Stamp Mix #94: Golden Teacher

A sound engineer who once met Golden Teacher on tour described them as being made up of people all trying to be in different bands. For most outfits, this kind of factionalism would jeopardise their search for a musical identity. For the Glasgow six-piece, it’s been the making of them and a catalyst for the technicolored improvisation that defines a sound that pits dub with post-punk, acid-disco with art rock. A trio of EPs for Optimo Music from 2013 to 2015 marks a fruitful relationship in the studio and club with J.D. Twitch and J.G. Wilkes, who have heavily supported them over the years. Sharing a penchant for recontextualising dance floor conventions, the group have often featured as raucous live sets in the middle of their Sub Club residencies. In the wake of their latest, self-released work, No Luscious Life, we spoke to Oliver and Rich from the band about negotiating a sixtet of different ideas, unusual approaches to the album format and some thoughts on Glasgow. This is also accompanied by a truly global 90 minute mix of folk, jazz, disco and alternative music from around the world.

No Luscious Life is out now – buy from Bandcamp.

So this is your longest piece of work to date, but not officially an album. Do you feel constricted by the term or format, at odds with the freeform nature of how much of your music is created? 

Rich McMaster: It’s actually not the longest thing we’ve done. We did a cassette called GDDB a few years back that compiles a lot of the first times we made music together. It’s soon getting a vinyl release on Goaty Tapes / House Rules. Its a lot more rough and ready. Sometimes it’s better to make album though. The music industry understands what to do with them a lot more and it becomes easier to figure out what to do with the music.

What are some unusual approaches to the album format that you admire from other artists and bands?

Oliver Pitt: The legendary Belgian eccentric cacti and hat collector Cassis Cornuta ‎has an LP where he’s drilled between four and 20 extra centre holes through the vinyl stickers. This kind gesture gives you at least four times more music as it sounds completely different depending on which hole you use and how offset the vinyl is.

Many of the tracks on The Luscious Life were created some months and years ago. How has it felt revisiting this work around the release?

RM: More time means more memories.

What were some of the key albums that you guys were listening to while recording This Luscious Life?

OP: Studio Der Frühen Musik, ‎– Chanterai Por Mon Coraige. and any mixes by the late great Ron Hardy

RM : Can’t remember… though I always end up listening to Terry Riley / Don Cherry ‎– Köln

It’s rare for the studio where an album was recorded to take on such significance, but for Green Door Store the rules are a bit different. What role did that play in the album’s development and what did it offer you that no other space could?

RM: The driving factor for Green Door’s prominence is large part an economic one. We were able to record there on and off for a few years entirely for free, under largely our own terms and with the wonderful guiding lights of Emily McLaren and Stu ‘Heavens’ Evans riding the faders when when did our thing. The community thats grown around that wonderful opportunity is really something special.

OP:  The Green Door is really a unique place, a sort of music institution that puts experimentation, unorthodox recording, and collaboration at the forefront. It’s pretty rare to have a supportive place like that offering free training and recording time for young musicians.

It must be challenging to channel the ideas of six individuals into one whole. How do you negotiate each stage productively without being stuck in an endless loop of indecisive creativity? 

RM: I disagree a lot. There was a sound guy that we’d end up meeting on tour and he’d always say that he really enjoyed watching up play because it was kind of like seeing six people that were all trying to be in different bands all playing on stage on the same time.

OP: It is a challenge but a positive one. We avoid “endless indecisiveness” by playing more than planning the music. Its often complex to try and come to a verbal  agreement of what we doing but when we actually play the instruments and make sound. I thinks that’s when we communicate with each other the best. I think if we only spoke to each other through music instead of language it would have made the last three years much easier.

Artwork on this was from you Oliver. Could you explain a bit about the art direction?

OP: I’ve done the artwork and (in some cases the printing, painting and assembling) of all our record sleeves. I see all our releases as one big body of work rather than seven separate vinyl. Like you say there are tracks on this new record that were originally made when we released our second EP. In that sense it’s nice to have continuity in the records artwork  too. The front cover of No Luscious Life is collage made from scraps, remnants and cuttings of paper arranged into a patterned composition. The same could be said the for the music, and indeed process of mixing and structuring our songs, arranging abstract parts into something beautiful.

What’s more important for Golden Teacher: challenge the listener or get them dancing?

OP: I don’t think this album is necessarily  ‘challenging’. We try to make music that’s interesting and not just follow the exact tropes of existing  genres. To me it’s more entertaining than challenging, We want people to enjoy it. As for dancing, we hope all our music is dance music is some sense. The album is very rhythmic and produced to sound full in a club. 

You’ve been keen to present the live band in a club and dance context. I imagine this has offered as many challenges as it has opportunities, given the reticence of promoters and punters to this format outside of Glasgow. What are some of the more amusing reactions you’ve received from audience members when you perform? 

OP: The Swiss just stood there without moving watching us. That was very strange, but Switzerland is a deeply strange place. There seems to be no litter or even dirt anywhere, maybe that has something to do with it? They did however introduce us to DJ Marcelle for which we are forever grateful.

Casting the net wider, what’s the most outrageous live performance you’ve experienced this year?

RM: not the most outrageous, but one of the best was seeing Farmers Manual at Counterflows in April. It was some pretty outstanding music! 

OP: for outrageous it would have to be Graham Lambkin (also at Counterflows which is a great festival in Glasgow in April). I don’t even know if I enjoyed it, but it made me think a lot. His music is genuinely challenging  in the most interesting way. I think he’s a genius.

How was it touring with ESG in 2015? Any big lessons you took away from it?

OP: They’re an amazing band, amazing records and a great live show, but sadly some of them were real dicks to the lovely guy who was organising the tour. He was breaking his back to put the whole thing together and funding it all himself and they were just totally taking the piss. I can’t believe it when artists don’t have respect for DIY promoters. They’re the ones risking the money and sorting all the boring logistics and stress. It was a bit sad to see.

You seem to have become a great unifying force for Glasgow’s diverse musical movements, from the darker club sounds of Huntleys & Palmers, Afro influences of Auntie Flo, post-punk of Optimo and art pop/rock centred round The Art School. Are there any other musical entities around the world you admire for creating a similar synergy among different sounds and cultures?

OP: Thats quite a big question! –  I’m sure there are.

RM:

What new / young talent in Glasgow should we be keeping an eye on at the moment? 

OP: Three amazing DJs: Ribeka, Letitia Pleiades and Sofay. Every time I’ve seen any of these three recently its been the absolute highlight of the night/week.

Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us?

OP: Myself and Rich recorded it in the CCA Bar in Glasgow. We DJ there with some friends so made sense to record this mix at the same time. No plan, we just both brought records. Nothing too banging as it’s a bar where people like to talk to each other.  This mix is the first hour and a half of the night, it got a bit more upbeat later but what you have is the first half. Just great songs, we hope you like them! 

Now the album is out, what else is coming up on the horizon for GC that you’re excited about? 

OP: New projects, new groups new collaborations. We’re all always working on new things.

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