“Every Gang of Four record sounds different from the last one,” says Gang of Four guitarist and co-founder Andy Gill.
“The thing that’s always consistent is that obsession with rhythm and groove, and the way the instruments interlock like a Swiss watch!”
While all of Gang of Four’s albums—from 1979’s groundbreaking Entertainment! up through 2011’s Content—have indeed varied markedly in terms of sound and approach, the new What Happens Next represents truly uncharted territory for the legendary English post-punk outfit.
It’s their first full-length outing without vocalist and co-founder Jon King, who left the band in 2012. (New member John “Gaoler” Sterry handles most of the album’s lead vocals, though the Kills’ Alison Mosshart guests on two tracks.) And it’s also the first Gang of Four album to be recorded entirely without guitar amplifiers.
“I was like, ‘Amps just get in the way—let me plug straight into the computer,’ ” laughs Gill, “I mostly used iZotope Trash, which is great fun, and some very cool things that Manny Marroquin designed for Waves. I combined all these different types of distortion, until it sounded like the last breath of a dying guitar. It was like, ‘God, that sounds so horrible, it’s brilliant!’”
Gill, whose aggressive, angular playing has been cited as a major influence by the disparate likes of Tom Morello, Tool’s Adam Jones, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sleater-Kinney, did use real guitars for What Happens Next, most notably a Lace Sensors–loaded Stratocaster he obtained from the Fender warehouse back in the late Eighties.
“That Strat has been my main guitar for nearly 30 years,” he says.
“Before it, I destroyed so many fantastic guitars doing things like banging ’em on the amp to get feedback, dropping ’em on the floor, and stamping on them. It was so stupid, and so expensive. I finally woke up one day and thought, Uh, maybe I should just not do that any more!”
Photo by Jeremy Danger