Poking fun at religions, praising jungle and re-working the rules of the dancefloor in one of the North’s most exhilarating venues; just an average day in the life of Gnod
Praise the Lord for the boundary-pushing, cosmic endeavour of Gnod, the unit unleashing their limitless sonic jams from Salford’s Islington Mill.
Actually, maybe don’t praise. They’ve been mistaken for some kind of quasi-religious assemblage before, and following a cluster of track titles such as Tony’s First Communion and Vatican, along with the resonance of their cult-like performances, it’s easy to see why those who are naïve to the Gnod concept would jump to such conclusions.
As we’re led up to the Mill’s fourth floor, the faint smell of incense and an echo of world music drifts towards us, before we’re welcomed into the heart of Gnod’s central nervous system; a setting where record covers don walls while various analogue synths and speakers lie across the floor. The space serves not only to house band members, but it’s also their creative workplace.
“We’re anti-religion as far as that goes, but do people think we’re some ‘God squad’ or something? It’s more about the fact most religions are pretty oppressive and set in stone, which is completely the opposite of what we engage in”. We’re in discussion with Paddy Shine and Chris Haslam, Gnod’s vocalists and electronic moguls, who’re rolling cigarettes and handing over various record sleeves for us to paw over. “The photo element of this hasn’t been doctored …” Shire points out on the reverse artwork of 2011’s InGnodWeTrust EP, which features a humorous image of Pope John Paul II pulling a goofy pose, with the addition of scorching red triangular logos replacing his eyes. Sensitive viewers could be offended by it, but it’s really just Gnod sticking their tongues firmly in their cheeks – and why not? But judging by the aura of passion lingering throughout their work, Gnod are deadly serious about their craft.
“We’re freeform, genreless and incapable of being pinned-down. It’s not exactly like we could be, we’re constantly evolving. No one should say ‘You can’t make electronica or rock like this’, let’s keep the lines blurred”. Yet it isn’t just their sound that’s pushing boundaries. Having curated their own residency recently over at The Mill – the venue’s first of its kind – they grasped an opportunity to get destructive on the dancefloor too. Sound artist Callum Higgins’ instillation TANGENT was a light-led piece including ear-splitting reverb that brought a whole other dimension to the building. An ethos as basic as it is bold, Gnod also cross over into a shared club night called Gesamtkunstwerk (German for ‘whole arts work’) which allows them to fill a space for movers and shakers with the dark and the dirty.
“You know how you hear crazy music at home, but you’d never get the chance to hear it out in a club environment through a massive rig, where it takes on a whole other life form? We wanted to bring that. Club music doesn’t always have to be fucking expected techno, it can be loud, noisy, abrasive and distorted to the point where all you want to do is lie on the floor and embrace it all, it’s like sticking your head in the bass bin”. The collective are also putting out music on the same oddball scale with their Tesla Tapes label, a brainchild that seemed to fall out of a happy accident and a love for raw, obscure talent. “All of us in the van were making music that was collecting dust on hard-drives out on the road and thought ‘fuck it, let’s just put it all out on tapes’, because I had this duplicator that had been on the backburner for years. Then we started putting out material from other bands that were bringing the goods – bands like Lightning Glove from the Czech Republic and The Dwelling, which is one that Chris was a part of and is getting a re-press on vinyl after going down better than we ever expected. Soon enough, we had loads of others getting in touch. That was the great thing about setting up a tape label, we’re not trying to push it as a business – it’s a love rather than money project.”
Looking at the expanding catalogue of Gnod, we see their music taking on undercurrents of jungle (“There isn’t enough jungle in the world!”, Paddy chips in to tell us no less than four times during our chat), over to lightning-speed glitches and whirrs that you can feel vibrating to your very bones, weaving through otherworldly, ghostly vocal samples that trip you over, to layers of grinding psychedelia. Staying close to those who have helped them along the way – no matter how big or small – it’s clear Gnod are on a mission to make some of the most rousing, experimental music the UK underground has heard in a long time.
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Words: Leah Connolly
Photo: Jackie Mason + John Gallardo