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Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
by Alexander Laurence

Gorky's are a band from Wales who have been around for ten years. They were part of the Welsh explosion 1996, when a handful of bands such as Super Furry Animals and Catatonia began producing music sung in Welsh. With roots as a punk band, Gorky's has transformed themselves into something more melodic and odd. They are currently on their first American tour in three years with a live show that incudes elements ranging from folk to noise rock. The main songwriter is Euros Childs. He sings and plays keyboards onstage as well as acoustic guitar. His sister Megan Childs plays violin and sings and adds an occasional song. The other songwriter is Richard James who is a very talented musician as well.

The Gorky's came out with two albums last year: The Blue Trees and How I Long To Feel That Summer In My Heart. They have always been an exciting and unpredictable group. I got to talk to the three members during the Noise Pop festival in San Francisco in early March 2002. They are very nice people. We smoked a few cigarettes and hung out a few hours before their show at the Great American Music Hall.

Gorky's home page- www.gorkys.com
Gorky's audio - Click here

*********

AL: You played the Troubadour last night?

Richard: Yes. It was great. We found out that The Birds played there back in the 1960s. That's where Roger McGuinn and David Crosby met each other.

Euros: We saw the posters of Motley Crue and WASP.

AL: WASP used to have fireworks and sparks coming out of the guitarist's crotch. Are you going to incorporate something like that into your show?

Megan: Done it.

AL: Or a fire breathing violin player?

Richard: We did that about six months ago.

AL: How many violins do you smash on a tour?

Megan: Usually about thirty. Depends on how the gigs go?

AL: You have been together for ten years now. What was it like in the early days compared to now?

Euros: Yeah. We started when we were sixteen.

Richard: We all met in school. They are brother and sister. Megan is older so she wasn't in the band at the beginning because it was very much a boy's band. It didn't work out so well. It was a normal teenage band. We play at school and made a lot of noise. For a while we had acoustic guitars. We didn't think that we were doing one thing. We never considered ourselves as a punk band or any sort of a band, even when we were 15 years old. All the first bands we saw live were Welsh bands.

Euros: We didn't grow up in an area or a specific time where there was one type of music going on. When you grew up you would listen to old stuff and all sorts of music.

AL: How come you weren't invited to play on the Tom Jones "Reload" record?

Richard: I don't think that we sold enough records to be invited. He's a horrible man. I hope that he chokes on one of his cigars.

AL: Do you have any influences?

Richard: Yeah. We like The Fall, The Sex Pistols, The Kinks, and The Beatles. We started off with the obvious ones because they are easy to get. Then we got into more obscure stuff because we ran out of obvious stuff to buy. I started getting into Robert Wyatt and some folk stuff. We all liked Soft Machine.

Euros: You get engrossed into a lot of strange music when you are young. I liked a lot of Country Music when I was a teenager. Some of it is a load of shit but I like listening to it. I think that The Fall had great riffs.

AL: Do you like Nick Drake?

Megan: Even though Nick Drake is amazing you don't want to sound like that or copy it. For us, it's not about emulating some other sound. It's more about creating our own thing. Anything that does influence us is not really a conscious thing.

Euros: Bad bands are ones who you listen to their records and it's obvious that you have listened to these three or four other bands. It's like "We love their records" and that's what you get.

Richard: That's how you get all this bland music.

AL: On that last album Euros wrote most of the songs, then Richard has three or so, and Megan has one. Is that how the songwriting responsibility goes?

Richard: It depends. Euros always has written most of the songs. We all bring something to the band. It's good to have different songwriters because you get different things. It becomes mixed and somewhat more interesting.

Megan: We never wanted to define our sound or what our music means. It's freedom to do whatever you want, really. There are no rules.

AL: What bands have you played with?

Megan: We have played with a band called Tulip. They are not together anymore. We played with Arab Strap. We supported Stereolab, Spiritualized, and Broadcast. All sorts of good bands.

AL: The new record was recorded in a few studios. Why the change?

Euros: It was recorded in two studios at Rockfield. We started in one studio for a week. We took a week off. Then when we came back, that studio wasn't available, so we moved next door. It wasn't as good as the first one. It was the same place. We had never recorded there before. It's nice. It's in Monmouth, South Wales.

AL: How was this album different from the previous ones?

Euros: Two members had left the band. The drummer and John, who played guitar and wrote a few of the songs. It was all right. We actually worked with two different drummers. Pete is playing with us now in the live shows.

Megan: Every album is different. Every album has its own identity and recording. We have been doing more poppy things recently. The songs on The Blue Trees worked so well together. We know that people liked that. So we already had the songs for this new one, How I Long To Feel That Summer In My Heart. We knew what people would expect. It's quite open whatever we do.

AL: Do you think that many stoners listen to your music?

Richard: Not in any large proportion than any other group.

Euros: Occasionally you will smell it coming from the crowd. People who like George Michael probably smoke it. George Michael smokes it himself, doesn't he?

Megan: There isn't a type of person who comes to our gigs.

Euros: We don't have a lot of party music. Maybe out of the seven albums you could make one compilation of party music.

AL: You have a few songs about sunshine. There's not much good weather in Britain?

Euros: It comes now and then. You have seven days of clouds and no sunshine, then you have two days of sunshine. It's like that.

Megan: It makes a big impression of you.

AL: Do you play any sports?

Euros: We have been playing a bit of badminton lately and try to get fitter. We are trying to offset our other pleasures in life, which is beer.

AL: Have you been doing any Kung Fu or Yoga?

Richard: Do I look like I do Kung Fu?

Euros: No Kung Fu. No martial arts.

AL: Some people described some of the early stuff as "lo-fi." What do you think of that?

Euros: When we started we recorded at home. We didn't want hiss. We always wanted the best quality. We always disliked the term "lo-fi" because it sounds underachieving. It sounds as if you are playing something down or not enjoying something. Our producer hates the term because he thinks it's "high-fi" now. There's so much detail in what we do. "Lo-fi" sounds like something that you do very quickly and record. There is so much tension in our sounds and the production of our records. The last thing it is, is "lo-fi." That is like a Dictaphone that just happens to be recording. There is an attitude too.

AL: When you go into a studio, how much of it is a live recording?

Megan: We usually have all five or six of us playing live on the initial tracks. Then you obviously overdub things over that. It's good to capture things live and the band playing because there is always something special there. A band playing together is what you are. It's being truthful.

Euros: We have a great producer. He's good at capturing the spirit and the chemistry. He's a firm believer in that. That spirit is missing in a lot of records that you hear these days.

AL: In the song "Christina" you rhymed "Christina" with "Magazine-a." How long did you take to come up with that?

Euros: I like trashy lyrics. I like pulp. I am not a poet. I am not writing poetry. I am writing words for a melody. You just sit down with a guitar and try to think of something new and exciting to say. Some songs are a story and others are just about how you feel that day.

AL: Someone wrote: "This album is a concept album about the bittersweet nature of nostalgia for summer." (laughter)

Euros: No, I don't think so. Someone has been reading too much into the songs. It's not a concept album.

AL: A few of the songs start off with a psychedelic musical interlude, then they take a left turn into the actual song. Is that a trick, a style, or a quality that you like in music?

Richard: Sometimes that's nice, yeah.

Euros: When we recorded "Christina" the two parts on two separate days. We did the Intro on one day. It was tracked. Then the next part was played live. It was two different processes of recording back to back. It's very nice to hear that together. I haven't heard the album for a while now, because we are playing it every night. My favorite songs tend to be whatever worked well the previous night.

AL: Richard. The songs that you wrote on the album seem sort of stripped down, bare, and folky. Is that your style?

Richard: I suppose that is more my style of writing. I write stuff on an acoustic guitar.

AL: Do you think that people listen to your music as to chill out after the party?

Megan: I don't know. It's nice not to know. It's good that people are listening to music in different circumstances and it has nothing to do with me. You make this music and I am not connecting with people who listen to it in any other way. When you listen to a record or read a book that you really like, you are not thinking about other people.

AL: When you started out did you send out demos?

Euros: No. We were anti-demo. We sent out demos to radio stations but not to labels. We knew that in Wales people would have heard about us and label would find out after a while playing out live. We were on television. We didn't need to send out demos. The labels knew who we were. It's a small music scene. Bands get taken more seriously now in Wales. There are more resources to put on gigs. In Cardiff. Some places in Wales with a big population sometimes have cover bands and bar bands for two or three months. Or even longer. So it's trash that there is some music scene going on there.

AL: Is it a positive thing that people start grouping bands like the Manics, Super Furry Animals, and Catatonia, and yourself and say that there is a scene?

Megan: It's only positive for people writing about it. It isn't good for the scene in North Wales or West Wales. It has nothing to do with what is going on there and will never change it.

Euros: You don't get angry when the press gets it wrong. You can get angry with the British Press more than over here. Something like "Euros Childs leads his Welsh wizards on another tour of the British Isles." It's wrong because I am not the leader of the band. When we get listed in a magazine, they use the same words from 1997. Every time we do a tour we see the same phrases.

*****



-- Alexander Laurence

 


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