THE GO! TEAM at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), tonight (Thursday, November 1), 8 pm. $18.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
The Go! Team have learned a lot since forming seven years ago - like get clearance for samples before releasing a record.
One thing they knew from the get, ahem, go was not to boss around Chuck D. The venerable hiphop superstar lent his famous pipes to Flashlight Fight, a track from the band's new album, Proof Of Youth (Fusion).
But Ian Parton, the brains behind the six-piece, wouldn't dare tell the ex-Public Enemy member what to sing about.
"I wouldn't dream of saying, 'Write this,'" he says on the phone from Paloma, California, a few hours before hitting the stage. "In the end it was loosely about anti-bling and anti-modern hiphop, in a way."
Letting Chuck D do his thing was a no-brainer. Getting him on board took bit of work.
Months after e-mailing the rapper, The Go! Team (which also includes multi-instrumentalists Sam Dook and Kaori Tsuchida, drummer Chi "Ky" Fukami Taylor, bassist Jaime Bell and lead vocalist Ninja) received a call from his manager. "Who the fuck are you?" was the gist of the conversation.
Somehow Parton convinced D's people to listen to the track. "We had literally written it days before he replied, so it came together nicely. I could really imagine him on it. It has a tough sound."
And Chuck's response?
"He said we had spirit," says Parton, who has yet to meet the rap legend.
If spirit is all it takes to wow Chuck D, then the rest of us should be nuts over the group's new disc. Like their last record, Proof Of Youth is layered with samples - this time from old funk songs, bits of documentary dialogue and other found sounds.
After their debut disc had its U.S. release delayed while the legalities around all the lifted parts were sorted out, Parton made sure this time to clear all the samples before sending discs to stores.
Parton avoided some legal headaches by using his polished band a lot more on this record. There's a strong emphasis on live instrumentation, and Ninja trades in some of her raps for a bevy of infectious melodies.
Moving to a more organic sound, however, was easier said than done. "It's easy to rap over anything," says Parton. "Finding the melody and the right vocal performance and the right voice for a song is pretty tricky.
"I've always been obsessed with melody and trying to find out what catchiness is," he adds. "Songs should stick in your head somewhere."
With original vocal lines and instrumentation and a fresh batch of samples, Parton was sure that his new album sounded different from his last one, but so far critics and fans think otherwise. And that's surprised and frustrated the band.
"I didn't imagine people would say it was so similar to the other record," he says. "I can't really see that. The actual detail of it is quite a lot different. In the UK we're fucking drowning in these horseshit indie bands that sound the same, and in that climate, for people to draw on the fact that it was a bit like the first record was slightly annoying.
"But if you just hear trumpets and distorted drums, then, yeah, it is the same."
Chuck D might have lent his top-notch rhymes to The Go! Team's new disc, but he wasn't the only music legend on Ian Parton's wish list. Kevin Shields, My Bloody Valentine's guitarist, was pegged to play on Proof Of Youth, but it never happened. Why? "He hasn't got a mobile," says Parton. "I kept calling his home, and he never picked the phone up. Maybe he was feeding his chinchillas or something."