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Godspeed Still on Hiatus, Not Completely Broken Up
"If and when we do call it quits permanently, it won't be because of the Iraq war."

Photo: Eva Vermandel

Godspeed You! Black Emperor-- now there's a great band we haven't heard from in awhile. The Canadian collective has been on "indefinite hiatus" for the past five-or-so years. Members of the band have kept busy with various musical projects since then, the most high-profile being Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La-Band, which features Godspeed members Efrim Menuck, Thierry Amar, and Sophie Trudeau.

Over the weekend, GY!BE popped back up on our radar, thanks to a Drowned in Sound interview with Menuck. The interview was in support of the excellent new Silver Mt. Zion album, 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons, which comes out March 25 on Constellation. (The band will tour this spring; see below for dates.)

In the interview, Menuck commented on the political and personal factors that lead to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's hiatus, including frustrations brought on by the war in Iraq. Drowned in Sound titled their story "Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Iraq war made it impossible to continue". Word spread quickly across the internet that the band had finally, officially, called it quits, and the Iraq war was the reason.

But the truth isn't that cut-and-dry.

Here's what Drowned in Sound quotes Menuck as saying (brackets theirs):

"The last American tour that Godspeed did was in the run up to the current war in Iraq. For what Godspeed did, it was very difficult for us to work out a way for us to communicate directly with the audience about what was going on. We would talk to people after the shows, or we could make announcements from the stage but so much what Godspeed was, was one-way communication. And I had an existential freak-out about that. That those tactics aren't valid anymore. People didn't need a rock band pointing in the direction of [how the world was at that point]. Maybe what they needed is some clumsy words, a presentation that was a little more human."

"On a personal level I now find [Godspeed You! Black Emperor] to be inappropriate [to do]. There's a complicated back story. I reached a point whereby I was no longer willing to contribute to the steering of the ship; it was like, 'Okay now, someone else point the direction, I love all of you, but I need to ride shotgun for a while'. I think that bands do have a short shelf life... they should be able to ply their trade 'til they no longer want to."

It's true-- it can be very difficult to stay in any band for any length of time, let alone one deeply committed to its political beliefs that was once suspected by police of being terrorists. But Menuck never actually came out and said that Godspeed You! Black Emperor are completely over.

When contacted by Pitchfork, Menuck gave the following statement via Silver Mt. Zion's publicist:

"The Drowned in Sound thing is a misquote, I'm in the middle of dealing with it now. It's true, Godspeed hasn't existed for years, we've been on permanent hiatus since 2002. If and when we do call it quits permanently, it won't be because of the Iraq war."

Well, that's good to know! I suppose we can continue to hold out hope for Godspeed's return, then. In the meantime, check out Silver Mt. Zion at these here concerts:

03-20 Montreal, Quebec - La Tulipe
05-16 Burlington, VT - First Unitarian Universalist Church
05-17 Cambridge, MA - Middle East
05-18 Northampton, MA - Pearl Street Nightclub
05-19 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall 0f Williamsburg
05-20 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom *
05-22 Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church *
05-23 Washington, DC - Black Cat *
05-24 Asheville, NC - Grey Eagle Tavern *
05-25 Atlanta, GA - Drunken Unicorn
05-26 Nashville, TN - Mercy Lounge
05-27 St Louis, MO - Bluebird
05-28 Des Moines, IA - Vaudeville Mews
05-29 Minneapolis, MN - Varsity Theater
05-30 Milwaukee, WI - Turner Hall
05-31 Chicago, IL - Logan Square Auditorium
06-02 Detroit, MI - Magic Stick
06-03 Columbus, OH - Skully's Music Diner
06-04 Cleveland Heights, OH - Grog Shop
06-05 Millvale, PA - Mr Small's Theatre
06-07 Toronto, Ontario - Lee's Palace
06-08 Toronto, Ontario - Lee's Palace

* with Vic Chesnutt

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