Gaggle's debut full length, 'From the Mouth of the Cave' is out this week. To find out more about this genre-defying all-female choir, Jessica Thornsby caught up with 'Chief Gaggle' Deborah Coughlin.
How would you describe Gaggle, for those not already in the know?
Gaggle is a 21 faced, weird all-female choir.
Who's the mastermind behind Gaggle? And did they have a definite goal from the very beginning, or did the act evolve into the format we see today?
I created Gaggle. I wanted to make an album, tour and do new interesting work with the most powerful act I could think of.
How would you describe your debut album, 'From the Mouth of the Cave'?
FTMOTC is a unique album, written to make the people performing it and the people listening to it feel and think. It's a story of enlightenment, about leaving shit situations that are bad for you, about being critical of the systems and ideas that control you, there are warnings, proverbs, true stories and fantasy. There are so many layers Pro Tools had difficulty keeping up.
I've heard Gaggle described as a collection of strong characters in their own right - is direction decided by the entire band, or is there a core person driving ideas through?
Directing the project I make the final decisions. But Gaggle would not have lasted had I not learnt to listen and explain and find a new capacity for taking on board others ideas, concerns or ambitions. Many talented people have been in, and are in Gaggle and some of them helped shape Gaggle in amazing and beautiful ways. It's really important to remember though, that there is no shame in being a performer. And not being the writer, or the director. Performers are essential, and make decisions every second they are on stage to make a performance amazing.
I don't get why that's not given more credit. It takes courage to perform and creativity. Every Gaggle has all of that in bucket loads.
You've been vocal via social media about supporting the protection of the Cross Bones Graveyard. Why is this cause so close to your hearts, and what is it about the Cross Bones Graveyard, that you feel makes it an important landmark?
A couple of years ago a boyfriend of mine showed me the Winchester Geese Gate - it really moved me - because the campaign to protect the Graveyard is an example of the principle that EVERYONE deserves respect and everyone deserves honouring. Gaggle really strongly believe in this principle. There are plenty of monuments to honour the dead - it shouldn't be any different for this Single Women's Graveyard (prostitutes' graveyard).
You've been performing 'ninja gigs' in London in the run-up to the release of your debut album, with fans being warned of appearances just a few hours in advance via Twitter. What has public reaction been to these sudden performances?
The public reaction has been AMAZING! Whether tourists under the Boudicca statue at Westminster, or commuters in St Pancras. People love little magical weird things happening out of the blue. Animals on the other hand, not so keen - we've scared a few dogs.
What's the inspiration behind these ninja gigs?
One of the Gaggles described them as 'Ninja Gigs' in honour of one of her idols Amanda Palmer. These are little performances/protests - little interventions in people's days to make them think about the things around them and the system they are in.
I love the lyrical content of your songs. 'Army of Birds' in particular has some really interesting lyrics - what's your interpretation of the song?
'Army of Birds' is basically a mission statement and I'm really proud of getting the word Lysistrata in there! It's an army chant, we took some inspiration from a US Airforce marching chant. We took inspiration from Kanye's 'Power.' Then we put loadsa bird sounds in. I always had a fantasy while we were writing that about tapping a politician on a walkabout on the
shoulder just to say "Excuse me sir, you may not have heard, but I'm not in your army."
Because I'm not in Cameron's Army. Not Ed, not in Nick's either. It's about people wanting to be famous so they don't feel like they are in a herd, they feel like they count. It's about people who have succeeded in becoming famous telling their fans that dreams do come true - which keeps this whole bull shit going. Yes, these limited amount of dreams do come true for a small amount of people - we need more dreams, not more people all going for the same ones! It's about being angry about people being blown up indiscriminately, it's about people being blown up at all.
Is it true that Gaggle's had some interest from Britain's Got Talent in the past? What was your reaction to that??
BGT asked us to be involved. A lot of people in Gaggle did not like the idea of taking part. Many of them fundamentally hate the show. Probably due to its exploitative nature - but I thought it might be an interesting thing to do, you know, turn up in 20 t-shirts with the front cover of the Mirror that got Piers sacked - or maybe just Les Dennis's face? I said I'd go as far as I could without signing a contract. They said that would be fine - day before they wanted us to arrive they sent through a contract that would have meant I would have had to ditch the deal with Transgressive - and even though I love a bit of the Cowell - I was never going to do that.
Last year, Gaggle released a reworking of 'The Brilliant and the Dark' under a 'copyleft' license, with a B-side containing samples for other artists to reinterpret. What was the inspiration behind making these samples free?
We were working with Eileen and Ben from Open Music Archive. Their whole ongoing project is based around Copyleft and how it can be used as a creative tool.
Is there a 'Gaggle manifesto'?
There's a Code of Conduct!
What can our readers expect from a Gaggle show?
Nothing like you've ever seen before.
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2012?
Performing, finishing some other exciting projects! But for now it's all about celebrating our album release and getting ready for our celebration show at the Village Underground in Shoreditch on the 4th July.
Gaggle's debut album 'From the Mouth of the Cave' is out now.