With new album Origins gaining them some of the best reviews of their career and three Irish dates this week, State spoke to God Is An Astronaut’s Torsten Kinsella about the past, present and future of the band….
A recurring theme in the reviews of your latest album is that GIAA are a well kept Irish secret. With over 10 years in the business how do you feel about being thought of like that?
It’s something that we’ve been aware of but not something that we have a chip on our shoulders about. GIAA have always been regarded as a bit of a dark horse on the Irish music scene. Instrumental rock hasn’t enjoyed the same amount of popularity in Ireland as it has in Italy, Russia or in Europe in general. But that seems to be changing and with the good press we’ve received abroad in places like England and Portugal filtering back to Ireland we can see peoples interest in the band rising. GIAA are in a sense being rediscovered and we welcome that.
Early GIAA shows were noted for their visual element – can we expect a return to those types of performances in the future?
We started using visuals when we were a three piece back in 2001/2002. The visuals worked at the time because it gave the audience a focal point. We were still feeling our way as a live band and the audiences still had the expectation of having a front man to focus on and that was something we didn’t feel comfortable doing so the visuals filled that void. But as we learned to communicate better we became less reliant on the projected visual aspect and we felt that those type of shows were losing their freshness and becoming clichéd.
Also the addition of Jamie Dean on keyboards added more of a performance element to our live shows so when we moved to a light show people didn’t miss the old visuals. And now that we’ve completed the current line up with Gazz Carr on guitar we’ve got the fuller sound that we’ve always wanted and as a performance band we’re way more entertaining than we ever were as a visual three piece.
What bands inspired the young Kinsella brothers to get into the music business?
The first gig I went to was about ’89, it was Metallica in the Top Hat, not necessarily an influential gig but a memorable one. Therapy? back in 92/93 in the SFX and AC/DC in the Point around the same time impressed as did Alice in Chains. Also Irish bands like The Whipping Boy and Roller Skate Skinny were an inspiration to us.
And what’s the last good gig you saw?
Niels (Torsten’s brother and fellow Astronaut) went to see NIN in Belfast and said it was amazing. I saw them a few years ago at Oxegen and I was also impressed. I don’t really go to a lot of gigs these days. But I see go to see The Bagels recently in the Academy. They’re a bunch of young lads about 15 to 16 years old. It’s always interesting to see raw talent and to hear what the next generation coming up are into.
What music are you listening to these days?
A varied mix. There’s a song Future Echo by an English group called The Oscillation that I got into by linking off Pink Floyd that I really like at the moment. Also a bit of Fugazi, some old Pink Floyd, Bowie’s Low, Boards of Canada, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Our Dead.
What creature comfort is a must have for the touring band?
Personally it’s going back to a hotel room at the end of the night and having a shower after the show. It’s a more preferable to hoping straight onto the tour bus. Another essential is a DVD player. I managed to get through Breaking Bad on the last tour and it definitely made the eight and nine hour drives a lot more bearable.
Best and worst things to have happened GIAA on tour?
Seeing Niagra Falls – selling out our first New York show – playing Russia for the first time with Mudhoney – playing a festival to 30,000 people in Turkey – lots of highlights. The worst thing was definitely getting our gear robbed in New Jersey about 6 years ago. We’ve become a lot more security conscious since then and we’ve learnt to protect ourselves better.
We were also nearly beaten up by a club owner in Bologna, Italy a few years ago for breaking the Db level laws. An argument ensued and we trashed the dressing room. We then had to drive the van past twenty guys to get out of the place. It was a real Spinal Tap moment. We assumed we were blacklisted but since we’d sold out the club we were asked back the following year. Needless to say we declined their offer.
How has the new material gone down with the audiences on this tour? Has it alienated any of the older fans of the band?
Yeah, with some of the fans anyway. It’s like starting off again in the sense that you’ve a point to prove, we’re on a mission to show that we haven’t lost a step. We believe that the new tracks are as good as the older ones. The audiences have felt the full force of the five piece for the first time. It’s like we’re at war and I think that by the time the show is over we’ve won them over and exceeded their expectations. I think ‘Red Moon Lagoon’ is better than any of the older tracks, it’s definitely up there with ‘Route 666’ and ‘Suicide by Star’ and people are leaving the shows believing it too.
So what can the gig going public expect to see this week?
Cork is going to be an intimate gig and we’ve a lot of memories of playing in Cypress Avenue so it’s going to be nostalgic. Also it’s our first time playing there as a five piece so we’re looking forward to bringing the show down there. We’ve played Dublin as a five piece before but I wasn’t happy with that performance. We hadn’t really clicked as a unit at that stage, didn’t have enough edge or attitude. We weren’t bold enough, where as now we’re utilising the additional musicians properly. We’ve remixed the songs to have more of a guitar attack than a drum attack and the new material is sounding better live than on the record. In fact we plan to release some of live tracks of this tour on our next EP. We want to shock people, we want them to witness the full sonic assault of the five piece. We’ll be playing for our core audience, this is not going to be watered down, we want the fans to see what we’ve been doing across Europe.
Belfast better get ready for a roller-coaster ride with lots of energy.
So bring your ear plugs?
It’s not a relentless never-ending assault; we like to keep things building, to bring it down and build it back up again. There will be elements of light and shade and melodic passages but when we bring it you’ll feel it for sure….
God Is An Astronaut play Cork Cyprus Avenue (Thursday), Dublin Academy (Saturday) and Belfast Limelight 2 (Sunday)