A GUY CALLED GERALD
A Guy Called Gerald is British house music's leading figure. He has been
sampled in New York, bootlegged in Italy, imitated worldwide, adopted by
both the Top 20 chart fraternity and warehouse ravers alike, and has had a
hand in two of Britian's biggest ever club records, his own "Voodoo Ray"
and State 808's "Pacific State."
"Voodoo Ray" has emerged as something of a phenomenon in England, where it
recently won Music Week magazine's award for #1 Indie Single of the Year."
Its success, along with the notoriety of "Pacific State," resulted in the
two songs winding up on the "BRITS '90" medley, in which five BRIT award
winners were compiled for a #2 national chart single.
"Gerald has been worried that people will be drawn to his music for all
the wrong reasons," wrote Paul Lester in Melody Maker, "for his
personality, his name, even his look. Gerald's mainly text-free music
reflects a desire to keep his ego out of the proceedings, although it may
be too late for that."
Partly responsible for Manchester club hits like "Dream 17" by Annette and
State 808's New Build album, Gerald is best known for the delirious
"Voodoo Ray," an arabic acid wail with a clanging steel-drum bassline
that, in the words of one reviewer, "sends you." The "Voodoo Ray" EP,
issued by Liverpool independent Rham Records, began a dance floor
domination that spread from Manchester through-out the North and Midlands
in late summer/autumn '88. It reached London over the winter and became an
anthem for the "orbital" warehouse parties and pirate radio stations,
before climbing to number 12 in the charts in July, 1989, over nine months
after its original release.
Gerald, meanwhile, was still living in Manchester's run-down Hulme area,
cadging bus fares to the studio, working Saturdays at McDonald's branch in
Market Street, Manchester, and sneaking off to London for impromptu live
gigs that his record company didn't even know about, just to put together
some cash for new equipment.
Gerald Simpson, age 22, is a quite-spoken, affable Mancunian with a
shy-boy smile and a mischievous sense of humour. Eternally
self-depreciating (the flip stage-name A Guy Called Gerald is a sly dig at
the ego games other musicians play), he deeply admires the sheer anonymity
of American house musicians (and wishes sometimes that he could retain his
In addition to boasting jazz-fusion and rap roots and a love of anything
avant-garde and electronic, Gerald also admires American techno-wizards
like Detroit's Derrick May and Juan Atkins. In many ways he is their
British equivalent, dedicated to technology rather than applause, happier
in the studio with his collection of superannuated synthesizers than
anywhere else. He once said: "I'd be happy to stay in my bedroom and do my
thing, put it on my Walkman and walk down the street listening to it."
innovator, Gerald started his career in music by putting together hip hop
tapes for Stu Allen's Piccadilly Radio show. After working with Manchester
avant-techno outfit State 808, Gerald progressed through the spiky, raw
textures of "Voodoo Ray" to his debut album, Hot Lemonade (released March,
1989 on Rham Records), a collection of new age acid and techno workouts
that received far less attention than it deserved.
"F/X," his first single for a major label, is a mixture of rigorous,
mechanical house and ethereal overlays; it takes A Guy Called Gerald's
journey of discovery one stage further. Part of the music Gerald composed
to accompany Trevor Miller's club/drug novel, Trip City, this is the real
acid house, the best Britain has to offer.
"'FX' is a beautifully textured and wonderfully spirited track," wrote
Push in his weekly Melody Maker singles column. "As such, it needs to be
touched and experienced rather than simply heard. It's very much the
perfect soundscape for a new era. Welcome to the Nineties."
Since its release, A Guy Called Gerald performed a sold-out show at ULU in
London to a decidedly ecstatic crowd. "Gerald translates House music from
urban night-life to paradisial, pacific scenes," noted Melody Maker
reviewer Paul Old-field. "Tonight there's 'Eyes of Sorrow,' with its
rainforest percussion and pipes; or 'Voodoo Ray,' with its slow-scanning
ritual limbo from the tropics... or 'FX,' an ascent through a
Lloyds-building ziggurat of glass and steel. Think Tokyo, think Ridley
Scott." The London date was followed by two manic sold-out shows in
Iceland with the Happy Mondays.
Coming up next is a British television special on house music, being
filmed in Detroit with aforementioned house dj and mixer Derrick May.
European dates are also being scheduled for the springtime; likewise a
U.S. tour later on with the Happy Mondays and the Inspiral Carpets.
"Gerald is doing his best to freshen up pop, to scrub it clean and make it
new again," Lester summed up in MM. "He's got more ideas than he knows
what to do with, yet he's still only 22." Asked whether he was happy with
the results of "FX," Gerald muttered in a rare moment of
self-congratulations, "It's OK..."