By Simon Shoulders, Rock At Night London
VENUE: Blondies, London–GNOB-Album Launch for “Electric Dream Demon”- Drone Rock Records
There are a plethora of small music venues across London and sometimes the journey to a far-flung venue requires a little dedication… Getting to Blondies in time to be part of the launch party for GNOB’s first full length album, “Electric Dream Demon” released through Drone Rock Records required an epic voyage including a bus, two separate trains (one delayed…), a quick trip on the tube and a brisk walk, but on my arrival, I knew straight away that the journey was well worthwhile…
Blondies is a small bar on the Lower Clapton road. It’d be easy to walk past it if you didn’t know where you were going. Stepping inside I was bathed in both booming classic rock and harsh neon light from the signs on the otherwise black and brick interior of the bar and then nearly tripped over the band getting set up near the doorway. Blondies is tiny, it’s dark, it’s loud, and its got a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. Before I’d even got a beer in hand I could feel the stress of a long week and my rush across town start to seep away.
GNOB are Nick (guitar and vocals), Mort (drums) and Ben (bass guitar) and they’ve been building up a name for themselves with their intense and absorbing live performances that blur the line between live-set, and free-form jam. Clearly the word has got out about GNOB’s live shows because Blondies is filling up fast!
The cunning plan was to record an interview with Nicholas George, guitarist and vocalist for GNOB before the show, but the noise of the bar and my late arrival meant that this didn’t happen, I did however get to have a good chat with Nick about music, GNOB’s varied influences, the trials and tribulations of artist in a city as expensive as London and what’s next for GNOB. Nick also kindly agreed to an e-mail interview after the gig and that’s what you’re about to read…
I have to ask the question, even if the Scrabble player in me thinks it might already know the answer… Where did the name GNOB come from?
We get asked this question quite often but the thing is, we can’t really remember how the name came about. Our memory is a little hazy these days. What I do remember around that time was us trying to raise money for a kickstarter campaign to be the first band ever to hit a bong in space but to our dismay the application was rejected.
How did the band form and what brought you together?
Gnob started as a 2 piece jam band between Morten and a very good friend of ours Glen Wild. As soon as I heard what they were coming up with I just had to get involved, we all respected each other greatly as musicians and became close friends through jamming. Ben eventually took over on bass duties, he’s a great guy and a great addition to the band, he’s all about the bass.
How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before?
It’s always interesting to hear how people interpret our music. We take influences from so many different styles and our tastes change like the wind. From Arabic, Eastern, Traditional Thai wedding music, Traditional Greek&Turkish songs, 60s/70s Hard Rock/Prog, Stoner Fuzz, 80’s Pop. The list literally goes on and on. I guess we could describe our music as a trip, we’re strong advocates of psychedelics and mind altering substances so we try pair up our music with that in mind.
The Offering (from 2017 EP “Shrunken Head”)
What are the stories and inspirations behind the songs on the album? What do these songs mean to you?
There seemed to be a running theme with the album which I guess was unintentional to begin with, we noticed the songs all had something to do with nature and the elements, we were pretty happy to just let the album take shape naturally. On Morton’s travels through Indonesia he was lucky enough to cross paths with the Dayacs, a peaceful tribe who once practiced black magic and cannibalism, it inspired him to create the album artwork and the actual demon itself is from one of those tribes. We have the real mask at ours and bring a collection of them to our gigs as good luck offerings for the shows.
I reckon that once in a while, everybody encounters something, a book, or an album, or even a live act, that marks a personal watershed, something that opens up a whole new world of music you didn’t really know was there. The most recent “musical wormhole” I fell through was “Bass Culture – When Reggae was King” by Lloyd Bradley – this book introduced me to the rich history of the genre and without it I may have taken a lot longer to discover artists (whose work I now love!) like Don Drummond, Tommy McCook and Rico. What was the most recent Musical Wormhole you fell through or perhaps the one that’s had the biggest influence on your music?
Something that comes to mind is the album ‘You’ by Gong. That particular album completely blew our heads off and It really comes to life on vinyl, we were definitely inspired by that record, It’s one of the best gateway albums to an acid or mushroom trip for sure, you must try it for yourself.
What’s your earliest musical memory? How has that influenced the music you make today?
Nick: The earliest memory I have is sitting as a baby in the back of the car, Mum would be driving around in her BMW blaring Greek music both traditional and modern, she’d be singing, I’d be singing. Lots of fond memories. My granddad was a professional Greek singer in the 60s and was on a few records back in the day, all my cousins and uncles play guitar and bouzoki, my Mum’s sister is like the family wedding singer… Christmas times were reminiscent of a Greek Jackson 5 reunion. The way those female Cypriot singers sang definitely influenced my singing style, I can go quite high so it kind of works with the stuff we are doing today.
Ben: For me it’s the Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl at home aged 5. Record sleeve in my hands and as loud as the speakers could handle!
What bands are you listening to at the moment?
I’m listening to a lot Bill Withers, Gil-Scot Heron, Curtis Mayfield, Harlem Gangsters, Isley Brothers, Betty Davis, James Brown, D’angelo, Dr John Gris Gris. I’m going through a soulful patch at the moment and just can’t get enough, goes down with a joint very nicely. Morten at the moment is hitting the jazz hard and Ben is probably listening to the later Black Sabbath Albums that everyone hates, Duran Duran, Abba and some some other crazy ass shit. He’s well schooled in all music. Ben’s like the wild card in a game of poker!
You guys really seem in your element playing live! How much of your live performance is fixed composition and how much is improvised?
Yeah we really enjoy playing live, it’s a great release for us, kind of like therapy. We do have set structures to the songs but there are jammy parts where we just take a ride and see where it takes us. The element of the unknown is always an exciting prospect when playing live.
You bought your big red box of props to Blondies for your album launch party. What inspired you to start rolling the totems, masks and costume in to the act?
That’s Morten’s realm, he has a vast collection of weird and wonderful things back at his place. He’s a very talented artist and can create something amazing out of literally nothing. I’m into trying to give as much of a visual experience as possible, it aids the music, gives the audience something to zone out to while we play and for me personally once I put my robe on all the stresses of life vanish away for a little while.
You were joined towards the end of your set by someone I can only describe as a Sorceress, and all of a sudden a simple album launch was transformed in to a shamanic ritual which left most of the (completely entranced!) crowd branded with ashes of the herbs sacrificially burnt in front of the bass drum… What on earth was going on there???
Ah yes the sorceress. Lyndsey is a very special and talented friend of ours, a true artist and we were totally blown away by her performance. We didn’t know what to expect on the evening but felt totally comfortable with letting her dictate where the set was heading once she graced the stage. She performed a mesmerising ritual which invoked an on the spot atmospheric jam followed by a communion and blessing of the band and crowd. Lyndsey was the catalyst for everyone losing their inhibitions and we thank her for being such an important part of the show.
Are we likely to encounter the sorceress again in future shows, or was this something special to bless the launch of “Electric Dream Demon”?
Who knows, we try and do things off the cuff and I think that recreating that particular experience over and over wouldn’t be right. A ritual is something not to be used as a mere prop, it had a purpose that night and aided people to feel confident enough to lose their inhibitions and dance the night away.
GNOB definitely have a flair for the theatrical! How do you see the Performance Art side of your live shows developing?
It’s just down to confidence and enjoying what you do, exposing yourself to different things and letting them influence you dictates the art of the performance.
You guys have been quietly putting out music since 2015. How do you think your sound has evolved?
I think that our live performances have evolved compared to the early years definitely. We all feel a lot more comfortable in ourselves and naturally have improved as musicians along the way.
A little light stalking on Bandcamp reveals that you’ve been working with Wayne Adams at Bear Bites Horse Studios for a while now… How working with Wayne helped you shape your sound?
There’s always a race against the clock when you’re recording on a budget but Wayne always seems to get the best out of us. He’s just super chilled and very good at what he does. The list of bands he’s worked with is all you need to know really. He did a great job with bringing that live sound to the album and combining that with the final mastering by John McBain (Monster Magnet) we were just over the moon with how the record turned out.
What does signing to Drone Rock Records mean to you? How did it happen?
It was completely by accident how it came around. We were supporting Kill West in Brighton at the Hope and Ruin and luckily Adam who owns DRR caught us half way through our set, he approached us immediately and was quite straight with us explaining he wants Gnob on his label and gave us a 4 month window to get some songs together. He helped with the pressing of the records and gave us an amazing platform to get our music out there. I was always told to be aware of record label shenanigans but Adam is a true gent and his word is all you need, we’re well happy to be a part of such a cool label, Brighton feels like our home away from home now.
Electric Dream Demon (Full Album)
Which platform do you personally prefer and why… Vinyl, CD or mp3?
All these platforms are equally important for getting our music out there. Mp3 and cd’s are very accessible and cheap. We obviously love vinyl, if you like an album in particular, there’s nothing better than buying the record, studying the artwork and watching that record spin.
As your album launch set came to a close, other artists started stepping out of the audience and picking up instruments and joining in. In effect, your set, morphed in to a free-flowing jam… That’s not something you see everyday and it implies that there was quite a community of talented artists at your launch party. What can you tell us about that community and what it means for GNOB?
In general I think the psychedelic community is growing pretty rapidly and I don’t just mean the music. Things are changing and people are embracing new ideas. We all know how beneficial psychedelics can be if used by the right individual in the right way. We need to reconnect with nature and get back into practicing looking after the earth and one another. A lot of our friends in the audience that night are musicians and practice with psychedelics so I guess we’re all a lot more connected naturally so stepping up on stage and jamming with a randomer is exactly what we’re all about. I know a lot of musicians who really don’t feel comfortable in that situation but when you jam, it’s always going have a crest, a moment where the music is clanging and you’re overwhelmed by confusion but suddenly you all find that groove as a group, it’s pretty exhilarating…. For me that’s a trip, a full range of emotions whilst playing. Being safe is boring.
What does the year ahead hold for GNOB?
More of the same we hope, we’re already working on new material and are hoping to record the new album in October, we’ve got the spine of the album mapped out and can’t wait to get those songs out there, they sound great. We’ll also be releasing an e.p of something a little different, we don’t want to go into it too much but we’re going to collaborate with different musicians and give my Farfisa Organ a whirl too. We really want to play abroad and set up a little tour, some festivals, the usual stuff really.
What live acts playing the London scene at the moment would you recommend as a complete “must see”?
Theres so many great acts in London hmmmm. I’d say keep your eyes out for Derelics, Green Lung, School Disco, Trevors Head and Amesbury Banks. All great guys and fantastic musicians too.
Does the succulent still live? (I’m hoping no greenery was seriously harmed during your album launch!)
Yes of course, it’s sitting on a window seal as we speak basking in the sun and being well looked after I assure you.
GNOB’s performance at Blondies lived up to everything I expected, but the intimate setting, involvement of the crowd coupled with the ritualistic twist provided by Lindsey the Sorceress turned a gig in to something altogether otherworldly creating a visible and perhaps indelible connection between all those that shared the night. GNOB’s sound may have its roots in western psych-rock, but they’ve taken a conscious decision to cast themselves adrift on a sea of influences and to let the currents take them where they will. When they play live, GNOB invite the audience to join them on a sonic psychedelic-trip that is as innovative and unexpected as it is enthralling. It’s an exciting evolution in a classic sound that I’m very glad to have experienced. I’m also certain that the evolutionary process is far from over and that we can expect a lot more from GNOB in the future…