|Gerald Keeps 'Em Dancing|
9 March 1990
Page: 23 / Northern Scene 5
VOODOO "chile" Gerald Simpson is hailed as one of Britain's top House music innovators, hypnotising the nation with his trance dance music, writes Jane Chilton.
His wailing Voodoo Ray, which hit the charts last year under the tongue-in-cheek name of A Guy Called Gerald, is regarded by many as the torchlight of House and the whole new age sub-culture that comes with it. But Gerald disagrees.
"It's not House music, it's electronic dance music which is different," he explains. "My music has a definite mechanical underlay to it, taking the House form one step further."
One thing is for sure though, the Mancunian techno-wizard of the keyboards is a force to reckoned with. He's often pigeon-holed as the shy, retiring type who'd rather lock himself away in his own little world, writing and creating weird and wonderful sounds rather than face the glare and exposure of publicity.
He once said: "I'd be happy to stay in my bedroom and do my thing, put it on my Walkman and walk down the street listening to it."
But despite his shy-boy image, the man behind State 808's hit single Pacific State and album New Build, and the mastermind of such club hits as Dream 17, he is also a mischievous chameleon.
He can be forthright and opinionated. at the same time picking his words carefully. He likes to tease his interviewers, turning a serious discussion into a good old laughing session. No wonder people don't know how to take him. Unpredictability is his forte and his trademark, inspiring his music and his ideas.
He has always been a true non-conformist. One you really can't pin down. He is known for being unique, for continually searching for something different.
Even at the tender age of 13 he was already in search of individuality, experimenting with obscure fashion and music styles, itching to create his own identity rather than follow the pack.
By the time he was 16 he was hanging out in Manchester's darkest, dingiest underground dubs, listening to sounds too avant-garde for the mainstream Duran Duran and Nick Kershaw set.
It was during his late teens, and regular visits to the unfashionable yet fashionable Legends club in Manchester, that he first got his taste of underground House music.
"There were records played at the club that weren't being played anywhere else other than Chicago, where the culture originated," be said. "House was a really heavy underground scene and had been around for many years before it suddenly caught on. The whole thing is just being recognised now - but two years ago people shunned it, saying it was just a fad."
Having cut his teeth on House music, Gerald started to experiment with his own techno sounds.
"I have always liked jazz and early electro music so I decided to start taping my own sounds and messing around with different musical influences. I bought various pieces of equipment and taped some sounds - hip hop, scratch and House - and used to play some of the mixings when I was DJ-ing at local clubs.
"Then I sent a copy of a tape to a friend of mine who had contacts with Manchester's Radio Piccadilly and they loved it. so I started sending them regular recordings. Before I knew it Rham records had approached me and signed me up."
It was through the partnership with the Liverpool- based record company, which gave Gerald free reign to do what he liked with his mixing, that the revolutionary Voodoo Ray was born - although it took over a year to gain chart recognition.
The EP dominated the dancefloors, first in Liverpool where it was originally released, then spreading to Manchester, and throughout the North of England. This all happened in the summer of 1988. a year before it hit the charts.
The dance anthem finally spread to the warehouse scene of London by December 1988, with Gerald travelling every weekend to the capital from Manchester to DJ and push his record.
"I had to work in McDonald's in Market Street, Manchester, during the day to help pay for all my travelling expenses," he explained.
The rest is musical history. Voodoo Ray received national and international acclaim and brought him attention from all over the globe.
But still the man from Manchester likes to keep his cards well and truly clamped to his chest, refusing to be pushed into mass media attention, quietly doing his own thing at small venues designed for those in the know.
He is currently playing throughout the country with his Manchester Magical Mystery Tour - a jamming roadshow-style gig featuring fellow Mancunians the Ruthless Rap Assassins and Kiss AMC. headlined of course by A Guy Called Gerald.
His appearance at Newcastle's Riverside enjoyed a packed audience, with an air of excitement felt by all.
"I just want people to come along and dance. We try to recreate a club/ware-house party atmosphere and hopefully people will enjoy it for the music and the dancing rather than our stage presence," Gerald said before the gig.
His hopes were fulfilled, with the Riversiders continuing to dance long after the show was over.
Ten Things You Didn't Know About A Guy Called Gerald.
1 Favourite Junk food — strawberry ice cream.
[Author: Chris Holt and Jane Chilton]