Relix Premiere: Stream Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad’s New Album In These Times
Relix is offering an exclusive stream to the forthcoming album from Rochester, NY’s psychedelic roots reggae outfit Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. The album, titled In These Times, sees the group return to the electric format for the first time in six years with 12 highly impressive tracks. Check out the full album below along with an interview with the group’s bassist James Searl. In These Times comes out on April 10 via Controlled Substance Sound Labs. Preorder the album here and be sure to check out the band on their upcoming tour.
Interview with Giant Panda bassist James Searl
How did you guys come together in the Rochester music scene?
Chris O’Brian (drummer) and I have known each other since I was 11 and he was 9. He was a bass player when we first met. I was tight with his older brother and we all started jamming together a long time ago, with his bro on drums and I played some terrible guitar.
Where does the band name come from?
We got lost in Iowa in the middle of the night and this older than sin country hillbilly took us in for the night. He wanted to play a game of chance that he picked up riding trains during the dust bowl. He had these old goat teeth and he wrapped random words around the teeth on small scraps of blotter held together by twisty ties. He put the teeth in an old jar and had us draw straws at who was gonna shake the teeth. Chris was selected and as he shook the jar the old man started to chant some speaking tongues kind of language that we were unfamiliar with. By chance, when the teeth rolled they spelled out Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. He asked us what we did and we told him we were in a band. He said it was necessary for us to take this moniker as our new band name or suffer dire consequences of fate on our travels. He scared the shit out of us, so we did it. Travels have been good.
On your new album, In These Times, you return to an electric sound after releasing the rootsy album Country earlier this year. Can you talk about why you made that decision?
For years we have been traveling on the road and have been a live band. We took it really seriously and played music most of the time in the van. We all love so much music, but it is all in the GOOD music category. We draw from many influences. We wanted to let the world know that we dabble in all sorts of directions in the music world, and Country is an example of that. We had been recording In These Times for the past two years whenever we were off the road. Country was recorded in a few days. It was done first. So we decided to release it as a head spin to the world that knows us, before we deliver to the masses what they have known us for for the past 6 years.
How has the group’s sound has evolved on the new album?
There is much more depth on In These Times. Taking our time getting it together and recording at home allowed us to do a lot of experimenting with different instruments and tones. We all sing on the album. In These Times has analog dub throughout in a way that colors the soundscape of the songs nicely. We are very proud of it and excited to spread it through the world wherever it may go.
Who are some of your musical influences? Did you discover any new musicians that colored the direction on this album?
Always a difficult question. There are so many for a variety of reasons. I always remember to say that we come from a thriving original music scene in Rochester, NY, and our music has been very peer influenced. We’ve been blessed to know lots of killin’ reggae, drum n bass, old time, and strong songwriters. Traveling around the country and meeting other bands like The Simpkin Project, The Green, Rebelution, G. Love & Special Sauce, and John Brown’s Body has definitely influenced our sound in one way or another. But in general, listening to lots of the reggae greats, lots of Jerry Garcia, and more recently The Wood Brothers.
What was the recording process like and where was it recorded?
It was very educational. Totally different than how we recorded our debut studio album Slow Down (released in 2006). Different players, different approach, different style. We recorded most of it at Hope Alive studio in Farmington, NY with Matthew Goodwin, formally of JBB. He used to be in the Squad also, and has very high end analog gear at his house, which Aaron Lipp and I happened to live in. We also did some recording at More Sound Recording Studio in Syracuse, NY, with the infamous Jocko at the boards. However, it was not till we met Billy Hume that the album really began to take shape. He is a madman with the mix. We had a lot of scattered recordings, and we sent him some and the mix came back perfect. Then our live engineer Joel Scanlon took the songs and dubbed them with analog effects like he does with us in a concert performance. It was really quite a bit of alchemy. Again, it took two years for no really good reason but it would not have come together in the way that it did otherwise, and we are SO happy about it. There is nothing like setting out to accomplish a goal, feeling like you are completely missing it the whole time, and then actually accomplishing it through hard work and finicky artist frustration. So far that has been the only thing that has been the same every time we have recorded. We freak about getting fat tones, playing justice to the songs, and over thinking everything… and somehow we come out happy. I am still totally perplexed by this phenomenon.
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