NEW YORK (Billboard) - It's been more than 15 years since the original lineup of groundbreaking British rock act Gang of Four has released new material, but the foursome has been busy since getting back together to rerecord old tracks for 2005's "Return the Gift."
The crew has been working on and off in guitarist Andy Gill's London studio to complete a set for self-release this year.
"When we first got back together a couple years ago, doing the 'reunion' part of touring and all that, we resisted making new material. We had the fear that we weren't ready, that it had been a too long a time for people to care," bassist Dave Allen told Billboard.com. "Then we realized we had a lot of fun together -- more than we thought we would."
Drummer Hugo Burnham is sitting out the sessions because of unnamed health issues. "Hugo's still involved in some ways, but it's a very personal issue that will be discussed at a later date," Allen said.
Writing began in November 2007 in Istanbul, and the group plans to reconvene on and off throughout the spring with an eye on a June album release.
"So far, (the new songs) aren't a huge departure from what we've done before," Allen said. "The biggest surprise is that we've been capable of getting back to our roots. A whole bunch that we've done sounds like 'Entertainment!'(from 1979). It's more aggressive, more angular. People might also be intrigued that (singer) Jon (King) is singing better than he ever did."
Gang of Four was as well known in the post-punk era for its funk-tinged sound as for its political lyrics. Allen said the new songs' lyrics will continue to take the "personal as politics" bent, though, as always, "we never print the issues out in black-and-white."
"I recently looked around the music landscape, and there's no one out there doing anything about issues," said Allen, who uses his Pampelmoose.com site to discuss music and post MP3s. "What I'm really getting at is that we have on our hands a global conflict."
He continued, "Rock music has lost its way. People used to be speaking out in the arts ... but in the last 15 years, all the artists have become pro-everything. Rock ceded our voice to underground hip-hop, speaking out about social issues and American hegemony, but now even that's gone."
Gang of Four is without a label deal at the moment, leaving open a variety of possibilities for the release of new music.
"We might be releasing the first single or four songs for free on the Internet, or on vinyl, or both, and just see what the marketplace is like," Allen said. "We're trying to energize the base, and we know that we're dealing with an enormous group of new and younger fans."