Guitarist Brace Paine on working with Rick Rubin, partying with Lil Wayne, and his band's new album. Plus: Hear "Heavy Cross."
In the U.K., Portland, OR, punk-blues trio Gossip are full-on rock stars, headlining festivals and performing on TV. Rambunctious frontwoman Beth Ditto even pals around with Kate Moss and has graced the cover of magazines… naked.
Now they’re readying their first album since 2006’s Standing in the Way of Control — the anticipated Rick Rubin-produced Music for Men (out digitally June 22).
For a taste, listen to its dance-y new single, “Heavy Cross,” below.
Gossip, “Heavy Cross”
SPIN.com caught up with Gossip guitarist Brace Paine, who told us about Music for Men’s anti-love vibe, Rubin’s humor and knack for song structure, and what Lil Wayne and the end of the world have in common.
You guys recorded Music for Men at Shangri La Studios in Malibu, CA, with producer Rick Rubin. How was he to work with?
Incredible. What a cool guy. He doesn’t care about anything but music. He won a Grammy this year and he didn’t even go to accept it. He didn’t even want to talk about it — he was just like, “Whatever, whatever.” The guy has such an incredible music history. He’s recorded Run DMC and made Johnny Cash cover a Nick Cave song. It’s really hard to have longevity in the music industry, and to be able to continually create art that is fresh, valid, and important seems pretty amazing. There’s a handful of people that can do it and I put him on that list.
How involved was he in the process?
He came in when we were laying down instrumental tracks, and he loved everything we played. He helped us a little bit with arranging, because that’s one of the things we’re not too good at. We’re open to new sounds, but sometimes it just turns out that our songwriting is verse/chorus/verse/chorus. We never went to music school, and neither did he, yet he understands the structure and mathematics of a song. We have one song that’s just a bass line going over and over, and he was like “keep repeating, keep repeating.” It was really cool. It was great working with him because he was just a hilarious guy, too. We would just hang around and listen to records. It was fun.
What’s with the album’s title, Music for Men?
It’s a poke at people who would say that we were a band for girls. There were a few times when guys would come up to me and say, “Oh, my girlfriend loves your band.” So it was a funny take on that.
Is the title in any way related to the album’s sound?
Possibly. It doesn’t sound very masculine, but what is masculine sounding anyway, you know? It’s not something that can be defined either way. It’s funky but it doesn’t have that many dance-oriented rhythms — it’s more like funky garage rock. Standing In the Way Of Control was more upbeat, whereas on Music for Men there’s some dark, noisy songs.
Beth said the new album has lots of songs about love. Can you elaborate?
There were seven songs with “love” in the title, but then she changed it around a bit. It’s funny because it doesn’t really sound like a love record. It’s kind of an anti-love record. There’s a song called “Love is a Four-Letter Word.” There’s a couple of songs that are anti-love — yeah, there’s definitely anti-love moments.
What bands influenced the new album’s sound?
Everything from [’80s goth-rockers] the Birthday Party to house music and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Anything that we thought was dark and rhythmic.
The first single from Music, “Heavy Cross,” is out now. How would you describe it?
It’s basically like Donna Summer singing a Bauhaus song.
When can we see Gossip perform the new songs live?
We’re going to be doing a few U.S. festivals, as well as a few shows with Sonic Youth in July and August. We’re going to bounce around a little bit to play some shows in America. We miss playing America.
Can you tells us about a few other songs on the record, their titles and what they’re about?
“Dime Store Diamond,” “Vertical Rhythm,” “Spare Me From the Mold,” “Love is a Four-Letter Word,” “2012.”That’s all I can give you for now [laughs]. “2012,” well, the end of the world is supposed to happen on December 21, 2012 — there’s supposed to be some massive collision with an asteroid. The song is a sort of a nod to that concept. You know, I heard Lil Wayne is having a 2012 party.
Yeah, he’s throwing a party on December 20, 2012. How depressing would it be to be at a Lil Wayne concert the day before the world ends? Let’s see if he can even make it to 2012, and then we’ll see. That’d be a horrible place to be at the end of the world — the last thing you hear is “A Milli,” and then you die.