|A Guy Called Gerald - Rollin'|
Hurriedly parking the car after navigating Hammersmith's chaotic traffic system and feeling somewhat stressed it was a relief to arrive at Gerald's Juicebox studios. Although half an hour late the subdued lighting and big leather sofas were working like a sedative on my jangled nerves. Just as my backside begins to mould itself into the leather Gerald turns up and we're formally introduced.
The interview, I'm told, is going to be conducted on the fly as Gerald has to dash across town for a meeting, this 'always on the go' state seems to be synonymous with Gerald - never quite feeling settled enough to take root. Throughout his career Gerald has probably covered more land than a weather balloon.
Since ditching the ghost of voodoo ray and making the transition down south he has never looked back. The move was an unavoidable one as any good junglist knows, the direction you roll your prayer mat when it comes to drum & bass isn't towards Oldham or Rochdale but London.
After our initial meeting it's time to prize my butt of the sofa as we hoof it across Hammersmith to hail a taxi. Apparently were on the way to see a couple of guys who are designing a digital animation for the latest album. I asked Gerald about this and if he saw it as a new direction for his music.
"Definitely, yeah. I find just doing the graphics really inspiring for the music. It works both ways. I think it's the way thing are going now, everyone I know has some sort of 3D graphics system running. I was down Reinforced the other day and all the stuff they're doing is about graphics. The Future Sound of London guys are in the same building and they all sort of connect together."
Gerald is the sort of character who has always embraced new technology, from the early samplers and beatboxes that helped make Voodoo Ray, to the latest cutting edge gizmos of today.
It's all about enhancing the listening experience. "I think the next generation of people are going to be more interactive and more into what's going on now. Like the kids that are coming up now, playing the games, that to them would be a way of relaxing but to the average kind of jazz buff, who sits down to listen to his Bert Bacharach CDs it'd be like 'what, you must be jokin' (laughs!). So it's aiming at a totally different level."
After arriving in Tottenham Court Road Gerald wanders around like a stranger to the place, admitting that he finds the New York block system a lot simpler. I got the feeling that it's due more to the excessive time Gerald spends in the studio rather than the absence of a matrix system.
Finally we arrive at the graphics company. Inside we are both greeted enthusiastically by the designers and are shown around their interactive domain. Gerald starts to buzz visibly as the conversation turns to Boolean operations, pixels and PICT files as they explain how they can transform Gerald into some sort of cybermonster. This morphosis apparently is at the request of Gerald. An attempt maybe at moving one step closer to complete interactiveness with the machines that drive his music. Did he consider this the 'next step'?
"Yeah, a lot of what I do is hands on. The way I usually mix down, I don't automate, and actually putting the samples down in the sequencer is kind of like slight of hand. So to actually cut out the middle part of translating to the machine and get straight in there would probably add a new dimension to it."
At this point we all get around the video player to watch a showreel. A visual overload of whizzing computer graphics and slightly menacing creations fly up on the screen, human heads animated and stuck on cartoon-like bodies. Think of the films The Mask, Alien and Disney's Fantasia and then stick them in a blender on high speed and even then you're probably nowhere near. After the reel ends Gerald says just one word "Dope!”
Heading back to Hammersmith on the tube was maybe a bad idea, as the rush hour 'people' traffic reaches boiling point we squeeze our way onto a waiting tube. Gerald's Afro squashes into the side of the door and I fight to stay upright as I'm juggled around by fellow passengers.
After a quick interchange at Goodge Street and after getting busted by the ticket officer for not having the correct fare, we finally make it back to the studio.
Settling down in the 'living room part' and feeling a little stressed again I picked up the Nintendo controls that were lying on the table. This didn't help much as I've never been much good at video games, my playing skills fizzled out after Pac man and Mr Do. As a result I crashed my snowboarder repeatedly into various outcrops of rock and made the game throw out lots of offensive bleeping sounds at me. Feeling disgruntled I passed the controls to Gerald.
A dazzling whirl of snowboard acrobatics ensued as the little man on the screen whooshed down the mountain and through the finish line. I started to think that maybe those Playstation adverts, the ones that claim to turn you into Uri Geller, may have some truth in them. Feeling immediately humbled and losing interest in the Nintendo I asked Gerald if I could listen to the new album.
The tracks on the album are no doubt going to surprise a few people as they're a departure from the typical frenetic top end and angry beats that personified much of Gerald's previous works. Instead the listener is treated to a lush, cinematic experience with sweet vocals and layered strings atop a treacle smooth bass. Many of the tracks have titles like 'Aquarius Rising' and 'On the Nile'.
The vocals on the tracks are mostly courtesy of Miss Kier.
"It was the first week we got here (the move to London) we'd just got back from Miami, the winter music festival, and that's where we bumped into Kier. She said she was coming over to England, so she arrived as we were finishing building the studio and while we were checking the sound she grabbed hold of the mike and we started recording. The way we've been working, it all started from a jam and the words built up into a few lines then into a verse."
I wondered if Gerald had thought the new album was a progression from 'Black Secret'.
"It's different. I think it's developed. It’s a lot more organic and the sound quality's better (laughs!). I think we're reaching a new age in music where people are changing. There's this guy I know who used to be in a punk group and he's just dons some drum & bass and it's like fucking serious, full on, but I could still here what used to be punk. You could call it drum & bass or a modern development of punk."
Looking around the studio it feels like we've already entered a new age. The walls are decorated with flyers and a hugs television set occupies centre stags like some sort of cyber shrine. There's also a book on the table about disinformation, sort of a C.I.A., X-Files conspiracy thing. I point this out to Gerald.
"It's written buy a guy who used to be in the F.B.I. and he left there with a load of files and a couple of years later published them in a book. Reading some of that there are all sorts of levels to it, but the business part is about this organization called the hidden party who are these people that run the world and have been running it for a long time. They use the Bank of England and all the other world banks like a cash point."
You get the feeling that peeking through the cracks in the woodwork is what Gerald likes best.
Watching him work-in the studio he misses nothing. No sound goes unchecked, but there's something else that Gerald puts in the tracks, something you can't see or really hear, you can only feel it. It's that X factor or maybe more appropriately X-files factor. It reminded ms of the time when Gerald had the studio in Manchester and was doing a drum & bass remix of 'Voodoo Ray' called simply 'Voodoo Rage'. I was working in the studio opposite at the time when he popped his head round the door looking a tad freaked out. It turned out that whilst remixing the track he was playing the 'Voodoo' vocal backwards and what cams out of the monitors was 'Geeeraaald' in an eerie drone. Ws all stood there with goosebumps. It was very, very weird.
Maybe we are all dealt our card at birth and it seems that Gerald got the pack that said 'shit hot drum & bass producer' on the cover. Whatever Gerald turns his hand to next the cards certainly seem to be falling in his favour. In the near future Gerald plans to move to New York as the drum & bass scene over there is growing rapidly and it also offers the opportunity to work with new people.
"I was over there in January with Tricky as he's got a gaff out there and he was going on at me all the time subliminally saying ‘you gotta move over’. Everything's pointing toward it. I've just got an agent over there now and he’s got me loads of work. It just makes more sense to live there. Some friends of mine have got a thing called ‘Concrete Jungle’ in New York and they’ve just opened up a new club in Philadelphia. I'll be playing there as well as New York and possibly Los Angeles, so you’re talkin’ like cost to coast."
Like I said at the beginning, Gerald doesn't stay in one place for too long. Blink and you’ll miss him. The album is due out sometime this summer, so stick it on that shopping list. Peace!
[Author: Steve Clarke]