Interview – Gum Takes Tooth

Experimental percussive duo Gum Takes Tooth defy genre expectations with their wild and often improvised sound referencing everything from acid house to metal. M3 spoke to the band about free music, vinyl rituals, and why you should get yourself along to more gigs!

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
GTT – Gum Takes Tooth is a live percussion and electronics based band that explores through intuition.

What inspired you to form Gum Takes Tooth? What are your own musical backgrounds?
While playing in another band Thomas Fuglesang was given a very unusual vintage drum synthesiser previously owned by the drummer from Adam & the Ants. It plugged into live acoustic drums and was designed to make basic kitsch disco tom sounds but had a few unique controls and features. Tom played the kit and I (Jussi Brightmore) messed with the knobs. The combined sound was wild and unpredictable but equally compelling, a totally live mixture of counterintuitive electronics and drums amped up to the maximum like an extreme hardcore guitar band. Technically, this remains the basis of GTT, and we essentially play the one instrument together, exploring an unwritten path through this unusual Siamese twin joining.

Backgrounds: After pre-teenage years motivated by the seemingly incompatible inspirations of Throbbing Gristle, Acid House and heavy guitar music, I went on to take guitar duties in the Noise Rock band I’m Being Good and to explore improvisation as Milche Grand, both solo and in collaborations with Blood Stereo and with Dylan Nyoukis. In the latter incarnation and collaborations I have released on various micro-labels including John Olson of Wolf Eyes’ American Tapes, MikeConnelly of Wolf Eyes’ Gods of Tundra and alongside releases by Thurston Moore on Dylan Nyoukis’ Chocolate Monk. Brightmore was multi-instrumentalist in Chrome Hoof from its conception as a trio through to multi-limbed prog juggernaut. Fuglesang previously featured in spaz pop outfit Agoskodo Teliverek. On top of the alternative band scene both me and Tom share an intrinsic affinity with electronic music and dance culture orientated sounds.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Jussi: vinyl. Examining the artefact, the artwork while listening conveys a vastly more detailed cultural message than download, and the physicality of the playback process focuses attention more than any other medium. Likewise all the idiosyncratic processes the audio is put through from mastering to speaker playback amounts to a more enjoyable sound for most music. Unfortunately vinyl’s price is extremely prohibitive making downloads the most frequent choice. A vinyl purchase has become a rare luxury for me and most friends with similarly low incomes.

Regards finding new sounds its almost always the internet (researching friend’s recommendations, blogs, Soundcloud, YouTube, Vimeo).

Tom: The act of taking a large disc out of a cardboard sleeve with proper artwork and physically placing a needle onto a vinyl record is a much more pleasurable ritual than clicking a mouse on a computer. However the convenience of having your entire collection of music stored digitally on a device that fits in your hand sometimes just wins over. With services like Spotify and Soundcloud, you can now instantly listen to that album or track you were recommended or that you just read a review about. However with so much music available at your fingertips it can sometimes feel like the music is more of a commodity compared to when you had to physically go into record shops to try to find that record you want. There’s no longer a “hunt” to find it and listening to the album was more of a reward for the effort and wait you had to go through to get to the point of listening.

Your debut album, Silent Cenotaph, is currently streaming in its entirety on Soundcloud. Why did you decide to stream the whole record?
As our record label (Tigertrap) put the album up on Soundcloud, we thought we’d pass this question on to Tom Edwards at the label. He says: “People appreciate being able to hear the whole record when a band is new and they have maybe only heard one song on the radio or on a blog. It’s also available to stream in full on Spotify, so it’s just an additional outlet that’s useful for journalists and promoters to get the full picture. Once you get to a certain level of sales it could start noticably affecting them, but in the early stages it’s more important to make the music as available as possible (short of giving it away free).”

We very much agree with his statement.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
For artists with hit singles the answer is yes as listeners mainly access the hits they have already heard from YouTube on a track by track basis.

On the other hand I believe the ease of access provided by downloading has actually made people with interest in genuinely left field and alternative music more likely to go for entire albums at a time for new artists that take their interest, knowing that their oeuvre tends not to be always represented in a few flagship tracks. We believe the ease of file sharing has exacerbated this trend. Likewise, when listening on a media player people are just as likely to let the album run as with CD but certainly vinyl and, even more so tape, encourage the album to be consumed as a homogenous statement.

Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
For small underground bands like us we are lucky if our record sales cover the cost of pressing an album, let alone the recording costs and any other expenses. From where we stand it seems that for most bands hard copy sales essentially exist by will of hard core alternative music enthusiasts and yet, conversely, also because of the lingering sentiment that a digital only release lacks industry advocacy and is insubstantial and disposable.

If anyone wishes to support the production and progression of music and music culture then more than ever before they need to get themselves to the gigs.

Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
If there is no financial exchange from a Bandcamp download then we see very little difference in this method and illegal file sharing but it’s nice that someone downloading from a Bandcamp page will see gig dates and absorb any other information and vibe that the band wishes to present from that portal. I guess it makes the ‘point of sale’ a little less anonymous and, as long as prices are really low, encourages purchase if the band chooses to sell their material there.

Another option might be to sell downloads for a price decided by end user or even to give recordings away for free but encourage donation.

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
We believe the decline of the record store is both tragic and emancipatory. As enthusiasts, the communal spirit of the record store has been the portal of much of our musical discoveries since childhood and browsing with the eyes as well as the ears gives a much more acute experience of music culture.

On the other hand the atmosphere of cultural elitism in many of the best record stores has intimidated many music lovers and the freedom of exploring online has immensely broadened and personalised many people’s palettes, encouraging listeners who would otherwise only hear mainstream releases to try out broader material. Likewise, free of packaging, the music is finally left to speak for itself.

We think both points of contact are of great value and in an ideal world should co-exist.

What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
Unless artists are giving explicit permission allowing free downloading of a track then sharing it is clearly illegal and the widespread nature of piracy has simply been down to the inability of authorities to attenuate the situation. Yet we believe the ease of exploration that illegal downloading affords listeners has provided a massive benefit to music culture in non-monetary terms. Likewise the faceless interface of filesharing might well have eroded the marketing hegemonies of the majors, withering industry corroborated flash-in-the-pan scenes with a side affect of bolstered longevity for alternative bands,.

Finally, what does the future hold for Gum Takes Tooth?
We show our support for independent record shops by releasing a limited edition tape as part of International Record Store Day.

We have various collaboration releases in the pipeline and also hope to release our second album later this year.

In a rare visit to the Netherlands we are playing as part of the festival in an independent, self-organized venue off the Vondelpark, in Amsterdam on 12 May.

Gum Takes Tooth’s ‘Silent Cenotaph’ is available now through Tigertrap Records, and you can also listen to the album in it’s entirety on Soundcloud. For more information on Gum Takes Tooth, you can follow them on Facebook, or see them live at the SOTU festival in Amsterdam on 11 – 12 May, along with Dead Neanderthals, Lucky Dragons, and more.

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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