Mercury Prize nominees GoGo Penguin come to Turner Sims

Gogo Penguin. Picture by Peter Hearn
Gogo Penguin. Picture by Peter Hearn
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When the annual list of nominees for The Mercury Prize are announced there’s always cries of tokenism in representing the less mainstream genres.

Last year it was the turn of Manchester trio GoGo Penguin to occupy the slot of ‘token jazz band’ with their second album, V2.0.

But to write them off on the grounds of not liking jazz would be to miss out.

With their basic set-up of piano, bass and drums, they draw on classical, jazz and electronica to create music unlike anything else out there. Pianist Chris Illingworth recalls the Mercury nomination: ‘It’s boosted our profile, which is great, but the best thing is that it’s gotten our music out to people who wouldn’t have otherwise heard us.

‘We don’t really worry about what name is put to our music, but when people put the jazz label to it, the worry is – and it’s the same with any genre – that people who don’t like that genre won’t listen to it, so it’s been great showing what we do.

‘Fair enough, there are elements of jazz to it, but there’s a lot of other things in there too.’

We are trying to push what we are capable of as musicians.

Chris Illingworth, GoGo Penguin’s pianist

With Chris coming from a classical background, he explains their sound: ‘We listen to so much, we’re all from different backgrounds in terms of what we studied.’

Bassist Nick Blacka’s from a jazz background, but also loves hip-hop, while drummer Rob Turner has done everything from orchestral to jazz and rock.

‘The one that we seem to share the most influence from is electronica,’ Chris adds. ‘It’s the most interesting and varied field at the moment – so many artists can come under that moniker, but it’s so diverse.

‘There are people doing really impressive and interesting things, which has been a big influence.’

At the end of their track One Percent it sounds like a CD skipping. Amazingly, like every other sound on their albums, and live, this is created by the band themselves

‘A long time ago I had a DJ Krush CD that skipped like that, so we joked about trying to recreate that. It took absolutely ages to do because it went through so many versions.

‘We wanted to make sure it sounded cool, and not just like a technical exercise.

‘What we are trying to do is push what we are capable of as musicians. We wanted to take this idea that if you can hear a sound, then how can you recreate that with your instruments, and we want to push that as far as possible.’

They play at Turner Sims in Southampton tomorrow. Doors 8pm, Tickets £18. Go to