He — meaning Ian Parton — is the sampling mastermind who began his early musical ventures with naught more than a 4-track tape recorder and an old Akai S1000. They — meaning Chi Fukami Taylor, Sam Dook, Jamie Bell, Kaori Tsuchida and the singularly named Ninja — are the team that help bring his song ideas to life with such exuberance that the band is often referred to as “cheerleaders.” Ready, okay! Yes, kids, it's The Go! Team, whose new album, Proof of Life (Sub Pop, 2007) is already making other bands look twice at the band's obviously successful DIY approach.
“We did it all ourselves,” Parton explains. “We took over a space in Brighton, England, and filled it with our gear. We brought in a Neve desk from the early '80s and went through a lot of cool old preamps, including Telefunkens, which is an old German preamp, and an API Lunchbox.” Parton even kept part of the process in the family, with brother Gareth Parton taking on mixing duties later in the game. And, with sampling being the focus of much of The Go! Team's distinctive sound, Parton knows the best way to go. “Pro Tools is what it's all about for samples,” he says with an absolute tone, “pitch shift and time stretch are the two big deals there. I also use the Serato Pitch 'n Time plug-in to shift things around…. Ah, now I'm giving away all of our secrets!” he says with a chuckle.
Even if Parton were to explain in further detail how he does what he does, it's doubtful that anyone would be able to replicate his exact mode of creativity or his knowledgeable use of vintage gear. On “Grip Like a Vise,” Parton uses real trumpets and saxophones (“I'm not a fan of the sax, generally, but if you bind it with a trumpet, it fattens it up nicely”) and layers the same notes with an electro sound coaxed from a miniature late-'80s Casio SK sampling keyboard. The keyboard is practically a toy, but with Parton's expertise, its use results in a bright, sharp synth sound. On “My World” — perhaps the album's one gentle moment — Parton uses a Teisco 60F synth (the same one used by Hot Chip in its stage act) to get those “wobbly notes,” as he puts it, combined with a vibraphone sound from the aforementioned Casio. Guitar work is played on both Parton's '65 Fender Jazzmaster and Sam Dook's late-'50s Silvertone (“You know, the one that looks like it came from Woolworth's,” Parton says) and is fed through one Orange Rockerverb amp and one Vox AC30. But on songs such as “Keys to the City” and “Doing It Right,” it's the mics that are the focus.
“I think my very favorite pieces of studio equipment are the Grundig bakelite microphones that we used,” he muses. “We used some old karaoke mics, too [laughs], but the bakelites, they're very old and were actually used by railway announcers back in the day. They create quite a distinctive drum sound, too. You put them quite a distance away from the kit in a wooden-floored room, filter out the top end, and it sounds epic.”
“Epic” is a good word for The Go! Team's pop-mash songs. Chock-full of pep, bombastic and just shy of over-the-top at times, the tracks are all attention-grabbers, which is perhaps why the advertising industry is gravitating like crazy toward Parton and crew's music. You've probably already unknowingly heard The Go! Team on TV — whether it was during the BBC's coverage of the 2004 Olympic games, on the teen drama One Tree Hill, in video games Lumines II or 2006 Fifa World Cup or even in ads for Honda. But the reluctant Parton's not really buying it. “We're…selective,” he says. “I made a decision early on to say no to lots of stuff. I guess I don't mind the idea of our music being perhaps in movies or TV or video games — the right ones — but I'd much rather have it associated with a holiday or where you were when you heard it. I don't like the idea of getting to know a band through a mobile phone or…yogurt. I like the idea of music being special.”