Gang of Four talks 'Content' LP and why the deluxe edition includes vial of blood

Gang of Four was one of the most socially and politically outspoken bands of the post-punk era and 30 years later, little has changed on the group’s latest, “Content,” out today on Yep Roc.

Although it’s Gang of Four’s first release in 16 years (and first, for some reason, without original bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham), “Content” is just as acerbic and pointed as anything the band has done — maybe even more so, given the deluxe edition that comes with a vial of blood taken from singer Jon King and guitarist Andy Gill.

“The way we go about communicating what we think now is very similar to the way we were doing things in ’78 or ’79,” Gill tells us. “We’ve never at any point been interested in proselytizing, pushing a party line or banging the drum for socialism. I suppose there’s a place for it, but I’ve always felt that it was slightly pointless. What we are about is looking about and observing things, noting certain things, looking at art and what’s around us and what’s inside us, how we consume culture and stuff.”

Here are three things we learned about Gang of Four’s new album:

1. The title is sarcastic. “The Internet and everything out there is basically advertising, and culture has become something that you put in the advertising sandwich,” Gill says. “So you’ve got the Internet providers, you’ve got the websites and all this stuff that needs to generate footfall, hits, so you need something called ‘content,’ so it’s kind of recognition of the slightly demeaning way in which the industry thinks of the stuff that they use as content: the creative stuff, the music, the writing.”

2. Blood is the ultimate content. The deluxe edition comes in a canister with the CD, lyrics, a scratch-and-sniff book of “human activity,” a book of rotoscoped photos of people depicting various human emotions and a small vial of blood. Why blood? “It’s kind of commenting on the state of play in the music industry, which is that things have become a little devalued,” Gill says. “Everything is file-shared. Although people apparently want and need music all the time, it doesn’t seem to have a kind of financial value anymore because it’s all Internet downloadable. So the blood is kind of a joke about that: try and file-share this, mate. It’d be like a novelist writing a book and then sticking a phial of blood in the cover, because you can’t share that on a Kindle.”

3. Jokes aside, the record business is in trouble. “We’re super-aware of the difficulties that are in the music industry today,” Gill says. “Lots of things about the music industry 10, 20 years ago were really old-fashioned. When we look back on it now, people were doing things in a strange and wasteful and bloated kind of way. Things have sort of changed quite a lot.”

Protecting copyright and ensuring artists are remunerated for their work are serious issues, and Gill feels fortunate to play in an established band. “Gang of Four is lucky enough to be in a position where there are lots of labels who are instantly interested in working with you, and we can go out and play live gigs and people will turn up,” he says. “But for young bands, I don’t know how they do it. It’s incredibly difficult.”

— Text by Eric R. Danton, photo by Mike Gullic

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