The Go! Team - Mish Mash Melodies
Author: Steve Tauschke
Friday, 31 August 2007
Fluffing a pillow in his London bed, Ian Parton is ranching it up – and why shouldn’t he. The drummer-guitarist-harmonica player with Brighton sextet The Go! Team is enjoying a well-earned break following a string of recent showcase gigs in locales as varied as the band’s sound; Spanish festivals, both east and west US coasts - even a disco in Shanghai.
“Live music doesn’t really exist in China yet, it’s a real novelty,” says Parton of the country’s underground scene. “There’s only one venue where we played in Shanghai and it was a nightclub - not really a venue. But it went stupidly well! People were stage diving and getting on each other’s shoulders.”
The Go! Team are this month celebrating the release of their second album Proof Of Life, an adroit composite of riffs, rants, chants, beats and blips as schizophrenic as it is seamless. So far, the consensus speaks of a cut n’ paste record aiming above the benchmark set by legendary sampling sophisticates, the Beastie Boys.
“That was the kind of golden era of sampling, where the rules were still pretty loose,” says Parton of the New York trio’s trailblazing albums of the early 90s. “Public Enemy did that as well, they had songs that hold a bunch of ideas not just one, which is what a lot of hip hop is these days, with dodgy singing over the chorus. I like songs with three choruses in them, things that hold your attention by taking three left turns. I’m also a great believer in melody and catchiness so it’s not just a wank-off self-indulgent thing. It’s a personal combination of all my favourite things and I didn’t want to lose sight of that.”
As The Go! Team’s democratically elected leader and chief songwriter, Parton concedes that while much of the melody and structure of Proof of Life was locked down prior to entering the studio, he’s also cognisant of his own musical limitations. Creative licence, he insists, is always afforded to fellow teamsters Chi Fukami Taylor (drums/vocals), Jamie Bell (bass), Sam Dook (guitar/banjo), Kaori Tsuchida (vocals/guitar/keys) and Ninja (rap/vocals).
“Everyone’s better on their instruments than I am so I’d be stupid not to harness everyone’s skills,” laughs Parton, who recently led the group through a BBC Radio One recording session in London. “But I guess I’m the one with the obsession with sampling, who looks on eBay and through old documentaries and hundreds of old records for that three second sample. I’ve got songs at home that have evolved from various sources, you know, melodies I’ve sung into my phone or samples from four-track tapes I have scattered around. So things evolve and we go into a space in Brighton where half the band live and we go in there every day – no producer, just us lot. I think the new album has moved on a fair amount from the first record - it sounds more live.”
Inspired by the simplicity of Daniel Johnston, obscure 60s girl groups and Mo Ticker (“100% charm and 0% technical ability”), Parton’s early career was shaped by constant tinkering with vintage four-track machines – “real home entertainment bollocks” and at one point, an archaic karaoke machine he describes as “a primitive four-track because you’d make a tape then record over it yourself and then add stuff onto it.”
“I’ve also used a mid-80s Atari computer too which does the job, really basic but quite stable and very user-friendly,” he adds. “I did my very first demos on that, I used it to trigger the samples. I always approached samples as a technology where I can cut n’ paste and juxtapose things, you know, contrasts - all my favourite things. I’ve always been interested in how wildly different things can work together in some way, that there is some common ground between a soaring violin and a freak-out noisy guitar thing and trumpets in a Blaxploitation film and gang double Dutch vocals. I’m interested in the overlaps between sounds.”
Such a sonic collage was wildly successful back in 2004 when, as a part-time project with full-time ambitions, The Go! Team recorded their debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike in their kitchen, no less. The following year the album earned them a surprise Mercury Music Prize nomination.
“It was obviously amazing,” recalls Parton. “We were doing pretty well before that but it kind of put us on the map for a few people. For me, it felt like a victory for the idea of lo-fi and the idea of homemade recordings because it was an album made in the kitchen using about five shitty microphones! And we were going head-to-head with major label albums.”
Soon enough, Parton and team will get dressed and ready themselves for their second Australian tour over the coming new year, having previously enjoyed a summer down under on the Big Day Out circuit a couple of years ago. Parton remembers the festival - as have many visiting musicians – as an extended vacation.
“We called it the Big Day Off because we’d have three days off then a gig then three days off, haha!”
WHO: The Go! Team
WHAT: New album Proof Of Youth out through Shock/ Play Falls Festival
WHEN: Out now/ December 30 2007 to January 1 2008