A 30 year collision of sound

Colin Newman’s been in the music business a long time, so I was relieved that he’s a pleasant guy with a lot to say and zero to prove. “I’ve been doing interviews for 30 years, so I just talk. Stop me if you have any questions.” He’s  best known for his work in the pioneering U.K. post punk band Wire. But I’d gotten in touch to talk about Githead, a supergroup made up of artists from Newman’s record label Swim~. I’d just finished talking about their new record Landing with Newman’s wife Malka Spigel, who plays bass in the band, and used to play in the searing Israeli punk band Minimal Compact in the ’80s. There’s only so many questions you can ask about a record before you start to annoy yourself, but it’s not every day I get to interview Colin Newman, so we started out by shooting the shit. “So you live in San Francisco, huh? When we play there with Wire, I don’t know, they always put us at the Fillmore. It’s in kind of a shit neighborhood.” Of course, he fails to mention that it’s  one of the most famous rock clubs in the world. He either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. I just respond “Aren’t they all? I bet the shows are better in LA.”

He says, “That’s exactly what I was going to say.”

We talked for a long time about the music industry (“It’s broken and rips off young artists”), and it struck me that Newman was still really psyched about making music after all these years. The members of Githead, and really everyone involved with Swim~ or any of Newman’s other projects, have always been chasing what’s new, fresh and exciting about playing music and making art. Spigel is also a well-respected photographer with an experimental eye, and I foolishly ask,“Why are you always doing new things?” The words felt like prehistoric lead rolling off my tongue. The answer is obvious. But she was polite, and gave the question a moment to digest. “I don’t know, because doing new things is what keeps it from getting boring.”

Landing isn’t just a good record, it’s an exciting record. Githead recorded most of it in Newman’s garage when they all had the time to get together and trash about. It’s a forceful reimagining of all of the work the members of Githead have ever created. (The band’s drummer Max Franken played with Spigel in Minimal Compact and the lineup is rounded out by Scanner, a well known electronic musician and DJ). Because it draws on elements from every era of U.K. music from the last 30 years, the record sometimes actually sounds like a nonsense multi-genre (dance-punk-shoegaze-electronica maybe?) But Landing ultimately works because the songs move with a steady groove that sounds rich and tight. It’s deftly performed by musicians who have spent a lot of time figuring out how to assemble powerful music from relatively simple ingredients.

Essentially, Githead is a project about moving forward, and it shows. Landing is impulsive and passionate. As if the record was made by people who keep making music because they want to. Not because they can.

– Mario Aguilar

Photography by Edu Garcia