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"If English culture was synonymous with tea time, cucumber sandwiches and royal pageantry, then 28 Gun Bad Boy was its photo negative, a gritty exploration of alienation at the heart of Britain’s 20th century underbelly."
Gerald Simpson (born 16 February 1967), better known as A Guy Called Gerald, is a British DJ, record producer and musician. He was an early member of 808 State, and later achieved success as a solo artist. He is best known for his early work in the Manchester acid house scene in the late 1980s and the track "Voodoo Ray". His style developed during the early 1990s, and his 1995 album Black Secret Technology would become a "much-touted candidate for 'best jungle album ever.'
Simpson was influenced by his Jamaican roots; his father's blue beat, ska and Trojan reggae record collection, his mother's Pentecostal church sessions and the Jamaican sound system parties in Manchester's Moss Side area where he grew up.
He absorbed jazz fusion and electro funk at clubs, youth clubs and shebeens such as Legends, St.Alfonso's, British Legion and the Reno in Manchester, where the dancefloor in the early 1980s inspired him to study contemporary dance. Manchester was a hotbed of dance music with black club nights open every night of the week and Simpson spent his time joining in the vibe.
Around 1983 with electro booming and early hip hop, breakdancing and b-boy culture making its way from the US, he left dance college to immerse himself in electronic music production. At this time music from Detroit and Chicago – from producers such as Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson was being played by Stu Allen on Piccadilly Radio and imported directly into Manchester's specialist record shops.
Inspired, Simpson began experimenting with tape editing and drum machines and the regular jams in the attic of his house led to forming the Scratchbeat Masters. Using cut up beats, samples and turntables they would challenge other bands and their sound systems. They released a 12" single called "Wax On The Melt", a collaboration between a number of crews and Graham Massey and Martin Price together with whom he would later form 808 State. Their first album, Newbuild, was released in 1988, but he soon left the group to concentrate on his solo work.
A Guy Called Gerald provides the perfect analogy for what happened in Manchester. Most people would assume that he went to The Haçienda, heard this incredible House music for the first time, had an epiphany, and then went home and set to work on the era defining single ‘Voodoo Ray’ (which he wrote with Foot Patrol in mind, visualising how they might dance to it). The reality, of course, is that Gerald and his contemporaries were those very kids from Hulme and Moss Side, who brought House music into The Haçienda in the first place.
The result of heading back into his bedroom studio was "Voodoo Ray", played first at the Hacienda in 1988 and then the underground clubs before entering the UK Singles Chart a year later. It was the first acid house track produced in the UK, and released on a small Merseyside independent label (Rham! Records) based in Wallasey."Voodoo Ray" entered the UK record chart in 1989 rising to number 12. It was also the best selling independently released single of that year.
Much is written the influence of the Hacienda and rave scene on his music however Simpson was more influenced of the dancers in black club scene in the North of England such as Foot Patrol and the Jazz Defektors who were regulars in the clubs.
At the same time a track Simpson started before leaving 808 State, "Pacific State", was released and hit the charts. However, according to Simpson, they had finished and released the track without his permission. Although Simpson was credited on its first release on the album Quadrastate both as a writer and co-producer, the dispute escalated as Simpson claimed to have written the entire track. The dispute was eventually settled out of court.
Juice Box Records was an independent record label in the United Kingdom, based at Riverside Studios in West London. It was established by Simpson in 1992, after he left SME Records, and closed in 1998. It took its name from the sound system that Simpson operated with MC Tunes. The label provided an outlet for seven years for Simpson's work, with thirty three titles released under various other pseudonyms such as The K.G.B. and Ricky Rouge, and collaborations between Simpson and artists including Lisa May, DJ Tamsin, Goldie (as 'The 2 G's'), and Finley Quaye.
The label has been identified as being responsible for influential releases that provided the blueprint for what was to become jungle then drum and bass, with early singles on the label described as "genre-defining". The early singles on the label were compiled on the LP 28 Gun Bad Boy, of which Simon Reynolds of Melody Maker stated in a review of the album, "If there was a blueprint for what would transform rave into jungle/techno, then this is it.". It is regarded as the first full-length Jungle album ever released.
Reynolds also stated in a Melody Maker article in October 1994, about Simpson's Juice Box-era music, "Gerald's tracks take the jungle mesh of polyrhythms, cross-rhythms and counter-rhythms to new levels of insane detail." Gerald's Black Secret Technology LP was released in 1995 and reached UK Charts #64, including contributions from Goldie and Finley Quaye, In 1998, the label closed, with Simpson relocating to New York.
"Two years after this A Guy Called Gerald had become experienced enough to kickstart the drum'n bass craze along with the likes of Goldie. In 1993 the genre was still in development though and pre-phasers like 28 Gun Bad Boy bore the mark of things to come. Just like other newcomers to the electronic map back then, trip-hop for example, it was a question of puzzling together the right ingredients, from techno and hip hop to hardcore and acid house. Primitive? Hell yes, but it sounds vital to this day."
"Unpolished and raw, not as fast and swinging as what would come, and much more dated than music released just a few years later, but this was no doubt an important eye opener for many artists in the early nineties."
"Long time electronic music maker Gerald Simpson made the transition from rave to D&B on this landmark longplayer. What he succeeded in doing so well was to keep a strong vein of soul running under the dark fractured beats that sound like they have been recorded in a studio that is ready for a major equipment overhaul."
"I remember when I first heard the record,I was frustrated at it's rawness and lack of polish but rapidly came to appreciate it is this edge that makes it standout.Add in to that the fact that Gerald seems to have a real instinct for letting melody drift in and out of the mix somewhere deep in the sound-scape."
"His remake of his own "Voodoo Ray" here titled "Voodoo Rage" is a brave one considering the legendary status of the original track.The opening side is all about the vocals and features a wonderful turn from Finlay Quaye (where did this guy disappear to?) on "Finlay's Rainbow".Things then take a darker more menacing tone before mellowing out again towards the record's conclusion."
"Trevor Miller wrote what was probably the first ‘rave novel’, Trip City — published in 1989 — that came accompanied by a soundtrack from Gerald, cover-mounted on a cassette."
"Never wanting to be stereotyped into any particular style of music his sound continued to develop. In 2000 he signed with !K7 Records and released "Essence" with guest vocals from singer/songwriter Wendy Page, Lady Kier and Finley Quaye. In 2005 the down tempo "To All Things What They Need". In 2005 he launched his Sugoi and Protechson labels. His latest album "Proto Acid / The Berlin Sessions", released on Berlin's Laboratory Instinct, is an infectious 71 minute continuous mix recorded live."