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Friday, Nov. 23, 2007

THE GO! TEAM

Cut 'n' paste chaos on a stage near you


Special to The Japan Times

A seldom discussed reality of the indie-rock life is the day job, since most bands cannot afford to quit work and spend all their time on music. Take The Go! Team, the sextet from Brighton, England, whose debut album, "Thunder, Lightning, Strike," was an instant hit in Britain on release in 2004 and ended up on the shortlist for the coveted Mercury Music Prize. The album later prompted a bidding war among American labels wanting to release it stateside.

News photo
Ian Parton (third from left) of The Go! Team first got his taste for mixing musical genres together when he started using a karaoke machine as a four-track tape recorder.

"Everyone in the band, including me, had to keep working after The Go! Team formed," says the group's founder and leader Ian Parton over his cell phone from a car somewhere in England.

"We'd fly over to Texas and do South by Southwest festival, then come home and have to go into work the next day."

In Parton's case, the job sounds pretty interesting — he was a researcher for an independent film company that works primarily for The Discovery Channel.

"We did things about mummies and space travel and archaeology," he recalls. "My job was to find the people who would appear in the programs. I used to travel the world."

Music was just a hobby. "I'd come home from work and spark up my sampler and monkey around," he says. "I never took it too seriously. But I sent out a few demos and (British record label) Memphis Industries were interested. I did 'Thunder, Lightning, Strike' during my holidays — went to my mum's house in Wales and thrashed away for a couple of weeks."

At that point, as there was no group to speak of, Parton couldn't take his idea on the road so he held auditions. Two of the current members are Japanese.

"Kaori (Tsuchida) came over here to play music. She had her own band. And Ky (Chi Fukami Taylor), I think, came here to study and took up the drums."

Parton says that The Go! Team is basically him, and that the addition of musicians is more or less just a means of bringing his vision out of the studio.

"What has come to be known as the 'Go Team! sound,' I suppose, represents all the things I've always loved — essentially my record collection melted down into one sound."

His sound contains elements of 1960s pop and soul, late '80s rave and a bit of hip-hop all mashed together to make a childishly raucous pep-rally vibe. But the sound may be easier to describe by explaining what it isn't, something that Parton does a lot. It isn't "four blokes with guitars" and it isn't "session musiciany," a term that seems to sum up everything he hates about commercial music. He doesn't care for hi-fidelity, and is adamant about using female voices.

In this regard, his greatest weapon is the band's centerpiece and designated vocalist Ninja, whose rapping is mostly buried under layers of samples and treated instrumental tracks on record, but comes to the fore during the group's manic live shows. To their credit, on stage the band re-create the chaos that reigns in Parton's imagination, visually as well as sonically. The members switch instruments continually and maintain an intense party atmosphere on stage.

"What I'm best at is spotting the catchy tune and coming up with ideas," Parton says. "I'm patient, and that may be my greatest strength."

Parton derives great satisfaction from searching out the most obscure samples he can find, but he has a soft spot for soundtracks. "I did have a heightened sense of music as a kid," he says, "particularly TV theme songs. I would run over to the piano whenever I heard a song I liked and try to copy it."

Later, he figured out how to use a karaoke machine as a four-track tape recorder by "recording over something I had just dubbed." In this way, he developed his own cut-and-paste methodology.

The karakoke machine might have gone, but he doesn't plan on changing that cut-and-paste approach just because he now employs flesh-and-blood musicians. The only noticeable difference between the new album, "Proof of Youth," and the debut is that the latest has a lot more guest stars, all of them identified with old school hip-hop, including Parton's hero, Chuck D of Public Enemy.

"He was the first person on my wish list," Parton explains, warming to the topic. "Up until him we had a ladies-only vocal policy. I had written this song called 'Flashlight Fight,' which was very Public Enemy, very stabby and tough-sounding, and I could imagine him busting in on top of it. So we got the song to his manager, a pretty scary Don King-sort of character. Finally, Chuck heard the song and was sold on it. Now, this is a man who turns down hundreds of requests, so it was definitely a triumph to capture his imagination.

"But I would never describe us as a hip-hop band," he quickly adds. "I'm not striving to be part of that world, or be part of any world, actually, be it indie, dance, soul, whatever."

Indeed, Parton's concern about how The Go! Team is or is not categorized comes with its own set of idiosyncrasies. So while he loves to use brass samples, he would never use actual brass players.

"I don't really like the look of it," he says. "Four blokes all lined up in a row doing that whole horn thing? You can never beat a guitar for the way it looks. In a thousand years, people will still be playing the guitar because nobody really likes to see anyone playing the trumpet."

The Go! Team play Dec. 4, 7 p.m., Shibuya Club Quattro, (advance tickets sold-out; [03] 3444-6751); Dec. 5, 7 p.m., Shinsaibashi Club Quattro, Osaka, ¥5,500 ([06] 6535-5569); Dec. 7, 6 p.m., Daikanyama Unit, ¥5,500 ([03] 3477-5701).


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