Gold Panda: Well Groomed
Deep within Essex, Gold Panda spent the start of 2009 building an incredibly solid reputation as a talent to look out for in the remix stakes. His reworks of tracks by Little Boots, Telepathe, Bloc Party, Simian Mobile Disco, Health and The Field were met with great interest, as were three EPs of his original material – Miyamae, a 12” on Various, Quitters Raga, a 7” on Make Mine, and Before, a digital release which also received a 250 CD run on Puregroove. Live performances naturally followed, with an appearance at this year’s Stag & Dagger festival finding his material gain acceptance and new fans beyond the blogosphere.
Gold Panda’s long awaited debut album Lucky Shiner emerges later this month, the hand-picked nuggets of a back catalogue of over one hundred tracks that Gold Panda has at his disposal, the majority of which have yet to see the light of day.
He is a bedroom producer and frantic archiver of electronic music, this is what we know about him, but so much remains a mystery. Firstly, Gold Panda refuses to go by anything other than his stage alias, claiming that people wouldn’t believe his real name even if it were revealed. Secondly, what category does his music fall into? Tracks built up layer by layer from stolen vinyl samples and second hand instruments give each of Gold Panda’s songs a unique sound. Gold Panda himself doesn’t offer up much insight, when asked how he would describe his sound he simply responds “I wouldn’t”.
An easy response isn’t forthcoming then, instead the answer to the question might lie in the process of Gold Panda’s work, the equipment he uses and how he arrived at the creation of Lucky Shiner. “Pretty much all the samples [I use] come from old vinyl. I love the old crackle and the atmosphere it gives everything. I mainly use an Akai MPC to write all the sequences and have the files in Ableton. A lot of the time I just use the MPC2000xl alone, well not at the moment because I broke it. [I also use] Casio and Yamaha keyboards, cheap ones from Ebay and a Roland TR606 and 909. I started making music when I was about 15 and my uncle gave me an Akai sampler and an Atari with Cubase, then I started sampling my dad's record collection.”
Aside from the influences on his work, which Gold Panda cites as “loneliness, solitude, winter, rain, being upset, feeling worthless, drinking tea, eating cake and walking Daisy the dog,” the samples Gold Panda speaks about are the most obvious element of his music to focus on, as they consistently prove to be the foundations of his tracks.
“My approach to finding samples is that pretty much anything goes as long as it isn't completely obvious. I never sample from CDs or download wav files or anything like that. I grew up listening to hip-hop and sampling rules seemed quite strict and I liked that, I liked that you had to make an effort. If I want to use some drum machine sound then I'll have to use the actual drum machine. Most of [the album] was made in two weeks in the countryside at Christmas while looking after my aunt and uncle's dog while they were away.”
Lucky Shiner’s release lands on Ghostly International, keeping esteemed company alongside artists such as Matthew Dear and Solvent. How did the signing to this highly respected label come about? “Sam and Jeff [of Ghostly International] groomed me like a couple of paedos on Myspace. We put the You EP out to see how it went and took it from there. It’s pretty strange because I remember having the Lusine remix CD, the Matthew Dear album and the first Dabrye release and thinking ‘I wish I could make music as good as that.’ Actually I was teaching English in Japan at that point wondering 'what the fuck am I doing with my life?’, When Sam contacted me I was just thinking 'Ah cool, they like it', but I never thought they'd be putting my album out less than a year later."
What’s surprising about Gold Panda is not only his ability to quickly gather obscure samples and fashion them into well crafted tracks, but the fact that these tracks translate well when performed live, although he doesn’t appear to see what all the fuss is about.
“It's a nervous guy on stage with an MPC, a laptop and a loop pedal playing some tracks he made in his bedroom that were never intended to be performed live. It gets pretty noisy and pretty messy. I need to really spend some time on it at the end of this year but touring has been pretty relentless. I'm moving to Germany this winter so I'll have another source of inspiration for some new tracks. Trying to follow up the album with another EP, hopefully some collaborations and stuff.”