18 March 1995
Was techno, is now jungle: A Guy Called Gerald's far too intelligent to stay put, as Tony Corbin discovers.
ATTACHING THE EPITHET 'INTELLIGENT' to a musical genre obviously suggests that certain other music is by comparison less so, and since I hate music to be considered in those terms, I shall refrain from calling A Guy Called Gerald a protagonist of 'intelligent' jungle at all costs.
To be honest, though, it is one of the words that immediately springs to mind when hearing his latest creations - as it is also when one meets the man, who is as sharp and articulate as his music suggests.
The new album Black Secret Technology is probably the first jungle album credited to a single artist [although many compilations have been 'one-act' affairs employing several pseudonyms], and it's innovative and musical in a typically Gerald kind of a way. Always at the forefront of the changing dance music scene, Gerald made his mark with the seminal Voodoo Ray in the late eighties and constructed 808 State's finest moment, Pacific State - "all but the saxophone" - which he was only recently credited for. Jungle, albeit with a difference, would always have seemed a natural progression for him.
"I've been through the whole syndrome of making music which was designed to say, 'fuck you' to the rest of the music world," he agrees. "I just basically did what I wanted. So I've seen all that sort of 'rebelling against the music system' thing. In a way I think I'm still doing that now."
Do I detect punk attitude?
"Well that's a dangerous move, 'cos then people really do think, 'yeah anyone can do that'. Then boom! It's flooded and you get rave syndrome again.
"We've got to try and make it progress, but we've got to keep cutting edge too. A sign of it being watered down is the many compilations coming out."
So when did the transition from innovative techno to... erm, innovative jungle occur?
"Well I got into it after the last LP I did for Sony called High Life Low Profile, which didn't come out. They wanted me to do a more songorientated album; they were giving me all this, `We want an album of Voodoo Ray with vocals', so I thought, fair enough, you'll get vocals, but you won't get pop. The album was a little bit political and a bit heavy.
"There was a track with my brother singing which went, `I make it, you take it, you fake it, you break it...' aimed at people like them. So it would have been a laugh if they'd put it out."
Needless to say the record company was unimpressed, leaving Gerald desperately wanting to be dropped from the label. Whilst waiting he started knocking out tunes inspired by the exciting and [then] underground jungle scene. Thankfully for Gerald, and fans of dance music suitable for any environment, Sony eventually let him go.
As we speak some trademark Gerald chords swirl from speaker to speaker and in comes the controlled adrenalin of Energy on which he collaborated with another progressive jungle luminary, Goldie. Gerald is quick to distance himself from any `intelligent' music snobbery.
"There could be more stuff like this, but to create a movement you're gonna need a heavy side and a light side: it can't be one thing because it would get monotonous."
So why hasn't Gerald veered into the abstract techno area like so many of his peers?
"Quirky noises man. I mean I recognise the Detroit stuff, the old stuff and a lot of these guys sound like they're mimicking that - without the soul. It's like what's happening in Manchester now, where everywhere's house and garage. I remember when garage meant Adonis and all those guys, you know the black Chicago thing, and now I go to clubs in Manchester and I get looked at like I'm an alien."
He's smiling but there's serious, intent.
"If that sort of thing happened to jungle I'd be like, well... there'd be no hope for us."
We close on his next album, which will deal with black [though broadly and essentially human] issues. By then he will surely be established as, "a proper LP artist," and Black Secret Technology will be acknowledged as benchmark, rough, sophisticated and... erm, intelligent. Damn!
[Author: Tony Corbin]