Natural’s Not In It: The Guitar of Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill

Natural’s Not In It: The Guitar of Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill
Gang Of Four

The losses in the music world over the past year have been immeasurable, but the loss of Andy Gill from Gang Of Four remains one of the bitterest, and a number of projects he was working on at the time of his passing have since become posthumous tributes to one of the most influential musicians of the past 40 years.

There were the Anti-Hero and This Heaven Gives Me Migraine EPs completed by his bandmates last Summer, The 77-81 box set compiling their earliest and most influential records which finally came out this Spring along with the individual reissues of Entertainment! and Solid Gold, and today brings The Problem Of Leisure, a tribute album that Gill himself was curating and working on right up until his death.

For my part, I’m going to attempt to pay tribute to Gill’s beautifully abrasive guitar tone, and all its ’70s solid-state guitar amplification glory. On Entertainment! and Solid Gold, he used a Carlsbro Stingray Professional amp, pushing 150W of non-tube power through two 12″ speakers. Speaking to Vintage Guitar magazine in January 2017, he said:

“There’s a brand in the U.K. called Carlsbro. It’s a 2×12 combo, and it had a very detailed, pristine, clear but aggressive sound. I’ve had various models, but I’ve still got one from the early ’80s, the time of the second album (Solid Gold) and I still use it.

Andy Gill: The Gang’s All Here @ Vintage Guitar

And as for the why, he told EQ Magazine in 2011:

“Everybody looked down their nose at me, because proper musicians are supposed to use valves. That’s always been the case. I liked the coldness, if you like, of transistor amps. With the Fender Strat and the PV combo, you can get a thinness of sound. You don’t end up with the big, fat Marshall distorted sound. It’s thin, bright, and sharp.”

Gang Signs: Post-punk legends Gang of Four revisit old principles and crank up the transistor amps on Content @ EQ Magazine via Patrick Sissions

As for what he was running through these amps with the treble at max, Premier Guitar talked to Gill as part of a 2017 feature on post-punk guitar heroes:

“A guy called Johnson made these Strat copies,” Gill says. “I liked it and I used it.”

Post-Punk Guitar Antiheroes: Andy Gill, Keith Levene, and Gareth Sager @ Premier Guitar

And while the video they reference no longer works, I’m pretty sure it’s this one – complete with Strat copy missing a neck pickup (like he’d ever use the neck pickup):

While on tour in 2016 for What Happens Next, he acquiesced to doing a full rig rundown with Premier Guitar showing off his ’80s Lace Sensor-equipped Strat Ultra and revealing he’s actually gone tube, running through a couple of Peavey Classic 50 4x10s, and beyond that, he’s gone digital using laptops for his signal processing in lieu of pedals.

Rig Rundown: Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill @ Premier Guitar

He affirmed his broader taste in guitars when talking to Guitar World in 2018 around the time of their Complicit EP:

The guitars that are used most are the semiacoustic Gibson 335, a Fender Thinline and a guitar I got from the wonderful Reverend Guitar workshop.

Gang of Four’s Andy Gill Talks Gear, New EP, ‘Complicit,’ Songwriting @ Guitar World

Also a prolific producer, Gill talked to TapeOp in May 2009 about his new studio and producing the likes of The Futureheads and Red Hot Chilli Peppers:

Andy Gill : Gang of Four, Chili Peppers, Killing Joke, more… @ TapeOp

On his passing, obituaries were many – Guitar World and Premier Guitar both ran features on the man and his musical impact:

The genius of Andy Gill: paying tribute to the post-punk pioneer who influenced a generation of guitarists @ Guitar World

Andy Gill: 1956-2020 @ Premier Guitar

And to leave things on a more “up” note, a lesson in Gill from anyonecanplayguitar.co.uk, who shows you to play “Ether”, “Not Great Men”, and “Damaged Goods”. Needless to say, play with single coils and treble turned all the way up.

Three Gang Of Four Riffs @ anyonecanplayguitar.co.uk

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