Under the influence: Gad Whip

GAD WHIP are a quartet of non-hairy and also hairy freaks from various northern shitholes who present an ungrateful world with a very pleasing hodgepodge of high-energy, low-fidelity punky psychedelia and post-industrial musique concrète, via the medium of cassette tapes, mostly.

Let’s not get hung up on the medium at the expense of the message.

Named after a murkily arcane North Lincolnshire ‘old religion’ ritual involving a long cattle whip being shaken above a priest’s head on Palm Sunday or something, Gad Whip are old enough to know better but they don’t. Me and singer / drummer Pete started swapping zines through the post in the mid-Eighties and I later met Geoff when he moved in across the road from my girlfriend, and their band Aki began to gig around Scunthorpe.

And here we are, 30-odd years later.

On first hearing, these analogue fundamentalists’ albums sound like the craziest and greatest mixtapes you’ve ever heard, but within a few listens each track begins to sound like it could only have been produced by Gad Whip. And you have to wonder what kind of weirdo would have these kinds of mixtapes recorded for them. Me, apparently.

Musically, Gad Whip are all over the place. There appears to be neither rhyme nor reason to their outré oeuvre. They point and laugh at genre politics. The constants appear to be a willingness to experiment and a weary exasperation with the essential rubbishness of modern life.

While middle-aged blokes are always moaning about something (exhibit one: the Twitter stream on the right of this page), seldom has this kind of male-menopausal grumpiness been expressed with such invention, energy and style. They have yet to repeat themselves. And busying themselves with this shit definitely beats waking up one morning and leaving your missus and kids for a florist named Lance or even buying an elaborate surrogate phallus in the shape of an expensive car / motorbike.

I like what Gad Whip do very much.

cover.jpgTheir latest release, the Cartoon Head EP, arrives in a heavy fug of trebly Tex-Mex guitar riffs, feedback, MESisms and cheap, dirty and ugly basslines. It is often a very compelling kind of repetitive, muddy, clanking mess, even if, initially at least, it seems like it might be Gad Whip’s Yes Sir I Will moment, or, at the very least, Flipper fronted by your odd uncle Terry.

Lyrically, Temporary Atoms talks about how we’ve been sold down the fucking river. Half of the band seem to be absent. Fucking Brexit cunts. They ruin everything. But not this song, weirdly, with your man Davies once again combining political astuteness with the ability to uncover the mundane, hilarious detail of ‘dreeeaaam’ holidays and the deadly rise of hippie crack. And what the FUCK is a tape gun?

Midlife Shorts is the EP’s stand out track by a country mile. It is built around a simple, pensive (and inevitably) repetitive guitar, with Davies listing a variety of potential scenarios – for example: “scenario seven, rob provincial post offices and convenience stores for one year, save up, disappear” – to what end I am unsure, maybe he’s trying to work out which path will be least likely to make him get naked, go fully postal and lay waste to the villages and hamlets of the Rhubarb Triangle. It’s difficult to say.

But it feels like they’re really starting to get somewhere with this stuff.

They are just about to go into a “proper” studio to record some stuff for an actual seven-inch vinyl single.

“No plans for any gigs but we’re open to offers,” says Pete.

Yeah, whatever, but what we all want to know is, what were the records that originally floated the boats of the people in Gad Whip before they ended up, Viking-style, setting fire to these, um, musical boats? I’m not sure where I’m going with this analogy but let’s find out.

BILL AMOS: “Pretentious? Me? No, these are some of the records I keep going back to. Not sure if they influence me any more than any other music I hear. These records have parts that are good and parts that I don’t like but, as all good music should, they have a certain personal nostalgia.

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“My formative years were probably influenced by village life in the 1970s. The three records below are from the 76-81 era. How old am I…

“I remember hearing some tracks off My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by David Byrne and Brian Eno on late night radio in 1981, they stuck in my head and they are still there.

“It was the first collaborative album by Brian Eno and David Byrne, released in February 1981. Wikipedia tells me that the album integrates sampled vocals and found sounds, African and Middle Eastern rhythms, and early attempts at electronic music techniques.

“Borrowed (stolen) sounds layered in a collage over quirky beats using pre-digital sampling. It still sounds relevant.

”The ‘found objects’ which appeal to me on this record were common objects used mostly as alternative parts of a standard drum kit. Frying pans for snares, boxes for kick drums. Most of the vocals are sampled from other sources, such as recordings of Arabic singers, radio disc jockeys, and an exorcist.

Scratch the Super Ape is a dub album produced and engineered by Lee Scratch Perry, credited to his studio band the Upsetters. I like the economy of 1970’s dub, the space between notes being used as parts of the rhythm.

“Simple, you may think, until you analyse it. Then you realise that it has layers of complexity hiding under the minimal production and a few happy accidents due to the analogue recording techniques.

“I could have chosen other dub albums but this was one of the first I heard so it’s on the list.

Rattus Norvegicus is the Stranglers’ debut album, released in 1977. This record first attracted me to ‘having a go’ at bass guitar playing, due to the in your face bass sound of JJ Burnel.

“Live sounding recording techniques shine through. It was produced in one week by Martin Rushent – his first production job – and was a snapshot of the band’s live set at the time.”

GEOFF BOLAM: “Choosing one from so many amazing Hawkwind releases was very tricky, but Roadhawks, a compilation covering songs from 1970-1975, was my first introduction to Hawkwind and it still gives me musical inspiration. Synth heaven.

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“This was the first record I heard that has no breaks between tracks. I like this and find myself doing the same with any personal recording I do these days. Why have that silence?

“If you’re not familiar with Hawkwind, I’d recommend you line up the last three songs – Space is Deep, Wind of Change and The Golden Void – turn off all the lights, turn up the volume, smoke some shit.. and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

The Mob’s Let the Tribe Increase was a refreshing change at a time (1983) when the Crass label was releasing so many anarcho punk singles – including the Mob’s No Doves Fly Here. For me, this was a lyrical combination of anger peace and hope. This is what the scene was about, not bands turning on each other. For example, the band Special Duties named one of their singles Bullshit Crass, causing so much infighting among people who should have been standing together …

“I still haven’t answered that early 80’s big question.. ‘Hey mate – anarchy and peace or anarchy and chaos?

Minor Threat by Minor Threat wasn’t actually an LP, but was released as a 12 inch in 1981. Back in them old school days, a few of us used to trade tape compilations. This was the best way to find new bands back in the days before them computers made it so easy to become an overnight fan and an expert on a band you know nothing about.

“So one day I get this comp, put it in my tape player – and what the fuck! This was eight blasting songs, again with very little silence between them. I’d never even heard of them – but this was kicking my ass big time.

“I still get a real powerful gut feeling now when I play the last track, Minor Threat. This is 10 minutes of US punk that was to change me forever.

“Everyone likes Minor Threat, don’t they? Well, if you were hearing it when it was happening.

“If you’ve just been down Primark in your Ramones tee-shirt and couldn’t find a Minor Threat one, then you best get to customer services and complain.”

LEE DRINKALL: “As Groucho Marx once said: “Their music is much better than it sounds”.

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“How many reviews have you read proclaiming “new exciting prospects have landed”, only to find they sound like the Housemartins .. what? When there was people like Milkfloat  – about the same era, same city, but not full of cringing irony and musical death.

“This is where radio came to my rescue, with a certain DJ who would play anything post punk. Things are much better these days with the internet, right?

Capers, from Prayers on Fire by the Birthday Party finds pre-croon mode Mr Cave writing in his own bizarre frenetic type of language which made perfect sense – and was a great relief – to me.

“The rest of the band smoke cigarettes too. One looks like a pervy cowboy, the other looks like a girl – this is brilliant! Mick Harvey kept it all together, of course.

“Favourite line: Oh a streak, oh treacly ink inks.

Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights was my introduction to the power of strings, kettle drums and brass. I didn’t hear it live until years later when I went to see Romeo & Juliette performed by Northern Ballet – with a 21-piece orchestra. I would like to hear it by a 101-piece orchestra.

“Nope, no death here.

“There are some lesser renditions though, so beware. It’s full of amazing crescendos. And slam dancing, You can’t just knock it out and say, it’ll do, you know.

“Oh, and I hate the Apprentice.

Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for A Fist Full of Dollars (Camden) is dramatic and vital. All sounds are analogue, but sound over saturated and other worldly, like the recordings can’t quite contain the loud bits without distorting – which may or may not be the case, but hi-fi with attitude is welcome.

“Sparse lyrics, more shamanic pub chanting. We can fight them, ding, we can beat them, ding, pint of rough, ding etc, etc.

“A masterpiece and a true influence.

“I wonder if there is a DJ / site/ blog / where I could find this combo. Hmm, it’s not a genre thing to me. Never has been. Just good ideas.

PETE DAVIES: “Yes, these are all compilations.

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Let Them Eat Jellybeans (Alternative Tentacles) got me into the US HC scene and also the weirder music stuff that was all part of it. The attitude and integrity impressed me. I was 15/16 when this came out in 1981, and the acceptance that the music could be what you damn well please has stayed with me ever since.

“For sure, we loved Black Flag, Circle Jerks, DOA, Flipper, Bad Brains, DKs but we also moved on to the Minutemen, Big Boys, the Dicks, Power of the Spoken Word and Spike in Vain.

“The first Bullshit Detector album on Crass Records was hugely influential in terms of what our own band, the Obscene Females, were doing at the time. We used to practice and record our demos in a place called the Odd Fellows Hall that was next door to Barton Police Station.

“The quality of the recordings and playing (bad) didn’t affect our enthusiasm for making a noise and singing songs of nonsense. It was the beginning of some kind of DIY apprenticeship and I still have a similar approach to most things today. If you can’t do it, find out how to do it.

“I bought Xcentric Noise’s Hard Core or What compilation just before I moved up to Barton, North Lincolnshire from Hitchin, Hertfordshire and loved the whole package.

“It was a tape release in a A5 bag with info sheets and a cool sleeve and featured a whole bunch of bands from around the world whom I’d never heard of before, such as Olho Seco, Tyveet Kadet, Headcleaners and Blue Vomit.

“It opened up the wordwide punk community to us. You’d write to kids in other countries and trade tapes and badges.

“We then found out that the bloke who ran the label, Shesk, actually worked in the Syd Scarborough record shop in Hull. We’d head over there at least once a week and, because he was in contact with loads of bands, he’d have a great selection of punk records from around the world.

“We got to know him quite well and indeed he boosted our egos by including a couple of our songs on his final cassette release, Grievous Musical Harm. we were dead chuffed to be included.

“Pushead did the art for it!”

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