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Music

Gang Gang Dance: Jam Band

Gang Gang Dance is like that weird spermy squiggle that swims into your squinting field of view [Ed’s note: the technical term is “floater’]: Try looking directly at it and away it swims. For a decade the NYC quartet has zigged and zagged its sensual sound through the underground, morphing from tribalist noiseniks to artful experimentalists to electronically enhanced dance shamans. Guitarist Josh Diamond spoke to us from the band’s mountain redoubt near Woodstock.

Two words for you: jam band.

[Laughs]. Sure. It’s just another term, you know. I’m not a fan of terms in general for describing our music, but that one’s kinda funny. I don’t mind it. We’ll play Burning Man. [laughs] We jam. We improvise. I think it applies. We wanna try to give people something special when they come see us.

You guys change your set for every show?

The last tour, for the first time ever, we did the same set for the entire tour. It was interesting. It got crazy. It gets hard. There’s small things you can change but… we’ve never done it so we tried it. I don’t know if we’re gonna do it again. It does get boring if you have to do the same thing.

Do you try doing cover songs for new material?

We’ve tried to do covers a bunch but never been able to. I don’t know why. They always sound so unnatural to us.

Like what?

“Erotic City,” by Prince. We tried that. This song “I Don’t Wanna Go” by an Italian band called Sensation’s Fix. Really good song. We could play it but it doesn’t sound very natural. Those are the last two.

How did the remix by Lee “Scratch” Perry come about?

That was a label thing. We were gonna get a track remixed and we had a label meeting and one of said Lee Scratch Perry in an offhand way. Then a couple months later the track was in our inbox in our email. One of the label people knew his wife and got in touch with him through her. It’s amazing— my heart skipped a beat when I first listened to it.

A couple of us met him at All Tomorrow’s Parties. I didn’t personally but Lizzy and Brian did. This was the Animal Collective-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties he performed at. It was the second time I’ve seen him play. It was way better; he had a better band.

He changed everything, I feel like. He’s one of the most influential forces in music that I can think of. And he’s still doing it. Pretty incredible. I’ve heard crazy stories about his production techniques. For the remix, I don’t know how involved he is these days, but it had his sensibility. He’s so out there. An astral traveler.

You guys keep up with electronic dance music?

Sure. Brian is DJs a lot so he’s probably the nexus of that. I really like Chicago, the original jams, original house music. I like that because it’s very sensual and simple. That’s kind of my starting point with that shit, and ending pointing some ways.

 

I hear a lot of influence from underground electronic music in mainstream pop. Lady Gaga playing Zomby tracks, that kind of thing.

That is interesting, I guess. I like a lot of that underground stuff but it seems mainstream to me already. Not Zomby nececessarily, but… I’m not a crazy dubsteb fan. I like some Zomby tracks, some Joker tracks. We just played with Flying Lotus, I like him. There’s something going on, but then there’s a zillion dubsteb tracks that remind me of hair metal. They have this vibe that’s not so musical.

You played with Flying Lotus? That’s awesome.

It was last week. Le Poisson Rouge, a club on Bleeker in Manhattan. We did a show for NYU students, which was strange, opening for Flying Lotus. He DJed, he didn’t have any musicians with him. He’s really good.

How about the Grateful Dead?

I like some of their songs. I never saw them when Jerry was alive but I appreciate them, what they were up to. It’s a little bit cheesy—some of their songs are not my style, but that’s a personal thing.

You guys seem to take awhile between albums. Is that because you’re meticulous in the studio or because you have other things going on?

It’s a combination of both. We’re at an interesting time, learning studio techniques better. Every record I feel like, “For this one, we’ll be more prepared.” The last one came out a little faster, but generally speaking it takes us a long time to release a record. We have other shit going on. You go on tour and when you get back you wanna take a break, you don’t wanna do this thing all the time necessarily. Everyone is into the band as much as they can be, but everyone has a mutual respect that if other things need to get done, we should take a break. As far as making a record, the last one was easier than the one before, so maybe the next one will come out sooner. It just takes a long time. I don’t know how people make records so fast.

What would you consider your non-musical influences?

The way we filter our influences—maybe it’s normal, I don’t know—but we don’t have a lot of super direct influences. We metabolize things and take a little bit of what our bodies and minds need to be as healthy as we can be.

Right now we’re upstate. Brian moved into this house on a mountaintop and that’s where we’re practicing. Middle of nowhere. Close to Woodstock, but there’s nothing around. The view is extraordinary! You can see so far. You’re almost in the clouds it’s so high up. The only thing higher is this Buddhist monastery on the adjoining mountain. These days our music benefits from space and nature.

Having been in the city for so long, it’s hard and oppressive sometimes in New York. Any city, I imagine, and I think were trying to escape that feeling of being closed in. This view from our place here, that’s a nonmusical influence that we need right now. We need to feel free, our music needs to feel more free. In New York there’s no space for anything. No space to live, no space to practice. There’s so many ideas and influences trying to get your attention at the same time. So we’re outside of the city right now. We’re going back though. It’s easier to think when you’re away from certain things. It’s easier to be yourself, even, sometimes.

Last time you were in Seattle, you guys played the Triple Door, a sit-down jazz supper club. How was that?

It’s OK to make music for people eating dinner, but it’s strange. We’ve had that experience a few times. I don’t mind, but I don’t wanna play Seattle like that again. We’re much more a vibe-off-the-audience band then just-stand-on-the-stage-and-play-our-music band. It would be nice for people to see us in a more natural environment.

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