets up and he’s playing his conga drums without fail, before does his classes all day. Seeing that and thinking that is how he is so good in what he does. Its also a part of his blood, It like more than him practicing its like a cup of coffee for him. Seeing that was an influence. It’s like his goal, showing this is the way to live in music.

I think loads of people have had an influence. Sam Weaver, Sam is obviously a part. But when he came in that was big. For Chris maybe especially then everyone else. Chris got more knowledge of modular synths and Logic from him. He is very knowledgable guy and he is unselfish with his knowledge. It happens with everybody that you have have conversation with. Again it’s on a subconscious level, something you don’t spend too much time thinking about. Its spontaneous, you just soak it up like a sponge and later it comes out. Maybe the most relevant now because it has happened most recently and also it’s big deal for us is working with Charles (Hayward). We are big fans. I love all his stuff. And getting to work with him and learn from him. And seeing his approach to making music. I’m sure he approaches every musician differently. How he is approaching us, to work with us to get out the best in us.

J: Are you gonna release an album after a gig and rehearsals with him?

P : We’ve already released an album with him (Anonymous Bash). But hopefully there will be another one, that would be great. Cos that project (Anonymous Bash) has taken on a live of it’s own.

Ch: We already have three or four new tracks of new stuff written.

P: I hope we get into a studio situation again with him and record whole new album in a similar way as we did the last one.

J: Can you describe what music is consist on that album?

P: Its fucked up funk music, and there’s a really fucked up pop song on there. A lot of it is kind of funky.

J: Is it post-punk funk?

Ch: Yeah a little bit.

J: IM was a big shift in your music. Do you think still about your music as music with strong psychedelic vibe?

P: I don’t know. We just the make music that we make. And if the listener feels it’s psychedelic or whatever than that’s what it is to them.

Ch: We don’t try to hang on to any labels, space rock, psych-rock, krautrock. We not are aiming to stay in any of those genres. IM was the first realise we did on Rocket that didn’t sound anything like psych space rock. Because of the distribution Rocket have got, our albums on that label tend to be the ones we are most known for so it might come to a surprise to some people to hear IM and think “Oh right they did something that they’ve never done before”. But if go back to some CDR releases it will make more sense.

J: Are you feel connected to psychedelic world, do you follow the path of psychedelic knowledge by Timothy Leary or other psychedelic psychologists?

P: Im a Discordian Pope.

Ch: I think the thing about psychedelics is that it’s a subject that we don’t take seriously enough. I think Timothy Leary and the stuff he was saying was possibly the worst thing that happened to the psychedelic movement. He put it all out there in the mainstream before he really knew what he was doing. I think that he only wanted to promote it for his ends. And in a way it has ruined the possibility of medical research into psychedelics for years after. I think at the moment in psychedelic research they are only just coming out of the other side of that because there was so much a stigma placed on psychedelics they became very difficult to get licenses to use them for experimenting. Leary scared the governments and the governments in turn scared a lot of people. I don’t think it was the best way to bring it into the public consciousness. I think it was irresponsible in a way, what he did. Because it isn’t something that can be taken lightly.

P: There are people who think that all the answers to their problems will be sorted out if they go to the Amazon and take some ayahuasca and that will somehow bring them to enlightenment. And people who meditate for 2 days and they think “when am I gonna be enlightened?”. And that’s not what is about. There are so many roads to take but there is no quick way, it takes time & effort. I think it’s more important to get yourself on the path to enlightenment than to try & be enlightened. Because you will probably only be enlightened when you die in the 23rd lifespan!

J: Like in Tibetan Book of the Dead.

P: Yeah, achieving enlightenment when you leave your body. There are so many different paths to find a way to make yourself happy and stay happy during life.

J: Great that we started that psychedelic subject because in last year you made very interesting project Gnodorowsky. He is well known magician, director and psychedelic figure. Do you feel connected to his work?

P: I find him really interesting and intriguing. I got his book Psychomagic and have been reading about his practices and I was thinking “wow a I’d love to go and have psychomagic session with this joker”.

J:Trickster figure.

P: He is total trickster , a piss taker. He manages to make people realise what is important about their life.

J: I think you and him have a similar philosophy. Once he said that true art doesn’t come form the heart or mind but from the balls, do you agree with that?

P: (Laugh) I’m down with that. It can comes from anywhere. Everything is open ended book when it comes to creating stuff. There is no right way, wrong way, set way. When i started to think about it is like all my opinions and thoughts disappear because I realised that i don’t have any clue what I’m fucking talking about. so asking me a question like that makes my mind go completely blank.

Ch: I mean, Jodorowsky in way he does his stuff, he’s running on that psychoenergy so he probably doesn’t really have a clue what his next thing is or the next thing after that. Circumstances happen which lead him on the path of what to do next. In that way I think him and Gnod are similar. The way he is working as he explains it in his writing is the same weird chaotic energy that we feed off.

P: I think he is far more dedicated to chaos magic than us.

Ch: But is 90 years old or whatever, we are in our 30’s. What was he doing in his 30’s?

P: From what I read in the book he was absolute egomaniac in his 40’s. And after that he had a moment of realisation that he was a total cunt.

J: How much the Dune is important to you? Do you remember your first impression after your read Dune for the first time?

P: I’ve never read it.

Ch: I read it when i was 18 or 19 for the first time. A guy who I was working with said “aye, have you read this book mate? It’s about desert people in space and they all take heroin and there’s this guy who’s the new Jesus.” And I thought that sounds right up my street so read it and I was totally amazed at the detail. And then I heard about the David Lynch movie. I watched it and it was a pile of shit. Form watching it few times I made my self kind of like it, because it was only real visual representation. And then when I heard about that Jodorowsky trying to make it with Dali, Pink Floyd, Mick Jagger and I thought “wow, that would have been amazing.” We had a Gnod track in 2008 on our MySpace page called Jodorowsky’s Dune and it kinda freaked us out when the documentary came out with the same title. Because the film was never made all you’ve got is you’re imagination of what it could been like and that’s almost better than the film could have ever been. I think he read just a little bit of the story before writing the script. I don’t think it would have made a really good movie going off how they explain it in the documentary. I think it was a bit to far away from the book and I think the book is such a special story in itself. I read somewhere that the Frank Herbert story was conceived while he was taking psilocybin mushrooms. It’s one of my favourite ever books.

J: We have started a little bit earlier a trickster figure subject. Do you feel attracted to trickster figure, is it important for you?

P: Yeah absolutely. You’ve got to have a sense of humour in there. We want to realese albums that gonna to fuck with people heads or their opinions whatever they think we are. Even in interviews. Sometimes we tell lies because we like to create a story, a myth.

J: So its one of your tactics?

P: Yes

Ch: I think everyone is a trickster because World is built on an illusion. It wouldn’t be if there wasn’t so many tricksters around – everything is a trick. Education, religion. Even your name, that isn’t you, it’s just a name. You have been told that is what you are called. Where do the tricks start and end?

J: Was the Gnodorowsky project a one off or are you going to repeat it?

P: I think in order to do it again we would need a year or two to work on it. If somebody was to ask us to do Gnodorowsky, and maybe commission us to do it and give us money and time to do it so we could make it really special then yeah, I think it would be cool to do it again. What I’d really like to do is to make an album based on the Gnodorowsky project. But I think it would have to be a commissioned thing. I even think when we did it for the Cork Film Festival we only had few weeks to get it all together. We were really busy as well doing other gigs and we didn’t have much time to put into it as we would have liked.

Ch: There was a problem about using some of the footage from the documentary which we had to get permission from the director before we could use it. We were waiting to get clearance and by the time we got an answer, which was no, we had maybe 3 weeks left before the festival. We had certain ideas of the structure and how we wanted to do it, but we couldn’t really start rehearsals before the visuals were finished because we were playing along to cues from the visuals. So in the end Jamie had to make all visuals himself using found footage and video effects. In a way we felt it was a bit rushed. What we came out with was OK, but i think we could have done it much better with a bit more time to work on it.

J: Do you think about other movies to reinterprate in similar way?

Ch: Not really. We’ve done a couple of AV shows mainly for festivals where we’ve just jammed to short films. It isn’t high up on the list of priorities.

P: We could do it but it takes a lot of time and money so it’s not high up on the agenda.

Ch: There were quite a few ideas that we couldn’t use in Gnodorowsky. One of them was having incense in the room. Having people dressed in robes with blue eyes walking around with church incense, to creating an atmosphere before the show. We weren’t allowed to do that because of fire regulations and plus we were told it would set off the smoke alarm. The other idea was giving out a little baggy with a blue sweet inside which was supposed to represent the spice, Everybody would get one as they walk in, but they would be the kind of sweets that turn your mouth blue so everybody would have been walking out with blue lips. But we couldn’t get a bulk amount of those sweets. So the were a few ideas for it that we never used but if we were to do it again it would have to be like that. We were even thinking about using live actors in the visuals or even live actors walking around so it’s not just about the video. We could make the best fucking Dune ever. But we need money, time and purpose to do it.

J: Lets talk about period in your career 2009 – 2010. It was very prolific period in your career. You released the so many albums Crystal Pagoda, Wurste Ceremony, Science and industry. Who was in the band in that period?

P: Marlene was in the band, yes, Alex wasn’t. We had guy called Del on drums in that period, Neil the fish was our vocal guy, who is on a lot of our albums A guy called John on synth, Will on noise and trumpet.

Ch: A lot of those releases came out at the time due to a lot of people get in contact with us asking us if we wanted to do tape or CD for their label. NotNotFun, Reverb Worship, Sonic Meditations were all asking us if they could release our music. At that time we had a huge backlog of recordings of good rehearsals and live shows so we started editing them into albums.

J: They are all drone music. Do you were in that time heavily inspired buy drone music ? Because they all sound very droney.

P: I don’t think we were heavily inspired by drone music at all. It’s just was what happening when we got into the rehearsal rooms. In those days we would spend all day in the rehearsal room getting fucked up, really drunk or stoned or take some drugs and make some noise.

Ch: We were just trying not to write songs. Trying to make music without the boredom of writing songs.

J: Do you like that records from current perspective ?

P: Yes, Science and Industry is one of my favourite Gnod albums.

J: For me as well. It the point when you sound really kraut and space in the good way, not repeating old schemes but getting something new with that tribal drone atmosphere.

P: Even like old recordings from Science and Industry, they were all moments I remember well and remember really enjoying. The memories of those recordings are really good strong memories. And then Crystal Pagoda

CH : That was actually an alternative soundtrack we did for the film The Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda.

P: Do you know it?

J: No, i don’t know it.

P: It’s fucking great! You can watch it on youtube. Angus Macalise did the original soundtrack which is fucking brilliant, and then SHOFM did a version of it.

Ch: And you bought a dvd of it at a SHOTM gig.

P: Actually it was a lot of fun doing that. We performed it live twice and really enjoyed that.

J: On that record we can hear a trumpet and brass section, yes ?

P: That was Will. He played a lot of trumpet, keyboards & made other weird synthy noises Will is a very accomplished musician. He can read and write music, mostly plays classical music and jazz. So working with Will was always interesting cos we were coming from a non musical sort of approach and he would go “what is this?” but he loved it. He has a very musical head so it was always good working with him. We might think “we’re playing this and it sounds good but it needs to go somewhere” and he’d go “try this” and it’d work first time. He was good like that.

J: The sound of his trumpet which is swimming in that drone /psychedelic effect sounds similar to Miles Davis’ Agharta and his twin album Panagea.

P: Oh i don’t know it. There is not a lot of Miles Davis I really know. My favourite MD is probably On the Corner and I’ve got another…

Ch: What was after On the Corner?

P: This one, Big Fun.

J: I don’t know this album.

P: It fucking great, if you like On the corner you will like this one.

Ch: I think there is another one which he did shortly after On the Corner??

P: I don’t know, there is so much Miles Davis.

J: You also had in that period a split with Bong. How did you meet them?

P: That was our first ever vinyl release, the split 7” with Bong on Box Records. What happened was mate of ours, who played in Gnod early on (Matt Baty) was starting a record label. He’s from Newcastle so he has known the Bong guys for years. And he said he wanted his first release to be a 7 inch split with Gnod and Bong. And that’s how we came to meet them. They are a good friends now. They fucking brilliant, in that genre of music they are my favourites, they are like the kings of what they do.

Ch: I think there are more North East bands we have affiliations with than we’ve got with Manchester bands.

P: Bong, Khuunt, Drunk in Hell,

Ch: Blown out

J: Do all of them play sludge core or doom ?

P: Everything is kind of heavy. There is scene in the North East, it’s a small scene because a lot of the same musicians are playing in the same bands. But it is very vibrant scene. I think it is one of the better scenes I think in England for music.

J: I need to explore it.

P: You should.

J: Have you heard their last album from this year? What do you think about it?

P: It’s amazing isn’t it? It just Bong, isn’t it.

J: What attractive you most in their music for you, the heaviness ?

P: Yeah i think heaviness, Dave singing, and his storytelling, Mike’s guitar, Mikes really fuck up drums, the sound they are creating as unit. They tune their guitars to the 432 hertz. frequency. They plan to be the ultimate experience when you are high. And I think they do it very well. Every next album is like a continuation of the album before. Bong is like the perfect band. It’s all one big story. Maybe it is like when people collect s-f books – Bong are like that.

J: For me i love to listen to them when i m reading R. E. Howard, the tales about the things that happened before Atlantis rises from the sea. You can feel those ancient times.

P: Dave from Bong is obsessed with Lovecraft. If you listen to his lyrics, look at the artwork you can see that influences.

J: Do you plan the reissues of the records from that period we ware talking about? Because its very hard to get a physical copy.

P: I think maybe I’d like to do something like say when Gnod is 10 years old. I’m not up for making a big deal of it. But when you are in the band it makes sense to document everything. So maybe when Gnod is 10 we might suggest to the label to release a cd pack, or come up with some idea where all those releases are on one sort of thing. I’m down with it being on cd, or having 5 cds and a memory stick, or something a bit different. It will be nice to do all of them on vinyl but there’s no way they’ll do that.

Ch: I like idea to having all of them on cd but to get them like in vinyl sleeve with maybe a memory stick.

P: So maybe we will do something like that. That would be nice to do. As far as before that no, let them just be out there and become discogs material.

Ch: A lot of that stuff was self released on cd-r for sale on tours so there’s a lot of it about.

P: Before we started selling the cd-rs i must have given away 300-400 cds before we even started playing and gigging properly. We were just rehearsing and we would record the rehearsals, make a cd, make a little cover. We would go to a gig, leave them on a table, say pay a pound or just take one, whatever you feel. There’s fucking loads and loads of stuff. We even did those releases in dvd boxes when you can fit in 2 CDs . So we’d do a couple of hundred when you can get 2 or 3 albums in one, so there’s some double cdr’s in a double DVD case with nice wrapped around artwork with little inserts. I don’t have any of those, have you got any of them Chris?

Ch: I got a couple of versions before we stared to to doing all the inserts stuff. I’ve never seen them come up on discogs. There not listed on discogs.

P: No thats weird isn’t it? If you put them on discogs then we start making money, haha. So maybe we make few and get them on discogs? (Laugh) Check this one out, this one is not on discogs any more but used to go for silly money. This is my cdr from our first European tour, Three Sticks A Penny but with a different cover. Everybody made their own cdr’s to sell on tour and this is the one I made. Actually both of them are worth money. This is really sought after. It’s the first record that we made with White Hills, Aquarian Downer. That’s my pension plan sorted, haha!

J: In issue 8 of Optical Sounds Fanzine your colleagues The Cosmic Dead said that underground in 2015 is alive and alive and extremely healthy. I remember that when i talked to you after your spring tour your Chris when i asked you about underground and bands opinion was a little bit different.

Ch: I was talking about the recent tour and I think you asked me if we’d played with any other bands that I thought were good. I said that I couldn’t remember playing with any bands that stuck out as being particularly good, not that good underground bands don’t exist.

J: Do you feel that condition of underground music is good now?

Ch: There’s a lot of it around. It’s almost like there are two tier thing with music now where you’ve got bands that are on labels with money and they’re all over the music press and then there’s the underground. It was always been like that. I think underground at the moment is more accessible with things like Bandcamp and the internet. They’ve got a presence. To say that makes it more healthy I really don’t know, because I think it’s got a lot harder to get underground music to get noticed or into the mainstream.

J: Is it a goal for a underground music ?

Ch: No, it is not a goal. But in order to exist and carry on you need to have encouragement from somewhere. Not for financial reasons but to give you the drive to carry on, you need to have interest, to know someone is listening. Because if you don’t it tends to stagnate and bands can start to turn against each other. If you not being listened to and if you not getting written about it can be really hard for a band to maintain their fire. There is so much music around it’s hard to get noticed.

J: Sometimes it’s too much, isn’t it?

Ch: Yeah, and is a lot of bad music around, and a lot people making music for wrong reasons. I don’t know how to judge how it is healthier now than in another time. In 70’s and 80’s, you could have quite obscure bands that still get signed to the labels and end up touring and stuff like that. I don’t think they really get the support now. There are no independent labels with the money. They got to be able to recoup what they are spending so they can release the next thing.

J: They don’t want to take a risk.

Ch: They don’t really need to because now the testing ground for your music is the internet. You can get your stuff on Bandcamp or Soundcloud and get yourself heard.

J: Is it enough?

Ch: I don’t think so but i mean it is an option that bands didn’t have before, when you would have to wait for label to come and pick you up before you could make a record. Now you can make a record on your computer, post it online and it is out there.

J: While we are speaking about the underground i would like to get to know how the Salford/Manchester underground scene looks nowadays?

P: Really healthy, really good. There is lot of interesting stuff going on. A lot of interesting folk making music, combining music and art and all those sensibilities and all different ways of using the creative process. There is a lot of poets, artists, performers and dancers making really interesting stuff and far out music. When i think about some of the bands like Locean Water, Devi. It is kind like fucking New York in the 80’s or something.

Ch: Cos you’ve got a lot of people in those bands that aren’t a necessary a musician they are more like artists. They got an idea or concept of something and the way they bring something to a band is not like “I can play a guitar” it’s more like “I’ve got this weird cheap synth which makes this noise”, or an idea which is more performance based. You don’t really get that in more conventional bands. When you read about how bands formed in the past it’s always people who get together to form almost punk band – So, I’m a singer and I need a guitarist, a bass player and a drummer. It isn’t like that anymore from what I can see. It’s more like a lot of individuals contributing together to make something… other.

P: And the other flip side of it you got great conventional bands as well. There are so many different scenes in Manchester and Salford. So much different stuff and it’s all really healthy. Manchester is finally breaking away from Madchester.

J: Is Madchester a heavy burden?

P: I’m not from Manchester but i can see how it helped to shape what Manchester is today. And how it’s become this bloated dead horse.

Ch: The heavy burden is that if a band come out now sounding like Oasis or The Stone Roses it will be suddenly be written about. Where as what we were talking about, the underground scene, the stuff that is happening now and now matter how interesting it is it never gets written about because they’re looking for the same old story. A group of goodtime lads about to take over the world. They just want to write about bands like that. They’d prefer to write another article on The Hacienda, The Smiths, etc. So they are the ones holding on to that thing, not the artists.

J:Thank you for talking.

P: Thank you for asking.


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