Interview By: Brian Winters
Before their show this Thursday in Brooklyn, we caught up with Chris O'Brian, the drummer for Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and talked with him about their latest album and how New York has shaped them as a band.
Your latest album Make It Better released last September (2016), and you guys have noted your ability and necessity to focus on the “economics of time” while you were creating the album. Can you describe how the writing and recording process of this album differed from previous albums?
I can't speak specifically for the writing process, though I assume it was different than in the past just due to circumstances and life. The recording process was very much different. Two major differences are that James (bassist) and I recorded the drum and bass together, without the band there, as the foundation. Also this was the first album we have had the pleasure of recording in our hometown of Rochester, New York.
Make It Better was a very timely record and certainly touched on some important political themes throughout. Do you find the album to be even more relevant today than it was when it first came out last September?
Unfortunately some of the more political tunes were written years ago, and continue to be more relevant as time goes on. A large handful of the songs are about James' family, and daughter specifically. I know having children is an always changing experience, and I look forward to more of James' songs on this subject as he continues to grow into his role as a father.
What led you to release Make It Better through the newly formed, progressive reggae label Rootfire Cooperative? And how was that experience working with them?
We decided to release our record with Rootfire Cooperative not only to support our dear friend and former manager, Seth Herman, but also to support the amazing business model that is the Rootfire Cooperative. For a band like us, a no interest loan, and complete control over what happens with the album is pretty amazing.
The album cover for Make It Better, designed by Iranian brothers Icy and Sot, is really an attention grabber and evokes a ton of emotions. What's the story behind the concept and artwork?
The concept behind the cover I think goes hand and hand with the album- Make It (the world) Better. The picture is of a boy on the streets of Istanbul, I believe he was selling watches if I'm not mistaken. ICY&SOT are some of the nicest guys we know, and it was an absolute pleasure to work with them. We strongly recommend their work to anyone not familiar.
As a band from Rochester, NY, if at all, how has Upstate New York shaped and influenced the sound of GPGDS?
Upstate NY has shaped our sound very much. We have a cumulative 100+ years of upstate life in us. Our country is very large and has several different zones. Things are different in these zones. The food is different. The people are different. The music is different. I don't think we could mimic the California reggae style very well. It's hard to pinpoint- but our geographic location has surely had a direct effect on what our music sounds like.
In the past, GPGDS has acknowledged influences from icons such as the Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Woody Guthrie. You've also expressed great appreciation for John Brown's Body. Are there any other contemporary groups or musicians that have particularly influenced GPGDS recently?
We have had a demo from the Brazilian band Ponto de Equilibrio for probably 10 years. I consistently go back to that, and love it. Old Lee Scratch is a staple of our reggae influence. Personally, I've been jamming the Wood Brothers a ton in the last 3 years. Everything I hear of theirs I love. Just discovered Andy Shauf and love his stuff too.
Favorite food spot to hit after playing a concert in NYC?
Wherever my best friend Greg aka Ancelmo James drags me after the show :)
For more information check out the band at: