Golden Teacher Interview by Stewart Smith
Golden Teacher are one of the most exciting acts to have emerged from the bubbling cauldron that is Glasgow’s DIY underground and club culture. What began as a studio collaboration between noise punk trio Ultimate Thrush and analogue house duo Silk Cut has morphed into a six-headed funk hydra, whose live shows turn dance-floors into a hot, sweaty mess. Their sound recalls the heady days of New York mutant disco and punk-funk – there’s a dash of Liquid Liquid and Arthur Russell’s Dinosaur L in their spacious, cowbell heavy grooves, along with a touch of James Chance’s saxophone contortions – but it’s mixed up with elements of high-life, acid house, dub and free-improv, to create an intoxicating new psychedelic dance music. JD Twitch, aka Keith McIvor, was duly impressed, singing them to his Optimo Music label after one listen.
The group’s live shows are a riot. Over Laurie and Ollie Pitt’s live percussion, Sam Bellacosa and Richard McMaster conjure sick acid basslines, Italo arpreggiations and wild analogue noise from a rack of modular synths while vocalists Cassie Oji and Charlie Levanac command the crowd to dance with fierce chants and ecstatic howls. For Counterflows, members of the group will perform an improvised set as part of Heatsick’s Extended Play.
Drummer Laurie Pitt spoke to Stewart Smith about Golden Teacher’s past, present and future.
You’ve all been involved in various projects, but what brought you together as Golden Teacher?
Golden Teacher started in a peculiar way. Ollie, Richard and Cassie were all on a production course for young, unemployed musicians at Glasgow’s Green Door Studio. and as part of it had free studio time. Without any set ideas (or clue) we layered a bunch of raw jams to tape which found their ways to the ears of Twitch from Optimo who offered to release them. So the record came first – and then the band, we had to study our own songs to work out how to play them live!
Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do, or was it something that developed over time?
I think the only idea we had when we started was ‘lets make something fun to dance to’ – and that idea still sticks with us today. The six of us involved in Golden Teacher are all from very disparate musical backgrounds, so we are all approaching the band in different ways.
The band has expanded since those initial jams. Perhaps you could introduce everyone.
The band is Cassie Oji, Charles Lavenac, Laurie Pitt, Oliver Pitt, Sam Bellacosa, and Richard McMaster. We have collaborated with other people but now its a solid lineup, both live and in the studio.
Was your visit to Ghana an inspiration on Golden Teacher?
Me and Ollie travelled in Ghana last year learning traditional drumming and this has worked its way into our sound on some of our new tracks. Whats great about using Ghanaian rhythms is their often outside regular 4/4 timing so its fun watching audiences trying to dance to them!
You’ve released two EPs on Optimo Music. What’s next?
We have another 12” coming out on Optimo in April [‘Party People’/’Love’], and a tape on mine and Ollie’s Akashic Records. We also have a bunch of recorded tracks with no release plans as yet, plus we have some more recording time booked in the Green Door so expect to hear lot more of us in the future. In regards to an album we don’t have any particular desire to create one just at the moment but who knows what the future might hold? Cassie speaks Gaelic and we have talked about making a Gaelic Dub opera so if there’s anyone reading this (I’m looking at you Alasdair Campbell) who can hit us up with any juicy funding grants then we would love to go to Jamaica to create one.
Are you excited about teaming up with Joe McPhee and Heatsick and do you have any idea of what the audience can expect?
We are both excited and a bit nervous about the gig, and have absolutely no idea what the audience or even us can expect. Much of our music is heavily improvised and its a nice challenge to play with different people. I don’t think the whole band is going to be playing as we would properly drown out Heatsick but it should be an interesting experience if nothing else.
Are there any other artists you’re particularly looking forward to at Counterflows?
There are lots of highlights but I think in particular I am looking forward to Ghedalia Tazartes with Maya Dunietz, and as much as I love Joe McPhee and Mats Gustafsson, I still think John Butcher is my favourite saxophonist in the world.