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A Guy Called Gerald's Silent Drum & Bass Protest
Benedetta Skrufff Date Added: 19.1.2005

"To a certain extent I feel that drum & bass doesn't seem to deliver any valuable message anymore, and despite the current state of the world we're living in, are these artists still happy to be portrayed as "bad boys' and not do anything about it whilst all this is going on?"

Starting his musical career with rave era legends 808 State, A Gay Called Gerald became one of the biggest stars of acid house when his prototype jungle anthem Voodoo Ray set the template for the genre that later became known as drum & bass. He was also one of the key acid house protagonists to preach peace, love, community and consciousness in the scene's early days, in contrast to his own harsh beginnings growing up on the notoriously mean streets of Manchester's Moss Side. 15 years on, he's lived in London, New York and more recently Berlin, though has retained his soft Mancunian lilt as much as his passion for politics and philosophy.

All of which infuses his new album through and through, from its style ("by me not including any drum & bass tracks on this LP is almost like a protest- a silent protest') to its title, "To All Things What They Need.'

"If you think about those words they'll bring you down to who you actually really are and from the day we are born we're all in search of that truth," he suggests. "I took the words from a book called "Reality Revealed' which is about the explanation of reality through the concept of multi-dimensional reality." With individual title tracks including "Call for Prayer' and "What God Is', it's clear he's been reading for inspiration rather than raving to today's drum & bass.

"If you listen to Bob Marley or any artist of that era you immediately realise how central the political message was to their music," Gerald continues.

"I'm not talking about writing protest songs, but I think the balls have been ripped out of drum & bass, because by now it should have developed to a stage where it should have had a strong voice," he sighs.

Skrufff (Benedetta Skrufff): The new album is relatively down tempo, how important is the dance floor to you these days?

A Guy Called Gerald: "It's important enough. I actually love dancing, I really do, though I've found out by DJing that what makes people move these days is very different to what I was used to when I was growing up. It used to be more about "skilful dancing' back then. People used to make up stories with their dancing, so musicians used to make up stories with their music to reflect the people's dances."

Skrufff: How did that concept translate to making a track?

A Guy Called Gerald: "I'd say that a rather simple track can relate to people more than a really complicated and multi-layered one. Over the years I have slowed down and sparsed out my music even more, and found that the crowds would still respond to this. This time it felt right to go even further down this direction and perhaps concentrate even more on the message. This album is not about that "hey you too can be a star, get up and dance' type of thing. Instead I wanted to say that it's time to sit down and think about the times we're actually living in and where and how do we go from here. Are we going to let others control us and to what a degree, without forcing the issues down people's throats, without encouraging the listeners to start a revolution, but certainly providing food for thought."

Skrufff: Not exactly food for the MTV generation, though . . .

A Guy Called Gerald: "It has definitely become easier to manage the masses, and I feel this process has been going on for a while, we're told what to do almost like if we're being reprogrammed. I was watching a video recently that someone gave me in Berlin, which deals with lots of different subjects and one of them is about Psyops, ie psychological experiments conducted on the public on mass in America. The first one was about the War of the Worlds, where some spoof news would be on TV announcing that a meteor was about to hit our planet, then they would correct themselves revealing that the aliens were attacking us instead. During these experiments, people's reactions would be monitored and recorded to be used in the future, which to me sounds all very sinister."

Skrufff: Last time you chatted to Skrufff you'd just moved to New York whereas now you're based in Berlin . . .

A Guy Called Gerald: "When I left New York, I had everything, a good flat, a recording studio, but it was all a part of something else. It felt wrong and when I left I didn't even want to take anything with me, I left things to people I knew and it felt like I was shedding weight; it was a cleansing process. Funny, because when I moved there I took everything I had in England with me, but slowly it all began to feel like clutter."

Skrufff: Could that have been related to you rejecting American culture . . .

A Guy Called Gerald: "Totally, and unfortunately so, I'd say. Television is so manipulative over there, if you watched it continuously for a week you'd really understand the rhythms of their society and culture. I was like a fly on the wall. Not many Americans know that black people live in England, to them I was definitely seen as an African-American and therefore I did get the real deal whilst I lived there in Brooklyn. Even in New York, there is a separation between the various islands, so people from Brooklyn don't go to Manhattan and so on, which to me is like a microcosm of how America works and how in some ways how it runs the rest of the planet.

I'd never heard the phrase "Leaders of the free world' when I was in England or anywhere else in Europe whereas in America the president is frequently addressed as the "leader of the free world'. How did they figure that one out? They use the word "freedom' in such a patriotic way, but this word and other ones they use are not meant for us. They are addressed to Americans in order to justify their actions, like "we're going to bring freedom to Iraq'. TV is central to the delivery of these messages. I'm sure some there's kind of hypnosis within that too, because if you turn the TV on between say, twelve and three in the afternoon you get a certain kind of show such as the live judge in court, then between four and six pm you have the "Oprah Winfrey' type of programs... you know what I mean? They have sad programs, happy programs and news, all neatly divided across specific hours to manipulate people's emotions easily."

Skrufff: One of the tracks is called "What God Is', another "Call for Prayer', is religion still something that interests you?

A Guy Called Gerald: "It still does and I reject it even more so now because I understand how most organised religions are against nature. I feel that the main thing that's providing life for me and maybe for my children in the future is going to be anything that's positive towards nature and anything that's negative towards nature is consequently against me. I'm not against any religions, but I've seen, especially in America, how religions even stand against each other, for example, in the way that "Muslim', has now become a dirty word. If I was to worship anything on this planet than it would be the sun, because without it there wouldn't be any life."

Skrufff: You're DJing tonight playing a special "acid house set'; what do you make of this acid house revival?

A Guy Called Gerald: "It's pretty interesting because another circle has been completed. There's been a few before, but I don't think many people have heard acid house from '86 or '87 coming from Chicago, so I'll be playing some tracks from that time and some current ones, which will not be very dissimilar."

Skrufff: How do you feel about "Voodoo Ray"; do you feel you own it?

A Guy Called Gerald: "I feel about "Voodoo Ray" the same way I feel about all my tracks; once they're finished they're out there and they take on their own life. That track in particular though, felt almost like this child that wouldn't leave home, it's always there, hanging around me. I still like it but I've moved on from that time even though through my label I'll be re-releasing a lot of my old tracks shortly, re-packaged for DJs."

Skrufff: You now live in Berlin, how do you find living there?

A Guy Called Gerald: "It's really nice, really quaint, it's like living in a village. I see the same people every day on the street and a lot of them say hello. There are also many artists living there now. Where I have my studio is in an art house where other musicians, painters and actors operate, so there's always something crazy going on. It's an open house also so other people can come in and do their projects. Often I stay up all night using my laptop and recording, which is something that I would have never been able to do in London, because most studios are closed at night."

A Guy Called Gerald's new album To All Things What They Need is out on January 31st on K7 Records

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