Jul 01, 2021
By Matt Conner
The music means something different to Ian Parton these days. It’s not the passage of time—an astounding 20 years to date as the creative muscle behind The Go! Team—that has changed his personal perspective on his sonic output. It’s living on the other side of a morning in which he woke up without hearing in one ear.
These days, Parton says he doesn’t think about his battle with Ménière’s disease too much, unless, that is, the dizziness is overwhelming. He’s become accustomed to the hearing loss and learned to work through/around it. However, he does consider deeply his musical intentions—that in darker days of a global pandemic and given the hurdles it takes to create, he hopes a new album like Get Up Sequences Part One (out tomorrow on Memphis Industries) can be a “life raft” for those who find it.
Of course the marketplace is not without its own hurdles, and even after two decades, Parton says he still considers The Go! Team a “cult band.” We recently caught up with him to hear more about his diagnosis and being 20 years into a career marked by boundless creativity.
Matt Conner (Under the Radar): I think this year marks about 20 years for you as The Go! Team. Have you reflected on that in the midst of the pandemic or moving forward at all?
Ian Parton: With us, I still feel like we’re a cult band, really. [Laughs] We’ve never really made it in any traditional way. I still feel like we’re undiscovered and people are still discovering us even now. The buzz band thing has just been extended 20 years for us. We’ve never disappeared. We’ve never faded away like so many of these other Pitchfork buzz bands did, the class of 2004, the blog hipsterdom brigade.
So I still think of us as this cult band that people either get or don’t. I’ve never really pat myself on the back or felt like we’d made it. I’m always a bit frustrated that we’re still cultish, y’know? Or that we’re not in the mainstream or anything like that. We’re still on the edge and still being discovered, and people still feel like we’re personal to them if they do get into us. They don’t realize anyone else is into us.
You said you’re frustrated by that, so has that ever affected your creative approach?
No, I’m not really frustrated. I would never write a hit. I’m not angling for the radio. I wouldn’t know what that would involve and I hate lots of contemporary production and stuff like that. I would never put in a big bass drum or put a sheen on things in desperate times. [Laughs]
I do like being in a cult band and I’m proud that we’re still around. More to the point, I’m proud we’re making music that still feels original and unlike anyone else, if you ask me.
What was the drive for you when you were first starting?
The drive has always been the same, really. It’s pleasing myself, in a way. I’ve always thought the band as being pick-and-mix. It’s not pouring my heart out. It’s not, “Hey let me tell you about my life. This happened to me.” It’s much more about pick-and-mix, ramming together everything you’ve ever loved throughout your life and also being annoyed that genres don’t cross as much as I want them to. In my brain, it’s a parallel dimension where it’s possible that Roxanne Shanté can jam with Kevin Shields, that these things are possible and wouldn’t be awkward. That a Bollywood string section could play a Sonic Youth wigout.
That way of thinking has been with me from the beginning. When you start like that, there are endless possibilities, so there’s never been a point where it’s like, “That’s the end of the line. I’m done with everything.” In fact, I think I’m just scratching the surface on what’s possible with genre cross-contamination if you know what I mean. It’s this universe where all of these things are possible and rub shoulders.
I always loved the idea of curation and that you can particularly curate your life, especially nowadays. You can surround yourself with the best books, best music, best films ever made. You can filter out all of the bollocks. You can turn life into curation and put a filter on it to cut out the shit, and I think of The Go! Team in that way. It’s not autobiographical. It’s not my life. It’s how I want the world to be in a way. There’s a utopian dimension to it for me, and it is quite personal in that way.
Moving to the new album, you actually lost some hearing while making this album, is that right?
So I woke up on a Thursday morning in October, 2019, when I was halfway through making this record, and things sounded differently. I put a finger in my good ear and everything sounded tinny, like all the bottom end had gone. It was almost like my two ears were out of tune with each other, it was fucking hideous. Listening to music was unbearable.
So I had this horrible moment and I went to my doctor and she said I had wax in my ear. I thought, “Oh, that’ll be it then.” I got the wax removed and had the worst moment possible in my life when it was exactly the same. The hearing hadn’t changed. I knew then, “This is it.” You can’t fuck with hearing.
It came and went and then kind of stuck, so for my right ear, there’s hardly anything in there now. It’s just the top end, just very whispery kind of stuff. When it first happened, I thought it was noise. I’m a motherfucker for caning it with volume. I listen loud and play loud on stage and never have earplugs and stuff, so I thought that’s finally caught up with me. But it wasn’t that. It’s called Ménière’s disease. Have you heard of it?
Yes, but not sure I could define it.
It’s basically your inner ear is fucked, so my balance and stuff. I get dizzy
Yeah that’s right. I haven’t gotten it that bad. For some people, they puke and the room is spinning and it can be a living nightmare. I don’t have it that bad, but I do feel quite dizzy a lot of the time and stuff. For the hearing, it’s bearable. I kind of forget about it most of the time, but yeah, it threw me. [Laughs]
I would imagine that’s one way to put it.
Things got pretty psychedelic for a while, particularly about early last year. The psychological trauma of it. Being a musician, all I do is listening to fucking music. Why couldn’t it happen to somebody else, you know? Why me out of everyone? All I do is listen. All I’m about is frequencies and EQing and stuff. So yeah I didn’t take it too well to start with.
And then doing the music took on more of a weight, the actual price of listening to these songs and the idea of music changing your state of mind and momentarily making things seem better and stuff like that. The songs took on a much weightier dimension for me, more of a life raft kind of feel. For me this album will always inextricably be tied up with that period.
At this point, how are you coming out the other side there?
For me, my big thing was just normalcy, not changing anything, keeping going and not letting it change anything. That’s my big thing. It’s an ongoing daily thing, because it’s really fucking annoying when you’re dizzy all of the time. It’s a fucking pain in the ass. [Laughs]