There are probably as many Simpsons in the UK as Müllers in Germany, but the one we’re talkin’ about – A Guy Called Gerald – is more than a phonemena, havin’ spent his whole life wandering in the heart of the machines to reactivate the ancestral language of the drums, and eventually standing as the depository of a… Black Secret Technology, referring to the title of this album which he released back in 1995 on his own Juice Box Records label.
“Everything nowadays finds its existence from a proper model”, explains this son of Jamaicans who saw the light in Moss Side, Manchester on Feb 16,1967. “Rhythm is omnipresent. Some may not always recognize it as it changes along with time, but if you give yourself a moment to isolate a loop or the fragment of a partition, you then should discover the reflect of a sequence of the past. From then on, this element will get all its dimension. Our elders used to pick up sounds from their immediate environment which were natural. They are artificial nowadays, that’s the way life goes and this is what I’m trying to transcribe in my music.”
Music for music has never been the cup o’ tea of this child of the Modern Times. That Simpson decidedly not like the others, investing all his time on exploring the possibilities offered by an ever more performing technology which would start ruling the world by the middle of the 70’s, until he fully got in his element, if not becoming a machine himself, on the heels of a certain Andy Warhol on his search for hyper-realism…
A Guy Called Gerald dropped his first compositions as a member of a Mancunian collective – The Hit Squad – later known as 808 State, eventually sueing his band mates after the release of the classic ‘Pacific State’ speaking of which he didn’t get recognized as the full author. He would become one of the most faithful customers of the famous Roland console, always updating himself with its latest evolutions. “I ended up buying a TR-606 then a 303 (that famous one in producing those characteristic blippy sounds in Acid House). That was by the end of the Electro period, although people like Mantronik and Ice-T were still connected to it. I’ve started trying to recreate this kind of grooves, before embarking on a so to say more synthetic approach of the things. I kind of tortured my bass synth in order to generate new sounds. I eventually thought it was sort of outlaw until the moment I started hearing some similar sounds from the Chicago House artists.”
The release of ‘Voodoo Ray’ (on local label Rham! Records) would be synonymous with a thunder clap in the boiling Mancunian scene back then for A Guy Called Gerald, even though it didn’t get to enrich him, in the obligation to keep on working at McDonald’s to ensure his living. “I had never done sampling until then”, he said to me. “I got to the studio with me demo. I have to admit it was far from being finished. I looped the groove for a certain time before incorporating the voices (courtesy of female singer Nicola) which I got into a sampler. I didn’t want any humanoid elements on this tune, so I asked the sound engineer whatever I could do with these voices. He suggested me to get the sampler into the reverse position. I liked it and then added the other samples.” And a style was born…
Gerald‘s influences perfectly illustrate his eclectism, from Afrika Bambaataa‘s ‘Planet Rock’ to Kraftwerk‘s ‘Trans-Europe Express’, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. “What I like about technology is the possibility it offers to build everything and its opposite. Should the machine be limited to a specific function, torture it until you can get something different from it”, somehow reminding of Leftfield in the spirit. Gerald quoting Minneapolis producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis as a definitive reference for the fluidity of their work. “Check the graduation of the frequencies they come up with. Everything is so clear…”
Sky being the limit, A Guy Called Gerald made himself quite a name in the mid-90’s Drum & Bass scene with his unceasing explorations, eventually coming to incorporate songs, as opposed to vocal loops, in his creations, such as on the 2000 released ‘Essence’ album, featuring Louise Rhodes (Lamb), former Deee-Lite singer Lady Miss Kier, Wendy Page and eventually his own brother MC Kusta.
“What I used to listen to back in the middle of the eighties (pieces like ‘Tap Step’ by the likes of Chick Corea or Airto Moreira‘s ‘Celebration Sweet’ which brough him to Dance Music) are things people have been listening to with the arrival of the Nu-Jazz. I always wondered what could be next after the arrival of a trend. The rhythmic environment has a way more important role than we think on people’s behavior. Be it in terms of life style as regarding the social aspect of the said Dance Music.
Dance Music isn’t anymore the gathering vector it used to be until the beginning of the 80’s, when the couples got split up with the arrival of new rhythms. That said, nothing keeps us away from the possible emergence of an opposite trend. An intimist cycle, as opposed to what we’re living nowadays.
Music always comes first, before opening the path to new models in our daily life…”
A Guy Called Gerald – Hot Lemonade (Rham! Records)
A Guy Called Gerald – Automanikk (Columbia)
A Guy Called Gerald – Black Secret Technology (Juice Box Records)
A Guy Called Gerald – The John Peel Sessions (Strange Fruit)
A Guy Called Gerald – Essence (!K7)
A Guy Called Gerald – Silent Sound Spread Spectrum (Bowers & Wilkins – Real World Records – Society of Sound Music)
In the series…
30 Years of House Music (Pt. 1) – Ten City