A Guy Called Gerald's Silent Drum & Bass Protest
Author: Benedetta Skrufff
Wednesday, January 19, 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 a Tags