LEAVE IT TO A GUY CALLED GERALD TO DEFINE THE VERY ESSENCE OF SOUL
A Guy Called Gerald is hanging out at a sports bar located downstairs from his Manhattan-owned record label. Hunched over on a stool, a black baseball hat topping off his meek smile and slightly reddened eyes, A Guy Called Gerald looks every part the early afternoon boozer. But it's pretty obvious, even from the initial pleasantries, that Gerald's not quite what you'd expect him to he. For one, he appears to he stunned by the massive shot of bourbon the bartender's just poured him - the equivalent of a U.K. triple. "I hope I get home in one piece!" he exclaims, taking a tentative sip.
Luckily for him, the trip home involves crossing a more modest body of water than the Atlantic. For the past couple of years, the British born techno/acid house/drum 'n' bass producer Gerald Simpson, 32, has made his home and studio space in an old warehouse in a former industrial zone in Brooklyn, New York. He first made the transatlantic leap to Manhattan in '98, before realizing some analog synths are larger than your average Manhattan-sized apartment, but not before spending five years helping to define London's budding drum ‘n' bass scene, "I like to move around," Gerald explains. "It gives me perspective."
Migration aside, Gerald's set to release his fifth full length, Essence. Recruiting the vocal cords of Louise Rhodes (of Lamb); Lady Miss Kier (Deee Lite); songwriter Wendy Page; and even his own brother, David Simpson, Gerald has crafted a lovely, intensely melodic journey through the world of drum 'n' bass. Essence explores many different genres of music - even touching on old-school electro, ragga, and scat - fleshing out a freeform, soulful, snare dusted symphony of earthy delights.
What makes Gerald a unique producer in this age of ubiquitous bedroom DJs is his commitment to pushing himself beyond the ornery limitation of one particular subject - changing styles as fluidly as flipping a 12-inch. Back in Manchester, the nimble fingered youth taught himself to build his own sound system. "I was basically a kid with one hand on Pause, the other on Record, and the radio going," he laughs. But keep in mind the kind of airwaves being propelled through Manchester in the mid-80s. "It was like a port - we were getting house music over a year before London was," he says. "I heard Cybotron's 'Clear' back in '85, and it blew my mind."
Gerald put out his first record at 20, and his first full-length, Hot Lemonade, on the Liverpool-based Rham Records a year later. Though not given credit until much later, he also teamed up with Graham Massey of 808 State to produce the pioneering acid house EP Newbuild way back in 1988. But it was his classic, electro-outfitted house track "Voodoo Ray" that caught on in more than just the chubs - it got Gerald signed to a deal with Sony that, after just one release, Automanikk, turned sour.
"They were really slow," he explains. "I would try to explain the whole deal with white labels and plates, and they were like, 'What? Give someone your master before it's released!' They couldn't gel their heads around that." So Gerald went solo again, forming his own Juice Box label and releasing a critically acclaimed LP, Black Secret Technology, and a slew of 12-inches before concentrating solely on Essence.
For those who like drum 'n' bass to approximate pounding nails with one's forehead, Essence may not be their cup of chai. "I used to use a lot of bass tones - it was almost like I was trying to conjure up Satan," Gerald laughs. "Then I read a book called Sacred Sounds, and started analyzing what I was doing." He pauses. "You have seven chakras along your body, and each one responds to a different note – if the right one hits you in the right spot, it can level out the way that you feel. Learning this was like a spiritual awakening."
The metaphysics might alien-ate some listeners, but Gerald gives his words aural ballast. "The word 'spirit' is an old word meaning 'air,'" he explains. "Something you can't see. With music you know it's there, but you can't see it, so it is a spiritual thing." And Essence, with its all-encompassing Zen-like embrace, is nothing if not spiritual - hitting all the right chakras, warming all the right places. And made to last, too. "The way genres come and go, two-step's gonna be three-step before you know it." he says.
"Maybe I'm not going to make millions, but my stuff is going to be well-built. And maybe someone will remember my music when I'm not here any more."
GERALD'S SEVEN WONDERS: THE CHAKRAS
Find inner peace and harmony by investigating these spiritual sites:
[Author: ADRIENNE DAY, Photo: FIREFLIES]