Style, Interview

Catching up with Manchester-Based Leftfield Piano Trio, Gogo Penguin

Catching up with Manchester-Based Leftfield Piano Trio, Gogo Penguin

How do you feel about performing at this year’s Singapore International Jazz Festival (SING JAZZ)?

Nick Blacka: We’re really excited to be invited to perform at this year’s Singapore International Jazz Festival. It’s our first time in Singapore, so we’re looking forward to exploring and hopefully catching some of the other acts on the bill.

GoGo Penguin Live 1 Credit Fabrice Bourgelle

What do you think of the line-up at SING JAZZ 2018? Is there anyone you’re looking forward to see?

The line-up looks very strong. It would be nice to catch up with Jamie Callum as he’s been a big supporter of us from the very beginning, so it’s always nice to see him. However, he’s performing on Sunday, so unfortunately we’re going to miss him this time. I’m sure Lalah Hathaway will put in a great performance too.

Your sound has been described as a mix of electronica and jazz.

It’s difficult to describe what we do exactly, so we tend not to worry too much about the different labels that people put on our music. We are definitely influenced by electronica, and we often take techniques that we’ve heard in electronica and replicate them as best as we can with our acoustic instruments. We do also have some jazz influences too; we improvise in our live sets and we’ve all studied jazz and performed in jazz groups a lot in the past. However, we’re not limited to those two styles. We like to incorporate ideas from classical music, rock and hiphop to name but a few. Basically anything that we like to listen to.

GoGo Penguin Live | Credit Fabrice Bourgelle

Tell us about the musical influences for your latest album, A Humdrum Star.

You can hear each one of us more clearly on this album. Of course, we’re a band with shared influences, but we’re also three different individuals. This album is more varied in terms of styles because everyone has put their own individual stamp on it, so it’s difficult to pinpoint one direct influence as we’re all quite different people contributing to this overall sound.

What is your favourite song off the album?

I can’t say I have one particular favourite. Obviously we like them all and they’re all integral to the overall album. I suppose if I had to choose, I’m proud of some of the directions we took on a couple of the tunes. It felt like a progression of what we do in terms of style and arrangement. For that reason, I would probably pick “Transient State” or “Strid” for some of the techniques and the arrangements, but it’s really too difficult to be honest.

Jazz is not the easiest musical genre to get into. What is a good starting point for beginners?

An interviewer recently said that we were for a lot of the younger people nowadays, but I’m not sure how true that actually is. It depends what it is that you’re searching for. A lot of people would recommend Kind of Blue by Miles Davis as one of the classics, and I don’t disagree with that. For me personally, I got into jazz through funk. I started listening to a lot of the old funk records, Funkadelic, James Brown etc. Then I started going to club nights where they’d play more crossover stuff. I bought albums like The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott Heron and saw in the liner notes that jazz bassists like Ron Carter would be playing on there. Around the same time, I saw jazz artists crossing over with hiphop and the whole thing was very inspiring for me. If you find a way in that you like the sound of then it usually leads to opening up more doors, but everybody is different.

Finally, what can we expect from your performance this weekend at SING JAZZ 2018?

We’ll be performing a lot of material from our new album A Humdrum Star, plus one or two old favourites. We like to put a lot of energy into our performances so we hope that the audience will get right behind us and everybody will have a great night.