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There are influential bands that achieve household-name status such as the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, then there are the musicians and artists whose influence is greater than the fame or notoriety of their catalogue.
Then… there is Gang of Four.
Influencing the influencers? Sounds about right. Andy Gill is the mastermind behind Gang of Four, a band with a demonstrable influence over mega-bands such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers, indie titans Fugazi and UK media darlings, Bloc Party.
The Bloc Party reference is an interesting one given the bands apparent reluctance to attribute at least a part of their sound to Gill’s instantly identifiable and angular guitar work.
“… It was a bit funny because Bloc Party, when the first album came out, journalists (said) ‘You seem to be quite influenced by Gang of Four?’. They came up with some sort of story that actually no, they weren’t really aware of Gang of Four, but they had heard the record just as they were mixing their record or something… I think Fugazi have been fairly open about the Gang of Four influence. There’s a lot of it about basically.”
The reason for the conversation with Gill is due to the band’s March 2019 tour of Australia, a tour that Gill harks as the opportunity to showcase a fan favoured album from Gang of Four’s catalogue for Australian audience.
“Thomas (McNeice) was playing bass last time we were there, he has been playing bass for us for 10 years. So, I mean obviously we’re doing Entertainment (’79), that’s because it’s 40 years old. The new album is called Happy Now and that’s coming out in March. We’ll be playing a few songs from that as well, and some stuff from the intervening years.”
Gang of Four did enjoy minor chart success. In the United States the cut “Don’t Fix What Ain’t Broke” from Mall (’91) caused a stir. Notably, the cut features the extraordinary bass playing of (then) future David Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey. Given the timing, its not unreasonable to assume that Gill may have had a hand in introducing Dorsey to the Thin White Duke?
“uh… well, yeah kind of. Yeah, he was very aware of her. Gail didn’t have a choice really when David picks up the phone, I think was it was a done deal”
That Red Hot Chilli Peppers connection… its far more than ‘band sites band as influence’ relationship, Gill actually produced Red Hot Chilli Peppers first recognised album, The Red Hot Chili Peppers (’84). The interviewer erroneously stated that memorialised RHCP guitarist Hillel Slovak must have taken many cues from Gill’s conversations given he was chairing production, Gill pointed out that overlooked (then) future Bob Dylan collaborator Jack Sherman actually recorded guitar on said album, and that he was aware courtesy of the recording process that revered bassist Michael Balzary AKA Flea was indeed Australian.
“The line-up at that point, Jack Sherman was playing guitar on that first album. People get this wrong, but it was Jack Sherman was playing guitar and there was obviously Flea. I produced it and it was quite an entertaining experience. Yes (Flea) talked about Australia. I remember at the time he talked about Australia and then when I met him more recently, (over) the last 10 years he gave me a number and it was an Australian number.”
Catch Gang of Four on their Australian tour.