Figuring Out Why Americans Sound So Great on House Records

Some key differences between the UK and America: we Brits spell aluminium correctly and they eat arugula, we have a monarchy and they load washing machines from the top. Despite our differences though, we’ve lived in relative harmony as brothers divided only by 5,000 miles of water, striding through history to a point where Swedes watch American sitcoms dubbed in Swedish and Americans devour American remakes of Swedish dramas.

Something, though, still divides us. Something major. Something that’s rift-widening. Something we can’t ignore any longer. Our brash transatlantic cousins have one up on us: they know how to use male voices in house records.

Ever since Jesse Saunders changed the entire world with 1984’s futureshock of a record “On and On,” American house producers have never shied away from foregrounding vocals, never feared marrying the abstraction of electronically derived music and the naturalism of the human voice. Think of the power of those early releases, the tracks that an entire world was built around: think of Darryl Pandy’s lovelorn honking on “Love Can’t Turn Around” or the down-tuned exhortations that spook their way through Phuture’s “Your Only Friend” or the James Garcia sung, Omar-S produced paean to sexual expectation “I Wanna Know”—these are records that hum with vitality, humanity, vibrancy, and, let’s be honest, sexuality.

European house, European techno, has seemingly always come from a more studied place. Perhaps something was lost in translation from Chicago and Detroit on its way to London and Berlin. Maybe our ancient roots and awareness of a pre-1700 way of being has resulted in a society and culture in which genuine expression has been subsumed by the need to retain the identity-protecting divide between the artist and his creation. It could, however, just be that European accents sound shit on dance records.

Let’s jet back to those cities forever destined to be twinned in the annals of dance music to make a potentially wanky but pertinent point. House and techno are inherently politicised musics that arose from the pressures and struggles faced by minority groups facing systematic oppression. House literally gave those groups a voice, ownership of something that may have stemmed from disco—another genre eventually co-opted by white, straight, middle classed Europeans—but was an entirely new sound-world, with infinite possibilities. European men do not need another avenue of self-expression in which to make their voice, their experience, heard.

The vocal house that emerges from our side is arch, plastic, embarrassed, self-conscious. It’s Justus Kohncke covering Jefferson Starship’s “I Wouldn’t Wanna Be Like You”, it’s Superpitcher’s horribly cloying closeness on “Happiness,” it’s a million and one bedroom producers from Manchester to Mannheim giving up sampling the speech from “Can You Feel It” by Mr. Fingers.

Now, THUMP is a celebratory site that wants to share with you, dear reader, the transcendental joys of dance music. As a European I’ll cede defeat and admit that any record produced in our green and formerly-prosperous part of the world should only come in the dub format. Instead of bemoaning our deficiencies let us, instead, praise the other. Let’s talk about American voices.

There’s always been something naff about singing with, say, an English accent, compared to an American one. The fact that the history of recorded popular music, and popular music at large is an American history, an American phenomenon, means that we’ve come to assume that the American voice is the ‘correct’ voice, the voice that makes the most sense in its context. American voices, it seems, it feels, work. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jovonn talking about his hard kicks on the seminal “Back in the Dark” or Aly Us getting sentimental on the Strictly Rhythm tearjerker “Follow Me”it seems like everyone in the club yearns for an American voice.

The alleged authenticity of that voice is presumably why so many non-Americans pinch and sample from those that are. House has always sought the maximum amount of authenticity for the minimum of effort, but that’s another story. The Dutch producer jacking a Robert Owens line wants people to play his Dutch record alongside ones from Chicago and for no one to know its provenance. The Romanian chucking a Detroit accent into his room three tech-house meanderer wants the same thing. Can you blame us?

The sad truth is, we don’t, or at least don’t seem to, possess voices as pristine as Kenny Bobien’s—for those in the dark on this guy PLEASE check the stratospherically wonderful “You Gave Me Love” and “Why We Sing” ASAP—or as rich as Yohan Square’s, or as straight up sublime as Duane Harden’s (which propels classics like “You Don’t Know Me” and Powerhouses’ “What You Need”). We don’t have a Jamie Principle or a Joe Smooth or even a Moodymann. We don’t have a “Let Me Show You Love” or a “That’s the Way Love Is”.

Europeans, let’s stick to what we’re good at—league football, breakbeats and subtitled films about depression—and leave the diva vocals to the big boys.

Watch An Unearthed 30-Minute Frankie Knuckles Interview

Disco legend Nicky Siano today shared an extended 34-minute interview with house pioneer Frankie Knuckles, originally recorded for his 2014 documentary Love Is the Message: A Night at the Gallery. The clip was previously only available in full as bonus material on the DVD, and it’s a real pleasure for THUMP to be able to premiere this gem of a clip to the public. In it, Knuckles recalls his first time seeing David Mancuso DJ, what the closing night at the legendary Gallery nightclub was like, how he navigated the club scene as a youth, and much more; it contains all kinds of valuable personal insight and historical information.

Siano told THUMP over email about his deeply connection with Knuckles, and how the clip came about. “Frankie meant so much to me,” he said. “When I asked him to do an extensive interview for my film Love Is The Message, he did not hesitate. He taught me each time we spoke: how to be kind, centered, and caring. He was everything that a person could be, a spiritual being trapped in a shell. We met on a set we had prepared for him and David Mancuso, to do the interviews that would narrate my film. He was ready to do anything I needed that day, and all I have is 34 minutes of this genius friend.”

“We always think, oh I’ll see him again. And I DID. On March 29, 2013, the Friday before his passing, I called him to see if he had gotten a copy of the just-released film that I had sent him. He said, ‘Not yet, but it will be waiting for me when I get home from London.’ Well, HE IS HOME, and when I see him again, I’ll make sure we watch the film TOGETHER!”

Siano will play a six-hour set this Friday at Brooklyn’s Good Room for a special birthday extravaganza. The date is March 31, the same day that Knuckles passed in 2014.

Last year, TV One released a documentary profiling Knuckles and the birth of house music.

Follow Alexander on Twitter.

Watch An 'Unsung' Documentary Profiling Frankie Knuckles And The Birth Of House Music

Via Discogs.

American documentary series Unsung premiered an episode profiling Frankie Knuckles and the birth of house music, last week. It’s a story most of us will be familiar with, but the opportunity to enjoy interviews with Marshall Jefferson, Jamie Principle, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Jesse Saunders, and Steve Silk Hurleyas well as archive footage of Frankie Knuckles in conversationis too good to pass by.

Tracing the story from the death of disco to the establishment of the Warehouse and the boom of Trax records, the episode also profiles the making of some of the biggest tracks in house music history, from “Your Love” to “Move Your Body.” Less than three years after Knuckles’ death, this is a golden opportunity to celebrate the man, and the world he helped create.

Watch the full documentary here.

Various – Proper Groovers Vol 1

Proper Groovers Vol 1 Proper MusiqueSailing into far more contemporary waters now we have this V/A tech-house EP from Arno Stolz’s fledgling Belgian label Proper Musique.

The EP features four tracks from as many artists. Deetech’s opening Storm is a chunky, rolling affair with crisp 4/4s, shakers and a fat, whomping bassline, and is followed by Duke Tran & Paul Quzz’s Forty, a sparser, stuttery affair with distorted male spoken vox and disturbing synth screeches. Rone White’s Cut To The Chase rocks more straight-up housey kicks which it marries to a disco-tinged b-line, chanted male “bom-bom” vox and rave-y risers, while finally Tom Neatis’s Freeloader is a more percussive affair that makes good use of the filters to give it a slightly trippy, 4am kinda feel.

Four very solid floor-movers but Storm and Cut To The Chase stand out in particular.

Out: This week

About: Find Proper Musique on Soundcloud and Facebook, or at their own website.

Various – 4/4 #26

4/4 #26 1980 RecordingsDan McKie’s 1980 Recordings release the latest in their long-running 4/4 V/A series here, and it’s a cracker, with four varied but equally high-calibre tracks.

Alex A’s Reality is up first, a tuff-ish tech-houser with dramatic filtered synths and a spoken, sampled male vocal. Eddy Lassemblée’s Sound Of Da Police, which follows, is a lively lil’ bouncer with a nagging acid riff and cheeky bites from both Last Night A DJ Saved My Life and (obviously) KRS-One, as well as “bounce!” vocal of its own. Mathieu Basi & Keedo’s 3am In Detroit then takes us into far deeper territory, as you’d probably already guessed from the title, while finally Sterbal’s Creased is a lo-slung, bassy houser with prog and rave elements and a “don’t you tell me” vocal sample.

If pushed then Sound Of Da Police and 3am In Detroit are the standouts for me – but only just because this is good stuff all round.

Out: This week on Beatport, everywhere else from 1 July

About: Find 1980 Recordings on Facebook or at their own website.

Watch An 'Unsung' Documentary Profiling Frankie Knuckles And The Birth Of House Music

Via Discogs.

American documentary series Unsung premiered an episode profiling Frankie Knuckles and the birth of house music, last week. It’s a story most of us will be familiar with, but the opportunity to enjoy interviews with Marshall Jefferson, Jamie Principle, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Jesse Saunders, and Steve Silk Hurleyas well as archive footage of Frankie Knuckles in conversationis too good to pass by.

Tracing the story from the death of disco to the establishment of the Warehouse and the boom of Trax records, the episode also profiles the making of some of the biggest tracks in house music history, from “Your Love” to “Move Your Body.” Less than three years after Knuckles’ death, this is a golden opportunity to celebrate the man, and the world he helped create.

Watch the full documentary here.

How Shifty Science Went From Skateboarding To Quietly Remolding Chicago House Music

This post ran originally on THUMP UK.

Precious few cities have rightfully earned their status, history and mythology as Chicago. With a complex heritage rooted in blues, jazz, house and disco, there’s no single musical story of the city. Instead, millions of unique perspectives intertwine, compliment and often contradict one another from Downtown to the sprawling suburbs. It’s something Shifty Science, AKA, lifelong friends John Kardaras and Chris Ike, have quietly absorbed since their teenage years, whiling away carefree summers on their skateboards, traversing the vast grid of the city.

“I think skateboarding, the culture in itselfand presumably still today, although we’re not really in that scene anymoreexposed us to a lot of multicultural experiences,” explains Ike. “People from all walks, class, race and creed were involved. There was this one common thread, which was a love of skateboarding. And that seemed to transcend petty high school cliques. So, similar to the house scene, it bridged some cultural gaps that existed.”

“It was a sort of a mini-melting pot,” affirms Kardaras. “Just with the nature of skateboarding in general, there weren’t a lot of skate parks back then, so we were either primarily going to someone who had a ramp, or we were street skating in the cityand that would take us great distances to different parts of Chicago.”

Admittedly, it’s a bit strange to start a THUMP article with an account of the state of Chicago skating two decades ago. In the early nineties, it was unsurprisingly a pursuit more enamored with punk rock and grunge than the legacy of local electronic pioneers such as Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles. But it embodied a DIY aesthetic and experimental edge that would soon come to define the pair’s work as Shifty Science. If you’ve never heard that name, fear not. Steve Mizek, co-founder of Chicago’s leading house light Argot records, who have just released an inspiring retrospective of their music, Lab Work 91-96, only came across their music earlier in 2016. Specifically, six years since he was handed a recently rediscovered CDR of their material at a house party. Outside of collectors’ fairs or the record bags of Chicago’s most knowledgeable completists, Shifty Science were a name barely whispered on the city’s relentless wind.

By the early nineties, house, acid, and techno were an established if not spent force, even becoming an elemental part of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The dystopian tint of Detroit techno and the transatlantic influence of experimental labels such as Warp were creeping into the club landscape. By their own admission, the laid back duo weren’t attempting to subvert the scene or current sound, but their interpretations of the sound du jour are curiously offbeat even when they’re joyously banging.

“At the time, we did have that affinity for Detroit techno, and still do, so that definitely colored some of our experimentations,” Ike says. “But when we started, the gear was not that accessible, there wasn’t much of it, so costs wise it was tough and we kind of made do with what we had. What came out in our releases was our unique take on what we liked.”

Both being too young to have experienced the heyday of legendary Chicago clubs such as Muzic Box, the pair’s musical education and experimentation also took place just prior to the explosion of the dusty, acid-tinged Midwestern rave scene. Instead, it emerged in unusually laid back surroundings.

“Instead of punk rock shows, we’d go to local juice bars,” recalls Ike. “Juice bars, in the US, are kind of like dance clubs that don’t serve alcohol. Or somewhere open to the teenage crowd for early nights, which would sometimes transfer into a proper adult club later in the evening. And you know, being a bit older and being into dating girlsthere were definitely be a lot more access to the female types, in those clubs.”

“There was one called Medusa’s that was pretty famous on the North Side,” recalls Kardaras. “They would play a mix of electro, new wave and house stuff, and acid house which was really big when we started going to clubs.”

Chicago’s public and college radio also provided a direct line to new music that Kardaras and Ike might not otherwise encounter.

“There was a station from a local college called WNUR, which has a show called ‘Street Beat’, which was still called the same thing 25 years ago, on a Friday night. It would be local college students playing records they would pick up from Gramophone, but they would have guest DJs come in and bring their records, and they didn’t mix music typically, they would play the full track. We never heard that stuff! You’d get a full seven minute track! Like, what is this?”

Another influence on Shifty Science, particularly to Kardaras, the older of the pair, was a young Derrick Carter. The fledgling, charismatic house and disco mastermind was beginning to make a name for himself on the local party circuit, as well as occasionally within his own apartment.

“Someone would clean out their place, lock all the bedroom doors and just get the crates out and jam,” recalls Kardaras, explaining the DIY party scene that catered for the city’s dance fans away from more commercial clubs. “Derrick used to throw one at his place and they would just pack the place, you thought the floor was going to cave in. Then after that, they started taking over warehouses, they were abandoned or whatever. They’d buy off a couple of cops to watch the door. I would hear some really, really great music, and it’d just be the local underground Chicago DJs at the time.”

“We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Hot Mix 5, the WJPI guys,” adds Ike. “There are DJs in the Chicago who never made a big splash outside the city, or inside the city, and they would show up third tier on the playbill of a party. There’s probably too many to mention to be accurate.”

Although Lab Work 91-96 accounts for a span of five years of relentless studio time from Kardaras and Ike, the pair have continued to record in subsequent years, even “when life got in the way.” Helpfully, part of this life involved co-founding a local IT business, leaving the two in each other’s pockets around a different variety of machines. Clearly their brotherly relationship and love for electronic music runs deep, but what about the period documented on Lab Work remains so special?

“It’s probably the most experimental,” Ike suggests. “When you’re trying to get something going, you’re just trying to learn your craft, and then once you settle on a certain mentality for it, in some ways, you end up being less experimental. You’ve kind of found what works. You’re not twiddling as much, or throwing stuff at the wall just to see what sticks.”

Lab Work 91-96 is out now on Argot.

John Thorp is on Twitter

How Shifty Science Went From Skateboarding To Quietly Remolding Chicago House Music

This post ran originally on THUMP UK.

Precious few cities have rightfully earned their status, history and mythology as Chicago. With a complex heritage rooted in blues, jazz, house and disco, there’s no single musical story of the city. Instead, millions of unique perspectives intertwine, compliment and often contradict one another from Downtown to the sprawling suburbs. It’s something Shifty Science, AKA, lifelong friends John Kardaras and Chris Ike, have quietly absorbed since their teenage years, whiling away carefree summers on their skateboards, traversing the vast grid of the city.

“I think skateboarding, the culture in itselfand presumably still today, although we’re not really in that scene anymoreexposed us to a lot of multicultural experiences,” explains Ike. “People from all walks, class, race and creed were involved. There was this one common thread, which was a love of skateboarding. And that seemed to transcend petty high school cliques. So, similar to the house scene, it bridged some cultural gaps that existed.”

“It was a sort of a mini-melting pot,” affirms Kardaras. “Just with the nature of skateboarding in general, there weren’t a lot of skate parks back then, so we were either primarily going to someone who had a ramp, or we were street skating in the cityand that would take us great distances to different parts of Chicago.”

Admittedly, it’s a bit strange to start a THUMP article with an account of the state of Chicago skating two decades ago. In the early nineties, it was unsurprisingly a pursuit more enamored with punk rock and grunge than the legacy of local electronic pioneers such as Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles. But it embodied a DIY aesthetic and experimental edge that would soon come to define the pair’s work as Shifty Science. If you’ve never heard that name, fear not. Steve Mizek, co-founder of Chicago’s leading house light Argot records, who have just released an inspiring retrospective of their music, Lab Work 91-96, only came across their music earlier in 2016. Specifically, six years since he was handed a recently rediscovered CDR of their material at a house party. Outside of collectors’ fairs or the record bags of Chicago’s most knowledgeable completists, Shifty Science were a name barely whispered on the city’s relentless wind.

By the early nineties, house, acid, and techno were an established if not spent force, even becoming an elemental part of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The dystopian tint of Detroit techno and the transatlantic influence of experimental labels such as Warp were creeping into the club landscape. By their own admission, the laid back duo weren’t attempting to subvert the scene or current sound, but their interpretations of the sound du jour are curiously offbeat even when they’re joyously banging.

“At the time, we did have that affinity for Detroit techno, and still do, so that definitely colored some of our experimentations,” Ike says. “But when we started, the gear was not that accessible, there wasn’t much of it, so costs wise it was tough and we kind of made do with what we had. What came out in our releases was our unique take on what we liked.”

Both being too young to have experienced the heyday of legendary Chicago clubs such as Muzic Box, the pair’s musical education and experimentation also took place just prior to the explosion of the dusty, acid-tinged Midwestern rave scene. Instead, it emerged in unusually laid back surroundings.

“Instead of punk rock shows, we’d go to local juice bars,” recalls Ike. “Juice bars, in the US, are kind of like dance clubs that don’t serve alcohol. Or somewhere open to the teenage crowd for early nights, which would sometimes transfer into a proper adult club later in the evening. And you know, being a bit older and being into dating girlsthere were definitely be a lot more access to the female types, in those clubs.”

“There was one called Medusa’s that was pretty famous on the North Side,” recalls Kardaras. “They would play a mix of electro, new wave and house stuff, and acid house which was really big when we started going to clubs.”

Chicago’s public and college radio also provided a direct line to new music that Kardaras and Ike might not otherwise encounter.

“There was a station from a local college called WNUR, which has a show called ‘Street Beat’, which was still called the same thing 25 years ago, on a Friday night. It would be local college students playing records they would pick up from Gramophone, but they would have guest DJs come in and bring their records, and they didn’t mix music typically, they would play the full track. We never heard that stuff! You’d get a full seven minute track! Like, what is this?”

Another influence on Shifty Science, particularly to Kardaras, the older of the pair, was a young Derrick Carter. The fledgling, charismatic house and disco mastermind was beginning to make a name for himself on the local party circuit, as well as occasionally within his own apartment.

“Someone would clean out their place, lock all the bedroom doors and just get the crates out and jam,” recalls Kardaras, explaining the DIY party scene that catered for the city’s dance fans away from more commercial clubs. “Derrick used to throw one at his place and they would just pack the place, you thought the floor was going to cave in. Then after that, they started taking over warehouses, they were abandoned or whatever. They’d buy off a couple of cops to watch the door. I would hear some really, really great music, and it’d just be the local underground Chicago DJs at the time.”

“We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Hot Mix 5, the WJPI guys,” adds Ike. “There are DJs in the Chicago who never made a big splash outside the city, or inside the city, and they would show up third tier on the playbill of a party. There’s probably too many to mention to be accurate.”

Although Lab Work 91-96 accounts for a span of five years of relentless studio time from Kardaras and Ike, the pair have continued to record in subsequent years, even “when life got in the way.” Helpfully, part of this life involved co-founding a local IT business, leaving the two in each other’s pockets around a different variety of machines. Clearly their brotherly relationship and love for electronic music runs deep, but what about the period documented on Lab Work remains so special?

“It’s probably the most experimental,” Ike suggests. “When you’re trying to get something going, you’re just trying to learn your craft, and then once you settle on a certain mentality for it, in some ways, you end up being less experimental. You’ve kind of found what works. You’re not twiddling as much, or throwing stuff at the wall just to see what sticks.”

Lab Work 91-96 is out now on Argot.

John Thorp is on Twitter

A Guy Called Gerald Talks Us Through The Evolution Of Dance Music

Usually when a writer starts an article about an artist by saying that the performer in question needs no introduction what they’re actually doing is admitting that they’re too lazy to hop over to Wiki and slightly alter the first two sentences of the producer or DJ’s entry because it’s 2016 and who has the time to do research or actual writing any more? In this case we mean it: A Guy Called Gerald really doesn’t need any kind of grandstanding introduction because, put bluntly, if you’re unaware of his importance to UK club cultureand dance music on a more global scale, toothen you’ve sort of dropped the ball a bit and we’re probably not going to jump over a fence to get it back from your nasty next door neighbour.

Oh, alright, we’ll knock on his door then. Just the once. Manchester born Gerald Simpson discovered acid house back in the late 80s and decided to make it for himself. “Voodoo Ray”, his seminal 1988 debut single, is still an almost shockingly sublime slab of DIY dance music that sounds as fresh today as it did way back when your dad was necking dodgy pills with Shaun Ryder at the Hacienda. A restlessand relentlessinnovator, Gerald soon moved onto working on what later became known as drum and bass and jungle. Since then, he’s spent prolonged periods of time in both New York and Berlin, and is currently devoted to pushing the limits of both sound quality and musical originality in a club environment. The bloke from next door says you can have your ball back, by the way, but you’ve got to listen to Black Secret Technology first.

Next month Gerald will be taking the stage at Moondance in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a super special evolution of dance music set. The acid originator will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Joey Beltram, Todd Terry, Slipmatt, Billy Daniel Bunter, Dillinja, and literally hundreds of your other favorite hardcore/D&B/house/techno/grime DJs, for what the promoters are describing as an event that, celebrates “rave culture from it’s roots to the innovators of today.”

Ahead of that performance, we gave Gerald a call to chat about the past, present, and future of dance music and club culture. And McDonalds cheeseburgers, too. Obviously.

THUMP: Why is that 89-93 period so pored over and memorialized?
A Guy Called Gerald: If you didn’t want to dance to Kylie Minogue, you had to create something rawer, so back then if you wanted something to dance too, you made it yourself. That energy was funneled into dance music, and a load of things came together at the same time. We were growing up and changing things. I left my home and moved to a squat because that meant I could build a studio. I realized that everything was available for me but I couldn’t quite do it at home. I’d been trying to but it was doing my mum’s head in. I needed somewhere I could knock a wall out and put speakers in. So I moved to Hulme and was surrounded by progressives. We got together and exchanged ideas. There were other people with studios, so that idea of exchange was in the air.

This isn’t to denigrate anyone or their work, but nostalgia seems like such a cloying, potent thing in club culture…
With all that, from the vinyl revival, to cassettes coming back, to dressing up in your grandad’s clothes, what happened was that back in the day you had to go somewhere to cut your records. You used to have to go to a production house and they’d help you with your idea and it’d be produced that way. You weren’t just downloading software and cutting and pasting tracks that’ve already been mastered, and then wondering why your track doesn’t sound the same or as good.

It’s like, you go to McDonalds and buy a burger. That burger won’t be the same quality as if you’d gone to the butchers, bought the ingredients, and made it yourself. People want to go back in time now, and it’s easy to think that that’s because of the “analogue sounds better” thing, but actually it’s because things were properly built back then and people had the time to make them. Now everyone wants a readymade that sounds like the old days. But it won’t. Because while the software can replicate the old sounds, you still need the right ear to make them sound right.

Why, then, does my generation fixate so much on this idea of the readymade? What sense of authenticity are we pining for?
It is about convenience and time. You could look at something that was intricately carved and you’d appreciate it because you knew it took time, and then a replica of the same made in China or Taiwan and see the mould marks and think it was a load of old rubbish. Basically, we’ve been pushed for time more and more and we’re running out of it. I don’t often speak to people of your generation because I don’t have the language to speak to themit’s too fast. That’s why things made in the past will have value attached to themthey took time. Time was spent on it.

Do you feel that people my age are content to rework the past as opposed to seeking out the dangerously, furiously, scarily new?
Kind of. That’s happened in culture before, but we have a different set of technological tools to do that with now. This is probably a transitional period we’re living in. Older stuff is the anchor, and basically we’ve been thrown into a new technological world, and we’re at a pivotal point with it. People don’t know where to go so, understandably, they return to the anchor. We can’t continue to regurgitate everything, though. We have to go somewhere.

The technology we have now is mindblowing. I remember having an SN50 sampler which was the height of my sophistication gear-wisethe rest was held together with gaffer tapeand I didn’t just sample the latest James Brown tune. I could grab tiny bits of anything and learn how to use the sampler to the fullest. That was because I had the time to do that. I scrimped and saved to buy it so I wanted to know every single thing about it.

We’re living in an age of social crisis, and I’m wondering if it’s moments like this when what club culture offers us becomes more important than ever?
I think so. I equate it to being in the studio. Even though I’m beaten up and ragged I’ve got this place that’s familiar. It’s like going to your local. It gets you through the day because you know it’s going to be there.

Is that why clubs are still important? Do we need these sites of intense personal significance?
I can see that there’s a lot of war against clubs. I went to Berlin for three months and stayed for 10 years and wouldn’t have been there was it not for the club system. The scariest part of living in Berlin came when you had to leave a club and get the train home: reality hit! There’s a freedom there in Berlin. You can, to a certain extent, do what you want there. It’s slowly changing as the years go on, but it is a very open place. If you wanted to be an artist you could do that there. There weren’t many restraints. In the UK you’ve got to fit that into your schedule. I learned a lot about what it was I wanted to do musically when I lived there. There’s a lot of opportunity there for collaboration, too.

Let’s argue that dance music is based round a geographical triangle that takes in Chicago, Detroit, and Berlin. How do you turn that into a square of significance? What city slots in there?
New York for me. I went there for the first time in 1989 just as the Garage was closing down, but it left so many clubs in its wake like The Whirl, The Tunnel, Red Zone, loads of these underground clubs and it was always part of my system growing upI was in Manchester but from ’82, ’83, I was a B-boy, so I looked towards New York. I lived there for five years and felt that it was fading away a little bit, culturally. Younger people there didn’t really have the time to appreciate the past. Then Mayor Giuliani brought in the cabaret law which meant that you couldn’t dance in a bar unless it had that license. It was like a mafia move: if you were a club, you had to pay up. But it’s still a focal point for dance music as we see it today.

I often think dance music is a form of music where extreme experimentation becomes almost universally accepted as a way of making people move.
I still find it pretty abstract. I was into electrofunk and early hip hop and I was DJing at the time and I stopped DJing when I’d got hold of my first drum machine and started to produce. I stayed in this little world of production and listening to avant-garde music. I loved stuff like Chick Corea and always went to the edges of music. I was never really into what was popular. So when I found acid house it would have been on a show on Piccadilly Radio in Manchester, a guy called Stu Allen would play some acid between the funk and soul. I came to realise that the machines they were using to make this music were the same ones that I’d acquired. On the show, one of the things he’d did was a demo section. So I sent in an acid demo and it got played. That’s how I did “Voodoo Ray” in the end.

I was into this really quirky, off-to-the-left kind of music. That was what I was into. It seemed like the people making the most out there music weren’t concerned with hits, they didn’t want to play it safe. So that’s what acid was for me. That’s still at the core of me. Even when I was in the charts I had nothing to do with it. I was moving towards making jungle. I was always trying to find the latest thing to dance to. I was always looking for the dance.

A Guy Called Gerald appears at Moondance Festival, London, on the 18th of September. Head here for information and tickets.

Josh is on Twitter

A Guy Called Gerald Talks Us Through The Evolution Of Dance Music

Usually when a writer starts an article about an artist by saying that the performer in question needs no introduction what they’re actually doing is admitting that they’re too lazy to hop over to Wiki and slightly alter the first two sentences of the producer or DJ’s entry because it’s 2016 and who has the time to do research or actual writing any more? In this case we mean it: A Guy Called Gerald really doesn’t need any kind of grandstanding introduction because, put bluntly, if you’re unaware of his importance to UK club cultureand dance music on a more global scale, toothen you’ve sort of dropped the ball a bit and we’re probably not going to jump over a fence to get it back from your nasty next door neighbour.

Oh, alright, we’ll knock on his door then. Just the once. Manchester born Gerald Simpson discovered acid house back in the late 80s and decided to make it for himself. “Voodoo Ray”, his seminal 1988 debut single, is still an almost shockingly sublime slab of DIY dance music that sounds as fresh today as it did way back when your dad was necking dodgy pills with Shaun Ryder at the Hacienda. A restlessand relentlessinnovator, Gerald soon moved onto working on what later became known as drum and bass and jungle. Since then, he’s spent prolonged periods of time in both New York and Berlin, and is currently devoted to pushing the limits of both sound quality and musical originality in a club environment. The bloke from next door says you can have your ball back, by the way, but you’ve got to listen to Black Secret Technology first.

Next month Gerald will be taking the stage at Moondance in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a super special evolution of dance music set. The acid originator will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Joey Beltram, Todd Terry, Slipmatt, Billy Daniel Bunter, Dillinja, and literally hundreds of your other favorite hardcore/D&B/house/techno/grime DJs, for what the promoters are describing as an event that, celebrates “rave culture from it’s roots to the innovators of today.”

Ahead of that performance, we gave Gerald a call to chat about the past, present, and future of dance music and club culture. And McDonalds cheeseburgers, too. Obviously.

THUMP: Why is that 89-93 period so pored over and memorialized?
A Guy Called Gerald: If you didn’t want to dance to Kylie Minogue, you had to create something rawer, so back then if you wanted something to dance too, you made it yourself. That energy was funneled into dance music, and a load of things came together at the same time. We were growing up and changing things. I left my home and moved to a squat because that meant I could build a studio. I realized that everything was available for me but I couldn’t quite do it at home. I’d been trying to but it was doing my mum’s head in. I needed somewhere I could knock a wall out and put speakers in. So I moved to Hulme and was surrounded by progressives. We got together and exchanged ideas. There were other people with studios, so that idea of exchange was in the air.

This isn’t to denigrate anyone or their work, but nostalgia seems like such a cloying, potent thing in club culture…
With all that, from the vinyl revival, to cassettes coming back, to dressing up in your grandad’s clothes, what happened was that back in the day you had to go somewhere to cut your records. You used to have to go to a production house and they’d help you with your idea and it’d be produced that way. You weren’t just downloading software and cutting and pasting tracks that’ve already been mastered, and then wondering why your track doesn’t sound the same or as good.

It’s like, you go to McDonalds and buy a burger. That burger won’t be the same quality as if you’d gone to the butchers, bought the ingredients, and made it yourself. People want to go back in time now, and it’s easy to think that that’s because of the “analogue sounds better” thing, but actually it’s because things were properly built back then and people had the time to make them. Now everyone wants a readymade that sounds like the old days. But it won’t. Because while the software can replicate the old sounds, you still need the right ear to make them sound right.

Why, then, does my generation fixate so much on this idea of the readymade? What sense of authenticity are we pining for?
It is about convenience and time. You could look at something that was intricately carved and you’d appreciate it because you knew it took time, and then a replica of the same made in China or Taiwan and see the mould marks and think it was a load of old rubbish. Basically, we’ve been pushed for time more and more and we’re running out of it. I don’t often speak to people of your generation because I don’t have the language to speak to themit’s too fast. That’s why things made in the past will have value attached to themthey took time. Time was spent on it.

Do you feel that people my age are content to rework the past as opposed to seeking out the dangerously, furiously, scarily new?
Kind of. That’s happened in culture before, but we have a different set of technological tools to do that with now. This is probably a transitional period we’re living in. Older stuff is the anchor, and basically we’ve been thrown into a new technological world, and we’re at a pivotal point with it. People don’t know where to go so, understandably, they return to the anchor. We can’t continue to regurgitate everything, though. We have to go somewhere.

The technology we have now is mindblowing. I remember having an SN50 sampler which was the height of my sophistication gear-wisethe rest was held together with gaffer tapeand I didn’t just sample the latest James Brown tune. I could grab tiny bits of anything and learn how to use the sampler to the fullest. That was because I had the time to do that. I scrimped and saved to buy it so I wanted to know every single thing about it.

We’re living in an age of social crisis, and I’m wondering if it’s moments like this when what club culture offers us becomes more important than ever?
I think so. I equate it to being in the studio. Even though I’m beaten up and ragged I’ve got this place that’s familiar. It’s like going to your local. It gets you through the day because you know it’s going to be there.

Is that why clubs are still important? Do we need these sites of intense personal significance?
I can see that there’s a lot of war against clubs. I went to Berlin for three months and stayed for 10 years and wouldn’t have been there was it not for the club system. The scariest part of living in Berlin came when you had to leave a club and get the train home: reality hit! There’s a freedom there in Berlin. You can, to a certain extent, do what you want there. It’s slowly changing as the years go on, but it is a very open place. If you wanted to be an artist you could do that there. There weren’t many restraints. In the UK you’ve got to fit that into your schedule. I learned a lot about what it was I wanted to do musically when I lived there. There’s a lot of opportunity there for collaboration, too.

Let’s argue that dance music is based round a geographical triangle that takes in Chicago, Detroit, and Berlin. How do you turn that into a square of significance? What city slots in there?
New York for me. I went there for the first time in 1989 just as the Garage was closing down, but it left so many clubs in its wake like The Whirl, The Tunnel, Red Zone, loads of these underground clubs and it was always part of my system growing upI was in Manchester but from ’82, ’83, I was a B-boy, so I looked towards New York. I lived there for five years and felt that it was fading away a little bit, culturally. Younger people there didn’t really have the time to appreciate the past. Then Mayor Giuliani brought in the cabaret law which meant that you couldn’t dance in a bar unless it had that license. It was like a mafia move: if you were a club, you had to pay up. But it’s still a focal point for dance music as we see it today.

I often think dance music is a form of music where extreme experimentation becomes almost universally accepted as a way of making people move.
I still find it pretty abstract. I was into electrofunk and early hip hop and I was DJing at the time and I stopped DJing when I’d got hold of my first drum machine and started to produce. I stayed in this little world of production and listening to avant-garde music. I loved stuff like Chick Corea and always went to the edges of music. I was never really into what was popular. So when I found acid house it would have been on a show on Piccadilly Radio in Manchester, a guy called Stu Allen would play some acid between the funk and soul. I came to realise that the machines they were using to make this music were the same ones that I’d acquired. On the show, one of the things he’d did was a demo section. So I sent in an acid demo and it got played. That’s how I did “Voodoo Ray” in the end.

I was into this really quirky, off-to-the-left kind of music. That was what I was into. It seemed like the people making the most out there music weren’t concerned with hits, they didn’t want to play it safe. So that’s what acid was for me. That’s still at the core of me. Even when I was in the charts I had nothing to do with it. I was moving towards making jungle. I was always trying to find the latest thing to dance to. I was always looking for the dance.

A Guy Called Gerald appears at Moondance Festival, London, on the 18th of September. Head here for information and tickets.

Josh is on Twitter

Here's A Brief Animated History Of EDM, As Told By Spotify

Image via YouTube

With dance music becoming an increasing focus in pop culture and news, most people have come to associate it with neon-filled festivals, molly, that guy who dated Taylor Swift, and that one kid with the funny haircut making music for Justin Bieber. But Spotify wants them to know that it goes a little deeper than that.

As part of its push into original video content, the music streaming platform (in partnership with attn:) has made dance music the focus of its first episode in a new animated series, Deconstructed. According to Spotify’s official blog, the web series “explores how music is shaped by political and social forces in culture,” and it will discuss topics ranging from “the impact of fan girls in feminism, to the rights of LGBT rappers, to the meaning of national anthems and more.”

The premiere, titled “How EDM Changed the World,” briefly hits on the various roots of dance music, from Chicago’s Frankie Knuckles and the Warehouse, to the Belleville Three creating Detroit techno, to 90s rave culture and its social repercussions, to the birth of PLUR. Of course, it can only so in-depth given its two-minute runtime, but it’s a pretty decent primer on dance music. However, they fall into the same trap that many others have, in which they lump the aforementioned genres of house and techno into the category of “EDM,” which has come to refer to a specific, corporatized strain of electronic music. Watch it below.

Read More: Stop Confusing EDM With All Electronic Music, Already

Dance music may only get two minutes in Deconstructed, but it could be getting an entire dedicated series if all goes to plan. Earlier this year, Spotify announced that its original video programming would include an EDM mockumentary, Ultimate/Ultimate, which follows contestants (including “frat brothers channeling their inner-Daft Punk”) competing to become “the next great EDM star.”

Here's A Brief Animated History Of EDM, As Told By Spotify

Image via YouTube

With dance music becoming an increasing focus in pop culture and news, most people have come to associate it with neon-filled festivals, molly, that guy who dated Taylor Swift, and that one kid with the funny haircut making music for Justin Bieber. But Spotify wants them to know that it goes a little deeper than that.

As part of its push into original video content, the music streaming platform (in partnership with attn:) has made dance music the focus of its first episode in a new animated series, Deconstructed. According to Spotify’s official blog, the web series “explores how music is shaped by political and social forces in culture,” and it will discuss topics ranging from “the impact of fan girls in feminism, to the rights of LGBT rappers, to the meaning of national anthems and more.”

The premiere, titled “How EDM Changed the World,” briefly hits on the various roots of dance music, from Chicago’s Frankie Knuckles and the Warehouse, to the Belleville Three creating Detroit techno, to 90s rave culture and its social repercussions, to the birth of PLUR. Of course, it can only so in-depth given its two-minute runtime, but it’s a pretty decent primer on dance music. However, they fall into the same trap that many others have, in which they lump the aforementioned genres of house and techno into the category of “EDM,” which has come to refer to a specific, corporatized strain of electronic music. Watch it below.

Read More: Stop Confusing EDM With All Electronic Music, Already

Dance music may only get two minutes in Deconstructed, but it could be getting an entire dedicated series if all goes to plan. Earlier this year, Spotify announced that its original video programming would include an EDM mockumentary, Ultimate/Ultimate, which follows contestants (including “frat brothers channeling their inner-Daft Punk”) competing to become “the next great EDM star.”