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You’ve got to feel for Gang of Four. You can’t turn on rock radio today without hearing some damn hipster band copping their shit as if they’d invented disco-punk two weeks ago. (No surprise, GoF guitarist Andy Gill, who once produced the Chili Peppers, is a popular producer right now — notably working with the Futureheads.) Most annoying, few of their imitators do anything original with the GoF sound — I mean, at least the Chili Peppers put their own L.A.-style spin on it, yo! For this reason, and because a few of these baby-Gangs are actually playing the festival, GoF’s Coachella date (Sunday, May 1) gets my vote for 2005’s Most Pointed Reunion. It’s not their first attempt at a revival, either. But it would seem that, at long last, it’s time for GoF to claim their reward. I talked to Gill over the phone at his home in London about life as one Hugely Influential Dude. L.A. WEEKLY: I read a
recent quote that sometimes
you turn on the radio
these days and think,
“Did I write that song?”

ANDY GILL: Yeah! (Laughs.) It can get a bit like that.
Are you sick of it?

It’s slightly odd — I’ve got mixed feelings. There are lots of bands where you
can tell they’ve heard Gang of Four, but at the same time, if they’ve done something
different, then fair enough. At the end of the day, when people start bands, there’s
stuff that’s influenced them and gets them excited. For myself, the things that
I was into when we started Gang of Four — it’s not that obvious that I was into
the Band, for example. Or Jimi Hendrix, or Bob Dylan. One of the things that was
different about our music was that it was funky — not in the sense of copying
American funk, but because we wanted to take apart the rhythm ideas and rebuild
something from scratch. It was kind of funky by default.
Many new bands mimic you
without any awareness of
Gang of Four’s social
consciousness.
They’ve gone for the sound of it more than the — yeah, I agree with you.
More often than not, new-wave
bands had some social
commentary but usually
in a fun, non-preachy
way.
Yeah, we never wanted to preach. We weren’t standing on the monitors, fists held
high, “If we all work together we can kill
the rich.” It’s more looking at what you do in private, with
your friends or your girlfriend. You realize that within the mass culture there
are voices which come from certain vested interests — it’s the old axiom that
no man is an island.
Like the feminist phrase “the
personal is political”?
Yeah. I read the other day someone said second-wave feminism was an influence
on Gang of Four. The idea that certain aspects of human behavior are natural —
well, a lot of them aren’t natural. For example, the idea that it’s natural for
a woman to stay home — it’s changed since we wrote that stuff, but people did
say those things 20 years ago.
Why are you doing this
reunion? Is it just for
the money?
No. It’s absolutely not about the money — I get quite a kick out of producing
bands. It’s a question of what you want to do for fun, really. The idea that we’d
do something with the original four has been kicking around for a few years. But
my feeling was, okay, I’m prepared to give this a go, but God, it has to be really,
really good. If it wasn’t as good as Gang of Four was at their best, then there’s
no point in doing it at all. But I felt in January, when we did a few dates in
the U.K., that we were as good as we ever have been. And nobody quite knew who
would be turning up, but it was like 60 percent people under 25.
Do you feel like it’s
time to claim your historical
prize?
There’s a little bit of that, yeah. I don’t know how to articulate it exactly,
but perhaps it’s something like, well, if other people are getting up onstage
and doing things that are very Gang of Four–referential, then why don’t we do
it?

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