A Guy Called Gerald
Influenced by his Jamaican roots, his father’s reggae record collection and the sound system parties he frequented in Manchester’s Moss Side area where he grew up before moving onto jazz fusion, electro, hip hop and then discovering the holy trinity of techno – Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson (who he regularly heard on Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio) – Gerald Simpson, in very short order, went from messing with turntable driven beats, to mastery of the Roland 303 and 808 drum machines and then onto helping breath life into the Manchester acid house scene in the late ‘80s. He has more or less breathed music for most of his life, so, as he explains to TM-O’s Andy Basire, it pretty much goes without saying that he came from a musical family?
Gerald: “Yes, my younger brother David is a singer and my cousin is reggae artist Mykal Rose. I grew up in a community that had it’s own soundtrack.”
Total Music: We recently interviewed Graham Massey and it turns out he is something of a prog rock fan, how did that work with your more reggae influenced background in 808 State?
Gerald:“It was all about ‘each one: teach one’. Even today I’m lost when people make rock references to dance music. As a kid I kept my distance from skinheads & rockers.”
Total Music: What are your memories of the Manchester acid house scene?
Gerald: “My memories are very vivid compared to a lot of folk! Mainly that time I was in the studio a lot and teaching some friends how to use an 808 By the time the media discovered the Balearic Islands I was chopping up breaks. I think you have to buy my book if you want to know the Manchester acid house scene… coming soon. My friends [from back then] are mainly machines… Funny how my machine friends have a lot more friends nowadays.”
Total Music: Is a massive hit like ‘Voodoo Ray’ a blessing or a curse?
Gerald: “Ok, picture a 21 year old who spent the best part of his teens avoiding the rubbish they played in popland. I was digging deep into jazz fusion… by 16 I was so into obscure underground dance that it would border on classical music sometimes! Pop was a joke to me. So when my first ever track went into the pop chart I thought it was a joke. The funny thing is it was a blessing in the end, ‘Voodoo Ray’ became my bullshit detector!”
Total Music: True or false 1995’s Black Secret Technologywas the first full-length Jungle album ever released?
Gerald: “False! I think 28 Gun Bad Boy album by A Guy Called Gerald was the first – released in 1992”
Total Music: In the UK dance music, especially techno, became a bit of a dirty word in the late nineties and early ’00s (obviously not so in the US and most of Europe) so people not versed in the scene may have wrongly assumed that you disappeared, could you catch everyone up on what you were doing in that period?
Gerald: “I’m the original disappearing man. I am my own scene. I’ve watched UK dance music get fucked by people more interested in ‘a bit-o-footie’ then taking it to the limit of cheese. Then there’s the name game vampires who suck virgin new branches of UK dance music dry wanting to do ‘remixes’. But really if you listen to my music you can hear…. I’ve always been here… You’ve just been taken for a ride. It’s all good – I don’t need your money – I’m your daddy!”
Total Music: What prompted you to mix Proto Acid together but keep Tronic Jazz as standalone tracks?
Gerald: “Before Proto Acid I spent 4 years writing and working on a unique way of mixing using my studio technique in a club environment. This technique enables me to do away with having restrictions on my creative flow. Proto Acid was the first in the series of Berlin Sessions. Tronic Jazz is just to let you hear where I’m coming from. If, say, you play ‘People Moover’ and let’s say ‘Subscape’ from my early ’90’s album Automanik you should be able to pick up on my style. Even my jungle is related. When you strip away the gear you will be left with the Gerald sound.”
Total Music: The new album is a real nod towards old minimal techno, is this deliberate?
Gerald: “Yes there are many flavours in there if you break it down. But after ‘intelligent jungle’ I stopped thinking so much about subgenres. I think I just like to get down. I played ‘Voodoo Ray’ to this girl the other day she said to me it’s too minimal. I just laughed.”
Total Music: What’s the difference between good and bad dance music in 2010?
Gerald: “There’s always been a difference between good and bad dance music. I try to find the rhythm with good syncopation interlaced with polyrhythms. It has to challenge me really. I’ve been dancing since the ’70’s and never been into AC/DC. I experienced the birth of hip hop in my life time and watched rap kill b-boying for quick change. Dance music has a history. In fact I don’t think you can make good dance music in 2010 if you’re ignorant to where it’s from and what it means.”
Tronic Jazz: The Berlin Sessions are available on Laboratory Instinct now. For more information, see www.guycalledgerald.com