Influential punk band Gang of Four announced the death of the band’s iconic guitarist, Andy Gill, on social media on Saturday. A band spokesman told the New York Times that Gill died of pneumonia while working on the band’s latest album and upcoming tour from his hospital bed.
I got the opportunity to interview Gill almost exactly a year ago. Over the phone, Gill was incisive, witty and mannered. We spoke about our shared last name, Gang of Four’s latest album, Happy Now, and about the rigors of touring,
What I remember best were Gill’s political insights and his thoughts on The Frankfurt School, a school of postmodern thought associated with the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University in Germany. It’s not often you meet a rock star as adept at discussing Marxist social theory as he is the advantages of solid state amplifiers.
Gill explained how Gang of Four shied away from overt endorsement of a political side.
“The thing to remember with Gang of Four was it was never a question of espousing a particular party line, and never to be telling people what they should be thinking—very much not,” he told me. “It wasn’t like, ‘OK, banging the drum for socialism.’ … It was much more observational and descriptive. … We describe the situation, and the people go, ‘right, I recognize that.’ It’s a kind of truth telling, and I think in the current world, obviously, we’re in this situation that we’re in.”
About three weeks after our talk, I caught Gang of Four at The Chapel in San Francisco. Onstage, Andy Gill was a force of nature, slicing the air with his razor sharp guitar. And yet, in the midst of the transcendent musical violence, he exuded the same calm dignity he had on the phone. He was the calm at the center of the storm.
Generally considered one of the most influential guitarists in the world of punk and post-punk, Andy Gill will be missed. And there is little doubt his work with Gang of Four will be studied and admired by musicians for decades to come