For all the reasons people lament the passing of LPs and CDs as the formats for musical releases, there are some, like Sam Pace, who embrace new digital methods of distribution. Not because Pace is a technophile, but because with his band Gangwish, he puts together releases like Contemporaneous Soundtracks — the band's latest, which clocks in at nearly an hour and a half.
"I would've loved if somebody offered to put out a triple-vinyl," Pace says. "But I didn't want to break things up, or cut songs."
So Pace decided to release Soundtracks on an artistically packaged USB flash drive meant to resemble an old Silly Putty package — giving those who like a little artifact with their album something to hold onto, but freeing himself from the restrictions (and cost) of more traditional media.
Freeing himself is a lot of what Gangwish has been about for Pace. The group started out as a solo project while Pace was playing in the duo Italian Ice with fellow drummer Paul Quattrone in the late '00s. In that band, the two played full drum kits and synth triggers; when Quattrone would go out on the road with Modey Lemon or !!!, Pace would play as Gangwish. Eventually he took on bandmates, and he's had plenty, but this project is primarily his.
Part of what makes Gangwish unconventional is the fact that Pace is trained as a drummer, but not on other instruments. "I can fake it pretty easily on other instruments, because I have rhythm and a sense of pitch," he says. "I'll write on keyboards, I have an organ at home."
On Contemporaneous Soundtracks, Pace played with Caulen Kress (his former Centipede Eest bandmate), Lindsey Williams, Dean Cercone and Taichi Nakatani. Nakatani, who played the taishogoto (a Japanese stringed instrument with keys akin to those from a typewriter), has since moved to Japan; Keith DeVries now often plays with Gangwish live.
Gangwish has come a long way since its early inception as a drums-and-synths solo project, though Pace still employs those pieces. Soundtracks mixes extended improv pieces with pre-written songs, though really the space between the two isn't always that great. The second track, "Messengers Are Passengers," is positively single-worthy, despite ostensibly being an 11-minute song. (Really, some of the tracks have a central song surrounded by several minutes of noise and improv.) Williams and Cercone supply most of the prominent vocal parts on the record. All around, the vocals are generally awash with effects, bringing to mind an aquarium acid trip. Pace says the songs came about in an effort to write music to accompany John Carpenter's 1983 movie Christine, based on the Stephen King novel.
But regardless of how lush the instrumentation and how many voices come through, Gangwish music comes straight from the mind of Sam Pace.
"No matter who's in it, it's my project," he says with a laugh. "I explain that openly when anyone plays with us. I'm totally open to people's opinions, but the songs start with me. Everything goes off of pedals and triggers."