“Every part of it had to be radical. It was building musical tension in a precise way,” he told The New York Times in 2005. “It would be the juxtaposition of tight, fixed patterns that were very physically energizing and relentless, which would largely be supplied by the bass and drums, and the guitar, which would sometimes completely go along with that and sometimes not. If you took one of these elements out and made it ordinary, the whole thing would lose its authenticity.”
The band matched its caustic music to lyrics that confronted sociopolitical power structures as much as personal impulses. Its debut single, “Damaged Goods,” released in 1978, was an anti-romantic song about sex and consumerism; its debut album, “Entertainment!,” released the next year, included “At Home He’s a Tourist,” an anatomy of alienation, and “Not Great Men,” a ground-level theory of history. Onstage, Mr. King would often add to the band’s percussive attack by slamming pieces of scrap metal.
Gang of Four made an immediate impact in British and American punk circles. Its original lineup lasted for one more album, “Solid Gold,” and Mr. Gill and Mr. King went on to work with other musicians while Gang of Four’s music began adapting some pop elements. Its 1982 album, “Songs of the Free,” included “I Love a Man in a Uniform,” its closest approach to a pop hit, with backup choruses sung by the band’s bassist at the time, Sara Lee. In Britain, the song was banned from BBC playlists as the Falkland Islands war began.
Mr. Gill and Mr. King led Gang of Four on the 1983 album “Hard” before going their separate ways. Mr. Gill, who had shared production credits for Gang of Four, produced other acts, including Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1984, and released a solo EP, “Dispossession,” in 1987.
He and Mr. King regrouped to lead Gang of Four for two 1990s albums, “Mall” and “Shrinkwrapped,” before another hiatus, during which Mr. Gill returned to producing, including a 1997 EP by the Jesus Lizard, the Stranglers’ album “Written in Red” (1997), Michael Hutchence’s posthumously released 1999 solo album and the Futureheads’ debut album, released in 2004.
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