Published May 31, 2016UK producer Gold Panda's third full-length marks a move from his usual home of Ghostly International to Berlin-based label City Slang, but it's hardly the biggest move for the album; Good Luck and Do Your Best travelled across the Pacific Ocean.
"We were in Hiroshima for a day and when we got out of our cab, the driver said, 'Good luck and do your best' in English, so the phrase really stuck with me," Gold Panda tells Exclaim! of the album's origins. "I guess in Japanese it makes sense, it kind of translates to 'good luck' or 'have a good one.'"
Gold Panda always likes to start with an album title and then mould the record around it, and after his day trip to Hiroshima, Gold Panda had the title for this album and felt compelled to do it justice. While his earlier work had smatterings of Eastern elements — the koto on "Quitters Raga," the keys on "Junk City II" — this record is directly shaped by the trips to Japan that Gold Panda took in April and October 2014. Together with his photographer friend Laura Lewis, Gold Panda initially set out to make a sight and sound documentary, with Lewis capturing images, while he recorded segments of Japanese life.
For all intents and purposes they succeeded — Gold Panda got samples of trains and vending machines, and Lewis is set to release a book of photos later this year, also under the title GLADYB — but the main thing gained from the series of trips was the spoken catalyst for this latest album.
"I just thought ['Good luck and do your best'] was nice and positive, and I guess a lot of electronic music recently has been concerned with end-times and very cold, kind of harsh or modern sounds, and I thought it'd be good to do something positive, something motivational maybe."
It's true that the last couple of years have seen somewhat of a rougher sound being adopted in electronic music, and certainly in Berlin and the UK, where Gold Panda has ties to, so in a sense GLADYB is a bit of a risk.
"I think if you're doing positive music, there's a tendency to worry that it's shit," says Gold Panda. "There's [supposedly] something cool about being dark and depressing because a lot of the world is like that. I think being happy and motivated is somehow artistically frowned upon, in a way. So, it just gave me a sort of 'screw that' confidence to just be like 'No, it is cool to do stuff that you enjoy.' I mean, I'm probably the most negative person ever, so I think the music's positive aspects is basically me trying to be happy."
Whether or not the music actually succeeds in making Gold Panda happy or not remains to be seen, but one thing for certain is that this latest release is poised to eke a smile out of almost all who listen to it — the first notes of opener "Metal Bird" alone are enough to coax a grin, in fact. He might be adopting a 'Those who can't do, teach' attitude towards happiness here. Whatever the effects, Gold Panda can't seem to escape his hallmark style.
"This is actually my attempt at a pop record, or about as close as I can get to it anyway, but I just ended up making another Gold Panda record, which, in some ways, is disappointing to me," he says. "As much as I try to change what I do, I just end up falling into the same patterns. I also feel like I've created a specific sound with Gold Panda, that I don't deviate from it too much. I make a lot of music, but only a small amount gets released because that's what I feel suits the name. It's become its own entity, but that's kind of cool. I guess I do always get frustrated when people go 'Oh yeah, the album all sounds the same,' and I think, 'That's the point isn't it?' I wanted it to sound the same; I want themes to recur."
Now that he's made three full-lengths, Gold Panda wants to break free from his established sound.
"I feel like I've made a trilogy of music; three records that have a theme that you can trace throughout all of them, like a common style. Now, I've done three, I feel like I can really move on and do something completely different. I'll have these three records to see me through, even if no one likes the new stuff."
As to what this change of pace will entail, Gold Panda has no idea, but if it reflects his views of the future, then we can expect some gloom.
"I just feel like there's not enough positive things to warrant our existence any longer. I think we need to leave [this planet], because the only things we solve are problems we've created. There's nothing to be excited about, really. We should all perish soon, so the animals and plants can flourish and enjoy the planet without us ruining it."
Good Luck and Do Your Best is out now courtesy of City Slang. Watch the new video for "Chiba Nights" below.
UPDATE (5/31, 1:45 p.m.): Gold Panda has now revealed a North American tour, which will come to Canada a few times. You can see the dates below.
06/01 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom 06/02 Los Angeles - Echoplex
08/18 Vancouver, BC - Fortune Sound Club
08/19 Seattle, WA - Neumos
08/20 Portland, OR - Holocene
08/24 Santa Cruz, CA - The Catalyst Atrium
08/25 San Francisco, CA - The Independent
08/27 Los Angeles, CA - FYF
09/08 Cambridge, MA - The Sinclair
09/09 Washington, DC - U Street Music Hall
09/10 Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's
09/11 Montreal, QC - Theatre Fairmount
09/14 Toronto, ON - The Mod Club
09/15 Ann Arbor, MI - The Blind Pig
09/16 Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall
09/17 Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock Social Club
09/18 Madison WI - Majestic Theatre