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Interview: Josh Diamond of Gang Gang Dance

"There was a good deal of madness in making this record."

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Interview: Josh Diamond of Gang Gang Dance
Josh Wildman
Gang Gang Dance's 2008 LP Saint Dymphna was, admits the band's guitarist, Josh Diamond, “a long-time coming." Born of the same Brooklyn scene that gave the word Animal Collective, Black Dice, TV on the Radio, and countless others, the shapeshifting, psychedelic, rhythmically-driven New Yorker quartet burst into life in a discographical fury, releasing their first three records —2004's Revival of the Sh*ttest and Gang Gang Dance, 2005's amazing God's Money— in a 14 month period. Since then, they've been hard at work, labouring on a follow-up record. Prior to Saint Dymphna's eventual unveiling, I spoke to Diamond about its genesis.

Interview: 30 September 2008

Was this record really three years in the making?
“Not really. Three years is how long it took to get something finished, but the record that’s coming out really only took about a month-and-a-half. We recorded three records, and tossed two of them out.”

Why?
“We just weren’t satisfied with what we made. We kept going in the studio, and not being able to finish, because we’d have to go on tour, or people would have to work, or we’d just run out of money, and it became this unendingly frustrating thing."

Was there a lot of tension during these ‘failed’ recordings?
“We had some band conflicts going on, that never really got resolved. That’s part of the reason that it’s called what it is, Saint Dymphna. There was a good deal of madness in making this record. It was a frustrating one.”

Had you ever been this careful about what you wanted to put out into the world, before?
“After God’s Money came out, it was the first time we were out there in a more public manner, where people actually cared what we did, so there was some pressure that we were feeling, which was sort of unnatural. Because I don’t ever want to be too precious about what we do; I’d rather just make something and move onto the next project. If it fails, then you just try it again. That’s, really, what this band’s about: we’re always making new things, we’re always in flux. I don't ever want to be in the same situation we were in with this record. We kept touring when we hadn’t finished the record, and we’d be recording when we were at home so we couldn’t get a new live set together. There was a point about in 2007 that we were playing the same set we’d been playing for a while, and everyone was really frustrated, because we like to keep things moving. We were burnt out at one point, for sure. And I don’t want that to happen again.”

So is ‘keeping things moving’, existing in an ever-changing state, one of the things that defines your band?
“I definitely think so. We have very restless souls, and we want to keep making new music. We want to make new things all the time, and if that’s not happening, then it starts to feel unnatural.”

Was there a big change between the early, noisy days of Gang Gang Dance and the rhythmic dance-band you became on God’s Money?
“We definitely have changed over the years; if we were doing the same thing after nine years it’d be pretty strange, I think. But the perception of radical change is an outside impression: a lot of people see these really, really drastic changes in us, but it was an easy transition, for us. I feel like people could get the wrong impression about us if they don’t see the bigger picture. It’s not that important that people understand the band the way I do, but I think they need to perceive the bigger picture. You see a lot of bands that’re, like, 21-year-old kids that get a lot of attention, and that’re there one minute and gone the next. We have this much more slow-burning project that’s more about us as friends, and basically family, making music, doing it year after year.”

In terms of exploring sound, what did you want Saint Dymphna to be?
“We’ve always been trying to capture this thing, and, to be honest, I still don’t know how to do it, and I don’t think we’ve been wholly successful on this record. Our live-shows have this great energy to them, and when we play in a club, there’s big bass sounds, and the drums are thunderous. That’s what we wanted to capture on this record: that sound and the energy, too. We still have to figure it out. So if anybody has any ideas, let me know.”

How did the Tinchy Stryder collaboration fit into this?
“About five years ago a good friend from London bought these live grime cassette-tapes with him. They were recordings of these very chaotic liveshows, and it kind of reminded me of our music, in how all the sounds flowed together into one long piece of music. Tinchy used to be a member of this Roll Deep crew, and he was 15 years old, and we all just really feel in love with him, right off the bat, listening to those tapes. So, we had him and JME open a show for us in London, and then we hooked up with Tinchy in the studio. So, it was a long time coming. At least in our minds. But it turned out to be real good timing: Tinchy, god bless him, had like a #1 hit or something in the UK, and I don’t think we could get him to do this anymore.”

Do you think that this collaboration will open you up to a whole new world of listeners?
“One can hope. I’d like to think that our music can travel between all kinds of different worlds. I’d like to think that people who don’t necessarily read Pitchfork every day might like our music. Maybe this might allow that to happen.”

Do you still draw inspiration from other people’s records, other bands?
“I think we all listen to all kinds of different music from all over the place, from all different time periods. And there are obviously other bands we feel an affinity with. The Boredoms are an obvious example. We met [Boredoms'] Yoshimi [P-We] playing with OOIOO in Australia, and, from that, we did the [mass-percussion concert] 88 Boardrum this summer, collaborating with the Boredoms. Obviously, there’s that real rhythmic part of it, but mainly our affinity with them is that we feel like we’re this slowburning band, that’s just trying to go year after year, and make new things. And the Boredoms are a band that I really, really admire for having existed for over 20 years now, making amazing music consistently. They’re a great role-model for the kind of band that we would like to be. We’re trying to follow a similar path, I would say.”

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