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Go Team - Interview with Ian Parton

  by Mark Rowland

published: 13 / 2 / 2006

Go Team - Interview with Ian Parton


The Go ! Team's mix of old school hip-hop, soul and funk, Sonic Youth style guitars and cheerleader samples have drawn them increasingly big audiences over the last year. The band's songwriter and leader Ian Parton speaks to Mark Rowland

Rain lashes down on the ominous red bricks of Newcastle University. Its student union building, which looks more like a library than a bar and live venue, is conspicuously busy on a surprisingly quiet campus. Downstairs in the union is Bassment, the university’s awfully named live room. The only real word to describe Bassment is ‘black’; the walls, the stage, the floor the ceiling, even the tables are black. It’s a 15-year-old goth’s dream bedroom, complete with over-priced bar. The low ceiling makes it feel that much smaller and the whole place feels dirty. Within a few hours, the Go! Team will make it feel like an open air festival in the middle of August. Their mix of old school hip-hop, soul and funk, Sonic Youth style guitars and cheerleader samples is the ultimate 21st century party sound and the band looks set to own summer 2006. Single ‘Ladyflash’ is being played on radio stations across the country and they have been named as the main support act for the Flaming Lips on their April UK tour. All of this seems to have hit the band quite suddenly; well over a year after their debut album, ‘Thunder, Lightning Strike’ was released in the UK. It strangely comes as a disappointment that the Go! Team’s band leader Ian Parton isn’t as enthusiastic and smiley as his music sounds. He’s actually quite normal, with an understated coolness to the way he carries himself. He clicks out a rhythm with his fingers as he ponders his band’s rise. "I dunno, It all feels quite gradual” he says. “Until ‘Ladyflash’ started getting played on Radio One it felt like a word of mouth thing. WhatI hear is that people swapped CDs and tipped each other off, which is ideal. I don’t think ‘Ladyflash’ did that well but I think most people who liked it bought the album rather the single, which may have put a name to the bit of music that you may have heard on shitty TV programmes, like 'Match of the Day' or something like that. It feels like people know our name more now, even if they don’t know our music.” The band; Parton, guitarist Sam Dook, bassist Jamie Bell, vocalist Ninja, drummer Chi Fukami Taylor and new guitarist Kaori Tsuchida (although the band are constantly switching instruments; over half the members play drums), is on a high after playing Australia’s Big Day Out festival in January, where they were joined onstage by the Minutemen and the Stooges’ Mike Watt at their sideshow in Melbourne. “He’s a real humble man” says Ian. “It was amazing. He was there with the Stooges. He’s their bassist now. The rest of the Stooges roll up five minutes before show time but he would mill around and check the bands out and stuff and he watched us from the side of the stage for a few days and he was raving about us and stuff. We said to him ‘come to our sideshow in Melbourne’ so he comes along on his own and Sam has this brainwave to get him up on stage and he totally went for it. He was surprisingly nervous. This is a man who has played for like, everyone, J Mascis, everyone. He was like: ‘How did I do? Was that alright?’ He keeps e-mailing us all the time and he’s friends with like the Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth and all that and he’s been bigging us up to them and stuff. We might be supporting him in America with the Flaming Lips; that would just be my life over.” The band went straight into this UK tour after Big Day Out. After that, they’re off to the US for SXSW, then back to the UK in April for the Flaming Lips tour. It seems like a hectic schedule, especially as they’ve been promoting ‘Thunder, Lightning Strike’ for quite a long time. Does the band feel pressured into promoting the album now there is more interest in them? “We’ve always sort of dictated our own schedule. We say no to a lot of stuff. It still feels kind of fresh to me, I don’t dread playing or anything like that. It’s still pretty satisfying you know, fun and stuff.” Parton admits, however that the band are unsure when they will release any new material. “It might be next year. I dunno” he shrugs. “We’ve got a few new songs that you’ll hear tonight, but not enough. We’re debating whether to release another song off the album, because it feels like we’re fucking flogging it to death , or just get a new one out around May as a kind of signpost to the new album, which will be fucking ages later though. That’s the trouble.” The Go! Team was started by Parton almost as a hobby, back in 2000, sampling and mashing together different sounds on his PC and playing guitar over the top. Before that, Parton had really been involved with Brighton’s diverse music scene: “I was in a really noisy band playing drums when I was about 18 or something like that. That’s kind of my background if anything. I was never really down with the Brighton scene.” The solo Go! Team released a 7” through Pickled Egg records, which, though hinting at things to come, had more of a scratchy shoegazing feel to it. Sharing the band’s name with an old Calvin Johnson project also caused the odd snag in the early days, though Parton hadn’t heard of the K records project until after he had released the first EP. “I was going to do a Le Tigre remix once, until Kathleen Hanna found out that the project was called the Go! Team and said ‘They’re not fucking doing it, they nicked my friend’s band name’ so she pulled the plug on it. Stupid tart ! Anyway, it was coincidence. We’ve had other people contact us and say that they were called the Go Team and they had to change their names because of us, so it’s not like an obscure name.” After the release of that first 7”, Parton decided to make the Go! Team into a full band. He quickly recruited the band from friends and associates, but brought Ninja on board by advertising for a female rapper in magazines. The bulk of ‘Thunder, Lightning Strike’ was recorded by Parton on his own, but what does he think other members have brought to the band? “I don’t know” he thinks for a moment. “It’s almost like the look of the band kind of reflects the diversity of the music in a way. Some people think it’s all pre-planned and stuff but I think we are an interesting band to see on stage because we all look kind of different. I’m quite happy about that, although it wasn’t calculated in any way.” He nods in the direction of the other members of the band, who are all engrossed in interviews with other publications: “Everyone’s got their own style, like Sam over there. He’s a real noisy fucker, Jamie likes making squelch-y noises and stuff but he’s quite funky as well. Kaori, she’s the new girl over there. She’s really good at shouting. She brings an amazing kind of shoutiness to it sometimes. She’s really kind of rocky as well. Ninja is just kind of this perfect mix of old school, early days of hip hop kind of thing, but she’s also kind of adventurous enough to like our stuff as well, so we’re kind of lucky that everyone brings their own thing to it.” Since then, the band has gone form strength to strength, making their name in the US after playing the SXSW festival in Texas. “Pitchfork gave us a good review, sort of nine out of ten or whatever, and then over night America got into us before any labels did, and then we did South by South West (SXSW) and we had like a choice of labels which is a pretty good position to be in. You don’t have to take any old shit.” The band eventually signed a deal with Columbia giving them complete creative freedom, though they have stayed with indie label Memphis Industries in the UK. Since then, they’ve done nothing but tour. The band brings a very live feel to what was originally sample-based music, which is what sets the band apart from kitchen-sink groups like the Avalanches. It could have proved quite difficult to recreate their sound live, but the band more than pull it off. Their energy seems inexhaustible when onstage; they seem to have everyone in the packed Bassment dancing ecstatically by the end of the first song. “We still use backing tracks and stuff like that; it’s still the basis of the songs,” Ian says of the live show. “We drum to the samples, then we have a load of instruments playing as well, so it’s like a wall of sound. The samples alone would sort of fill out the sound, then we have two kits and everything else on the top of that, so it’s sort of a battle for things to come through, especially the vocals.” Ian doesn’t really see the band’s recorded output as that connected to the live show: “They’re quite different entities, you know, but there’s people who come up to me and say they prefer the live show to the album and we still get the people who really like the lo-fi feel of the record. It’s two totally different things really.” The samples in the Go! Team’s music are integral parts to their sound, but you would be hard pushed to recognise any of them. Parton says that most of it comes from stuff he already owned, from dodgy charity shop compilations to old film soundtracks. “It’s kind of been a lot of luck over the years and some of the stuff’s been twisted around so you might not recognise the source. I actively search out double Dutch film documentaries and old cheerleader movies for the odd chant-y things. I sample it straight off of VHS, so it sounds sort of fucked up, I like that shit.” An obvious influence on Parton is old school hip hop, which especially comes through in the drumming and structures of songs as well as Ninja of course, the most obvious hip hop element to the band. “I like the really early stuff, like 79, stuff like that,” says Parton. “I’ve just found out about this girl called Tanya Winley. Have you ever heard of her? Sweet Tee she went under. I’m much more into the female stuff, the more cheeky sort of stuff.” He isn’t as keen on some of the modern female rappers that have appeared over the last few years, notably Lady Sovereign: “We had Sovereign support us on the last tour and I didn’t really rate her. She’s quite funny. She’s got balls, but she had this horrible backing band with her. She’d obviously thought ‘I need to be thought of as a serious musician’, so she brought in these horrible session players and it was like shit. All she needed was someone on the decks really.” Parton also acknowledges Brighton bands such as I’m Being Good and Charlottfield as influences from a production point of view. Members of the band are often seen sporting I’m Being Good T-shirts in photo-shoots and TV appearances “I think their fans would hate us though. Hopefully there is kind of like a signpost to their way of thinking about producing, which is what some people don’t really get.” It is difficult to tell what the next move is for the Go! Team once they finally take a break from touring. Parton does however seem genuinely excited about the prospect of using more singers – Kaori is already singing backup in the live shows and Chi sings lead on one song: “I’m always on the lookout for vocal samples. Sometimes we get these gangs of girls up on stage with us, like three or four girls that our label boss found in a park doing handstands and stuff and they come on stage with us like they were with us in Manchester and Glasgow and they will be in London but we can’t afford to take them everywhere, so I think there will be more of that live vocal teamwork going on. It’s good to have a variety of voices as well, I like that in a band, where you could have a like a Moe Tucker kind of song, then shouting then rapping, so it’s good to have that all in the same band.” As the interview winds down, Parton seems to relax a bit, discussing the state of Britain’s music press (“The Wire’s a bit chin-stroke-y isn’t it?”) and the concept of myspace, which, though he likes the idea, finds quite puzzling. Parton seems to be looking forward to tonight’s show, but more for the support acts than his own band’s set. He smiles as he talks about Smoosh, a sister duo with an average age of about 13. “The drummer’s amazing. She makes these really intricate like groovy beats. You’ll probably like the Grates as well. There’s Smoosh, the Grates and then us. I think you’ll like them. They’re a bit like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs but the singer’s like really amazing. She really jumps around and stuff.” Both bands have toured with the Go! Team before; Smoosh in the US and the Grates in Australia and the US. “In Wolverhampton last night, amazingly [Smoosh] had beer on their rider, so they came in and gave us their beer, 12 year olds giving us their beer, it was a bit strange.” Talk turns to stalkers through the subject of venue security. Parton laughs as he talks about the band’s greeting party when they arrived at the venue. “There was this really odd bloke hanging around today, we got here and he was just milling around taking pictures of us and stuff and like going can you sign this, can you spit into here, all that kind of stuff. He was here until recently, taking pictures. Weird,” he shakes his head.

Picture Gallery:-
Go Team - Interview with Ian Parton

Go Team - Interview with Ian Parton

Go Team - Interview with Ian Parton

Go Team - Interview with Ian Parton

Go Team - Interview with Ian Parton

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