16 December 1989
EVER SINCE 'VOODOO RAY' BULLDOZED ITS WAY INTO THE TOP 20 LAST JULY, GERALD HAS BEEN THE MOST SOUGHT AFTER DANCE SVENGALI SINCE MARK MOORE OF S'EXPRESS. PAUL LESTER MEETS THE MAESTRO AND TALKS ABOUT HIS LONG-AWAITED NEW SINGLE, 'FX', AND HIS RECENT COLLABORATION WITH 808 STATE AND HIS WORK ON THE SOUNDTRACK FOR TREVOR MILLER'S NOVEL 'TRIP CITY'. PICS: DAVE WILLIS
THERE'S A STORY ATTACHED TO THE stylised, enamel cross fastened to Gerald's leather Kangol cap.
“I was in New York last summer,” says Gerald, “and this geezer gave me one of those miniature metal medallions that De La Soul wear and he said he'd get me something else, a peace sign that could only be worn by gentle people who didn't hate anyone. It was the key of life, he reckoned, and when I wore it it would protect me wherever I went.
"Anyway, that night I was doing a PA at The World club, and the guy came in to give me the sign, so I put it on straight away. Thing is, halfway through the set there was a scuffle, an argument or whatever, and some bloke got shot! I thought, bloody hell, this peace sign really works! That could've been me who got shot. I've worn the sign ever since."
NOT only does Gerald wear the badge close to his head atoll times, he has also appropriated its shape as the logo for Subscape Records, his own, new label. Like WEA's ZTT, and RCA's de/Construction, Subscape came about when CBS decided they needed a subsidiary organisation whose relatively small size would be better equipped to release dance music, quickly and effectively, in a medium where records need to be in the shops yesterday before they lose their appeal.
"I did have doubts about signing with a major, I thought they might end up doing everything for me, wiping my arse, the lot, but it's turned out that I've got more control now than I ever had before when I was on Rham! (the Manchester indie label who put out Gerald's early stuff), I see the whole process through now, from the music, to the design and cover art, to production, everything. At the moment, Subscape is for people into good grooves, not egos."
EVEN since "Voodoo Ray" reached Number1 2 in the charts last July, Gerald has been worried that people will be drawn to his music for all the wrong reasons, 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. Outside Manchester's Cornerhouse Arts complex on a freezing, wet Friday, searching for an appropriate location for Dave Willis to do his shoot, Gerald recounts how his journey from downtown Rusholme was interrupted by a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls who, having recognised him from his various TV and magazine appearances, approached the man for an autograph.
"I've got to be careful," he says, smiling. "I've been worried about going overground ever since 'Voodoo Ray' charted. I thought, 'Here we go, I'm gonna have to be one of these pop star types', so I kept a low profile for a while after the summer.
"I don't want to cross over, that's what I'm fighting against I could easily do a SAW thing, get a certain person to sing on one of my tracks, or put out another 10 versions 'Voodoo Ray'. But I don't want to get involved in any of that, and I don't wanna have to sell myself, I want the music to speak for itself. That's why I formed Subscape, and that's the point behind it, that it is, by name and definition, underground, an underground network with loads of different directions to go in.
"I'm being rebellious, in a way, getting heavier, moving away from the chart mentality where you've gotta have some Black Box-ish singer, you've gotta do this or that, you have to make music for someone else. I'm selfish, me, I wanna make music for myself!"
THE music that Gerald has on current release may not satisfy his craving for anonymity. It may sell as well as "Voodoo Ray", thereby forcing this shy, almost childlike Mancunian into the limelight against his will, but it certainly doesn't appear to have been made to appease any particular section of the populace, at least not deliberately.
After a spate of summer bootlegs, a "Peel Sessions" sampler and numerous unofficial single releases, Gerald's long-awaited follow-up to "Voodoo Ray" and the undervalued, quietly received spring LP, "Hot Lemonade", is finally upon us. The double A-side comprises "FX (The Elevation Mix)" and "The Eyes Of Sorrow", while the 12-inch and CD versions contain "Emotions Electric 2 (To Be Continued)".
In typical Gerald style, the songs dabble in Acid, House, electro, techno and ambient territories, while never stopping long enough to get dragged down. As ever, Gerald refuses to put limits on his music, to stand still.
"You can't really categorise what I do. If anything, it's Subscape. I wanna do what I've always wanted to do, and that's to do my own thing, make my own kind of music, as far away as possible from House or anything else. I want to totally innovate, to drift further and further away from this House thing that everybody's running off to.
"I'm interested in doing completely different things, crossing different boundaries. If there's anything out there, I'll have a go."
GERALD'S missionary zeal has recently led to an involvement in the one-off "Trip City" project. Trevor Miller's novel, "Trip City", is set in the near future, in and around London's incestuous, backstabbing, essentially destructive clubland. It tells the story of Valentine and his harrowing addiction to the fictional, hallucinogenic FX drug. Printed on off-white paper (it was originally scheduled to be yellow, to authenticate its druggy theme), and in flourescent turquoise typescript, "Trip City" is 254 pages of short sentences, with virtually no commas, just full-stops, holding them together. The rapid-fire series of brief sentences is meant to mirror the 4/4 beat of House. Hence the musical presence of A Guy Called Gerald. For £12.99, the consumer receives a lovingly crafted package that comprises the book, and an accompanying five-song soundtrack composed, performed and produced by Gerald.
"Trevor tried writing it with a 4/4 rhythm to mimic the beat of House," he explains, "and you're meant to read it in 4/4 time while you listen to the soundtrack, I tried it out of curiosity, but it doesn't really work. What Trevor would've had to do, to really make it work, was to write the whole thing to music, but that just proved impossible.
"Well, I tried writing tracks in the same rhythm as the book, but they came out all abstract, with all sorts of weird bits and pieces. Put it this way - you couldn't dance to them!
"It's an amazing book, though, and I was glad to do it at the time. Trevor was a fan of my music, so his publishers, Avernus, wrote to me and asked if I wanted to do it. Basically, it's his autobiography, the story of a Mancunian geezer who goes to London to live a wild and reckless life. People have accused Trevor of glorifying drugs in the book, but it's more of a warning, really, showing the damage drugs can do. He doesn't gloss over the truth in there.
"Trevor invented the FX drug for the story, a really wild hallucinogenic that sends you off your head for days, because he knows what harm drugs can do. He's experienced it first-hand, but he got out before it was too late. Anyway, the good thing about it all is there's talk of "Trip City" being made into a film, with my music as the soundtrack."
A TEENAGE girl recently died in The Hacienda from an accidental overdose of Ecstasy but long before that, people freely associated Manchester with House, and House with drugs. Gerald occasionally suffers from these associations, ones that bring with them misguided assumptions.
"I don't drink or smoke, that's a fact. It's pathetic, know what I mean? Manchester's got no bigger a drug scene than anywhere else, it's just a hyped-up thing. Music and drugs don't necessarily go together, and just cos you like dancing doesn't mean you automatically take crack, or whatever. It's stupid. Like when I was doing the video for 'FX' (with Kevin Godley) this bloke comes up to me and says, 'You know when you did "Voodoo Ray", were you on one, were you stoned or something?!' And I said, 'No, I wasn't, actually, I was in my fiat in Hulme, totally straight, trying to do my track!'
"If I was stoned I wouldn't be able to do anything! If I was out of my head, I wouldn't be able to do half the stuff I do. The equipment I use is complicated enough as it is, let alone when you're stoned! I reckon if my mind went blank, had no inspiration to do anything at all, or if I'd forgotten all my techniques, then I'd probably try some drugs to see what happened. But I honestly don't think it'll ever come to that."
IF anything, Gerald is currently plagued by a surfeit of inspiration. He has remixed The Stone Roses' "Fools Gold" for possible release, revamped The Turntable Orchestra's "You're Gonna Miss Me" and reworked Cabaret Voltaire's excellent "Hypnotised". Having written the "FX" single and "Trip City" soundtrack, he is now chopping, dicing, cutting up and editing tracks for his forthcoming second LP.
Gerald has also been asked to write the music for Ark, a Green, environment-friendly organisation co-ordinated by Chrissie Hynde, while collaborations with Edward Barton (eccentric, surrealist ex-patriate Londoner based in Manchester who plays guitar with a spoon), Mancunian rap master MC Tunes, and breathy warbler Annette are already in the shops.
Most newsworthy of all, though, is Gerald's work with 808 State, principally on their "New Build" album, and the "Pacific State" single. The legal wranglings that have evolved from this collaboration are based on doubts about the authorship. BBC2's "Reportage" last week featured Gerald in a programme originally designed to illustrate the educational side to sampling and the new technology. Instead, it concentrated on the unfortunate 808/Gerald situation. For legal reasons, Gerald is keeping quiet about the whole business, suffice it to say that his "Day Ride" and "Subscape" both bear a resemblance to "Pacific State", which they pre-date by a few months.
A GUY Called Gerald is a composer, producer, mixmaster, designer and artist. He even used to don a black leotard for contemporary jazz dance performances with The Royal Northern Ballet. Today, he's looking forward to releasing his album, which may well be a double, possibly a triple LP, or a 60-minute extravaganza featuring 30 two-minute tracks.
The sleeve's track listing will apparently have a blank space for one song and purchasers of the record will be invited to write in with title suggestions. The tune will subsequently be released as a single bearing its new name. All the tracks will lead into one another, perhaps with musical snatches, maybe with a series of Max Headroom-style blipverts.
Gerald is doing his best to freshen up pop, to scrub it clean and make it new again. He's got more ideas than he knows what to do with, yet he's still only 22. It's all a for cry from his truanting days and the time he stole a go-cart from a scrap yard and took the guard dog as well.
His days of dog-napping are now consigned to history, so how Gerald would like to be remembered?
"What I would really like, when I'm dead and gone, is for the music to still be there. That'd be a really nice compliment. Yeah, I'd like, o be hailed as a genius after my death!"
[Author: PAUL LESTER, Photos: DAVE WILLIS]