By Nicholas Jason Lopez
In the most seemingly unlikely of collaborations, members of Daft Punk and Oingo Boingo have created a new album together.
Partially inspired by Brian DePalma’s 1974 classic “Phantom Of The Paradise” and Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good And Evil,” psychedelic rock act The Gama Sennin presented their latest self-titled album in three movements.
The California-based all-star group includes frontman Kevin McGuire, bassist John Avila (Oingo Boingo), drummer Adam Maples (Earthlings?, Sea Hags), guitarist Dimitri Coats (OFF!, Burning Brides), keyboardist Chris Caswell (Daft Punk, The Muppets), percussionist Art Pacheco (The Calling) and a very special guest, Dave Catching (Rancho de la Luna, Earthlings?, Queens Of The Stone Age).
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk to McGuire about the new album – which was co-produced by GRAMMY-winning engineer/producer Peter Franco (Daft Punk) and mixed by GRAMMY-winning engineer Dan Lerner (Daft Punk) – and more.
Music Bugle – How would you compare The Gama Sennin to your respective projects?
Kevin McGuire – We didn’t have any rules. We had a blank canvas, an idea of a vision and a start date. We didn’t rush the record. We let it naturally grow between sessions. It wasn’t a followup record for anyone involved and we recorded in some pretty amazing locations, so it was like a vacation most days. Peter Franco – the co – producer – had been working with Daft Punk for years on the RAM record. Those guys can host a pop-up shop on Melrose, generate three million dollars in a weekend and then do music for “Tron.” I didn’t have that, so there was a give-and-take when it came to studio time and resources. Our studio time together really had to matter. Peter’s approach to making the record was much different than any of the other producers I had worked with. I had always had a run-and-gun style to recording, track live and then that’s what we are putting out. I had recorded a project at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini in the early 00’s. We tracked and mixed six songs in three days to tape! When I had recorded with Dave Jerden, we did a song at a time for a few days each song. On this record, we’d have a session and then let it sit, figure out what the next element it needed.
Music Bugle – What were your goals for the new album?
Kevin McGuire – There was only ever one goal for the record – put the music on vinyl, remove it from its sleeve, throw it on a turntable and press “play” while smoking a joint. Simple and attainable, everything else was either a bonus or a lesson. I made a record to better my mental health, which it did. People are going to like it or hate it. Oh, fucking well. That’s life. Sure, it would be nice to sell a billion copies, change the world, let the audience sing all the songs for me and blah blah blah. That is all ego based non-sense. I was looking for a different lifestyle. Making this record was a doorway to that life. We are going to play some shows soon, sell some records and do band stuff. Mostly, I just want to have some fun.
Music Bugle – Which of your new songs were the hardest to put together?
Kevin McGuire – “Premonitions” was a pain in the ass. It changed names three or four times, we changed the arrangement, we added and subtracted backing vocals and the lyrics and melodies were hashed out over and over again. The guitars took a moment or two longer to get right. For one reason or another, it was just an uphill climb, but at the end of the sessions, we still walked away with a great track.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Kevin McGuire – That it is mine. I’m sure we sound like my influences. Every artist does. I did not set out to reinvent the wheel. I just did what I wanted to do. It was natural and at some point, it’s going to sound great in a sweaty club.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Kevin McGuire – I have a garden now with a few different kinds of bird feeders. I honestly do a lot of listening to the birds. When I’m not doing that, I’ve enjoyed the new Viagra Boys, Royal Blood and The Bronx. I really love listening to 70’s African psychedelic bands like Amanaz and Witch. I listen to a lot of vinyl, old blues/jazz records, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Smith, Bitches Brew, soundtrack records from Vangelis and old Disney records.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Kevin McGuire – Social media is a double-edged sword. I think it can really help you if you have a plan, understand what its limitations are and not take yourself too seriously. It has been a great way for me to connect with the vinyl collector’s community, talk directly to fans and meet record store owners from all over the world. I’ve met some pretty great people through Instagram. The messages I get from people discovering the record has brought many smiles to my face in this Covid world. It can also be very divisive if you go into the wrong rabbit holes. You can get caught up in the static. Endless scrolling and liking isn’t great for mental health and people like to be mad! Anger and misunderstanding thrive on social media platforms, especially after the last six years. I do my best to choose the more positive sides of social media. I like to remind myself that a bunch of puppies struggling to go down a flight of stairs will always get more likes than a record and that I should be practicing, not scrolling.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Kevin McGuire – 2020 was a rat fuck of a year, but it is 2021. Every day is an opportunity to evolve and move forward. I don’t take anything for granted anymore and I do my best to make consciously healthy decisions. At the end of the day, I’ve had it better than a lot of people, no matter what my personal problems have been.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Kevin McGuire – I’ve been working on my garden now for almost a solid year. I tend to my kale plants I’ve been growing from seed. Getting my hands back in the dirt has been really great for my soul.
Music Bugle – What’s some advice that you would give younger musicians just starting out?
Kevin McGuire – Find joy in the details of the process. Be ready for anything. Listen to Brian Eno.
Music Bugle – What do you hope for from the rest of 2021?
Kevin McGuire – Get back into a room with the guys and move forward. It would be great to have a show when things open up for us here in California. I’m running out of things to talk about on social media. Bands are meant for stages and record players.