25 February 1989
HAD THE guy called Gerald sitting across the table from me, picking stubborn bits of emulsion paint from his fingernails, been situated anywhere other than Oldham when the Voodoo Rays that burst forth from his first single managed to find a chink in even the most heavily of anti-acid armoured consciousness, then I doubt very much whether he'd have just spent the last half hour recounting the times he has, recently, only just managed to scrape together the bus-fare to Manchester.
Had he been a face on the London club scene he'd be rushing off, complete with entourage, to the latest happening nightspot, there to relay stories of the time he'd just spent recording with Derrick in Detroit. Had he have taken his demo's to Rocky Jones in Chicago he'd now be churning out quality tunes at a rate guaranteed to maintain a top-ten stranglehold on the UK/US dance charts for months to come. Had he even just spent the last couple of months messing around in Brussels then success would surely be only a New Beat away. Instead he's skint - it's raining - and he still hasn't finished decorating the bedroom in his newly acquired Hulme council flat. So what's been going on, Gerald?
"Well everyone's just weird at the moment," he answers. "People keep ringing up Rham and talking about big money deals but nothing ever seems to happen. They're just like kids with a new toy - playing about with you - I don't take them seriously anymore." What! You mean the Golden Boy of British avante-house won't be going into the studio with Prince, after all?
"When somebody tells me I'm in the studio at a certain time on a certain day and they show me the money upfront then I might believe them," comes Gerald's matter-of-fact reply. "So far it's just been like one big piss-take!"
Undeterred at being the shuttlecock in this particular music-biz badminton match, Gerald's bus-fares have been put to good use transporting him to recording sessions for the forthcoming 'Hot Lemonade' album. Showing that this northern guy has lost none of his abstract dance rhythm sensibilities, the seven tracks on parade are crammed full of busily over-loading analogue machines taking the listener's ears on a whirlwind aural trip around ... Oldham!
"It was originally going to be called 'A Day In The Life Of Gerald' so I thought I'd put in everything that influences me in everyday life to make music," explains the voodoo guy. "That's where tracks like 'Arcade Fantasy', 'Rhythm of Life' and 'Hot Lemonade' come from. I just walk around with my headphones on listening to old tapes and it all just comes to me." The first two titles are self-explanatory as to their origins, the latter, the album's title track, is a little less obvious; Gerald instantly dispels any mystique that might surround it. "Well I don't drink any of this stuff," he says grabbing a recently discarded Red Stripe can, "I just drink a lot of lemonade and things like that, it's just another everyday influence."
Not content with penning dance music's first ever non-alcoholic drinking song Gerald sees his recording career as a never ending crusade in the cause of true musical innovation. "I'm not into the hip-hop stuff at the moment - it's just going backwards - and I want to go forwards," he says.
"I can see hip-hop just being a bongo in a few years' time, with the guys playing it having paint on their faces and bones through their noses. All this breakbeat stuff's just going backwards. Garage is a good direction as long as they move the soul forwards - not backwards, like Marshall Jefferson."
Gerald sees the enormous Stateside success of both 'Voodoo Ray' and 'Dream 17', the track he wrote for Annette on the 'North' album, as the signal to take his crusade across the Atlantic to what he sees as a more receptive audience. "New York sounds like a more serious place than here," he says. "In this country I sometimes think I'll have to get my hair bleached blonde before I get any real reaction - I sometimes - think I should just take all my equipment, get on a plane and start everything from scratch over there."
He almost certainly would not experience the somewhat brutal exploitation he has so far come across in musical collaborations with certain other Mancunian electro-house pioneers, ventures that have so far, almost without exception, gained him no financial reward whatsoever.
"I got to the point where I'd just think 'here's someone else who wants to rip me off and take me for granted'," Gerald recalls. "It got so that I'd be doing all the programming and getting none of the money." His recent Dingwalls gig with the Shamen was merely a means of quickly raising the necessary cash to buy his own, much-sought-after, Roland TR909 drum machine, an acquisition that frees him from the need for any further collaboration with 808 State, currently topping the 'Geraldsploitation' charts.
At some time the sinister magic of Gerald's - first single will surely start to rub off on its creator, and the volcano of ideas that is contained beneath his leather Kangol cap will erupt to national, even worldwide dance-floor acclaim. Until then, if you ever happen to be in Piccadilly bus station and someone, who happens to be carrying a holdall full of old synths, should ask you for their bus fare - give it to them! You could be indirectly funding the future of modern dance music.
[Author: Sven Harding]