Andy Gill, co-founder, lead guitarist, and longest serving member of influential English post-punk band Gang Of Four, has died. Socially conscious, stripped-down, and endlessly energetic, Gang Of Four’s music did yeoman’s work in developing the punk sound of the late ’70s, transplanting ideas that Gill and co-founder Jon King absorbed while hanging out in New York’s legendary punk scene in the summer of 1976, rubbing elbows with Joey Ramone and members of Velvet Underground. Returning to the U.K., Gill and King decided to get serious; three years later, the band’s breakout debut Entertainment! would elevate them from a well-liked touring band into the higher echelons of late-’70s punk.
Born in Manchester in the 1950s, Gill met King while both were art students; the duo eventually recruited drummer Hugo Burnham (“Who happened to have a drum kit, and he had a transit van, which made him like gold dust,” Gill joked to us in an interview last year) and bassist Dave Allen, setting the line-up that would propel Gang Of Four into all of its initial heights. And while that membership would shift and alter over the ensuing five decades, Gill remained the lone constant in the band’s musical output. According to the band’s statement about his death today, he’d still been working on mixes for an upcoming album from his hospital bed this week.
Ranging from harshly discordant to surprisingly smooth, Gill’s guitar work on Entertainment!—and the band’s first big hit single, “Damaged Goods”—set GOF’s sound for years to come, even as it frequently flirted with softer and harder edges. Both sides are clearly audible in the legendary “Peel Sessions” from 1979, where a series of live radio performances brought Gang Of Four’s sound into homes across Britain. And while the band’s refusal to back away from political issues of the day would occasionally cause friction with the U.K. government—multiple songs were banned from BBC Radio for everything from anti-war critique to daring to mention “rubbers”—the band’s influence, and popularity, persisted through four studio albums at Warner Bros., plus numerous more on smaller labels in the years that followed.
In addition to his work with the band, Gill also cultivated a long and respected career as a producer; his work appears on albums from Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Jesus Lizard, and more. He is survived by his wife, journalist Catherine Mayer.
Gill was 64.