Ninja, singer with The Go! Team opens up about ‘destroying bands who sell millions of records’, the making of Rolling Blackouts and the possible split of the band later this year.
It’s rare for a band to be so tightly wound to the picture painted by their name, but then The Go! Team were never going to do things by halves with a name like that. Rolling Blackouts, their current album and one likely to be featured prominently in their upcoming gigs, is a melange of the riotous hip-hop beats, cheerleader chants, slashing guitars and horn blasts with which they made their name, but also finds time to chill out a little, something lead singer Ninja has little time for. “Once I start I can’t really stop,” she says of her famously exuberant stage presence. “If you’re running the 100m you can’t slow down and say ‘whew I started way too fast, gotta take a break now’ you start off at one level and you can’t fall beneath that level, and that’s it really. I don’t plan to be 110% constantly, it’s just what I would do at home even if no one was there with me.” At the suggestion that there is a difference between the performer Ninja and the woman behind her, Ninja gets even more vocal. “I am Ninja! There is only Ninja, there used to be someone else but Ninja killed her. I’m not like Beyonce; she thinks she has her performer side and her shy lady side, that’s not me. There is just Ninja.”
With gigs renown for tight, thrilling reinterpretations of their sprawling recordings, Ninja is the prime force and pinnacle of the Go! Team as a live unit. However, when it comes to making the music, there are two versions of the band. “Yeah, and it’s always been like that,” she says changing pace. “Ian [Parton, songwriter and guitarist] locks himself away for a while, a few months maybe, with some sandwiches and bottles of water. He has to create the album on those scraps of food and people come over and put down bits and pieces; bass guitars, guitars…you never know what’s going to happen. He’ll get guests in to sing on parts, then he shakes a wand and the album is finished. We’re happy being involved in the live version, that’s the fun part where we get to mix it up and get involved. The album is made up of Ian’s influences and that’s his baby.”
The creation of Rolling Blackouts, saw Parton became even more hermetic than before and its creation is something Ninja describes as ‘shrouded in mystery. “I had emails and calls like ‘can you come down to the studio for this…’ or I’ll write raps or harmonies. We’re always recording stuff and not knowing what it’s going to sound like. I’ll record things and wouldn’t know what was going to happen with the song. The first time I heard the album was when the journalists heard it. But when we’re performing these songs on stage we’re singing and rapping a lot more.”
While fans are used to the low-fi rush of a Go! Team song, there has been more than one review which mentions the loss of Ninja’s lyrics to the horn blasts, booming drums and blasting guitars, likely due in part to Parton’s insistence on mastering to a C-60 cassette. “Ian puts it together and it’s a really clear vision he has; he would have liked to make it even more low-fi if he could. If I’m rapping something I want people to hear and understand the lyrics I write because you know, I spend a lot of time writing them, so I’d like it less low-fi but then he’d want it more low-fi. I think you need to see us live on stage as well as on record, because live I strive for clarity which I think is what the audience want as well as all the crazy stuff we do.”
This optimism and blithe sunshiny attitude is core to The Go! Team’s sound and energy and Ninja’s selection as the band’s focal point was a stroke of brilliance on the part of Parton when he was assembling the band. Last here in January 2009, their forthcoming tour sees them play smaller venues, which comes as a strange move given the massive airplay recent single Buy Nothing Day has received. “When we play a place that’s more intimate, that’s a challenge to us because we only have a tiny little area to jump around in and we love that, though it does usually result in injuries. We’re also doing festivals to thousands of people who may never have heard of us,” Ninja quantifies clearly relishing the opportunity. “Festivals are a challenge. We’re battling against weather and the lure of other bands so we have to get an audience and keep them there throughout the set - even if they don’t know who we are!” She says excitedly. “We’ve got nothing to lose - people don’t know us so they don’t expect much and we destroy it! We destroy those other bands who have sold millions of records and have a big following, you see they have a lot to live up to, whereas we get to surprise people.”
Something that came as a surprise to a lot of people was the offhand comment made by Parton during an interview with a small Irish newspaper in February “This may be our last year as a live band.” He also confirmed that the band “might split up” after this tour. Ninja is similarly uncertain, though doubtful. “I don’t know. I have loads of stuff I want to do, I’m working on a solo project with interesting producers, one of the producers is Starslinger another one is a guy called Rural. There’s a lot of stuff I want to do, who knows what’s going to happen really. I just don’t know, but I’ll put it on my blog when I do.”
Best catch them while they can still be caught.