GoGo Penguin: Under the Influence

As Manchester's GoGo Penguin release their fourth studio album A Humdrum Star, the trio talk us through some of the new record's biggest influences

Feature by GoGo Penguin | 09 Feb 2018

Last Step – Sleep
[Planet Mu, 2012]
This an album by Aaron Funk [Venetian Snares]. It’s a little more chilled than some of his other albums but still has all the things I love about his Breakcore. He makes odd time signature beats really well and there's a lot of influence from listening to his music especially on the album My So-Called Life. [Rob Turner]

Can – The Singles
[Mute Records, 2017]
I first heard Can as a teenager when I used to listen to my brother's copy of Ege Bamyasi, but we started listening to them again when Brendan Williams (co-producer) played them in the studio between takes when we recorded our previous album Man Made Object. Since then, my interest in Krautrock was rekindled. This compilation was released the month before we recorded A Humdrum Star. Although there isn't an overt example of it on the album, the merging of styles and freedom of expression in their music had an unconscious impact. [Nick Blacka]

Charlie Haden & John Taylor – Nightfall
[Naim, 2004]
Charlie Haden is a double bassist I often come back to. His music and playing are a constant reminder that the goal is to be musical and expressive. Of course, there is a time and place for fast, technical playing if that's what the music requires, but I like the simplicity in his playing. Years ago I read an interview with Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys, and he said something like “genius is the art of making something very complex seem very simple.” I think Charlie Haden often encapsulates that, especially on the opening two tracks of this album. [Nick Blacka]

Alan Lomax – Prison Songs • Historical Recordings From Parchman Farm 1947-48 • Volume One: Murderous Home
[Rounder Records, 1997]
Alan Lomax recorded huge amounts of folk music in the 20th century and out of all the recordings I think this is amongst the most visceral. The simple beat and melody is a really raw form of music. You can really feel that he captured a moment in time with real people living a real experience. It reminds me of Art Blakey & The Afro-Drum Ensemble and those kinds of albums. A Hundred Moons from our album was inspired by listening to these recordings as well as other music from Jamaica and around the world. [Nick Blacka]

Lorn – Ask the Dust
[Ninja Tune, 2012]
Ask the Dust is definitely one of my favourite Lorn albums but it’s not only his music that I’m really into. There are some incredible videos that have been made to accompany many of his tracks and they are perfect examples of how strong an effect the combination of great music and excellent visuals can be. All the videos are great but there are two that I think really stand out: the animation work by GERIKO for Anvil is mind-blowing and I think the video for Acid Rain is one of the greatest music videos ever made. [Chris Illingworth]

Ryuichi Sakamoto – async
[Milan Records, 2017]
I hadn’t listened to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music for many years but then I randomly found the Oneohtrix Point Never rework of andata and that led me to the album async. I had it on loop a lot when we were driving between cities on tour the few months before we started recording A Humdrum Star. The atmospheres and spaces he creates with each track are incredible and his use of effects and electronics with piano is really powerful. Whilst we didn’t go too heavy with piano effects it was something we wanted to explore and incorporate on our new record and it was interesting to see how Sakamoto used this in his own music. [Chris Illingworth]

Everything Everything – Man Alive
[Geffen Records, 2010]
We bump into these guys now and again with them also being based in Manchester. They’re great musicians and, like us, it feels like they draw influence from a very wide range of styles and genres, a combination that makes them sound really unique. I really like how the bass is often very melodic, playing countermelodies to the vocals (you can really hear this on their track Schoolin’) and this got me thinking more about the interaction between my melodic lines on the piano and Nick’s bass lines for our latest album – I think you can hear this best on tracks like Reactor and Window. [Chris Illingworth]

Ital Tek – Challenger Deep
[Control, 2013, Planet Mu]
The three of us are all really into Electronica and IDM, and Ital Tek has long been one of my personal favourites. Since being a kid I’ve loved playing around with synths and sequencers (one of my first musical instrument purchases was a Roland MC-307 back in 1999), and over the last few years I’ve been working on incorporating and emulating elements of electronic music and synthesizers into my piano playing and technique. I got completely obsessed with trying to play arpeggiator patterns on the piano after hearing the synths on the track Challenger Deep and this went on to influence the breakdown in our track Transient State. [Chris Illingworth]

Baden E Vinicius – Os Afro Sambas
[Forma, 1966]
Brazilian music is always very rich in melody and this album is a great example of it. It has beautiful melodies that are complicated but appear simple. It’s a really cohesive sound throughout and is just a gem. I always aspire to be able to construct melodies that flow as well as the greats of this era of Brazilian music. [Chris Illingworth]

Jon Hopkins – Asleep Versions
[Domino, 2014]
Maybe this is cheating a bit because it's an EP. It's 25 minutes long and it's meant to be listened to in one sitting. I love Jon Hopkins and the more full on stuff from Immunity, but this recording deals with the more meditative side of the tracks from Immunity. I learned transcendental meditation about 18 months ago and meditated every day when we were making A Humdrum Star. I read Jon Hopkins also meditates, and I think this EP is coming from that space. Asleep Versions was on constant rotation for a couple of months. [Nick Blacka]