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FM to Web: Content Providers by Andy Gill

It is a great pleasure for me today, to host the exclusive (as always ..) article of Andy GILL for this column. He writes for their new album, xBox, BBC and the"Top of the Pops" show.
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Just last Tuesday,  "Content" was released, the new album of the unique GANG OF FOUR, after a long period of absence. It is therefore a great pleasure for me today, to host the exclusive (as always ..) article of Andy GILL for this column. Needless to emphasize how important the band remains, or how influential their sound has been, we know that already. Enjoy 'Content' as soon as possible it's trully superb!

We’ ve been thinking about how Thomas McNeice and Mark Heaney as  rhythm section bring so much to the table .  There’ve been many versions of the band. The first founder members were Hugo, Andy & Jon and our first bass player was a guy called Dave Woolfson. He’s the bloke referenced by an audience member, ( “who’s the hippy on the bass? ") on the cassette tape of our first ever show in Leeds.  Hugo, a good friend and magnificent drummer, had his own style.  Dave Allen was great, too. But after he quit very early on, we hired Busta Jones ( ex “Remain in Light” Talking Heads)  my personal early days favourite; then we hired the wonderful Sara Lee ( ex Robert Fripps “League of Gentlemen” & later in B52’s & Indigo girls). Sara was great, too. And after her Gail Anne Dorsey, who has also played with us recently. Mark Heaney is currently one of the world’s top 5 drummers, a genius; solid, talented and inventive. It’s wonderful to play with him. Thomas combines elements of Dave Allen & Busta Jones’ style and brings an intensity and attack to it. The guys are world-class.
When the Xbox people approached us to use "Natural's Not In It" for a TV commercial we thought it  was fantastic.  Ten out of ten! If we’d ever been asked to define  a dream scenario  for this song, the first lines of which are “The problem of leisure/what to do for pleasure” , this would be it. Superb. Just like, back in the day, when we decided to sign to EMI, the ugly, corporate beast of a record company, some people were outraged, saying we should be with an indie, but our music really made sense being with this company that was a global distillation of capitalism.

In fact, rather than undermine our ideological integrity [ which sometimes is the suggestion when the Xbox thing is mentioned ] , the recent use of the song in a Microsoft gaming-console commercial marks a logical extension of it. We were always less interested in smashing storefronts than in exploring the anxiety of consumerism -- how a culture obsessed with status and acquisition reduces personal interaction to a transactional experience. And we did so not out of scorn for those who fuel the capitalist machine, but to acknowledge our own complicity in it.

So the seeming contradiction of Gang of Four advertising video games in 2011 is actually the perfect preamble to the unease and self-doubt expressed throughout Content, the very title of which alludes to the process by which creativity is depersonalized into commodity
We have been trying to remember the point at which we decided to call the album content.  We thought about calling it ‘scent’ at one point, which is where the book of smells idea came from. But we decided on content ;  in one way it works a little like entertainment ! worked as a title . it looks at how we think about culture and the entertainment industry, and the economics of that. The title’s good as a descriptor as, well, the album is full of content. And creative people are all “content providers”. Journalists, writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers etc. We collectively grovel to the technology intermediaries who suck us dry, like the evil Apple Corporation, who don’t invest a cent in music but charge a massive percentage for every track sold on I-Tunes, worse than the worst record company. Worse even, than EMI.  Another meaning is to be content. Which is hard.

But of course, we have always been controversial, many passionately love us for our direct realism, but others hate it.  We have been banned by the BBC a few times, as you know. There was the famous “Top Of The Pops” incident when they wanted us to change the word “rubbers” in the song Tourist . In the end we would not allow ourselves to be censored.  I  think at the time....we thought yes if you do TOTP, we know certain  things could follow on from that and we know it now, but I think you  feel you have to draw a line and be true to yourself. 

The thing about the Gang of Four was that we weren't any old band in it for having a laugh, that was never quite Gang of Four. Of course if you could have a laugh and make some bucks and be artistically valid, then great and I am sure we wouldn't have done it for five minutes if we weren't having a lot of fun, but the lyrics we sang and the artwork and everything we did, was instructed by a kind of methodology that we would have torn up if we had let the producers  at TOTP talk us into singing any old nonsense. 
Gang of Four are nothing if not prescient. We were talking about contraception. Now that was responsible! We got our wrists slapped and told to go home!

Then there was the song “I love a man in uniform” -  at  that time, I knew various people who worked at the BBC including Gang of  Four's ex manager, Rob Warr, and he showed me the memo that went round the BBC that said basically "we are expecting casualties in the  Falklands and it would not be appropriate to play this song by the Gang  of Four." There is no question that people got the idea that there was something critical about the song despite the fact it is a funky pop song and spoke in code. But the clever boys and girls at the BBC knew we were up to something....

Gang of Four - Official Site

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