Gang of Four is the post-punk band by which all other post-punk bands are measured. A label applied to a host of acts from the late '70s and early '80s, post-punk groups are thought of as those that took the DIY ethics of punk, dropped the safety-pinned fashion statements and added an element of lyrical intelligence. It's punk without self-imposed, clichéd boundaries and sonic limitations.
Leeds-born Gang of Four excelled at embodying that spirit. And though its contemporaries are seen as bands such as the Mekons, Wire or Mission of Burma, Gang of Four's classic albums Entertainment! and Solid Gold have quietly molded a whole generation of musicians. Those who claim to have been influenced by Gang of Four include St. Vincent, Michael Stipe, Adam Jones, Carrie Brownstein, Tom Morello and James Murphy.
"It's funny. It does seem to kind of resonate," says Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill. Speaking from his home studio in the center of London, Gill is polite, whip-smart and full of the charmingly poetic idioms of his countrymen."It seems to get around. I think so many people have gotten things from Gang of Four or caught a vibe from it. They got a stylistic or a certain lyrical approach.
"A lot of people think it's their own little secret," he adds. "But there's lots of them out there."
In addition to his cutting (yet danceable) guitar work, Gill has long been in demand for his producing skills. His list of album credits is varied — from the Jesus Lizard to Michael Hutchence to the Red Hot Chili Peppers — and, 36 years into his career, he's still frequently called upon by unexpected fans.
"Gwen Stefani," he says. "She's a big fan, you know. And she's been asking about me, Gang of Four — she wants to write with me and stuff. Which I'll be very happy to do. I think she's a great pop artist."
So why do these very different acts seek out Gill? He humbly explains:
"I think what happens is the people who get in touch with me tend to have something in common with me already. I was going to pull some example out of the air, but if I say Madonna is not going to call me, she'll probably call me tomorrow," he says. "And I'll have to say no because I'm on tour. So, you know, the people who get in touch with me and want me to do stuff tend to have some level of association.... You can kind of hear this connection in between our music."
His production work has afforded Gill and Gang of Four some unique opportunities as well.
"I produced a band in China, which is the first time I'd been in China," he says. "In December 2012. It was really interesting. They got in touch with me — they really wanted me to do it because they knew my band's work — so they asked me to come over there. And I just wanted to do it; I thought it was really interesting. It was a great opportunity for me to go there and suss out a few things.
"And then I met a lot of people there, and then went back and did some gigs there," he continues. "And made friends with a few people that I probably wouldn't have done otherwise. It's incredible that things like that can happen."
Despite his obligations to other artists, Gill says he always makes sure to put his own music first. Gang of Four's newest album, What Happens Next, was released earlier this year; the band kicked off a 25-date American tour in support of it late last month.
"I think the last few years the new music is what's been getting my loving care and attention," he says. "I don't really want to put it off to the side. I want to go full steam ahead.
"It's very tough to get everything done," he adds. "Sometimes I feel like I don't really have a chance to stand still and reflect on where I'm going or what I'm doing with it. But I've already got half of the next album demoed, so if I could just get some time in the studio for a bit I could get some things done."