Considering they have only put out two EPs to date, you can be forgiven if you haven't yet discovered Golden Teacher, the Glasgow based italo-meets-punk-meets-afrobeat outfit who came to life this year on the city's revered Optimo Music label and in a few select nightclubs around Europe.
Their music is pretty much impossible to categorise, but comparisons with Arthur Russell’s Dinosaur L project from the 80s is about the closest we have come across. Currently made up of six members, the band is a high energy experimental mishmash of live percussion, hypnotic vocals, synthesizers and crazy dancers, but the results are beyond impressive. Rolling out their energetic live set for the first time late last year, the guys have since played at Glasgow’s Sub Club and London’s Corsica Studios, whilst they’ve released two EPs of mostly one-take live jam material, each earning them the highest of acclaim from top reviewers and the dancers lucky enough to catch one of their few gigs.
We are pretty early on this one, but there’s no doubt in our minds Golden Teacher are going to go on to become one of the best genre defying electronic bands around. It’s not all that outrageous to imagine them reaching the heights of bands like LCD Soundsystem someday. The guys have recorded their very first DJ mix, and spoken to us for one of their first ever interviews. Needless to say we are over the moon.
You guys are a reasonably new act on the scene, based in Glasgow and releasing music on the revered Optimo label. How did the band form and who are its members?
Ollie, Richard and Cassie were all on a production course for young, unemployed musicians at Glasgow’s Green Door Studio. No one had written anything to record, so we spent a couple of nights jamming with friends. Emily and Stu from Green Door let JD Twitch from Optimo have a listen, and that’s how the first EP was released.
The spontaneity of those jams is something we try to keep in everything we’ve done since, and that’s it really. Currently the live band is Cassie Oji, Lars Von Chavenac, Laurie Pitt, Ollie Pitt, Richard McMaster and Sam Bellacosa, but there’s other people involved too.
These days bands that are largely dance music focused are few and far between, but you guys seem to have a direct focus on the floor, and play shows primarily in nightclubs. Do you each have your own unique background in dance music and the club scene in Glasgow?
Laurie and Ollie played with Ultimate Thrush for years, but they also DJ traditional and modern Ghanian music with Julia Scott as Ghana Soundz. Ultimate Thrush was heavy, but also so brazen: they’d show up to a hardcore gig with clarinets and still be as stupid and life-affirming as usual. They used to practice in the art school’s student union basement in a tiny room, through a backdoor in the men’s toilets.
Laurie organises a club night called Not Moving once a month in the Nice n’ Sleazy basement, with a total musical policy where anything goes.
The first time Sam and Rich played as Silk Cut was at a house party, which was stormed by ten cops mid-set. After that it just developed into a pretty long run of club gigs, where they were often mistaken for DJs. It mainly consisted of heavily improvised synth and drum machine freakouts.
Lars grew up in Paris and we met him when he was playing with Janine Benecke as Blue Sabbath Black Fiji. BSBF had this weirdo mix of guitars and drum machines; it was expressly freaky. You knew by looking at their record collection that what they did was much more than “noise”; there was lots of Sylvester, for example.
As for Cassie, her first live appearance with Golden Teacher was at a club night in London’s Corsica Studios, which is a hell of a stage debut. She’s also doing Ladies as Pimps with Alicia Matthews from Organs of Love, who had a 12″ out on Optimo Records.
Glasgow is just a great city for all kinds of music, full of people doing things for the right reasons. It’s small enough that a lot of distinct interests often come together, as with Golden Teacher. Even though the clubs close at 3 am, it has always been home to nights where everyone just lets loose and has fun, and that’s exactly what our music is about.
Even though clubs are probably the best place for us to play, we don’t always play at club nights. The last gig we played was part of a festival in Glasgow called Sonica, where we collaborated with Jodi Cave on an immersive quadraphonic sound piece. The speakers were set up in a warehouse the size of two basketball courts and the audience was in total darkness while we played in a different room.
What can you tell us about the live setup? I know the first couple of records have been essentially one take live jams.. Is this generally the case when performing as well or is some of the set more pre planned?
The live set-up varies from gig to gig, but it’s usually two singers, a pile of synths, a lot of electronic and live percussion, with tapes and goblets pushed through guitar pedals.
Most our ‘songs’ come from listening back to jams and picking out what we like, and then playing around with those elements. If the crowd are up for a two-hour set, there’s probably going to be a reasonable amount of rough, improvised disco, but we rise to the occasion. Charles and Cassie are also very expressive dancers; if they’re enjoying it, you can bet that the crowd’s enjoying it too.
Your first two releases on Optimo have varied incredibly, and it’s been interesting to read exactly what people are categorising you as. The one band we keep seeing you compared with is Dinosaur L. Has Arthur Russell’s music been influential for you guys? What are your thoughts on the comparisons?
We can’t complain with that comparison; Arthur Russell produced a lot of beautiful music. For our part, we love his work on Sleeping Bag Records; disco tunes that were often way out there but always super funky. That’s something we try to carry on with: strange and danceable music.
It’s always funny to see how people categorise us as we don’t tend to categorise ourselves. There’s six people involved right now, so you can only imagine how many individual influences are informing the outcomes.
Sound wise, what else might we be expecting to come from you guys that we haven’t already experienced on the first two records? Do you have any immediate plans to record an album?
We’re finishing up a self-released 12″ single and we have a cassette of very raw jams coming out on Laurie and Ollie’s Akashic Records. We might have another record out on Optimo in the new year. Right now we’re focusing on playing out for the people, so we’ve not yet discussed our Gesamtkunstwerk – our ‘total work of art’ – just yet.
What can you tell us about the mix? What is some of the music you’ve included?
Laurie, Ollie and Rich picked out some records. It’s an idealised night out, as told by Golden Teacher. Excuse the sloppy mixes, we haven’t been in the game for 20+ years, and we’ve been DJing with vinyl for around six months. There are quite a few really distinctive DJs playing the club circuit in Glasgow right now and this serves as a nod to all of them.
Although this is our first mix, we also DJ in the city as part of the collective Fight For The Happiness Of All Children Of All Lands. The collective revolves around a shared box of records, some of which have made it into this mix.
What else is coming up for Golden Teacher?
As far as 2013 goes, we’re playing the closing night of Les Rencontres Trans Musicales in Rennes in two weeks, followed by Optimo’s Hogmanay party in Glasgow for New Year’s.
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