Mike Atkinson

Interview: Ian Parton, The Go! Team

Posted in interviews, Nottingham Post by Mike A on March 7, 2008

As the leader of The Go! Team, to what extent do you control everything that goes on?

The Go! Team sound is a lot to do with stuff I’ve always dug. It’s almost like my record collection melted down. I started the group, I wrote the first album, and I did all that myself really. The band came together because I really wanted to do things as a gang. There was certainly no plan to do it as a laptop thing, because it’s just dull, and it’s been done. There were no auditions, and no kind of grand plan. I really got it together just for one gig in Sweden in 2004, with the idea of: let’s get through this, let’s see if I can blag it, let’s pretend we’re a band for one festival. Then we just took it from there. We never really spoke about the future. It was just like, OK, we’ve got another one in a week’s time, and do you want do that? So I guess we got to know each other on the road. 

Two years later, when it was time to make another record, I wanted to involve everyone in the recording process. So we all went into the studio, and everyone did their own instrumental parts, but the songwriting is still a lot to do with me. There are also lots of collaborations, with people around the world. Ninja wrote a lot of the lyrics, particularly for the live show. I also like to get involved in the videos and the whole visual side – but apart from that, every other decision is made as a band. 

So it’s still your creative vision as interpreted by others, even though they might bring some of their own stuff to it.

I guess so. I wrote the songs, so I suppose that defines the sound. We’re all quite different people, and there are different kinds of playing styles, so that comes through. Maybe the next album will be more of a jam-off, but I’ve got an inkling that it might not sound like the Go! Team. It might sound good and noisy, with lots of wigging out and thrashing around, because we’re all noise fans – but I’m not a great believer in jamming. I’m more of grafter. It’s more a case of trial and error: trying things out, storing them away and then pulling them out again.

Jamming can be a dead end…

I’m sure it works for some bands, but I’m a terrible jammer.

Well, you can be one step away from the Jools Holland end of things, if you’re not careful. (Laughter) Enjoyable to play, but it can sometimes lose creative focus.

I like to hoard melodies, and then revisit them. It’s that kind of distance you get when you have an idea, but when you listen back two weeks later it’s almost not your idea anymore. You can say: oh that’s alright, I’ll use that. Or you can say: no, that’s shit. 

You can sometimes start with one idea, and by the time the track’s finished it has warped and shifted so much that it’s ended up in a different place.

(Dubiously) Well, every song starts with one kick-ass idea that I definitely think is worthy of using. Then it builds out from there, and you’ll try other ideas next to it. I’m really interested in contrasts, and different styles of music rubbing shoulders. So a song will grow out, and spread into three minutes that will be worth listening to.

To my ears, it certainly sounds as if the first album was more of a studio project, whereas the second album does sound more like the work of a live band. There’s a more unified sound, in terms of the instrumentation and the line-up.

Yeah, I think so. I certainly wanted it to be more kick-ass and more ballsy, with thrashy guitars and the drums kicking in more – which is a lot more like the live show. 

Barring a couple of tracks, there’s a kind of full tilt, ecstatic energy level to it, which you manage to maintain pretty well throughout.

Yeah, some people find it a bit wearing. (Laughs) But I wanted it to be an all-out thirty minute assault.

It’s certainly that. There’s something that I like about the vocals, in that they remind me of late 1980s party-rap, such as the Cookie Crew and people like that. There’s a kind of playground quality at work. Was that era an influence?

Definitely the early hip hop stuff. I wanted people to imagine street corners and sports halls, rather than studios. I like “found sounds”, which is how some of the vocals on the album came about. We used a chant team in Washington DC, where a geezer just turned up to one of their practices, stuck some microphones up, and said: just do something. It was the same with the Double Dutch Divas, a jump rope team from Brooklyn, who have been going since around 1979, and who have toured with the Fat Boys and Run DMC.

I didn’t even know that whole tradition was still continuing. It’s a tradition which seems to have got lost.

Yeah, that kind of jump rope, chanting stuff has always been an influence to me, and I felt it was underused. And that girl gang feel is something I’m always drawn towards. I want people to imagine girl gangs, with baseball bats, taking to the streets.

I guess you must be a crate digger to a certain degree, in terms of that samples that you’ve managed to dig up.

I’m not super-knowledgeable, but I’m always hustling for it. People give me stacks of easy listening records, and 99% of it is bollocks, but there will be the occasional moment of usable stuff. I look out for Blaxploitation soundtracks, Bollywood soundtracks and all kinds of blaring, brash stuff from unusual places – but hopefully nothing too obvious.

How do you translate that sort of sound to a live setting? 

It’s a shifting kind of line-up. There are six of us: three girls and three blokes. Three of us can drum, so at times there are two people drumming. I play harmonica, drums and guitar, Kaori plays recorder and glockenspiel, and so there’s loads of swapping. The samples are set in stone: they’re off, they’re doing their thing. We didn’t really make that a part of the visual thing, because it’s quite dull. We could have had someone with a laptop, pressing buttons, but…

Laptops on stage can be deathly, can’t they?

It’s a kind of wall of sound, I guess. There’s so much going on, with six people plus a whole bunch of samples, so for the sound man it’s a real feat. (Laughs) There’s a real art to getting everything balanced.

Without it just completely disintegrating into a mush, and everything cranked up to maximum…

It has just taken people’s heads off. It’s probably more ballsy live than it is on record.

Good God! The music sometimes sounds as if it’s teetering on the brink of chaos, but then it just stops short. Do you retain that element?

Yeah, chaos is a plus in my book. If someone asked me what was my dream gig, I think chaos would be the key word. Particularly in the crowd. I dig that idea of the whole room descending into chaos!

So, is slickness the enemy?

I thank that’s actually a quote, isn’t it?

Oh, is it? I actually thought that was an original observation! (Laughs nervously)

Well no, I think I’ve actually said those words on a press release.

Have you? Oh, I didn’t see any press releases… 

But yeah, pretty much. Like you say, you’ve got to draw a line somewhere. It’s a lot to do with the reaction to current production styles. When you turn on Radio One and you hear the latest song from Keane or Coldplay, it’s all very lavish and very panoramic. You know that they’ve spunked thousands of pounds on the best studio, with the best producer, and that it’s the best it could ever sound. For me, that sucks all the life out of it. It’s certainly helpful for getting a hit, because it suckers the listener into thinking that it’s a real piece of work – but I always want people to think of immediacy, spontaneity and energy. I want people to imagine us recording in a garage, rather than a £2000 a day residential studio.

Are there any other acts currently around with whom you feel any kinship?

I wouldn’t say kinship. There are some good bands out there: I think Deerhoof are one of the best bands around, and there’s Black Moth Super Rainbow, who are like a low-fi version of Boards Of Canada. And also Caribou.

You’re a Brighton band, and I always get the impression that Brighton punches well above its weight, in terms of producing successful and interesting acts. Do you feel part of a scene there?

No, not really. There isn’t really a scene, in terms of one uniform sound that comes out of Brighton, as it’s a real passing-through kind of town. Not many people who live here actually grew up here, so there’s not the sort of pride, or the sense of identity, that you would get in Manchester. I don’t think Southerners particularly have that same pride or identity. So you get lots of different kinds of bands. What have British Sea Power got to do with the Kooks, or with The Pipettes, or with us? But there are lots of good noise bands here, and I think that’s underrated.

I inevitably link you back to Big Beat, in that you’re mixing funk and rock and rap, in an upbeat, celebratory way. I wondered if you felt part of that tradition…

No, I wouldn’t say so. I can’t stand Fatboy Slim, really.

Heresy! (Laughter)

I think it had a bit of a bargain basement dimension. It was almost like a gold rush. It was like: who can get to the sample first, and put a beat behind it.

And it spawned a rush of imitators, so I guess you must have had a lot of that.

Yeah, it had a kind of cheeky, cheap feel to it.

I know what you’re saying. Obvious tricks. OK, final question: what is your plan for 2008? What do you want to do with the band next?

There are lots of interesting gigs coming up: Mexico, maybe Africa, and back to Japan. But really, just to keep writing. I’m always hustling for that next song, and I think there’s a lot more mileage in schizophrenic kind of songs. I want to push the idea of channel-hopping, where very different things are rubbing shoulders, with very different kinds of production within a song. So I’ll just keep working away on that.

I hope you’re not going to be one of these bands that keep everyone waiting for three years between albums, because that hacks me right off.

Like the last one, hmm? (Laughter)

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