Whatever Happened To: Godspeed You! Black Emperor

I’m sure many have heard of Godspeed You! Black Emperor before, but only a handful have actually taken the time to sit down and experience them. Some know of them from the opening sequence in 28 Days Later or from the quick yet quite comical reference to the band in Pineapple Express. But for many post-rock connoisseurs, “GY!BE” is one band who defined a genre and maybe even, for some, a lifetime. They are a very influential and eclectic bunch, but the band announced a hiatus in 2003 and no news on future endeavors has surfaced since. Being 2010, seven years later, the Godspeed enthusiasts are beginning to worry.

First formed in 1994 by Efrim Menuck, Mike Moya and Mauro Pezzente; the band’s name was inspired by a Japanese film, directed by Mitsuo Yanagimachi, of the same name. Plagued by frequent lineup changes, the ensemble only released four full-lengths since creation. On tour and in studio the group has had as many as 20 different musicians all helping to define the collective conscious, while many of the members even have two to five different side projects to look after. Menuck helped to form Thee Silver Mt. Zion and Moya, who is no longer with Godspeed, has performed with Set Fire To Flames and fronts his new band, HRSTA. If the constant stream of side projects is any indication, Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a “if the time is right” sort of band. Emotion, time, and life experiences obviously play a huge role in determining when it’s right for new material but maybe moments relating the musicians back to GY!BE don’t exist anymore. Maybe the right time has passed them by.

In the early 2000’s, shortly before the band decided to take a hiatus, Godspeed You! Black Emperor came under vicious attack by media and law enforcement, alike. During an interview with OOR, many of Menuck’s ideals and political beliefs were taken out of context and used to give the band and its members a bad name. A few of the members became known as anarchists because of journalists like the one above. Later in 2003, during a tour in the United States, the group came under FBI investigation because of terrorist reports at a gas station in Ardmore, Oklahoma. The law enforcement found “anti-government” documents and “suspicious” photos, but the ensemble was free to leave after all of the background checks came back negative. Moments like these, though, effect a collective negatively.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor is like an art installation.It requires a lot of internal and external inspiration.So sure, politics fuel the artistic fire, but how could they not in the time we are living in?Obviously other emotions and ideas play big roles in defining the music, but the topics that inspire the musicians the most are the ones most prominent in the final product.Freedom to express oneself is a major factor when trying to present and represent art being produced.The somber yet beautiful paranoia illuminated in GY!BE’s workhelps to present a feeling induced by the major events in our world.Nothing is being resolved, it is all giving way to chaos and I feel Godspeed was there to accompany us through it all.

Now, because of the people in power, I feel GY!BE, and persons behind the band, have lost all faith… or maybe not faith, but the inspiration to continue the one project that helped fully realize all of their hopes and insecurities. When people begin to attack true emotion, a will to continue the representation ceases to exist and a hiatus is considered. Maybe that is why the members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor have all moved on to other things. Maybe Godspeed doesn’t fully satisfy the anger towards it all anymore.

Whatever the case may be, with Efrim Menuck and other members of GY!BE working on Thee Silver Mt. Zion, with a new record out and a U.S. tour in May, the possibilities of seeing a Godspeed You! Black Emperor reunion anytime soon are slim to none.


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