Gossip Intervew Extras

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With their rhythm-and-vocal foundation locked and loaded,
Portland’s disco-punk trio goes on a creative bender

by Kylee Swenson Gordon

More from Producer Brian Higgins on Working with Gossip

Gossip Producer Brian Higgins on the Magic of a Korg KAOSS Pad

“We used a Korg KAOSS Pad. It’s fantastic. You put your finger on the righthand corner of the LCD screen, and a particular rhythm is playing, and then you move your finger down toward the center of this box, and the rhythm starts to change and move into other things. Wherever you move your hands, the rhythms change and new percussion is introduced, so it’s really artistic in that you almost draw with your finger the rhythm program itself, so we all found that enormously entertaining. It’s just so good to whittle your finger about and produce such interesting ideas. I guess it’s just a little bit like you’re DJing. The DJ is playing along with the jam session as it’s going on, and eventually you get that perfect moment where everything collides at the same time. It was producing little ideas like that really where out of absolutely nonsense, suddenly something amazing would come. So we’d record absolute everything. As long as someone sat in the room who’s got the sensibility of a great idea, like, “There it is, that’s the one,” as long as there’s one person there who’s in charge of the editing process, and that person knows what they’re doing, then it works. I think if you’re not, if that sort of leadership person isn’t there, then it can easily become something that’s random and stays random because nobody’s listening to the bigger picture. But I’m prepared to do the editing. I’m prepared to seek the common ground between me and the musicians. So as long as you’re prepared to do that, then the whole thing works. If you’re just recording it, but you’re not actually playing it all back later on and listening to it with the freshest of ears, then obviously, it’s not going to work.”

Brian Higgins on Nurturing Nathan Howdeshell’s Spontaneous Recording Moods

“Nathan is one of those guys where, he can come up with a great idea, but if you don’t capture it, he wouldn’t remember to play it again. You could say, ‘Just play that bit again.’ And he’d say, ‘What bit?’ He’s very, very spontaneous. And I love musicians like that. I love them because you get something unique and just the way they hit something is special. But you did need to capture everything, and capturing everything is fine as long as you’re interested in enough to do the editing, and I’m interested in doing the editing, so therefore I’m for capturing performance, and so basically I would keep feeding him with alternate ideas. Like, ‘Here’s a Juno-106. Let’s work on some sounds there. There’s a Jupiter-6. Let’s try that there. There’s a Juno-60. Let’s have a go there. There’s a Minimoog. . . .’ And basically, we’d get him to play twice round each track going through sounds with him until we found perfect matches, then getting him to jam on those a minute or two against the track. And then I’d get rid of that one, put another one in front of him, get rid of that one, put another one in front of him. So it was quite an exhaustive 45-minute, hour-long heavy jamming, never spending any length of time on anything, really to capture what he could do spontaneously without overthinking things. ‘Cause I’d just understood that that’s sort of the many ways his mind worked. So I thought, ‘Well, let’s make a thing of that, and let’s sort of stimulate the path of his mind.’

“I’ve been obsessed with synthesizers since I was 14. I’d collected loads of them over the years, so I just sort of got them out here, and so everyday I would get him to do that after we’d laid guitars down and dealt with that side of it, the blend of electronics and guitars, pads, drum machines, loops, everything just to fire his imagination, so he could express himself in any number of different ways. I think because we’d had such solid drums that we’d recorded from Portland, it was fantastic when you’d hear him program a drum machine or use a loop over these live drums, and you’d get a perfect match without using any EQ or anything like that. So no trickery or anything, just a perfect sonic match. And that was just great fun. He’s a fantastic musician. He comes up with amazing ideas. You just need to capture them all and then go in and edit them later on. So I would get up at literally 7 in the morning the following day and just sit in bed with my laptop listening to all of the edits from the day before, highlighting and going through the ones I really liked, and then I’d bring those into the session later on that morning and say, ‘I want to concentrate on these ideas.’ I love working with people that I, a) really respect and b) sort of rock your world musically. There’s nothing better and since I’ve done it for so long in terms of making hit records, I know what excites me, and I know what turns me on, and I’m so clear on that. And so I just sort of encourage the musicians to really liberate themselves and trust that I’ll be up at 7 o’clock in the morning editing it down, so that when I play it, hopefully the parts that I dig, they dig. And then I’m always working on common ground, and so as a result, the process is joyous, really. Obviously, if I’d played him a load of stuff that I’d edited down, and he didn’t like it, then I’d be thinking, ‘Oh well. Even though you’ve played it, we’re struggling for commonality between you and me, which I don’t want because it’s very difficult for me to, or for anyone, to work on ideas that they don’t believe in.’ No one particularly wants to do that because you’ll constantly hear it as wrong. But fortunately, me and Nathan were a good match for each other because so much of what he did, I loved it. So the stuff that was left off the Gossip album, from a musical perspective, is fantastic.”