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INTERVIEW: Gnod
Samuel A Smith , November 14th, 2013 10:32

The Salford krautrock merchants play The Trip fest next week. Ahead of that, Samuel A Smith took a trip to/in their HQ to catch up with the band

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In the foreword of The Archaic Revival by ethnobotanist and sage of psychedelia Terence McKenna, Tom Robbins writes of "a cyclone of unorthodox ideas capable of lifting almost any brain out of it's cognitive Kansas."

This is Gnod. The auricular incarnation of McKenna’s strangest philosophies, re-imagined by some pissed off Norse demiurge to be enacted in an amphitheatre made from multi-coloured crystal skulls. The flower children have been forced to violent revolt and what’s left is bizarre, and fucking magnificent.

On a Friday night, ahead of their first night set at the five-day psych odyssey fest The Trip, I’m at Gnod’s Islington Mills base in Salford, the epicentre of Gnod's collective mind, and about to be immersed first hand in a practice session. They have a banquet table of kit - analogue gadgets, pedals, drum machines, all manner of wires and strange twisty bits like some genius teenager's wildest aqueous dream, all set up ready to transport to some peculiar and freakish realm. Lead to a black leather sofa at the back of the room, they hand me a bin bag blind fold. This was something to be experienced without vision.

Listening to krautrock opus Chaudelande is reminiscent of wandering hypnotised into a cosmic wormhole and being sucked to the outermost antipode of arcane space on a juggernaut commandeered by a newly enlightened Buddha, but for the entire odyssey, Freddie Krueger is trailing me, though never getting close enough to cause any real concern. Gnod however, embody the relentless pursuit of change. What I'm hearing now sees me separated from earth by infinity, Buddha's tossed me overboard, and I'm wandering a deserted alien planet, as the final of its three suns is about to set, and sexy old Fred's lurking some place behind a giant pink mushroom, ready to give me a smooch. Booming industrial psych tones, sometimes disharmonious, with nuanced samples that transmute from bliss to tripping solitary down a Salford sewer. I'm lulled into myriad trances, and each time awoken with a smacked arse. Hallucinatory black magic sonic-scapes that might even draw Venetian Snares to crawl out of his Canadian dungeon. In the words of founding member Paddy Shine, "proper fuckin' weird"…

So what has this strangely beautiful British Summer held for Gnod?

Paddy Shine: We've been busy as hell, touring the new set-up with the Gnod rig around Europe, a three-week music residency in Islington Mill, a two-week arts residency in Ibiza with the Mill, endless recording, putting out lots of material on the Tesla Tapes imprint, making a new track for the Rocket Recordings anniversary LP, getting dirty at the Gesamtkunstwerk nights that we are involved in and lots of Gnod Squad getting their own stuff out on various labels. Busy busy as always.

There has been a stark change in your creative navigation since Chaudelande. Tell us about it…

Chris Haslam: We've always been interested in making sounds with different bits of kit. The earlier albums show that. We spent a lot of time chaining together loads of pedals and putting drum machines and synths through them and the stuff we are doing now sprang from that. Whilst making Chaudelande we experimented with a drum machine track which didn't turn out very well and was the only track from those sessions which we didn't make use of. Back then we we're pushing all that through guitar & bass amps so it sounded pretty terrible and it would frustrate us a lot and was sending us deaf in the process!

When we started working with Andy Blundell (Raikes Parade), he taught us a lot about how it could be done through mixers and DIs, making use of the PA rather than pushing those amps so we began to look at it in a completely different way, which now seems quite obvious to us! After hearing what it sounded like through the PA at the Mill we decided that we needed to have more control over the sound when we were playing live so we decided to throw all of our money into a sound system to take on tour. We toured with that set-up in Europe last April.

There has also been a blurring of the boundaries with guitar music and electronic music recently which caught our ear. Blackest Ever Black is a great example of that. Kiran [Sande]'s mixes are so good, throwing in electronic tracks, guitar tracks, old tracks, new tracks. It doesn't matter what, where, when and how the sounds are created, the only thing that matters is that it sounds good. It's refreshing to hear those boundaries being blurred as they have been quite separated before. Now you are seeing electronic acts that are as heavy as the heaviest guitar bands. This has helped us to not get stagnant and kept things exciting for us. It’s been a massive learning curve too which is important because it feels like progress and keeps all options open. Also, not having a permanent drummer has made us rethink how we want the drums to sound. In the past we sometimes used two drummers playing standing up. We're never comfortable with a kit drummer as they usually slip into the traditional way of drumming and we didn't want that. We wanted it to be more stripped down and heavy.

Trance induction seems to be the main object particularly of Gnod’s percussion. It's interesting how something repetitious can induce something entirely novel, like a trance. This is something Gnod has definitely tapped into…

PS: It's kind of like the simplest form of expression, and I think a lot of the music comes from people who aren't musical in the sense that they can't read music, although Marlene [Ribeiro, band member] knows a bit more theory and all that, Alex is good at it too, but I am not at all, I'm totally intuitive, which always seems to boil down to the simplest stuff, which can get boring, but with the right things going on around it, if everybody's on the same trip, it works. But I think it's about trying to create something simple, trying to create space rather than fill space.

CH: The three R's: repetition, repetition, repetition...

Your tape label Tesla Tapes is described on Bandcamp as, "An outlet for musical projects and meanderings by Gnodheads past, present & future and friends of Gnod all over the world". Which of the TT artist(s) excite you most?

PS: At the moment there's two tapes constantly in my deck. I love all of them but there's one from the Czech Republic, a band called Lightning Glove, who supported us in Prague. They were fucking amazing. I wanted to do a tape for them, and they sent us over this stuff, and it is fucking brilliant. It's like the fucking death of rave. It's the death of rave. It's really hard to describe. It's too close to me. It's really powerful, lyrically, and musically, it's really strong.

And there's an artist called Run Dust. He's done his second release for Tesla entitled Trank Gun. It’s so fucking good, pure raw energy. And yes, it [Tesla Tapes] does take it's name from Nikola Tesla.

What is it about Nikola Tesla that appeals to you?

PS: The whole story. He's the underdog. But he was the one. He had the key. The key to free power, and they fucked him off. He wanted free power for the entire world. Got to keep his name out there in the ether all of the time.

What other non-musical influences would you cite?

PS: Kurt Vonnegut and Fell Runners at the moment.

CH: David Simon [The Wire, Treme]. Graham Hancock. In the scientific community, anyone who comes at it with a bit of a leftfield point of view, they are discredited by the scientific establishment. It becomes harder for them to get funding for research and it prevents more left field scientific development from happening.

As Rupert Sheldrake says…

CH: Same with Rupert Sheldrake, banned from TedX for asking questions about the solidity of the scientific method. With people like Richard Dawkins saying that religion is bad because it puts limits on human understanding, and they're doing exactly the same thing with science. Turning it into this set of immovable rules that aren't open for debate. It's hypocritical.

PS: A major influence for me is a guy called Salford Tom. The Blackest Ever Black release, The Somnambulists Tale, that release is dedicated to him, got his photograph on the front cover.

CH: His voice is also on it.

PS: He's just like fucking Herbert Huncke, like the outcast man on the street, watches everything going down, watches everyone lose their minds while he just keeps his cool. He's also really good at finding shit in bins and stuff.

Chris: He found us our first digital recorder, an 8-track MiniDisc recorder that our first album was recorded on.

If you woke up tomorrow and Gnod were suddenly receiving the same level of press coverage as someone like Miley Cyrus, what do you think would happen to society?

PS: Everybody would just be so disappointed that it all fell apart. I dunno, mass fucking suicide or something [laughs]. Maybe everybody would throw their iPhones in the river, maybe not the river, maybe the recycling bin.

CH: No one would be paying their winter fuel bill that's for sure.

What would you like to tell the world?

CH: Rebel! Rebel! We are many, they are few!

Gnod play The Waiting Room on November 21; for full details and tickets, head to The Trip's website

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