Godspeed You! Black Emperor awakened into the gathering storm of canyons of static to allow lights and perfections to penetrate secret windows with unspoken words. The group was formed in 1994 in Montreal, Quebec when another local band (Steak 72) needed an opening act. Efrim Menuck, Mike Moya, and Mauro Pezzente took up the challenge and, after a few gigs, recorded a limited edition cassette. It was at this point that they began to let various local musicians take part in the project and their ranks swelled as new members came and went. They released their first album F♯ A♯ ∞ in 1997 on local independent Constellation Records. The band coalesced into a nontet at this point as founding member Moya left to form HṚṢṬA. He would be replaced by Roger Tellier-Craig.
Their second album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven! continued to develop their medium of narrative sonic collage through field recordings, ensemble pieces, and tape manipulations to produce stirring emotional aural landscapes. The album features Mauro Pezzente and Thierry Amar on bass guitar; David Bryant on electric guitar; Bruce Cawdron and Aidan Girt on drums; Norsola Johnson on cello; Efrim Menuck and Roger Tellier-Craig on guitar; and Sophie Trudeau on violin; with Alfons and Brian adding horns. Production was done by Daryl Smith and mastering by John Golden at Chemical Sound Studios in Toronto, Ontario.
"I think the glory days are over. When we first started out, we pretty much knew everyone in the room. We knew why we were there and why they were there - you could talk to them afterwards and they told you why. Now we play in front of 700 people - they leave, you don't talk to anyone. It's more and more fucking alienating every time we come over here and it's less satisfying on a certain level. Not musically: obviously we would have stopped doing it if we weren't interested in doing the music we do, but on the level of having communication with the people you're playing to - this presence in front of you that doesn't respond other then 'Wooh!'"
"I think that in the last three years there's been three or four different groups of people making spaces for people to play what they want to play, I think that plays some part in it you end up with a real supportive, small... uh, that's a cliche,..What l'm trying to say is that there's a lot of stuff going on that got people listening to what everyone else was doing... it's about as difficult to get gigs in Montreal as it is in a lot of medium to large size cities in North America and Europe . There's a few shitty rock clubs - not as many as other large cities, but at the same time rent is cheap - it's cheap to live there. There's a drifting population of people who only stick around for two or three years and a lot of people who are there to try to involve themselves in building something, so you end up with a lot of people willing to put energy into putting on smaller shows in smaller spaces that aren't rock clubs."
"The fact that there's a lot of disused industrial space helps too. A lot of lofts you can rent for pretty cheap people can rent a loft and live there and have parties and have their friends' bands play there."
"As more people got involved in Godspeed, it became a bit more interesting. We're at a hard point in trying to figure out what we're doing next because we don't want to be one-trick ponies, and I think that the moment you start questioning what you're going to do next, things get confusing. We're certainly at a confusing place right now. At the beginning it was more conscious... in terms of it being a collective, of being kind of loose, of writing long pieces. In terms of having this sort of instrumentation, in terms of not having a singer, in terms of using tape loops, in terms of backing films - in terms of utilising a certain visual aesthetic there was consciousness there, but I think what's good about Godspeed doesn't have very much to do with any of those elements... everyone in this band has done a good job of working within it. Before Godspeed a lot of us had been interested in hardcore... well, that weird period between hardcore and what's now called indie rock... that period of five years where those two things met. I don't know what you would call that, but there was tons of shit going on all the time."
"The thing is, the more we go along, the more we compromise. I think we just completely change the rules as this shit keeps getting bigger."
"It's all part of the way this system works, There are things that are nice about it - I got to go to the dentist for the first time in ten years. I got to buy a new pair of shoes, I can pay off some of my student loan...The next thing is to stop fighting so much,"
"It's like screaming through traffic, like there's someone across the street and all these cars going by and all you're trying to scream is 'What the fuck?' There are nine people in this band, so if you end up with seven of them in a room everything gets reduced. No one can say anything because there's a lot of difference of opinion here and between ourselves we're too chicken-shit to hammer out that shit - right? Maybe that would be valuable - to hammer out that shit between ourselves and let someone document that - maybe that would make sense... here you're just scratching the surface."
"We've yet to elect our minister of culture. What should come out of this is that we're a bunch of... uh... just trying our best..."
"I think believing that the creation of art alone is going to lead to any sort of solution is a conceit, yes. Placing that as some kind of resistance in the year 2000 in the Western world is a conceit, yes."
What sort of alternative information are we offering? Well, we can't talk about actual issues, no one agrees on anything. We can't perform that task... we couldn't. That's part of the problem, you see?"
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven!
1.1 / Side 1: Storm
3. "'Welcome to Barco AM/PM...' [ L.A.X.; 5/14/00]" 1:15
Total length: 22:32
1.2 / Side 2: Static
2. "Atomic Clock" 1:09
3. "Chart #3" 2:39
5. "[...+The Buildings They Are Sleeping Now]" 5:25
Total length: 22:35
2.1 / Side 3: Sleep
1. "Murray Ostril: '...They Don't Sleep Anymore on the Beach...'" 1:10
Total length: 23:17
2.2 / Side 4: Antennas to Heaven
1. "Moya Sings 'Baby-O'..." 1:00
2. "Edgyswingsetacid" 0:58
3. "[Glockenspiel Duet Recorded on a Campsite In Rhinebeck, N.Y.]" 0:47
4. "'Attention...Mon Ami...Fa-Lala-Lala-La-La...' [55-St. Laurent]" 1:18
7. "[Antennas to Heaven...]" 2:02
Total length: 18:57
The band took its name from a 1976 Japanese black-and-white documentary called God Speed You! Black Emperor by Mitsuo Yanagimachi, about a Japanese biker gang, the Black Emperors.