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Where to even begin when interviewing someone like A Guy Called Gerald? With a career almost spanning from the beginning of dance music as we know it and still going strong to this day, he truly has seen and heard it all. We took the opportunity to quiz the machine master, dedicated to keeping dance music as ‘true school’ as possible and find out what he had to say to MEOKO. At a time when dance music is at such a peak it is a pleasure to speak to a true pioneer, who perhaps without his work, the scene would be missing some vital blueprints.

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As I’m sure lots of other interviews have started out, I’m going to talk about Voodoo Rays. Not the track though but the pizza place in Dalston! The first time I went to Dalston I saw it and immediately thought it belonged to you (later found out it didn’t!). Many DJs and producers do have other ventures though such as Seth Troxler and ‘Smokey Tails’ his food place. If you could have another business/hobby venture what would it be?

Don’t know… selling arms I suppose, that’s where the money is isn’t it? Haha. Can make loads of money in that. Sell arms and invest in gold!

Wise! Again, fresh in my London naivety, I’ve noticed a difference between northern and southern attitudes and reference points (in life generally not just dance music) Being a Manchester local are you happy to have been brought up and to have started your musical learning up north? Do you think it would have been different if you were in London? 

It’s a bigger place it’s more spread out, the scene down here is always really spread out whereas in Manchester it’s really compact and you knew what was going on even in scenes that I wasn’t really involved in. It was a really busy popular student area a the time and you could always get involved in everything you wanted to.

How does playing in London compare to anywhere else?

I’ve been here on and off for the last 15 years or something. As I said before it’s really diverse…there’s not like a local crowd kind of thing. In London you’re playing to more of a scene whereas up North when you play it’s more like playing to a group of individuals.

Is it different playing in London now than what it was 10 years ago?

There was actually more of a scene, more nights and genres that people would religiously go to. On the drum and bass side you had The Metalheadz…places like that. It was more kind of local places… there are some scenes like that here but it seems like its something that will happen for a year or 2 years but back then its was more 3 or 4 then you’d get this big thing happening. A lot of time was spent bubbling up before something kicked off whereas now everything is a lot faster.

I heard you mention you’re a fan of spoken word tracks, looking to your history with things like Scratch Beat Masters its that electro funk influence – What is your favorite spoken word track?

Ursula Rucker, she’s got some awesome stuff out and does a lot with electronic beats too, check her out.

Back to growing up in Manchester, your bio talks about your early days as part of the black scene in Manchester: soul electro/funk with great emphasis on the dancing which you just don’t see these days! Now its often lots of people not really dancing, maybe a little fist pump if you’re lucky! The closest thing, I would say, we have to people being really into the dancing is ‘shuffling’ and this is virtually banned in many clubs/nights.

Will we ever get the dancing spirit back to DANCE music?

The whole scene without mentioning any names has kind of become full of people who could probably repeat the moves of a footballer on a field but when you put them on the dance floor they have two left feet. I got into music a long time ago, but I was never in to football and didn’t go down that route, I hated sport actually. I always really liked to feel the music so that’s what I do but these other people, it’s just not what they do. I mean it’s like getting, I don’t know, someone who doesn’t like food to be a chef. There’s no real connection that’s what I feel, and that’s why people end up in the bathroom all night chatting haha. It’s not a bad thing I mean people are still going out to socialize which is good. Where I come from in dance music it was purely for dancing, you know what I mean? So still when I’m producing music I am visualizing people dancing, but that’s getting harder and harder!

You’ve spanned many genres over years: Acid, Balearic, DnB, Jungle, Breaks, House, Techno…These different offshoot genres don’t like to associate with each other generally, certainly not house/techno with dnb/jungle, having what they like to think are different scene/vibes/crowd. Why do you think this is?

When I first started it was all just music that was electronic as a whole, music made with these electronic machines.. At first it was just seen as clicks and bleeps and not really… You could even go as far as to say people were trying to get away from that so would try and mask the sounds so there weren’t any genres or anything. But yea, then everyone started to split off in their different crew and favoring the different styles and this started to solidify these early genres.  So back then there was the ragga stuff etc, but now you have movements where it’s just say a bass sound then it becomes a whole genre. I can see how it happens now, you have something raw and underground then someone thinks you can make some money out of it and it becomes commercial. It starts off as trying to get away from what it eventually becomes then forms something else. You had jungle then drum and bass for example. That pattern happens all over…then every now and them you get people like me who are quite happy just sitting in the studio making music!

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Your song ‘Specific Hate’ samples 808 States (who you were part of) ‘Pacific State’. So basically you sampled yourself to create something cool! What are your thoughts on the subject of sampling and the growing copywriting laws surrounding it?

Well years ago you would get a producer in a studio with just a box of records and he’d take small parts of each, layer them up and change them to make his whole new thing. Then a bit after that you’d get another producer taking that record and doing the same thing, and I’ve got nothing against that I think its an art form, extracting peoples material properly and putting it into your own. Its when you blatantly take a huge portion of someone else’s track and slap it on top of a small edit then start putting it out as your own, I don’t really approve of that, it’s blatant theft. Sampling used to be really adventurous, and because of the laws you’d find ways of masking it or changing it to make it your own. ‘Owning it.’ In Drum and Bass for example we would all take the same loop from each other, and we could all tell it was the same thing but we’d use our skills in the studio to push the technology available at the time to make something really exciting and new. To me it’s kind of like the difference between painting a picture and taking a photograph, you know?  It’s still possible now, if you are technically minded to do this with just a laptop. But you have to be technically minded to use the tool properly or else you just have a whole host of the same producers with the same software, producing the same sounds!

How did your face end up on the side of Tacheles in Berlin? It must be an honor to be part of something so iconic!

I actually used to work there in that building with the artists at one point. I think just one day one of them got a cherry picker, and I had that logo on my door and they just decided to paint it up there! It’s really sad there’s not that artist community there anymore, there used to be allsorts of crazy stuff there! The vibe they had there will never be the same again whatever happens next to it. It’s cool to have been part of it.

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Lastly I’d like to thank you personally for making ‘In Ya Head’ because its insanely good and is one of the first tracks that got me into electronic beats! Do you have any producers you’d like to thank for making a track special to you?

Thankyou very much.  Juan Atkins – Clear . Up until that I was listening to electro funk and things like that, I think by 84/85 I heard this track ‘Clear’ and I was like ‘OK, I’ve got to go get loads of drum machines and see what’s going on in Detroit!

 

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Catch A Guy Called Gerald playing at  Egg club, London this bank holiday Sunday at ‘Promised Land: Best of British Acid House Party’. Details and tickets can be found here.

 

Interview by Eileen Pegg

 

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