With styles ranging from jazz to electronic, experimental music to minimal pursuits, GoGo Penguin continues its journey steadily. The band from Manchester, crowning the musically productive 2022 with their tours, is on an exciting journey with the participation of Jon Scott. Being impressed by the musical diversity of the city they live in, the band is getting ready to meet with music lovers at Zorlu PSM %100 Studio on the evening of December 15th. Before the concert, we talked to the band’s bassist, Nick Blacka and pianist Chris illingworth, about their productive process and the performance they will be staging next Thursday.
We are finally back to the days when musicians could tour again after the pandemic. How do you feel yourself?
It feels good to be back touring this year after two years of being sat at home. In some ways it was nice to have an enforced break because we’d been doing so much touring before Covid happened and I think we needed a rest. But then we released our last album GoGo Penguin right in the middle of lockdown 2020. It was difficult to release the album without touring it live so this year we’ve really enjoyed getting back on the road and finally having the opportunity to play it to audiences. We’ve always enjoyed playing live, but I think we’re loving it more than ever this year and there’s a new appetite and energy for making the gigs as good as we can. We don’t take any of it for granted.
Your first tour with Jon Scott. First of all, I want to ask this. How’s the playing experience going?
Jon has settled in really well. We asked a lot of him in a very short space of time after he joined the band and he’s risen to the challenge every time. Of course, it takes a bit of adjustment time for any band when they have a new member, but he’s brought a lot to the group and we’re getting to know each other’s playing well now. He’s a great drummer and he brings a really good energy to the group. He has a really nice feel and listens to everything that’s happening around him. Having Jon onboard has meant that we can now focus on making the live shows even better.
Between Two Waves was the beginning of your progress with hope, not fear
You recently released your new single work to the audience. Erased by Sunlight is the kind that emphasizes the minimal aspect of the band that we are used to. You often prefer minimal sounds. It is possible to say that it has gained popularity recently. How do you view Miminal music not only as a musician but also as a listener?
I’m definitely a fan of some minimalist music and it is one of the influences on our music however I’m not sure I’d ever call our music minimalist. Many times when we write the parts can be complex and very interwoven but the final effect will be clear and the music will still have space to breathe. I think that minimalist music – when it’s done well – can be very trance-like and meditative. Music can be great at bringing people peace, relaxation and pleasure and it makes sense, in difficult and testing times like the last few years have been in particular for a lot of people, to see a rise in popularity of minimalist styles of music.
I remember the days when you first came to Istanbul years ago. This must have a special place for you. Now you are in Istanbul again. What would you like to say?
We’re very excited to be returning to Istanbul! When we first visited to play a gig there it was actually our first time playing a show outside of the UK as GoGo Penguin. It was around the time when we had just recorded v2.0 and we had a great celebration together when we arrived. I remember meeting a friend of Nick’s who lived there at the time, he took us to a beautiful restaurant where we had an excellent meal together looking over the Bosphorus Strait. They’re definitely special memories which we’ll never forget. It’s going to be great to come back again with some new music, the energy of the crowds at our previous shows has always been incredible and we’re looking forward to the show in December.
You will take the stage in one of the most important stages of Istanbul. What kind of concert awaits the audience?
We hope it will be an exciting show for the fans as we’re bringing plenty of new tracks including music from our latest EP Between Two Waves, the new single Erased by Sunlight and also a surprise track which hasn’t even been released yet, but there’ll also be plenty of old favourites from our earlier records. We’re also playing a good selection of tracks from our last full-length album (self-titled GoGo Penguin) which we released in 2020 during the first lockdown. It’s been great to be back on the road again after not playing during the pandemic and this last year has been our first opportunity to play tracks from that album live so we look forward to performing them in our upcoming show.
Are there any elements that attract your attention about the urban structure and musical culture of Istanbul?
I still remember that first visit to Istanbul and being blown away by how massive and dense the city looked. You could see these beautiful, historic buildings tucked in between busy streets and more modern shops and houses. England has some beautiful places with a lot of history but the look and character is so very different. I always love visiting places which feel completely different to home. It’s just a shame we haven’t had much time yet to explore more of Istanbul. It’s often the case when we go on tour, we travel, play the show then head off somewhere else ready for the next gig. Hopefully each time we visit we’ll get to see and experience something new.
...performing live is a two-way experience. It’s not just about us on stage but everybody in the room.
I think we can say that 2022 is a very productive year for you. You also released your EP called Between Two Waves. Is it a product of emotions accumulated during the pandemic process? Or is there another story?
We’ve been through a lot over the past two years, of course with the global pandemic, but also personally and professionally. It was a difficult time with a great deal of loss but also some significant gains. Unfortunately, we lost some loved ones, but Chris had a son just before lockdown, so it was nice for him to spend so much time at home with his son. Between Two Waves, marked the beginning of us moving forward with a sense of hope and not fear. We also wanted to have fun again and that record really represents the beginning of us working in a different way and exploring new sounds. The EP is also the first time we’ve done anything with synths on record and it was an opportunity for us to try some things that we might not have done in the past. There’s a lot of emotion in that record but it feels warm and positive for us after a challenging few years.
One of the first features that comes to mind when we think of Gogo Penguin is your performances on the stage. You obviously have deep feelings about being on stage. Being on stage and interacting with people in that place how does make you feel?
We’ve always said that performing live is a two-way experience. It’s not just about us on stage but everybody in the room. It’s about having a feeling of connection through music. It’s very important for us to try and nurture that feeling when we perform live. When the audience is really into the music, we feed off it on stage. We love to play live. It’s really special to visit so many places and have the opportunity to perform our music to people all around the world. As I said earlier, we don’t take it for granted.
You are from a very productive city in terms of music. Manchester has an important place in the history of popular music. Are there aspects that inspire you?
Yes, it’s been a big part of our musical development and me and Chris still live in Manchester. Jon is from Manchester originally, but he now lives in London. Personally, I grew up listening to a lot of Manchester groups. My older brother was a big indie fan and so I was introduced to a lot of bands like The Stone Roses, Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths at a young age. This had a big influence on me in my early days of playing music. However, there’s still so much more to Manchester than a lot of those famous groups. There are a lot of great musicians playing jazz, folk, hip hop, electronica…etc. In Manchester there’s always been a real DIY culture of people putting on nights themselves and creating events for different artists to play at. If there isn’t a place play, then musicians often create it for themselves in Manchester. That’s what I’ve always liked about the importance of music in Manchester. It’s a big part of the musical culture and ethos of the city. People aren’t afraid to mix styles of music together. I think that aspect of the city’s musical culture is the most inspiring. Not being afraid to combine influences and making it happen rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
There is little time left to 2023. What kind of year do you aim for musically?
We’ve loved this year; writing and recording new music, getting back out on the road and being able to share our music with people once again. Next year we just can’t wait for more of the same! There’ll definitely be more new music, lots of shows and we’ll see what else happens. It’s been exciting for us to be back in the studio, trying new ideas out and experimenting. All of what we experience goes into our music and I’m sure next year will be productive and a lot of fun too.