GEN F: Gold Panda

Photographer Ilan Godfrey
October 25, 2010

Before Gold Panda wrote glossy electronic music full-time, he bopped crackhead kleptos trying to lift sex toys from the adult shop in London where he worked. “No one else would employ me, really,” he says. “I walked past this sex shop one time and was like, why not? Everyone likes sex.” He got the job the same day he applied, and, despite having a degree in Asian studies and being fluent in Japanese, he sold dildos from nine to five to free up his nights for music. Early last year, though, he was liberated from seedy retail when Wichita Records, who’d heard his work on MySpace, tapped him to do a Bloc Party remix, setting off a slew of breathtaking left-field singles, remixes and EPs. “I could have been there for years,” he says. “I don’t know what I’d be doing otherwise. Probably just sitting at home.”

He isn’t joking. Gold Panda is very, very comfortable doing nothing. Born in a rough part of South London and brought up in the Essex countryside, he’s got an aversion to any type of job, stress, authority and both seeing and playing live music, which he admits is probably not the greatest temperament for a man presently gigging on the European festival circuit. He says he wants to apologize after each live show for not being a full band. Moments before our interview, he was placidly watching Critters 3, the final installment of the box set he recently purchased on DVD for “like a fiver.” Leonardo DiCaprio stars. “It’s terrible,” he says.

Despite his flatlined disposition, Gold Panda’s music sounds like a live stream from some gorgeous, enchanted technocratic forest. The songs on Lucky Shiner, his debut full-length for Ghostly International, feel like little vignettes laced with woodpecker percussion, dewy harmonium synths pooling. Its clatter is the exact antithesis to how he describes his day-to-day, yet the ongoing combustion very explicitly illustrates his internal narrative. “I’m just trying to put across a soundtrack of how I feel in time,” he says. “Capture the emotion.” Though the music is instrumental, the titles hint at the real life impetus for each song. “I’m With You But I’m Lonely” refers to a girl he dated for a decade before drifting apart; “After We Talked” to a conversation with a friend who encouraged him to get serious with his music, just before the friend died. But even disappointment and loss are muted through Gold Panda’s grey outlook. “My friend really enjoyed life as much as possible,” he says. “And I was always like, I hate living, it’s so rubbish. And then he died. I was like, This is crap, he’s dead and he loved living.” So he goes on writing songs, letting his sampler create the texture he thinks his life lacks.

Stream: Gold Panda, Lucky Shiner

GEN F: Gold Panda