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We had the pleasure of interviewing JJ Sterry of Gang of Four over Zoom video!
The surviving members of Gang of Four, singer John Sterry, bassist Thomas McNeice and drummer Tobias Humble, joined with Andy Gill’s widow Catherine Mayer to celebrate Andy through music – and in raising funds for Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust, the London hospital that tried so hard to save his life earlier this year.
“Forever Starts Now,” a brand new Gang of Four track written by Andy and John. Its original working title was “Hero,” a reference, John explains, to the lyrics about “a character who sees himself as the hero of his own life and manipulates his partner into supporting this fantasy. The line, ‘She sings along with his song / she thinks it’s like having the radio on…’ always brings a wry smile.”
The EP takes its title ANTI HERO from the single and to reflect Andy’s lifelong mistrust of narratives around supposedly great men. “Andy always had a healthy scepticism about celebrity culture and populist politicians,” says Catherine. “And he could always spot when someone was blowing smoke.” She adds: “Even so, he would be moved and delighted that artists he loved and admired have come together to celebrate him by launching this EP and for such a good cause.”
The cover artwork is a variant of a full-scale portrait of Andy that Shepard Fairey created as a tribute after the Gang of Four founder’s death on February 1, 2020.
Shepard Fairey says: “Gang of Four has been a profound inspiration for me because the band demonstrates that great art can powerfully merge pleasure and intellectual provocation. I was devastated to hear of Andy Gill’s passing, but honoured to make a portrait of him in the hope of creating an iconic image of one of my heroes—with apologies to Andy, to me he was a hero—to serve as a reminder that though life may be fleeting, Andy’s potent art and ideas will endure.”
The second single, “Day Turns To Night,” was written by John Sterry just days after Andy’s death and will be the first single for his solo artist project, styled as JJ Sterry. “I had no intention of it being about him,” says John. “It just came out that way and also I didn’t intend for it to be released. I often cloak lyrics with ambiguity and this felt too raw. But listening now, I’m glad I wrote it with no thought of where it might go—it’s just a pure distillation of the years I’d spent with Andy and the band.”
Other tracks on the EP are vibrant new versions of Gang of Four’s “Change The Locks” and “Glass,” both of which feel apt for the times we live in. “Both tracks were completed at the time of Andy’s death; yet both have incredible resonances for these lockdown times,” says John. “His ability to write songs that remain relevant was unparalleled.”
Gang of Four’s longtime bassist Thomas McNeice worked with SantiArribas of the Mixing Factory, another of Andy’s firm friends and collaborators of many year’s standing, to produce and mix the EP. “It was strange, to say the least, to work on a Gang of Four EP without the wisdom and guidance of Andy, but it was nice to feel his presence and influence again,” Thomas says. “I like to think that this EP exhibits a progression in Gang of Four, while paying tribute to a unique talent that I was extraordinarily lucky to work with.”
Everyone who worked on the album provided their services for free. All net receipts received by Gang of Four from sales and streams of the forthcoming EP and associated singles will be donated to Guy’s and St Thomas’Charity. Music distributor Republic of Music have also waived their distribution fees for this project, to maximise the income generated for the Charity.
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