|A Guy Called Gerald: Techno-phobia, Ecstasy & Reality Revealed|
11th September 2006
"Everyone sees things differently at different times. Say if there were two people and they were standing on two planks off the edge of a cliff and these planks were vibrating at the same frequency in the same time, then both these people would basically be in tune with each other and they would be conscious of each other all the time. But if one was out of synch, where one was up and the other one was down, they would never see each other and they would never notice that the other existed."
Sitting in a centuries old Soho beer garden on a sunny afternoon, acid house legend and drum & bass icon Gerald Simpson speaks softly as he outlines his theory of reality, that reflects his creative philosophy and status as one of dance culture's key pioneers.
"I think it's as I've got older my understanding of reality has transformed into different things, it's morphed," he continues.
"When I was younger, everything was solid and it was just there, it was how it is. Then as I started to read more and look at different beliefs and start questioning more, I realised there was more to reality than just one level. Now, I see it as a maze of different ideas and different levels of intensity.
Reality on some levels is more intense than on other levels, depending on your state of mind and that reflects how you receive information," he explains.
"Say, for example, we went ‘OK on dimension two, for want of a better word, where I've woken up and am vibrating at a certain frequency at this moment, that blue would be bluer than say on another level or another dimension with me vibrating at another frequency. It would be a totally different thing or a different level but that's how it is. If you are vibrating at a different frequency then you definitely will see different things and things differently.
Wearing a bright red patent leather jacket and shade, Gerald looks every inch the star DJ/ producer he's been ever since the 80s, when with 808 State and later solo, he created some of the first UK acid house records, going on to lay the musical foundations of what became drum & bass. Established as one of dance culture's few bona fide artists, he moved over to New York in the 90s, before settling in Berlin several years ago, where he's now firmly ensconced. And musically, after journeying into what he himself calls coffee table music via two recent albums on K7 he's now back producing raw banging dance music, as provided on his new album Proto Acid- The Berlin Sessions
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You've named you new album The Berlin Sessions, is that particularly significant?
A Guy Called Gerald: "The actual CD started just as a series of experiments. I was doing some stuff in the studio and there were some friends that were there who said ‘Wow, you should just play it out live'. I was basically making tracks up live as I was going along with two laptops and a mixer. We found this little basement in the backstreets of Berlin and about fifteen friends or so got together and I played for eight hours. Everyone really liked it the first time so I did it again and started really enjoying it and the I thought I might as well record the sessions. I think it was on my birthday or just before, I recorded a session and that was it really, so I called it The Berlin Sessions."
Skrufff: Are you seeing yourself at a new stage musically?
A Guy Called Gerald: "Yeah, totally. What I've discovered being in Berlin is that there are people who are really getting down here, they're dancing for the music. I've been to parties there where people just want it really raw. I've been to other parties where the Dj has been a little too technical and I've understood what's he's been trying to do, though I've noticed over half the crowd waiting for something to kick in. Basically I thought that's it; they just want the raw elements."
Skrufff: Everyone associates Berlin with the minimal thing, are you in a parallel scene?
A Guy Called Gerald: "I kind of fit in I think in my own little way as a really old school DJ/ producer who is just doing his own version. I feel like I've always done that in a way. When Voodoo Ray came out in the 80s I was feeling the vibe from what was going on in Detroit and Chicago. But I don't think Voodoo Ray or Blow The House down or any of that stuff sounded like Chicago or Detroit. It's the same with a lot of the jungle stuff I did, at the time when I started doing the jungle stuff there was a lot of the more ravey breakbeat stuff out and the music I made was in a way my own version of that ravey thing."
Skrufff: Do you still enjoy playing as much as ever?
A Guy Called Gerald: "Oh yeah. Up until the start of 2006 I was just spinning vinyl, but I decided in 2006 that was the year of the mix and I started two laptops and a mixer instead of vinyls and Technics/ Every now and then I use Ableton Live, but I'm using Reason more than anything, because I can really zone in on each thing and change it. I can be really intricate."
Skrufff: Are you now sourcing tracks over the net?
Skrufff: You almost sound as if you are techno-phobic?
A Guy Called Gerald: "Yeah I am. Well kind of. I'm coming from a totally different direction. In 1986/87/88, especially '88 I wanted to take my studio on the road, to show people what a 303 could do, but it was impossible because I didn't have the funding, so I had to have a band, which to me seemed more expensive, but it made sense to the traditional thing. Then people like Adamski started to go out and do live gigs with a keyboard and stuff like that. Then the record labels are like ‘Yeah, yeah, you can use drum machines and tour'. After a while I did start just going out drum machines and stuff like that but it was a real hassle. In most clubs, they didn't have the set up, didn't have a PA, so people would just turn up with a DAT, I didn't want to do that, or never did ever play from a DAT, so I had to miss out on a whole load of gigs. Whereas in the early days, a lot of the rave crews would just turn up and do a PA and have dancers and they would put a DAT on. I came from the more geeky technical side at the time, where I wanted everything live and running."
Skrufff: I'm surprised you didn't jump on the internet immediately, being a studio boffin. . .
A Guy Called Gerald: "Well I was more interested in the technical development of the music. I've got friends who do the website, design side and all that and even friends that have jumped from studio engineering to become web designers and I'm like ‘Wow, that's really cool' but somehow I always got more enjoyment out of actually creating something and the sound being the goal. The internet side didn't quite grab me as much."
Skrufff: I notice on your biog you have an anti-vocal section….
A Guy Called Gerald: "I mean I didn't want any vocals on this LP, because one of the things I noticed was that in the past I'd do some music and It was really banging and then I'd get a vocalist in to do something on it and then I'd be like: oh, there's not enough room for the vocal and I ‘d start taking things out. Then, before I knew it, it would still sounds good, but when I'd play it to people, they'd think it sounded more like a coffee table kind of vibe. I had that kind of experience with K7 on the last LP. When I did the Essence LP for them I thought that had a coffee table kind of vibe, so I wanted the next one to be totally banging. So I gave them a few bits and pieces and they were like 'No, that one's too drum and bassy, that's a bit too housey'. So I wondered what I should do. They started saying ‘We've got some vocalists that could come in, some guest star type people like on the first one. I was like: 'Alright.' So I started contacting a few people and bringing in some vocals and by the time it balanced out it was like ‘Oh, they want something that's similar to the old LP'. But they didn't know how to say it to me. Unless I've got a mad big budget, I can't employ every single vocalist to go out on the road with me when I'm playing, so people are not going to get the true experience of it, so it would be really cool to do an album that was totally raw. Berlin Sessions was the starting of that."
Skrufff: On your website you've posted a line ‘If you got no rhythm, don't dictate to people', who is that aimed at?
A Guy Called Gerald: "There were some people that were stealing some of my music. I can't really mention their names. Blatantly just taking a track and putting it out and putting their mix on the other side, basically. My publishers at the time were not doing anything about it and I was getting really angry, so I phoned these people up. Then I listened to their thing and It was horrible. There's no structure to it or anything. They are using my name on their record, but there was no connection between me and them at all. I'm not allowed to put other people's music out without paying. Because it was only little small fry to the publisher they weren't bothered, but it made me feel really bad so in the end I sacked the publishers and started to do the publishing myself. We started to step in on some of these people as well. They'd say ‘But we are only small'; yeah, same here too."
Skrufff: In an interview recently you said ‘listening to some of the newer, supposedly new dance music and seeing the superstar DJs who appeared out of the pseudo house scene only fuels my rebel energy', what do you make of the DJ Magazine top 100- do you pay any attention?
A Guy Called Gerald: "I don't pay that much attention to it, but for me, every time I go somewhere, to an afterparty or to someone's house, then they keep on mentioning all these names - do you know this DJ? Do you know that one? They play a mix and I'll think ‘Christ. That's terrible. How much are they getting paid and why are all those people there listening to them'? Then I start thinking here's Gerald being like the old man, being really upset because these kids are being sold water instead of wine, but I suppose at the end of the day, a lot of them were born in that rave thing where I was really on the outside of it always. Even when I meet younger people now and they go ‘Wow '88 in Manchester, it was really crazy and I think I remember seeing the guys from 808 State freaking out and dancing in the studio and I'd not even finished the track yet. At the time I thought maybe they were just being really kind to me, but they'd obviously been taking something. I didn't know anything about that."
Skrufff: You weren't doing any drugs at the time then?
A Guy called Gerald: "Not at all. Not even alcohol. I was freaked out once when I was at the Hacienda and I saw Derrick May eating a piece of lemon, he didn't take drugs either and he was one of my role models, I thought that was the right road to go down. Everyone else in my Manchester community was taking them, but they were cool with me not. So I totally got a different angle from everything."
Skrufff: How long did you not do drugs for? When did you do your first ‘e'?
A Guy Called Gerald: "I did an ‘e' in I think '95, but I was doing more like jungle and drum & bass then. I didn't really join the early house years."
Skrufff: Were you getting high on the music?
A Guy Called Gerald: "I didn't even know the meaning of getting high, so I suppose I must have been. I was enjoying the music and enjoying making it, I enjoyed dancing so I took it to the level where I wanted to study it. That was it. Music and dance; dance and music. There was nothing in between."
Skrufff: What made you take one in 1995?
A Guy Called Gerald; "I used to get given them all the time. I was DJing somewhere in Manchester and I was really bored. I was in the middle of doing this remix that I didn't want to do, and I was going back to the studio to do it, and I thought I'll do an ecstasy. It was really strange, I was DJing and there was this girl on the dance floor and I remember she was all dressed in white and I was like ‘Oh my God, she is the most beautiful girl on the planet. Is it ‘e' or is it her?' I went back to the studio and I dedicated this mix to this girl that I didn't even know. That was the first time - '95.
Skrufff: Did you keep on doing it?
A Guy Called Gerald; "I've had dabblings here and there with bits and pieces not really. I did an experiment recently, I was playing somewhere and I think people these days expect the DJ to be a massive taker, the one with the best pills who's totally off his head. I was at this gig and they asked me what I wanted to drink and I said vodka so they brought me a bottle of vodka. Surely they don't expect me to drink it all, do they? So I went to the toilet with it and poured it all down the toilet and filled it up with water. During the gig I started drinking it, first from the glass, then I started guzzling it straight out of the bottle. I was just playing my normal set, but I noticed everyone was just going for it. I was thinking ‘Are they drinking or am I causing them to drink more?' I don't know, maybe there is some kind of psychological thing going on. For or years I was always wondering why people were facing the DJ anyway with this ‘tell me what to do' kind of vibe. I'm sure these superstar DJs got on to that a long time ago.
Instead I was always thinking ‘Wow this bass in a minute is going to go like this and there is hardly any compression, I'm going to have to try to take it down to be easy on them'. Even now I'll be at a gig and I'll check the DJ and say to my girlfriend ‘Watch when the DJ lights up a cigarette lets see how many people actually light up at the same time'. He is the conductor at the end of the day. Because I was there swigging on this bottle of vodka, people were like ‘He's getting really into it'."
Skrufff: Switching topic entirely, have you ever seen a ghost?
A Guy Called Gerald: "No."
Skrufff: Do you believe in ghosts?
A Guy Called Gerald: "Yeah, to a certain extent I do. I believe that they can exist. If you ever get a chance to read Reality Revealed it's really interesting. There's a chapter on religions and how they are and….I think it might be chapter one where it's called a Tape Analogy, it basically gives you an analogy of reality as basically like a video tape running across a playback head and light being the tape and everything we capture here being the playback. They give you a really strong argument and within this they explain things like ghosts and poltergeists. There's been incidents where there's been electrical storms and a blade of grass has pierced a pane of glass without breaking and it's basically there and no-one has got an explanation. What they try and do in Reality Revealed is explain some of these things that none has explanations for. There's a woodsman and he cut a tree in half and a live frog jumped out. The frog was alive for a little while then he died, but somehow it broke the rule of within this dimension where two things can't exist within the same space, but somehow….."
Guy Called Gerald: Proto Acid- The Berlin Sessions is out now on Laboratory Instinct.
[Author: Jonty Skrufff (JontySkrufff.com )]