With the release of Infinity Machines, their most ambitious project to date, left-field improvisational combo GNOD talk to us about give their take on life, the universe and… Shit and Shine?
Of all the groups currently labelled “new psychedelia” few are as innovative, adaptable or difficult to second-guess as Salford-based music collective Gnod.
The first Gnod line-up came together in 2007; a group of friends who wanted to form a band that was more freeform than any of them had previously experienced.
“Me and Paddy (Shine) used to go and see each other’s bands and at one point we ended up in a band together before Gnod formed” explains core member Chris Haslam. “We all had other projects before Gnod, way too many to name. Our rock family tree would look like privets”.
Gnod’s approach to song craft as well as their wider outlook tended to reflect what became a collective ethos and suggests a combined exploratory sensibility
“We focused on jamming rather than song-writing” Haslam continues. “We wanted every show to be different and invited friends to jam with us on the stage. We just wanted to see where we could go with it, keeping it loose, playing with up to 16 members at once.
“When we started out a lot of us were listening to bands like Can & Sunburned Hand Of The Man. We liked the way that those bands didn't write music in a conventional way, but mostly captured jams that were then edited together. We were all pretty sick of focussing heavily on “song-writing” and playing the same piece over and over in rehearsals. So we tried to play something different and spontaneous every time we played together. We decided that we must record everything as you never know when you strike gold. Which is why we ended up with around 10 releases within the first couple of years.
“Good jams are like a comfortable suit of armour. They give you confidence and the power to open up live on stage and they build trust between band members. Most other bands would get bored and look for something else”
After the first year the number of those involved at any one point had coalesced around a core membership of which Chris Haslam and Paddy Shine have been constant, although over time more than 30 band members have at one time passed through the ranks. The band also started its own label – Tesla Tapes (who put out releases by like-minded artists such as Negra Branca, Run Dust , Dwellings and Lightning Glove) – although their own releases are now by Bristol-based indy legends Rocket Recordings. “Tesla’s going from strength to strength. It’s no money spinner but it’s a great way for Paddy to keep his head in the musical clouds”.
Being based at Islington Mill arts centre in Salford for over six years has, suggests Haslam, helped them grow creatively.
“We started coming here to after-parties & gigs around 10 years ago, then Gnod started to play shows here a couple of years later. After one particularly crazy show with Acid Mothers Temple, the owner of the Mill showed us some rooms we could use for rehearsal and studio space. We have been rehearsing and living here since then and we are all involved in the day to day running of the building, which now houses over 50 artists and studios , a gallery, bed and breakfast, venue and community bar. We’re practically synonymous now and the arrangement has certainly helped us keep a collective ethical approach to what we do. The world needs more spaces like this for people, a classless, non-judgemental and liminal zone”.
The collective is also collaborative as they have shown on various hook-ups, most notably with NYC’s White Hills and boundary-defying Shit and Shine, both released on Rocket.
“We met White Hills in the first year we started the band. We put them on in Saki Bar in Rusholme, Manchester. We used to put on gigs so we could support bands we liked instead of relying on local promoters to hook us up. They liked our set and Dave W asked us the send him some music to collaborate on. That became the Aquarian Downer CDR which he put out on his own Drugspace label. After recording the tracks that became Dropout we sent Dave the stems and asked him if he fancied adding some parts and mixing it for us. That turned into Gnod Dropout with White Hills and then Rocket were interested in putting out the whole thing which became Gnod Dropout with White Hills II.
We've loved Shit & Shine since hearing Cunts with Roses before playing our first ever gig as Gnod. Rhys AKA Drumcunt put us on to them. They've been a Gnod favourite ever since. When Rocket suggested the Collisions III idea, pairing us up with Shit and Shine we were buzzing!”
Their friendship with White Hills has been an enduring one - the bands played on stage together at Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia and shared a bill recently in Manchester. It clearly wouldn’t do to rule out further hook-ups between these two transformative and restless heavyweights.
One of Gnod’s notable traits is that you never know what you are likely to experience from one release or tour to the next, alternating between a traditional band structure and analogue electronic approach which helps keep the sound fresh and challenging for both band and listener/audience. What was currently in favour?
“Whatever is required! We like to change it now and again and have lots of different electronic and analogue hybrid set-ups at the moment. For the Infinity Machines tour though we will be a four piece, drums, bass, guitar and vocals. Stripped back and simple”.
Well there you go, Infinity Machines, which is released by Rocket on 20th April, is anything but yer typical four piece rock combo album. A mesmeric and sprawling collection of ambient dub-jazz, it’s a triple album/double CD and one heck of a concept, dare one say a little…prog?
“We don't try to make an album in any genre, it was just the next thing for us. If you know our stuff we've always been into long pieces so a Gnod album that is long isn't that surprising is it? Anyway, expect the unexpected – as always!”
Gnod currently comprises:
Paddy Shine, Chris Haslam, Marlene Ribeiro & Alex Macarte. Raikes Parade is the” 5th member” on the desk while Sam Weaver & David McLean also contribute to gigs and recordings when available.
Gnod will tour Europe during April and May and further UK gigs are planned for the summer. Visit the bands’ website ingnodwetrust.tumblr.com
Infinity Machines is released by Rocket Recordings https://rocketrecordings.bandcamp.com/