Aurelian Rising: Gold Panda Interviewed

London’s premier proponent of strung-out dub laconica talks to Oli Simpson about hip-hop, Japan and coked-up porn fiends

Heralded in some fashion conscious quarters as a "one man beat-factory", Gold Panda is the 28-year-old tech maven whose bedroom-brewed slabs of fractal precision are currently making waves around East London’s electro waters. Filtering his slow-motion techno through woozy dub sweeps and runs of Dilla-fried hip hop, Panda has hammered out a neat clutch of noteable releases – brushing past the capital’s soundalike legions marching in lockstep and striking out with his own quietly assured blend of brooding sampledelica.

Fashioning blissed-out crackles of scattergun splendour, each track is shot through with patchworks of broken-backed beats, Panda’s evident obsession with Japanese culture as well as a heady range of samples encompassing "old records, VHS tapes brought in charity shops and the odd 90s computer game". Music borne of its beginnings, Panda started out throwing together sketches on an old Amiga and sampler, spending the time he had when not working on a salubrious carousel of sex shops, hospital car parks and airports until the goodly folks at Wichita happened upon his MySpace page. Promptly enlisting him for a clutch of remix work, heads started turning in Panda’s direction and it wasn’t long before the sure-footed skitter of recent single ‘Quitters Raga’ slid online and popped up in all the right places.

Panda’s rise has been a sharp one, but the gathering pace of praise comes off the back of an string of ace EPs: Miyamae’s superlative-inducing headnod and the Various Production-stamped ‘Back Home’ proves more than enough to justify the love, while a tidy sideline in remix duties for the chart-bothering likes of Little Boots and Bloc Party looks set spare him from a future stewarding multi-storeys or flogging dildos. We popped online and toddled over to his inbox one afternoon to pick his brains on Gold Panda’s life and times thus far.

Hello Gold Panda! How are you today?

Gold Panda: I’m alright. I’m at Infinite’s house in Berlin. Never been to Berlin before. It seems nice. How are you?

Splendid. For the unversed, please summarise your music in one sentence.

Music that I made.

Where did the basis for Gold Panda come from? Is it a work in progress or did the idea come to you fully formed?

GP: I’ve been making music for years, mainly sample-based. I always came up with stupid names like ‘Dials Mavis’, ‘Shit The World’, ‘DJ On A Thursday’, etc. Then I made some stuff that was a bit more serious and decided to go with it. No way is it fully formed, there is a long way to go. I think Gold Panda has just been born really, I’m just getting comfortable with what I’m doing. The death of a close friend kick started me into it, take it a bit more seriously.

You’ve been on tour with Simian Mobile Disco? What’s the best/worst thing about ‘the road’?

GP: I’m not a star and I don’t have much money, I guess I’ll get trains to all the venues and meet ’em there. Since it is just me, a suitcase and a couple of bags I’m going to try and blag my way onto their bus, maybe I’ll pose as the driver. Wear a cap and stuff.

Away from music, who are your biggest influences?

GP: I don’t think it’s a who. Its things like rain, overcast skies, the city, being depressed, the way certain buildings look. Looking out of the window from a train. Tea and cake around 4pm is always good.

You’ve previously said you grew up on a lot of hip-hop and gangster rap, how has this informed Gold Panda’s sound? Did you learn much from working with Infinite Livez?

GP: I guess I was having a bit of an identity crisis when I got into hip hop moving from Peckham to Chelmsford in Essex. I liked the way Mobb Deep had a lot of beautiful crackly samples and these really heavy evil sounding drum beats, a nice juxtaposition. Also how RZA’s production was always a bit messy and out of time on the early Wu-Tang stuff, I still have my Liquid Swords cassette and it sounds amazing. Infinite Livez has been a big influence as he always seems to just do what he wants, there are no rules and you don’t need to put yourself in this one box or tick any boxes on the list at all.

You’ve got a fair bit of previous when it comes to remixes (Bloc Party, Telepathe and Little Boots – all streaming here), are there any more coming up?

GP: Thanks, I see them as separate to my Gold Panda stuff. There are 7 or 8 I’m doing, they tend to come all at once. I’m doing one for Health, Simian Mobile Disco and some others that I can’t mention yet.

According to my research, you "studied at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies learning how to read and write Japanese". You also lived in Japan for a time while making Miyamae – what is it about Japan that so appeals?

GP: I did a Japanese Diploma and it was amazing although a little expensive. I basically sold my entire record collection to pay for it which was about 3000 records. If you want to study a language and get really good really quickly do a year there, I highly recommend it, although you have to put the work in. I made a track before I went to Japan, one in Japan and one when I got back so Miyamae reflects all of that. I’m not really sure what it is about Japan, maybe something spiritual that affects me although that sounds a bit cheesy. Just being there seems to just influence me in some way but I get the same thing from walking around the City of London, especially in the rain.

Where does Gold Panda go from here?

GP: Does things unexpected, experiments and stays inspired. Drinks tea and brings a cat up. Starts gardening and bird watching. Writes a book, takes photos, draws comics and makes films. Releases lots of music.

Please recount one anecdote from way back when you worked in a sex shop.

GP: One night this guy came in totally coked up off his face and just kept saying "double anal – I want anything with double anal, I’m having a party". So I got him all these double ended dildos, niche mags and films, he must have spent about 400 quid on stuff, when he got his credit card out all this coke spilled over the counter and he starts rubbing it on his gums. After paying and looking in his oversized bag stuffed with filth, his eyes roll and he looks at me and says while expelling a large sigh, “I think I’ve over done it again . . ."

Can you recommend a porno to our readers that has a good soundtrack?

GP: Not sure with soundtracks, you’ll probably want to go for the older ones with those cool moog sounds or sample balls slapping against arse and turn ’em into percussion.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today