Feeling the burden to not only turn out another record but to make it more commercially appealing than the last is never the best place for a group to start from. Yet this was precisely how Gentle Giant felt for most of their 10-year existence. Lacking the luxury of being able to take stock in order to have material and ideas evolve naturally, in this instance, they created a concept album about a subject and situation they knew a lot about, namely themselves.
That gruelling rinse-repeat cycle of touring, promotion and recording probably accounts for the expressions of ambivalence made in the past by band members regarding Interview (or In’terview), Gentle Giant’s eighth studio album. However, several decades on, what really comes across is the truly radical nature of their music’s construction and the extent to which they were prepared to push to the extremes of their range and abilities.
Steven Wilson once opined that the music of King Crimson’s Lizard was almost too big to be contained within the confines of stereo, a judgement that certainly applies to Gentle Giant throughout their career. Interview’s dazzling remixes in stereo, 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos feel remarkably fresh and dynamic. The complexity of the music coupled with the painstaking sound design of its original 1976 production gave Wilson a lot to work with.
A sound that can be abruptly astringent in one bar and delicately euphonious in the very next provides as many challenges as it does opportunities. Happily, Wilson succeeds in ensuring that while all the individual instrumental components are given a new sense of space and clarity, their integrity and unity are not weakened or undermined by any inappropriate spatial gimmickry.
Willfully widescreen in its ambition, Design, a piece that keyboardist Kerry Minnear was still busy finishing the writing for in one part of the studio as the others were overdubbing parts in another, contains an otherworldly hymnal chorus, percussive interludes and hocketing vocals. It typifies that ambitious and sometimes arduous approach in which they excelled. Empty City, Timing and I Lost My Head, variously replete with terse violin, swirling saxes, paint-stripping guitar, baroque diversions and bruising rock blowouts, demonstrate a determination to avoid easy options.
As well as the 2023 remixes, this package comes with the original 1976 stereo mix, 1976 quad mix, instrumental mixes and custom visuals for each track on the CD/Blu-ray version. Forty-seven years after they’d finished it, Interview remains an object lesson in risk-taking, as restless as it is inventive.