No More Concepts Please: Gold Panda Talks
There is a subdued ambience to the backstreet East London café in which we sit. Outside, the rain falls from the sky half-heartedly against the concrete floor. A sleepy midweek afternoon seems to have gotten the better of even the elements. Inside, the hums and whirs of a coffee machine along with the quiet buzz of conversation provides a sheltered backdrop to our discussion held over a rickety wooden table.
It has been three years since Derwin released his last full-length record as Gold Panda. The time which has spanned since his previous outing, titled “Half Of Where You Live”, has been notably quiet for the London based producer: Peckham to be precise. However, next month is set to see Derwin release his third full-length album: he explains his absence and radio silence whilst writing the latest record which is titled “Good Luck And Do Your Best”.
“The first record took two weeks, I’d never made an album before, it was my first and I found it easy. It just happened, twenty-seven years of ideas came out as an album… Then you have to write a second one, then a third.”
There is a sense of conflict as Derwin describes the process behind his latest piece of work, reluctance and an artist at odds with his own self image, portrayal and creative ideas. He describes an “itch” to pursue new prospects, new concepts.
“This one took the longest as I just made tracks endlessly. I make a lot of music and a lot of it I would say isn’t ‘Gold Panda music’.”
“ ‘Gold Panda’ has become an entity of its own, now I make tracks which I feel I should release as Gold Panda. Other stuff I keep for myself and maybe one day I will do something under a different route. Lots of ambient stuff and lots of modular synth mess arounds.”
Derwin’s influences have often stemmed from far and wide; time spent in Japan has obviously played a very notable role in the pursuit of his sound creation. The last record was recorded in Berlin; in hindsight a choice that he feels was more of a musical hindrance than it was a benefit.
“I recorded my last album in a spare room in Berlin. I was there because, well, I was in a relationship, so I moved to Hamburg and then to Berlin. I had more friends there and I thought that that would be good. I think what happens with Berlin is that you really like electronic music, so you move there thinking that there is some kind of secret that you will uncover or something. It’s not true, it’s all in your head. I was ready to leave; I’d had enough.”
Derwin laughs as he explains how he has learnt lessons from past mistakes. He jokes about being far more comfortable mastering the record in Luke Abbott’s garden shed in Norwich than in Berlin: that and the fact that Luke’s mum baked fresh banana bread every time he visited.
Upon hindsight there are subtle differences between the latest Gold Panda record and its predecessor. That attempt to reach a Berlin connection has left the room and has been replaced by a sense of exploratory innocence that was possibly missing from the last album. This sense of playfulness is present not only in the colourful instrumentation on the record but on the track names and the records tone as a whole.
“I wanted to make a bunch of tracks that I could play in the car. I hadn’t had a car for ages and I wanted one. I remembered being younger and making tunes and then burning a CD and playing it in my Punto and driving around banging the tunes out. It was a good way of listening to your own music because it would take you out of the house. That’s where the track ‘In My Car’ came from.”
This lighthearted approach is something which Derwin sees as important when it comes to making music. He makes reference to musicians whom take themselves too seriously and the over conceptualization of dance or electronic music as a whole.
“In the last couple of years, with electronic music, there has been a lot of emphasis on concept and what the album means but its not executed well enough. I hear a lot of stuff and I feel like it hasn’t progressed, I feel like it’s gone backwards. It got to a point in 2005 where everything was ridiculously futuristic and technical and now it’s gone. I don’t know what it is about electronic music recently; I just feel that the concept is bigger than the result, and that end result isn’t strict enough. I don’t buy into it. “
He expands upon this and questions where the freedom of expression lies in electronic music in the present day.
“I think the element of fun has been lost in a lot of electronic music. There is an emphasis on seriousness and the end of the world. With Aphex Twin for example, the reason why it was so great was because it was ridiculous and he was the best at putting together comedy and seriousness: like a beautiful melody with something stupid. It had a conscience, a personality and was never too serious.”
There is an enigmatic charm to the latest Gold Panda record, it captures Derwin’s self discovery and spills the results in a burst of musical chaos across eleven tracks. Playful as ever, there is a sense that Derwin might just be at the very beginning of a whole new musical episode, something brand new, something fun.
Gold Panda's 'Good Luck And Do Your Best' will be released later this year on City Slang. He will play at Field Day on the 11th June this summer HERE.