HigherFrequency's Megan Mann chats with one of the original dance music heroes, A Guy Called Gerald. One of the founders of 808 state during the acid house boom of the late 80's he composed what was to become one of dance music's seminal tracks, the acid classic 'Voodoo Ray'. Leaving the group to go solo he continued to develop his sounds dipping into drum and bass where he found success with the hit track, '28 Gun Bad Boy'. Now releasing material on the popular German label K7 Gerald's contribution to electronic music continues later this year with the release of a new studio album.
> interview : megan mann
HigherFrequency : So you're back in London now, how's London been going for you?
Gerald : I've actually seen London in a different light over the last year as I was living in New York for the five years before that. It seems a lot more easy-going than it used to. I suppose everywhere changes but it seems different.
HRFQ : What about music? What have you been up to recently?
Gerald : Working on loads of music non-stop.
HRFQ : Your own stuff or collaborations?
Gerald : My own stuff. I don't think I want to work on other people's music so much anymore. I did do some tracks recently with Finley Quaye and Ursula Rucker, some vocals. But apart from that I'm not trying to encourage myself to work with other people. There's too much to do on my own really. Once I understand what I can do on my own properly within the new way I'm working which is just basically in the computer and not using any external device then I can start working with different people. But up until I'm really comfortable with it I think the best way to do it is solo because the way I'm working at the moment is a pretty slow process. There's a lot of practice going into what I'm doing at the moment.
HRFQ : So what's the plans for 2004? I hear you've got an album you're working on for K7?
Gerald : Yes, that's been in the works, the LP. It's going to be ready when it's ready. I'm going to be putting out some older material on my own label, Sugoi and I'll be doing that to introduce the label and then releasing my own new material as well.
HRFQ : What sort of sound are you into at the moment? What's the concept?
Gerald : I'm trying hard not to think about concept because a concept is something that means you are bracketed into that concept and you can't move out of it. So creatively you've got to stick with whatever the concept is. At the moment musically I'm not working fast enough to create concepts.
HRFQ : So you don't think of any particular sound when you're starting out to make a track, it's just a feeling?
Gerald : It's actually just getting to grips with the machinery and then thinking of a melody and then doing it there and then. Or thinking of a rhythm and then working around that.
HRFQ : Have you been doing any interesting gigs recently or been to any parties you've been impressed by?
Gerald : It's hard to say really. I think most parties end up being the same type thing. Usually if I got to a party and I'm not playing there I'm really impressed if I can get past the bouncer at the door to tell you the truth.
HRFQ : In London?
Gerald : Anywhere really.
HRFQ : So what do you think about the dance music market in Europe at the moment?
Gerald : I think it's been killed through the media. I think major records labels who I think control the mass media, not all media, not the independent media but independent media usually feed off the mass media. Live music has been affected by Djs and people making the music and selling it. Their music became more popular than people doing live music, like bands. Record labels have obviously put a lot of investment into a lot of live stuff so they want to bring that into the forefront so all of a sudden rock is really popular. But to me it seems like that it's in the media. Maybe it's just the people I hang around. They haven't changed and all of a sudden decided to go out and buy a leather jacket with studs.
HRFQ : What about younger people who are starting out buying music?
Gerald : I think that kids who are into computers I think some of them are interested in making their own music. You can actually make music on Playstation. I think they are into doing their own thing that way. I would love to encourage them doing that. I don't know. It could be just me thinking that. I have an issue with all controlling people with money. I think that major record labels or corporations like that definitely have a lot of control. Recently a lot of them have been bought out by real corporates, with nothing to do with any kind of art form. Business management has looked at what's an asset and what isn't and what to cut and how to manipulate to create revenue in certain areas. To concentrate on the region you're in and not anywhere else. And then you've got to eliminate anything that's around you that's tapping into your buying public. This would be independents or any kind of artist that isn't part of their system. One way to do this is through the media. I've seen that with the club scene. A lot of people say it's been killed by the media. I can see it.
HRFQ : You don't think it's had a natural cycle of peak in popularity and then it's waned?
Gerald : Not really no. The club scene has always been separate from the mainstream.
HRFQ : But in the 90's it didn't seem separate it became popular in the mainstream.
Gerald : That's where the danger was. Beacause it was people like the Paul Oakenfolds basically digging up stuff from what we like to call the underground (for want of a better word) which is a really comfortable place for getting on with the music you want to do without the music being classed and categorized by mainstream media.
For a lot of people that was interesting because they could actually get more of external response from their music. But after a while it got to a stage wherec.you started getting people who one minute they were into Led Zeppelin and the next minute they're into drum n bass and house or trance or whatever and then all these other sub-genres were been born and before you know it the whole thing is adulterated. I think what's happened is likec. It's almost as if it's been stripped of it's soul and they've left and they've gone back to covering themselves in petunia oil, growing their hair long and banging their heads against walls and pretending their playing guitars.
HRFQ : So what do you think is happening now?
Gerald : I think it's heading more into an underground thing again. I think if you're an artist it's time now to dig your little tunnel and get creative and carry on with the advancement of the music. Forget about the media, forget about your fashion models and whatever. You know what I mean? You've actually got your own portals now through the internet. You can create your own thing through it. You don't have to be external, you don't have to brown nose any record labels because they don't exist anymore.
HRFQ : What's your view on the Copy Control thing and MP3s?
Gerald : It's definitely something that had to happen. It's a medium you can really keep it closed off and say to people you've can't listen to this. I think at some point the same thing is going to happen to a lot of countries. They really politically hold a lot of stuff down at the moment. The way every move you make is being taxed. Maybe 2,000 years ago people have been saying the same thing, you know, you get the story of Jesus knocking over the table of tax money in the churches. You can't hold something down forever. If you are a creative artist these should be really exciting times if have a portal through a website. As soon as you get an idea you can put it out there and if you're getting responses back from it then that should be payment enough. You have to then find ways of building a fan base and going and performing live. There's a million and one ways now that have opened up since the downfall of major record companies.
At the moment major record labels are all like fur coats and no knickers. Trying to hold it together with Boy Bands and holding talent contests, Pop Idol. All that is a shell - it can't last forever. At the moment you've got kids in their teens making music on Playstation, when they are older they are not going to fall for that. The artist never got anything in the first place anyway, the artist always got ripped off by the major record label. It's even as low as the record labels saying that it's the poor artist that suffers. That's like Bush going into Afghanistan with a begging cup begging cup saying look at these poor people please give me money so I can help them out and then goes and buys missiles with it.
I've been seeing some backlash about it lately saying that the artist are treated really well by the record labels and if it wasn't for the labels they wouldn't be able to live how they do. But at the end of the day, the labels tap into a resource and then strained them, drained them dry and spit them out again. There's an actual process of bringing them in, building them up with the media that you've bought and then spitting them out the other end meanwhile at the same time you're bringing in another one. And that's how they earn their money.
HRFQ : So what's your impression about the recent revival of "Acid House-ish" sounds?
Gerald : I don't know. There's always trends isn't there? I think it's a media driven thing. You know "This is hip this week". I don't know if you've ever seen the movie The Wiz, it was like the afro version of The Wizard Of Oz? There's a scene where there was the top guy who was in the middle, a disco scene and there was this parody of how trends change and who says what's in. It was made when rap had become popular and they were making the point with the scene being in the disco. "Today the color is Gold, everyone should be wearing is gold", then he says "No, it's green" and everyone had to change. I think what that creates is confusion and everyone has to move along the same channel.
HRFQ : But don't you think some people might be just rediscovering those sounds and actually just interested in them, not so much on a trend?
Gerald : No, they're on a trend. The music has always been there. It's like listening to the Electro scene now and seeing the people that are into that.
HRFQ : You don't see that as a reinterpretation of Electro music? Influenced by Electro?
Gerald : No, because that's a trend. If they were calling it "New Romantic", then yes. New Romantic was nothing to do with Electro, Electro was music that was produced by Afrika Bambataa and Arthur Baker and people like that. The people that I see that are into Electro now are like the students who were into New Romantic stuff. New Romantic was round about the same time we were listening to Electro. Electro was ghetto music, it was a dirty word, it wasn't anything credible or trendy, it was underground. You wouldn't be able to go into the city center of Manchester and listen to Electro apart from one club. You had to really search it out to find it. What they are calling Electro now is like what was then like an indie sound - it was more New Romantic, Gary Numan and things like that.
HRFQ : So what is your impression of Japanese crowds?
Gerald : They're very responsive. It reminds me of Germany in the way where you can tell people are really listen to what's being played. At one place I found they were expecting drum and bass but I was doing a show with a live drummer and I wanted to do something different. A couple of people were angry I didn't play a typical drum n bass gig. But that happens everywhere doesn't it? It's really easy for people to go somewhere and get something they expect, switch it on and it off. In a way I felt like I'd let them down because I didn't do what they would have wanted but in another way I needed to move on really. I don't mind doing that type of music but for me it's like electronic dance music is a whole rainbow of different rainbows of emotions and colors. If I'm pissed off, it comes out as drum n bass. If I'm really happy and at ease it will come out more of an atmospheric, ambient thing and all colors in between of emotions and sounds. And that's just me personally.
HRFQ : So what are your some artists you respect?
Gerald : I like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, it depends, different tracks I like. I like "It Is What It Is" by Derrick May, 'The Woods' from Chick Corea.
HRFQ : What is the most impressive incident through his long career?
Gerald : For myself personally being able to have a broad overview of the whole dance music scene is the most impressive thing.
HRFQ : What's the worst experience you've had djing?
Gerald : When I was in Hong Kong has got to be the most nightmare-ish thing. Having the needle wobbling loose and you can see it and you're trying to get the next record ready on the other table. The record started jumping all over the place and I just had to throw the next tune on.
HRFQ : Anything else you'd like to say ?
Gerald : Keep locked into electronic music. I think it's going underground to come up with a whole new level of creativity, not just the music but visually as well. All mediums are becoming more interactive, becoming one. Artists of the future are going to have to be almost like multi-dimensional. They can't just concentrate on the sound or visual side. Become wizards and witches and scientistsc
End of the interview