To preface this interview: Gold Panda isn’t another amazing Chinese restaurant on Washtenaw Avenue.
UK-based electro producer/composer Gold Panda has released two albums since May. The first, Good Luck And Do Your Best, a full studio album inspired by a trip to Japan, meanders through tempo ranges seasoned with found samples to conjure a variety of moods. The second album, Kingdom, wades through more abstract, down-rhythm melodies unencumbered by track-length concerns.
Released in tandem, both albums sound like alter egos of each other. And given that both were largely produced using an Akai MPC2000XL (a sampling sequencer from the mid-90s), Gold Panda’s deviation from the standard laptop production that characterizes today’s most conspicuous electronic music offers insight into his distinctly wistful sounds.
Before he plays the Blind Pig on Thursday, September 16, Current talked to him by phone about sonic inspiration, using the word “Brexit” and his go-to BPM.
Gold Panda: How is it in Ann Arbor?
Current: It’s a little bit balmy today. Where are you?
I’m in London in my flat, just working on some music.
How would you describe the music that you make?
It depends who I’m talking to. I usually just say ‘electronic music’ to people, but to describe what’s actually happening, it’s kind of like a collage. So it’s bits of old records put together and rearranged with found sounds.
How many times have you been to Ann Arbor?
Twice. I’ve played at the Blind Pig both times, and again this time (September 16). My former label, that did my last two records, is based in Ann Arbor — Ghostly International. (The new record is on another label called City Slang, which is based in Berlin.) I haven’t really had a chance to explore Ann Arbor, but it seems quite green and lush.
I read that your latest album Good Luck and Do Your Best was inspired by your travels to Japan. And I’ve heard your music described as having a nostalgic quality. How do your travel inspirations play into a nostalgic feeling?
I think that the way I make music is probably outdated so I’m using a specific piece of kit for this record and the last few. I like 90s hip-hop and the way it’s made and some housey stuff so I like that raw, kind of under-produced, sound-like-it’s-made-in-a-bedroom-kind-of vibe. I’m not trying to make some kind of futuristic music with modern tools. I’m kind of sampling old records and old memories and old sounds and cutting and pasting back together my favorite bits, like I’m keeping a diary or something. So I guess that’s the way it works for me, so I guess that’s the nostalgia element.
You released the EP Kingdom, which sounds pretty different from Good Luck And Do Your Best and I’ve read that’s connected, in part, to the Brexit. How far before the referendum did the inspiration for Kingdom seed itself?
It was actually made way before the referendum vote, so probably around the start of the year. Kingdom was just darker music and feeling anxious about certain things. And then the last track was made and then pitched down on a trip to France on the Eurostar so it’s very loosely based on those things. It wasn’t supposed to be a social commentary or anything on the Brexit situation. I just mentioned the Brexit and that was it after that. [laughs] The people wrote about it being a “Brexit-inspired” record. I can’t change that now, but I wish maybe I hadn’t said the word “Brexit.”
When you sit down to make a track, what’s your go-to BPM (Beats Per Minute)?
Well, I guess 120 is what you turn on the machine at and it’s kind of the most natural tempo that’s in sync with your heartbeat so I guess that’s the natural way to start. Tempos are kind of defined by what sounds you’re working with and the loops you get out of it. I think if you get a good loop on something or you make a good loop, the tempo can be structured around that.
Interview edited for brevity. Catch Gold Panda on September 16, 9pm. $15. Blind Pig, 208 S. First St. blindpigmusic.com
Image credit: Laura Lewis Photography