A Guy Called Gerald
Melody Maker, October 8th, 1994
by Simon Reynolds
You could be forgiven for thinking that A Guy Called Gerald, the genius behind 'Voodoo Ray', had disappeared off the face of the earth. In fact, since his deal with CBS went sour, Gerald Simpson has being working deep underground. He started up his own label, Juice Box, and developed the digital-tribe vibe of 'Voodoo Ray' in an unexpected direction: hardcore junglism.
Gerald has this year issued a series of astonishing cuts such as 'Nazinji-Zaka' and 'Darker Than I Should Be'. 'Nazinji' starts with the declaration, "The first rhythms came from Africa", which is a big clue to Gerald's thang. The leap from 'Voodoo Ray' makes sense because jungle is Afro-futurist. Like dub, hip hop and ragga, it has the hallmark of African music. The complexity is rhythmic rather than melodic. Or, rather, the rhythm IS the melody. Gerald's tracks take the jungle mesh of polyrhythms, cross-rhythms and counter-rhythms to new levels of insane detail.
"I use five or six loops, add electronic percussion, pan 'em across the speakers and feed 'em through effects," he explains. "If people are gonna pay five quid, I'll give 'em their money's worth! I try to create as many dynamics within the music as possible and I have a personal rule that the samples must be masked beyond recognition."
Another key word for Gerald's aesthetic is cyber-black. Check out 'Gloc', the sinister, fucked-up flip of the jazzy, ultra-smooth 'Darker Than I Should Be'.
"The samples of 'You're gonna be a bad motherfucker' are from Robocop. It's the scene where they're rebuilding the guy as a cyborg after he was shot up. It fits, because the track is a remix. It's like I rebuilt it and armoured it with effects."
The sci-fi theme is continued on Gerald's forthcoming LP, Black Secret Technology, a title inspired by a programme on government mind-control via blipverts and other subliminal techniques. It also communicates a "Say it loud, I'm cyber-black and proud" message. But before the album, there's a new single, 'Finley's Rainbow', which is totally different to anything he has done before. It's jungle, but instead of drawing on ragga, the sources lie in the skankin' rhythms of roots reggae and the ethereality of lover's rock, all whisked by an irresistibly effervescent happy hardcore tempo.
As part of the intelligent/ambient vanguard, Gerald is making music which doesn't get played out that often, as pandering, play-safe DJs spin only proven crowd-pleasers, all obvious soul choruses, ragga chants and bouncy B-lines. Nevertheless, Gerald, who is about to collaborate with MC Navigator from Kool FM and has invited Goldie from Metalheads to remix 'Voodoo Ray', remains optimistic about the scene.
"So long as no one gets sucked in by the majors, it will keep progressing. People will realise they can't carry on sampling direct lifts from other records and become more creative."