Gang of Four’s Andy Gill Has Died: Revisiting This Fascinating 2011 BlackBook Interview

 

 

 

(Legendary Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill died yesterday, February 1, 2020, after a short illness. Here we revisit our fascinating 2011 interview with him.)

 

It’s impossible to recall a more deliciously snide clash of sound and vision than that which opens Sofia Coppola’s 2006 period drama Marie Antoinette. As the doomed Austrian princess, an opulently bedecked Kirsten Dunst licks icing from a lavish confection as Gang of Four‘s acerbic “Natural’s Not In It” tears through the scenery, Jon King caustically sneering, “The problem of leisure / What to do for pleasure.” Breaking the fourth wall, Dunst smirks disdainfully at the camera as if to say, “Fuck you, I get the joke.”

Of course, in Coppola’s philosophical universe, even the buildup to the violent overthrow of the Ancien Regime can be broken down into a dissertation on teenage disaffection. Conversely, to Gang of Four, everything—vacation, housework, getting laid—was always politics.

 

 

“I personally rather liked it,” confesses GOF guitarist-vocalist Andy Gill. “There are a lot of films you can make about Marie Antoinette and about that period, and she chose to make a film about how artifice is everything. Not a lot happens in that film, it’s very subtle. It was very interesting to me that she used the songs like that.”

The Leeds-hailing quartet (who along with Wire, The Fall, PIL, Cabaret Voltaire and Magazine arguably invented the jagged, discordant dance-rock aesthetic still codified as “post-punk“) not only got a post-millennium shout-out from Coppola, but also found their name rolling off the tongues of every preening cool kid band from Brooklyn to Glasgow, and their grooves unmistakably embedded in the Zeitgeist-defining records of Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Futureheads, The Rapture, Yeah Yeah Yeahs—we could go on. The original four members—King, Gill, drummer Hugo Burnham, and bassist Dave Allen—slyly reformed, decisively stole the show at Coachella 2005, and went on to tear up venues from Detroit to Dublin, gleefully smashing microwave ovens on stage as part of their signature critique on the disposable consumer culture they’d prophesied on their early records.

Gill observes of their revivified relevance, “We were doing festivals in Europe, and what we noticed was that when we played some of the old songs like ‘Return The Gift’ or ‘Ether,’ not just lyrically but also musically, they felt so now and so current.”

 

 

It’s all a bit odd, as back in 1979, GOF seemed to be floating outside the trendoid acceptance radius, even as the critical establishment fell all over itself in praise. Indeed, while “fashionable” punks were storming the proverbial barricades, they were sitting around reading Gramsci and Walter Benjamin—even their name is a Maoist pun. Yet, for all intents and purposes, the most treasured indie band accessory of the new century has been the ability to replicate Gill’s jarring guitar style—or for the DJ set, the savvy to know why it’s cooler to spin “To Hell With Poverty” than anything by, say, The Buzzcocks or Joy Division.

On Content, their first record of new material since ’95, the current Gang (Gill and King, along with two newbies, bassist Thomas McNeice and drummer Mark Heaney) return to Marx and dialectics. Though there’s nothing quite as direct as their fiery manifesto “Capital (It Fails Us Now),” they make easy critical work of such topics as the vapidity of modern leisure (“Send me a photo of you on holiday”), our existential bemusement in a consumerist society (“Who am I when everything is me?”), the equivocal modern morality (“Jailers get Valentines…”), our quotidian anesthetization (“When I get up I take a pill”), and in general, the sinister yet banal corporate branding of just about everything.

Depressingly, at a time when Gill notes, “There are so many parallels between now and then,” and that, “we’re living through the worst collapse of capitalism since not 1929, but maybe 1979,” their penchant for stinging social critique has not been even vaguely adopted by the current generation of acolytes.

 

 

Gill compares the apoliticization of youth to an extended celebration of free-market ideals, resulting from the end of the Cold War, which, it must be noted, was still in full force when GOF were first arriving on the scene: “The collapse of Communism is an incredibly recent thing. It was like, ‘Capitalism has won!’ And now we stride into a happier future.” iPhones have replaced ideology.

But for those unconcerned with the trenchant decay of contemporary values, the metallic-funk grooves here are utterly ferocious, the band adding a gleaming modern sheen while hardly sacrificing a whit of their aural and ideological venom. Veritably annihilating the notion that punk rock is a young man’s weapon, GOF’s rhythmic force on Content (get the double entendre?) is as feral as anything coming out of the grubbiest indie clubs, and stratospherically more accomplished. Indeed, Andy Gill’s savage riff on the scowling “I Party All The Time” would probably make Jimmy Page seethe with jealousy.

But Gill insists that, for all the new-generation adulation, Gang of Four’s core mandate/mission remains ultimately the same as it ever was.

“Where does one get one’s ideas from? I think that’s been Gang of Four’s overriding theme,” he enlightens. “And of course, they’re all human constructions, these ideas. It’s the subject matter of a lot of songs on this record, and it continues to be kind of an obsession. We watch TV, we read books, we listen to pop music, we talk to each other, and out of that all these ideas develop. And I think what we do is part of that evolution of ideas. It’s our ongoing interpretation of the culture.”

 

Prince Makes Bold Move To Control His Song Catalog

In a move indicative of so much of the restructuring of the overall music biz, Prince has announced he’s taking full control of his staggering song catalog.

The artist formerly known as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” has just put his entire output under the control of his own newly formed NPG Music Publishing company. This, of course, includes inimitable classics like “1999”, “When Doves Cry” and “U Got The Look.” Prince himself humbly refers to the collection as “fit 4 eternal publication.”

And if anyone doubted his “cultural eternity”…when his latest single, “FALLINLOVE2NITE”, was featured (along with His Purpleness himself) on the February 2nd episode of the FOX hit program New Girl, the show scored record viewership.

Expect more news from the NPG camp to follow in 2014, with a  concerted effort kicking off to place his songs in film and television. Long live the Prince!

See more HERE.

NYC’S Rasa Rings in Lunar New Year to Benefit City Harvest

Clever restaurateurs have come up with some or other specialty menu for virtually every bloody so-called holiday (though we’d suggest hightailing it if a waiter hands you a Groundhog Day menu). But Camie and Tommy Lai’s buzzy new West Village Malaysian Rasa is giving the Lunar New Year celebration (it’s the Year of the Horse, btw) a tasty but poignant twist—with portions of the profits going to City Harvest. The three-course prix-fixe offerings will include such ambrosial delights as Malay Curried Wings, Beef Rendang and Crispy Flounder. The Lunar New Year begins today, January 31, but Rasa’s festive menu will be offered until February 9.

Lunar merrymakers can also head to Midtown’s glamorous Hakkasan, which is proffering special a la carte menu items through February 8—topped off with exclusive, horse-embossed macaroons. Angelenos can enjoy much the same at Hakkasan’s Beverly Hills outpost; or make for IDG’s super chic WeHo Chinese Chi Lin, where Tyson Wong’s ethereal creations can be indulged for 50% off regular prices. 新年好!!!

Duran Duran Shot By David Lynch

Styles change, style doesn’t. So goes the distinctly media-age-savvy credo of the still unstoppable phenomenon that is Duran Duran. Originating as five pirate-blouse-donning glam-progeny out of the Birmingham New Romantic underground, they would eventually leave a trail of screaming, fainting girls in their wake.

A few decades later, of course, it’s not quite as much about getting the ladies’ panties twisting. But their Warhol-like ability to always keep a foot always planted in the zeitgeist has found them trotting out headline grabbing collaborators these last several years, including Timbaland and Mark Ronson.

The latest is David Lynch, who, with a generous purse from the AMEX, agreed to film the boys in concert at LA’s Mayan Theater in 2011 and then appropriately weird it up. The end result was screened Monday night to open MoMA’s The Contenders film series. The remaining four band members were on hand to introduce Duran Duran: Unstaged, and a still exquisitely cheek-boned John Taylor enlightened that the museum was a place they, “always looked to for inspiration.”

And challenging the staid format of concert films, Lynch overlaid on the performance a barrage of freaky (and vey Lynchian) images of fire, dancing dolls, toy planes and dreary suburban homes—which, interestingly, give the proceedings a strange but palpable sort of energy. Meaning, the experiment actually worked—it literally reinvents the genre. Taylor was quick to point out that Lynch, “got complete creative control.” Who would have guessed?

It’s quite the all-star affair, too, with Ronson, Kelis, an exuberant Beth Ditto—just slightly out-singing a silver-voiced Simon LeBon–and My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way (as a sort of Nick Rhodes doppelganger) joining the band on stage at various intervals. The latter’s exhilarating turn on “Planet Earth” is a genuine highlight. In fact, it is four songs from Duran Duran’s eponymous debut album that explode off the screen most viscerally. Their version of obscure early gem “Friends Of Mine”, which seamlessly name-checks Brit gangster George Davis (who says machine-guns and puffy blouses don’t go together?) virtually steals the film. And the closing encore of “Girls on Film” still seethes with subversive sexuality.

Band and friends partied it up at UES hotspot East Pole after the screening, and it says something that plates of exquisitely realized vegetable creations were being passed around. Were this 1987, those silver platters might have looked rather, um, different. Still, the Laurent Perrier flowed like it was 1983 all over again.

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Photo credit: Kristin Burns

Prince Harry’s Pal Revamps London’s New No. 3 Cromwell

Prince Harry’s pal and all around glitterati-collector Howard Spooner has again decisively stolen the London nightlife conversation with this rather, well, glittering revamp of a legendary South Kensington nightspot. Once the playground of everyone from Jayne Mansfield to Sean Connery to Sir Elton (not to mention the site of a certain Jimi Hendrix’s London debut), the glamorous new incarnation of No. 3 Cromwell is now attracting supermodel sorts like David Gandy and Elle MacPherson. And no wonder. Taking up all three floors of a striking Georgian townhouse, the famous and fabulous could surely want for nothing here. 

True, the chandeliered, piano-equipped dining room (pardon, Drawing Room) is hardly a culinary game changer, dishing up a quite reasonably priced assortment of sliders and dips, aka "boozing food." But we do love that they’ve thought to have a dedicated "pudding" menu, complete with corresponding Ports and and Sauternes’. 

The Back Room cocktail bar, with its baroque trimmings and stately fireplaces, is a sure bet for tabloid-worthy celebrity snoggings (sample tipple titles: Threesome, Menage A Trois). But it’s The Basement nightclub–yes, it’s in the basement–which will be swinging in full until 3am every night. It’s got, um, padded walls…which we can only guess is intended for the safety of the royal habitués. 

Get the inside-scoop on No. 3 Cromwell.

Paris Opening: Prince de Galles Hotel

The feverish race to the top of the Parisian hotel scene can make the World Cup seem like a game of tiddlywinks. Since 2008, Le Bristol, Le Meurice, and Le Royal Monceau have all unveiled glittering new personalities, while Le Crillon and Le Ritz are currently and expensively under the knife. In the midst of it all, that paragon of swank, the Prince de Galles, has just taken the wraps off its own magnificent makeover to a chorus of oohs and aahs. A virtual landmark of the French art deco style, much care has been taken by ERTIM Architectes SA, in collaboration with Bruno Borrione and that most superstar of designers, Pierre-Yves Rochon, to preserve a genuine sense of its history. To be sure, the salon-like lobby has been made over not with postmodern cheek, but with a swish new collection of furnishings true to the period.

The 159 rooms, where everyone from Francois Truffaut to Fatboy Slim have nodded off, have been relieved of their former fustiness, now jazzed up with Delisle lighting, Pierre Frey fabrics and Craman Lagarde furniture. But of course, the most fervent face-offs amongst Paris’ five-stars are always les guerres des cuisines; and Prince de Galles has procured a high-profile chef to lead the charge to the culinary barricades. Stéphanie Le Quellec comes by way of Provence’s Terre Blanche to head up the, one guesses, rather portentously titled La Scène restaurant, where she will surely be dancing with the Michelin stars. The name of the hotel’s corresponding bar, Les Heures, translates as "The Hours,"so you’re obviously being invited to stay awhile. Which, we would guess, should not be a problem in the least.

[Related: BlackBook Paris Guide; Paris’ Palace Hotels Get a Royal Transformation; More by Ken Scrudato; Follow Ken on Twitter

Miami Opening: Cipriani Downtown

Italians, as we surely know, do love to carry on the family business. After all, selling out to the corporate powers would be just so…American. And so Giuseppe Cipriani’s boys, Maggio and Ignazio, are keeping it in the clan. And though it’s almost hard to believe, this is the brand’s debut entry into a city that seems so perfectly suited to their epicurean ethos. With aesthetic nods to that most famous Venice original, Harry’s Bar (here as well, the room’s energy radiates from the bar), the new Cipriani Downtown Miami exudes their signature low-key glamour. Michele Bonan’s design incorporates striped Venetian floors, Murano chandeliers and massive windows affording gorgeous aquatic views.

Naturally, you will not come here looking for culinary experimentation. As one would expect, it’s all prosciutto di parma, Carpaccio Alla Cipriani, risotto alla primavera and veal milanesine done to luxurious perfection, with a couple of endemic specialties (Florida stone crab salad) added to the mix. And several rounds of bellinis are as de rigueur here as back home in the Veneto. Expect the crowd to be as pretty as the setting.

Photo: Stephen Wolter

[Related: BlackBook Miami Guide; Listing for Cipriani Downtown Miami; More by Ken Scrudato; Follow Ken on Twitter]

London Opening: Oblix at The Shard

Ever since the minders at the Eiffel Tower sorted that there was serious dosh to be made feeding its swarms of oohing and aahing visitors, architecture and food have been making goo goo eyes at each other. And from its inauguration in summer 2012, Renzo Piano’s The Shard, in fact, has been as loved and hated by Londoners as was Gustave Eiffel’s shocking metal construction by 19th Century Parisians. But as the tallest building in Western Europe, the views are obviously rather gasp-inducing. And so while its first culinary venture, the sleek, dramatic new Oblix restaurant and lounge, could probably get away with serving sauteed cardboard, it genuinely does rise to the level of its surroundings.

The latest undertaking by Rainer Becker and Arjun Waney (whose Zuma is beloved of Kate, Gwyneth, Beyonce…), it boasts a chef, Fabien Beaufour, who has done time at French Laundry and Eleven Madison Park. But haute it is not. Serving classic American grill, you can dig into market salads, clam chowder, lambchops, wood-fired pizza, pork belly, assorted rotisserie fare…even New York-style cheesecake–which in London might just seem exotic. But who’s looking at the food?? Slotted into the 32nd floor of the striking 72-story concrete, glass and steel tower, and looking directly down on London Bridge, patrons can also gawk at the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and possibly even spot Pete Doherty stumbling out of a Soho boozer. 

[Related: The Shard: How to Plan a High-Class Date around London’s Highest Building; BlackBook London Guide; Listing for Oblix at the Shard; More by Ken Scrudato; Follow Ken on Twitter]

London Opening: Mr. Fogg’s

Now that humans travel at 600 mph and news travels in milliseconds, is it any wonder we find ourselves looking lovingly back to the less electronically-mediated adventures of the likes of Phileas T. Fogg? Mr. Fogg’s, an archly hip new Mayfair watering hole (Pippa Middleton and Princess Eugenie have already warmed its couches) indeed nicks its name from the larger-than-life protagonist of Jules Verne’s 1873 classic Around The World In 80 Days–and is correspondingly done up like his international-curiosity-filled drawing room.

For those grown intolerable of all that troublingly earnest and desperately over-flogged Prohibition chic, Mr. Fogg’s is a glorious riot of Victorian camp (it is Blighty, after all). Staff are decked in 19th Century inspired military uniforms by Gieves & Hawkes, and the doorman even pretends he’s Fogg’s valet Passerpartout (at least while he’s waiting for his big West End break). Scattered amongst the bric-a-brac are are old maps, stuffed Indian tigers and crocodiles and a portrait of the prim Queen Vic herself. A period cocktail selection–absinthe aperitifs, gin fizzes, grogs, stirrup cups,  pousse cafés–is served fireside in red indian’s heads and antique punch bowls. Best of all, a piano is on hand should tipplers be tempted to knock out a rousing version of "Daisy Bell".

[Related: BlackBook London Guide; Listing for Mr. Fogg’s; More by Ken Scrudato; Follow Ken on Twitter]