Personal electro may be endangered but it’s in no way extinct

Photography by Owen Richards

Personal electro may be endangered but it’s in no way extinct

“I haven’t got any Autechre records; I don’t even know how to say their bloody name”. Gold Panda doesn’t take himself very seriously. Last night the 28 year old from Chelmsford transformed a packed Roundhouse into a swirling mirror ball of sight and sound and still he kicks back with a melancholy smile. Not even a lazy comparison to mid-90’s Warp Records output puts him off his stride. “Squarepusher and Aphex Twin are alright but I don’t know about all the other stuff.” Carried on stage by his manager in a panda suit, this is surely a man with a horizontal outlook. “I’m not really comfortable up there though, maybe I’m just good at covering up”.

Made in his bedroom using carefully sourced samples, the translation to stage must be a tough one for his extremely personal music, but it echoed gloriously around the cavernous columns of the Roundhouse. Supporting Simian Mobile Disco at the well publicised run of iTunes gigs, GP could finally showcase his abundant humour and achingly beautiful breaks to a wider audience; albeit a perplexed one, the set’s rich originality lost on one particular toilet-bound stooge – “It’s OK this,” I was assured “bit prog though, innit.” And Panda’s reaction, “Ha! Yeah progs alright, a lot of people expect it to be a rock show, it’s a bit more leftfield than that”.

James Ford and Jas Shaw of SMD felt the love though, so impressed by his fragmented sound they invited him back for more shows in the future. Things are moving fast but just like his chopped up, sample infused-beats it’s been a disjointed ride, in a positive way.
Having always made music, only now does it seem prevalent in Gold Panda’s life. “It was just something I was doing and I didn’t see it going anywhere,” he says. “I got really depressed in my early 20’s and just thought everything had been done before and we are all going to die. I was living in my parent’s bedroom, well not their bedroom; it was mine in their house‚”” A job at record shop/London institution Pure Groove kept him ticking over. “I used to work there many moons ago when it was in Archway, it means a lot to me that place”. Before, a few gigs out DJ’ing kept him in the loop, but as with most of his activities a sense of self-deprecation pierces through – “I’m a shit DJ, I just can’t be bothered to do it and I don’t see the point in playing other people’s records.”

When you have material as stunning as new 7″ ‘Quitters Raga’ (out now on Make Mine Music) you can see his point. A heartbreakingly brittle piece of stuttering glitch-pop, the track is over in just under two minutes leaving you longing for more.

Despite his prolific nature it wasn’t Gold Panda’s personal material that first raised attention. Remixes for mates (Stricken City, Tin Can Telephone) soon led to re-edits of bigger fish like Bloc Party, Little Boots and Telepathe. “I compromised a bit with some of them as I was just doing it for friends,” he says “in an ideal world I would have said no.” You get the impression Gold Panda is at his most golden when bedroom-bound or in charity shops and record exchanges searching for that next inspirational sample.

A collector at heart he is a man who also hoards hidden talents. An avid follower of Japanese culture, he can both speak and write the language having spent time at the School of Oriental and Asian studies. Living in Kawasaki for a year with a famous DJ must have helped too. Tokyo’s queen of techno Mayuri helped him settle in on the industrial banks of the Tama river. It wasn’t all fun, a year teaching English made him realise his potential lay elsewhere. “I hated it,” he says. “My English was worse than my Japanese. Some people love it don’t they, but it wasn’t for me”. The Japan experience seeps effortlessly into the dreamy dub-step that occupies his sound. Regularly sampling world music it’s clear you are listening to a well-travelled panda, one that doesn’t shy away from innovative noise.

So with work, travel, DJ’ing and sitting in bedroom’s behind him, what now? “I’d like to do a lot more with visuals,” he explains “kind of small films to go with the music. I want to do a concept album with a story for each track, I see images and shapes like a dream but I won’t know until I film it”. He smiles as he’s talking, careful not to slip into seriousness. Just chatting about the recording process seems to get him back on track. “I like to keep all my mistakes as its part of my personality. It’s great when things only happen once so you have to go back and listen again”.


Originally published in issue 9 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. August 2009

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