All systems go for the Go! Team
EMMA LEE There’s a chance to see why the Go! Team made the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize when they play the Waterfront, Norwich in February. Rapper Ninja tells Emma Lee about making pop videos, her rider demands and the band’s A-list fans.
“We were bouncing on trampolines, roller skating, cartwheeling, hula-hooping. It was just brilliant fun.” It sounds like feisty Go! Team rapper Ninja is reminiscing about her school days.
But you'd be wrong - she's actually talking about making pop videos.
“It's not really work at all,” she giggles.
Things really seem to be taking off for the band. I speak to Ninja the morning after they've played a charity gig for the radio station Xfm at Brixton Academy.
“Everything's going really well,” she says. “The venue was really big, it was a bit scary. A bit weird and echoey.”
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It's been quite a year for the band, which started out as main-man Ian P's hobby.
When he spliced his collection of music samples together, the result was one of 2004's most distinctive sounding albums, Thunder, Lightning, Strike.
Described as the aural equivalent of eating all your favourite sweets at and the missing link between the Jackson Five and indie godfathers Sonic Youth it is a delightful mish-mash of hip-hop samples, handclaps and cheerleader chants.
It caught the ear of the judging panel of the prestigious Mercury Music Prize and making the shortlist brought the album to a wider audience.
“You can't buy that kind of publicity,” she says. “It was a completely different, mad experience. We felt a bit out of place when everyone was sat there in their tuxedos. We were thinking 'how did we get here?'”
Ninja and the rest of the band were recruited by Brighton-based Ian to enable the tracks to be performed live. They will shortly start work on the follow up to Thunder, Lightning, Strike.
“I don't know how I joined the band. I'm just here,” she jokes.
“Actually I saw an advert on the internet looking for a female old-school hip hop rapper. I've been rapping for years - since I was 11 or 12. I loved poetry and was writing songs about people at school, songs about the boys, and all of a sudden I was rapping.
“About two weeks after answering the advert I had to play at a Swedish festival in front of 2000 people.”
Ninja has written her own raps for the songs and the band deliberately tries to sound different live to on record.
“It's great, I have a really good time on stage. The show is really energetic. It's not a choreographed performance. I don't have to worry about being perfect. When we played at Queen Mary University in Scotland it was the most noise I've ever heard. The audience was screaming and going mad. I couldn't hear myself,” she says.
On the band's recent US tour they attracted a few famous fans.
“Apparently David Bowie came to one show, but I didn't get to see him or talk to him. And [Friends actor] David Schwimmer came to our LA gig. That guy out of Lord of the Rings - what's his name?” Orlando Bloom? Elijah Wood?
“Elijah Wood, that's it. He came to one of our shows. I never know who any of these people are though,” she giggles. “I wouldn't recognise them.”
“In Chicago I think it was we had about 20 people on the stage, which was scary. We went to New York and Texas and we all really liked San Francisco.”
Does the band have any rider demands? Ninja obviously has something of a sweet tooth.
“I want Kinder bars,” she says. “Chocolate bars and cake.”
“We ask for things, but we usually just get cheese.”
After sharing airspace with A-listers does she feel famous herself?
“I don't feel like I'm famous - actually I really hope I don't get famous. I don't want to have to put on nice clothes to go to Tesco,” she laughs.
t The Go! Team play Norwich Waterfront on February 27. Tickets cost £12.50. Box office: 01603 508050 or www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk. A re-recorded version of the track Ladyflash, featuring a remix by Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, is due for release at the end of January. The album Thunder, Lightning, Strike is out now.