Leeds Music Scene

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci : Currently on tour with US space rockers Yo La Tengo, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci cohort Richard James gets grilled on playing live, record labels and where that name comes from...

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Published on 20th February 2004.


Gorky's Zygotic Mynci

Currently on tour with US space rockers Yo La Tengo, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci cohort Richard James gets grilled on playing live, record labels and where that name comes from...

Currently on tour with US space rockers Yo La Tengo, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci cohort Richard James gets grilled on playing live, record labels and where that name comes from...

So you're playing in Leeds soon with Yo La Tengo, which seems like a bit of an odd combination, how did it all come about?
Well we thought about 6 months ago to do a British tour, but to try and do something a bit different, and to try and play bigger venues, but we knew we couldn't play them just by ourselves, so we thought if we did a sort of double headliner type thing, then we might be able to play bigger venues and just do different sorts of gigs really and a different sort of tour. And so we were thinking of a band that was of a similar size to us, but I think Yo La Tengo are a bit bigger really, but we approached them and they were up for it.

Your new album, 'Sleep/ Holiday', sounds very relaxed and laidback, did it take long to record?
Erm, I think it was shorter than the few albums we'd done previously, but I think all together it took about ten weeks
Was it an easy process?
It wasn't too bad, I mean a lot of it was live, the whole band were playing every track live together, and then we only did a few overdubs in the studio, so yeah, it wasn't too bad. Some songs we played about twelve times and got a take, and other songs we must've played about sixty times just to try and get a good take we were happy with.

Because your albums are always so varied and interesting, who would you say are your musical influences?
I'd say it's quite broad, but I suppose the main influences are songwriters and bands like The Kinks, Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson, Beatles and the Stones and say things like that, but I mean we've bigger broad tastes, and I suppose the thing that sort of mainly influence the songs that we write and play are people like that, and Robert Wyatt as well.

You've been going for quite a while now, so does it bother you that all these new bands are getting loads of hype and attention from the music press like the NME, etc. so that it takes the spotlight off really great bands like Gorky's?
I think it's good that they do champion young bands. I mean they've always done it. Teenage music started in the 50s y'know what I mean? So there's always been the next, new wave of young bands and talent, but I do think that one problem the NME has got at the moment is that, well it's changed a lot from the way it was 10-15 years ago, is that it doesn't give coverage to the more established bands. Because it's good for young people reading the NME to know and understand what these bands are about, so they can get exposure and the readers can buy the music and enjoy it as well.

I read somewhere that before you released 'Sleep/ Holiday', you changed labels for the sixth time in as many years, what was all that about?!
Well we started off on Angst, and then we signed a big contract with Mercury for two albums, and then they dropped us, then we were without a label for a little while, I can't remember for how long, about a year maybe, and then we signed to beggars banquet, then after two years they sort of downgraded our deal and we couldn't work with that so then we mutually left basically, then we were without a deal for about a year again, and then Sanctuary offered a deal with us, which seemed quite good at the time so we went for that. So, yeah, we've never been a big selling act, so once labels get tired of us selling the same amount of records, they just chuck us off!

Tracks like new single 'Mow The Lawn' and cult favourite 'Poodle Rockin' are very raw and rocky, is it nice to let your hair down and just rock out once in a while?
Yeah, I mean we don't have too many songs like that on each album, we're a bit more varied live obviously, because we can call on the back catalogue so we've got a choice of different songs to play, but on each album there's usually about one or two that are a bit more upbeat and rocky, so yeah it's always good to play varied music.

What's been your favourite song to play from the new album?
Erm (long-ish pause) well we've been doing 'Waking For Winter' and 'Eyes Of Green, Green, Green' for about a year now, and they're nice songs to play, but the one we've just been doing recently is 'The South Of France' which is a very nice one to do!

You wrote two songs on the new album ('Shore Light' and 'Only Takes A Night'), how long did those take to record?
Well, 'Only Takes A Night', because we did it completely live, it took a hell of a long time actually, it was quite a frustrating song to try and record, but the second one, 'Shore Light', I think that was the second take, but it's only me and a guitar really so it wasn't too bad. We don't often do my songs, so I'm a bit inexperienced in recording my songs.

What's your favourite part of being in Gorky's? Recording? Writing? Or playing live?
They've all got their ups and downs really, mostly ups because I'm making a living out of something I really enjoy, and when you're touring, you go to different places and meet people and you get to play live to people, well, if they turn up I suppose! But also you could be away from home for a long time and it can be quite frustrating, and also it's the same in the studio really, it's exciting putting new songs down and doing overdubs and seeing the songs grow, but at the same time you could be away in the studio for weeks on the trot and it can do your head in a bit sometimes, because they're long working hours, but on the whole it's a privileged position that we've been in the last ten years or so to make a living and record and play live as we like, so it's been good!

There was a time, a couple of years ago especially, when bands from Wales were labelled as being oddball or quirky and eccentric, like Super Furry Animals, etc. did that ever bother you?
I think when bands were first starting to get noticed in Wales, there was a lot of hype, to be a Welsh band is cool and all the rest of it, and I think the Furries and us weren't really oddball, but you had the Manics and Catatonia who were really big, and the Stereophonics, but Manics and Catatonia especially were good bands who were more sort of in the traditional mould I suppose, and us and the Super Furries were more idiosyncratic in some of the stuff we did.

One last question... Where does the name Gorky's Zygotic Mynci come from?
(Starts to giggle) I imagine that's about the millionth time I've been asked that! I'm not sure if it's adoration, but it's understandable. Well basically, when we were starting a band in school, myself and Euros and John, who's now left, we were thinking of a name, and trying to think of a really cool name, but we just ended up with crap names, so we thought "ah fuck it", we might as well stick with the most ridiculous crap name we could think of, because we never thought we'd go for this long or whatever. So then John came up with a name, I think he found Gorky, but it was meant to be the Gawky spelling, as in someone who's a bit awkward and Zygotic from the dictionary or from a biology lesson and then Mynci is just a funny way of spelling monkey! So we thought yeah, we'll go with that, and so we've stuck with it ever since.

The single 'Mow The Lawn' and album 'Sleep/ Holiday' are both out now on Sanctuary, and Gorky's play Leeds West Yorkshire Playhouse with Yo La Tengo on 6th March.



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