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.”


Lauryn Hill Will Be Performing ‘Miseducation’ On Tour This Summer


The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill turns 20 this year, and to celebrate, the singer will be playing the album in its entirety on a North American tour beginning this summer. She’ll kick off in Virginia Beach in July, and finish in St. Louis in October. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, with part of the proceeds going towards the MLH Foundation, the singer’s non-profit organization that “directly contributes support for education, health, agriculture, technology, and community based businesses and development initiatives throughout the Diaspora,” according to the announcement.

Hill’s debut – and only – solo release, Miseducation went eight times platinum in the U.S., and won two Grammy’s (for Album of the Year and Best R&B Album). The singer also took home three more Grammys that year for Best New Artist, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for “Doo Wop (That Thing),” the lead single from the album.

Of the record, she says: “This album chronicled an intimate piece of my young existence. It was the summation of most, if not all, of my most hopeful and positive emotions experienced to that date. I Loved and believed deeply in my community’s ability to both Love and heal itself provided it received the right amount of support and encouragement. Our world today, both complex and changing, is in need of the balance between moral fortitude and cathartic expression. I hope the Love and energy that permeated this work can continue to inspire change with Love and optimism at the helm.”

Refresh your memory and listen to it, below.



Photo courtesy of the artist.


Kendrick Lamar Won A Pulitzer


Yep, you read that correctly. Now, rapper Kendrick Lamar can add “Pulitzer Prize Winner” to his ever-expanding resume. In a historical feat, the “HUMBLE.” rapper beat out composers Michael Gilbertson and Ted Hearne for the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his 2017 album DAMN., an honor that’s previously only been awarded to classical musicians.

Speaking to Slate, Gilberton expressed his shock – and excitement – on learning he was nominated alongside Lamar. “I never thought my string quartet and an album by Kendrick Lamar would be in the same category,” he said. “This is no longer a narrow honor. It used to be classical composers competing against each other in relatively small numbers, but now we’re all competing against these major voices in music.”

“I think it’s wonderful,” Hearne added about the Lamar’s win. “When we say classical music, I think it’s a collection of audiences and musicians that have been grouped together and a big part of that grouping together, over centuries, has been about the exclusion of nonwhite people and nonwhite artists. Sure, in some respects, using violins and European classical instruments is a part of classical music, but so are a lot of other ideas. Especially in America, there are incredibly important musical thinkers who have been kept out of classical music spaces for a long time.”

Hearne’s comment speaks to why this moment is so radical. While, of course, we all know how amazing Kendrick Lamar is, but for him to be honored in a space that mostly (and historically) acknowledges cis, straight, white men – well, that’s incredible. Not only is hip-hop finally being recognized as a creative outlet as important as more traditionally celebrated genres, the world is also finally starting to support the voices of people of color.

Plus, DAMN. is a really great album.



Photo from the back cover of DAMN. by designer Vlad Sepetov


Feels Great: Fetty Wap and Cheat Codes Talk Tattoos, Taking Risks and THC

Photography: Christian Cody


Anyone with a phone knows the name Fetty Wap. But what they might not know about the 26-year-old rapper, is the fact that he doesn’t like to play by the rules. Case in point, his latest collaboration with Los Angeles-based electronic outfit Cheat Codes. While on the surface he may not appear to have much in common with the trio, there’s a lot more similarities between them than just the fact they all like to smoke weed – and a lot of it. A sunny and almost annoyingly perfect pop banger, “Feels Great” shows how all four of them won’t be boxed in by anyone, including themselves.

BlackBook caught up with Fetty and Cheat Codes following their collab, and just in time for the weekend. The boys sounded off on Michael Jordan, marijuana and making music.



BlackBook: You guys collaborated on ‘Feels Great’ a couple months ago. Tell me about the track.

Matt: What was your first impression when you heard the track? As a whole, I think the track is really different than anything you’ve worked on before.
Fetty: Yeah it was a really big difference for me, but I enjoy being challenged. Immediately, when I heard the song, I just thought it had such good vibes. At first, I didn’t even listen to the lyrics – I just focused on the melody and the production. Melody is really the biggest thing for me, anyway. And the melody just really caught my attention – that and the energy of the track.
Trevor: So it literally felt great. That’s perfect.

BlackBook: How was it for you guys to work together?

Fetty: Well, we had met before we worked on the song. So it was all just really chill. Plus, we smoked weed together, and when you smoke weed, everything good happens.
Matt: We’d also always wanted to collaborate with Fetty. So, when this song came along, we immediately thought he’d be great. He just has such good vibes and we always see him smiling, and that’s really how we felt about the song. Then the fact that he actually liked it and wanted to do it – that was just perfect for us.
Trevor: We’re also used to working as producers and songwriters. Even when we work with other artists, we always try to have, like, 90 percent of the track done, so they can just kind of come in and put on the finishing touches. But with Fetty, we sent him the record and he completely did his own part. So, it was really cool to have him bring something totally new and unexpected to the track.
Matt: Yeah, when we did the video together you told us a little about the verse you wrote. What was the story behind it?
Fetty: When I first started listening to the lyrics, my interpretation of this song was kind of like, ‘Okay, this is something that I’ve been through,’ but with a totally different attitude. You know, my background – I’m from the hood. So doing this track and having such a positive spin is something that people probably wouldn’t expect from me. I started thinking about my girlfriend when she was in high school and how no one used to really look at her or talk to her. But then of course, I became Fetty Wap, and she got older and matured, and all of the sudden people liked her and she was so beautiful. So, I used her for my interpretation of the song – that was the idea I pulled from.
Kevin: I’ve always wondered how you got into the rap game. Was it in high school? Or how did you get into music?
Fetty: I actually got into music because of Remy Boyz’ Monty. Everybody knows our song “My Way” that we did together. But Monty was really the one who pushed me to pursue music because it’s really his first love, and he showed me how much I love music and how much I really love to make music – every part of it. He’s the real inspiration for me being Fetty Wap.
Matt: Shout out Monty!
Trevor: He’s the man.
Fetty: But what about you guys?
Trevor: For me, I started writing songs when I was probably 12. My dad actually played guitar and he would always play us songs that he wrote, so I was always around that. Then I just started writing and recording in my bedroom, and dropped out of school when I was 16 to try and really pursue it. It was kind of like, ‘If I’m going to do music, I’m going to really do it.’ So, that’s exactly what happened.
Kevin: My uncle was in Sugar Ray actually, and my brother was in a big rock band back in the day, so I also grew up around it and it was something I always wanted to do.
Matt: It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when I got into music, but I was always doing it in school, like band and choir and all that stuff. Eventually, I was kind of just like, ‘I don’t want to do choir, I want be in a cool rock band and make cool music.’ So, in high school that’s what I was doing: playing rock ‘n’ roll in my basement. Then I moved to L.A. and met these guys and we started making electronic music because honestly, we all just get really bored really fast. So, we wanted to be able to make the kind of music that we could switch up whenever we wanted, making tracks with a pop star like Demi Lovato and then do a song with a dope rapper like Fetty Wap. I swear I have A.D.D. or something. But that was really the goal behind this project.



Fetty: What’s your biggest inspiration when you’re writing?
Matt: For me, it’s weed.
Fetty: I definitely agree with that 100%.
Trevor: I’m just always so excited about the idea of moving culture forward. I honestly can’t think of anything better than when I hear something that sounds like it’s never been done before. I really don’t even care if it ends up flopping or if people hate it because the risk is worth it for me. I want to be on that record that’s changing things and changing music. If I’m just doing the same thing other people have done for years and years, it’s not really worth it for me. So, that’s what really inspires me and makes me want to create. Well, that and weed.
Kevin: I just like being in the studio or in my room writing music. I mean, of course I love performing but my favorite part is just being by myself or with the guys and being creative.
Trevor: Fetty, what was the first tattoo you got?
Fetty: My first tattoo? I believe I was – I don’t want to get my mom in trouble, so I’m just going to say I was 17. It’s a T, a star and an F on my left forearm, which stands for ‘Team Fam,’ which was a sports thing that every kid had to do in my neighborhood, and my friends and I, we had our own little crew. My favorite tattoo though, is my Michael Jordan tattoo on my leg. I was supposed to get his jersey tattooed on my leg, but it hurt so bad, I only got his name.
Trevor: I just got a neck tattoo the other day and that really hurt.
Trevor: Wait, so you’re into basketball?
Fetty: Actually, football is my favorite sport. But my mom kind of cut my football career short because she was so scared I’d get hurt.

BlackBook: I’m curious if you guys think your personas onstage are really different from who you are IRL. Like, is Fetty Wap a character? Or is that who you are all the time?

Fetty: Fetty Wap is just a brand name. When I’m home, I’m just Willie. A lot of people think I am who I am onstage – like when I’m performing, I’m really aggressive – but I’m not like that at all. Except when I’m in California. When I’m in California, I’m Fetty Wap all day.
Matt: I think we’re all the same, except maybe our personalities are a little exaggerated when we’re playing.

BlackBook: With social media, though, do you feel like you have to be ‘on’ all the time?

Trevor: I don’t know any other way to be. I grew up in the social media age, so I’m just used to it.
Kevin: I also think as long as you don’t take anything or yourself too seriously, it all ends up working out.

BlackBook: Do you see similarities between rap and electronic music?

Matt: The main thing that’s probably the most obvious is the fact that it just makes people feel good, you know? People want to go out on the weekends and have fun when they hit the club. That’s why you want to make records that people can enjoy.
Fetty: Real energy and authenticity always provides the best outcome, you know what I’m saying? And I like to do different things. I don’t even consider myself a rap artist, you know? I’m just an artist because I like testing limits and I don’t like boxing myself into any one thing. So, even with ‘Feels Great,’ it was like, ‘Okay here’s a new opportunity for you to do something you haven’t done before, and try out a new genre.’ I’m never going to say no to expanding my music in a positive setting. I don’t only want to be a rapper – I don’t only ever want to be one thing.

BlackBook: What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t an artist?

Trevor: I’d definitely be in the NBA.
Fetty: I don’t even think I can answer that question, because I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing. My music is just part of who I am. Or maybe I’d be a doctor or something.


Paris Hilton, Music Icon, Is Working on an ‘Electro-Pop’ Album


Stop everything because Paris Hilton is releasing a new album. The admittedly problematic icon (she allegedly voted for Trump) who brought us such cultural treasures as The Simple Life and “that’s hot” has revealed she’s hard at work on the follow-up to the groundbreaking 2006 LP Paris. While we don’t expect any track to reach the level of “Stars Are Blind” – which will be a bop until the day we die – we are admittedly intrigued.

In an interview with Time, she talked about the “whole new sound” she’s creating, and did divulge that it’ll be a mix of “deep house, techno-pop and electro-pop.” There’s no official release date for the record yet, but seeing as Hilton is busy being the highest paid female DJ in the world, and creating techno remixes of Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” we expect we’ll be waiting awhile.

In the meantime, bask in the glory of her musical genius.


Rihanna Raps on the N.E.R.D. Comeback Track ‘Lemon’


She wants to rap. In some rare good news lately, Pharrell Williams has revived his hip-hop group N.E.R.D., and recruited Rihanna for the already iconic new song “Lemon.” Why iconic, you say? Two words: Rihanna rapping.

That’s right, girls. Three sweet, sweet minutes of Pharrell and Rihanna trading verses that are actually really good. The track is a bouncy, joyous bop with an equally iconic music video that would’ve fit in the mid 2000s, when N.E.R.D. was making all your favorite jams.

In the video, Rihanna shaves a woman’s head looking glam as hell and, later, a camera follows the woman as she lets loose in some sort of neon-lit indoor market – which would probably be our reaction to getting a haircut from Rihanna, too.

Watch and listen to Rihanna’s fiery verse below.


Years & Years Debut New Song in Baz Luhrmann Fashion Film


“As for myself, I hold no preference amongst flowers as long as they are wild, free, and spontaneous.” Those are the guiding words of wisdom uttered by the flamboyant matriarch of a family of floral enthusiasts in The Secret Life of Flowers, a gorgeous new short film for the upcoming H&M and Erdem collaboration.

It’s no surprise that the film is gorgeous, given that Hollywood’s most eccentrically over-the-top director, Baz Luhrmann, is behind it – but this actually feels like a full movie stuffed into four minutes. Oh, and it may be the gayest thing we’ve seen all week thanks in part to a new original song called “Hypnotized” from Years & Years, and an abundance of sexual tension between the two men frolicking in the flowers.

Without spoiling anything, there is a love triangle, a beautiful mansion overrun with metaphorical and physical flowers, and a dinner scene with enough dramatic tension to last a lifetime.

Speaking on the collaboration, Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander says, “It was a really wonderful experience working with Baz, he’s so passionate about every detail, and I was really excited to be part of something so creative. Plus, I’ve always been a fan of Erdem. The song is about falling head over heels for somebody and it totally upends everything you thought you knew about yourself.”

Watch it below and reconsider your entire Halloween costume, because the outfits in this are everything.


26 Essential Bops From Brooklyn Musician Warren Wolfe


“I love that track 2 death,” Warren Wolfe says over text as he frantically sends through a last-minute addition to his playlist. The track, “LGBT” by Cupcakke, is an all-out banger that reflects the artist’s incredible taste and properly closes a roundup of Wolfe’s go-to songs. Across genres that span everything from ambient and grime to electronic and pop, Wolfe curated a collection of music to celebrate the release of his latest single, “Stranger,” a dance track about hook-up culture.

For his playlist, the Brooklyn-based singer gravitated towards female vocalists but, overall, selected songs that mix “sensitivity and chaos.” That means appearances from one of his biggest inspirations, Arca, as well as newer discoveries like Rina Sawayama, Lovozero, and serpentwithfeet. Keep your ear out for “Perfect Blue” by Orrin – a track that Wolfe helped produce this year – and certified ragers from Sugar Shane and K Rizz that he classifies as songs that would be on rotation if he hijacked the aux cord at a house party.

Photography by Kat Kuo.


Google Doodle Honors the Anniversary of Selena’s Debut Album


“Bidi bidi bom bom.” If those four words aren’t sending you into a tailspin of singing Selena Quin’s most viral hit, we don’t trust you. While the song was released on the late Mexican-American singer’s fourth studio album, Amor Prohibido, in 1994, today is cause for a different celebration. On this day in 1989, Selena burst onto the scene with her iconic self-titled debut album.

To honor the queen, Google premiered the first-ever Selena Google Doodle, an animated cartoon of her singing “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” that took over two years to make. It was through the work of Perla Campos, Global Marketing Lead for Google Doodles, that the animation came to life thanks to her own personal connection to Selena. “There were always two women who taught me I could do anything and be anything I set my mind to: my mom and Selena,” she explained to Billboard. “Selena has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.”

Together, with Selena’s family, she worked tirelessly to create an animation that highlights Selena’s journey from child to adult before her untimely death at the age of 23. It’s a moving tribute to the singer, especially at a time when the rights of immigrants have come under attack. As Campos explained: “Selena was always about transcending boundaries, and for someone who has such a powerful story to be featured on the homepage of Google – a search engine that connects people the way she connected people – that is such a beautiful thing. Featuring an immigrant woman should not be political, it should be celebrated.”