A Guy Called Gerald & Greg Wilson

Ahead of tonight’s Stretch Disco with A Guy Called Gerald, here is a little something for you to read. Hopefully this will set the tone nicely…

Tonight Gerald will be playing a rare influences DJ set, in his hometown of Manchester, at one of the country’s oldest and most respected music venues – Band on the Wall. Refurbished just over a year ago, BotW is an inspiring venue where the sound system really is something to experience!

So we are all looking forward Gerald’s musical journey through the worlds of Jazz, Funk, Soul, Disco, Electro, Detroit Techno and Chicago Acid House.

“This is a rare opportunity for me to play the blueprint to the music I make today.” – A Guy Called Gerald

Event Info: http://bandonthewall.org/events/3021/

And for April’s Stretch Disco event we have booked another iconic British DJ with northern roots – Greg Wilson. On Saturday April 16th Greg will be introducing his first ‘Reels of Steel’ night. Reels of Steel will be a feast of audio-visual action; Greg has spent the last year digging through his extensive video archive to compile a show-reel of delights that will be projected to accompany his sounds. Greg will also be spinning cuts this time through two of his trusty Revox reel-to-reel tape machines and computer. Expect an eclectic-retrospective assault on the senses while GW keeps it reel!

For Stretch, booking Gerald and Greg consecutively seems to make sense. As a teenager during the early 80s Gerald religiously attended Greg Wilson’s weekly Wednesday night residency at Legend (now 5th Avenue), absorbing fresh electro-funk cuts during a time when live recorded music was being more heavily fused with electronic sounds.

So to give you a more in-depth insight into the musical roots of both Gerald and Greg, here is A Guy Called Gerald being interviewed back in 2005:

“I was 15 and always at Greg Wilson’s night at Legends, in my home city of Manchester, on Wednesdays. I was just a little bit underage but managed to get in. I really miss those times coz people back then had nothing else but that, the atmosphere was something I’ve never ever seen repeated. People would come to Legends from all over the country just for that night. At the time dancing and music was the most important thing in my life. I recognised the music as a way of basically escaping from my environment. It was a pretty harsh environment in some ways and there was a lot of judging going on. There were the typical teenage pressures – everyone was classified as either a Dub head or Funk head. It would be easy to fall into someone else’s mould and do what they were doing, but in them days that was looked at as cheesy. The people that were into Electro and breakdancing were basically crazy – it was definitely a young movement. We had a kind of careless aggression about things – a Punk attitude – people would be laughing at us for washing the floor and spinning on our heads, but you could see they would never know how to break out of a system. And that’s basically what we felt we were doing.

I was always attracted to an electronic sound, any kind of synthesised sound from Chick Corea to Jean Michel Jarre to Gary Numan to The Buggles. When I started to hear this type of music for the first time it was almost unbelievable for me. It was like the music was from inside my head – but what was appealing was the synthesised sounds. Early kinds of synth music seemed to me to be always trying to mimic traditional instruments or songs. Whereas this new sound, this Electro, was definitely not trying to hide the fact that it was electronic. There was something raw and exciting about it.

Legend was one of the only places that played strictly Electro, Soul and Funk, plus, of course, Jazz breaks. At the same time there were youth clubs and community halls that were playing that type of music but for me the appeal of Legend was the club environment, the dancing, and of course I had to check out Greg Wilson’s set. The club reminded me of what a space ship would be like and in the last fifteen years of djing around the globe I’ve not seen a club to rival it. The dance floor was an arena surrounded by a waist high wall that sloped inwards coated in silver metal material. Near the DJ box the wall was mirrored. Above the dancefloor there were rings of neon and 4 mirror balls – one in each corner and an array of mirrors all over the ceiling at different angles so that when the laser was activated it would bounce all over the club. There was a strobe built above the neon which could move in a circle around the perimeter of the dancefloor – loads of strobes, lasers, smoke machines.

The speakers were above the dancefloor facing into it – one in each corner and there must have been a rotor sound system as the DJ could trigger each speaker separately. The DJ booth was raised facing the dancefloor at the back of the arena. It seemed like the sounds were synched with the lights – you could easily lose yourself as the sounds would orbit the dancefloor with the lights – especially the high pitched sounds. I remember being on the dancefloor when the strobe was orbiting and the smoke going – no other light than that and, because there were mirrors all the way round, it would be hard to find your way off. It was amazing to see the freeze time motion from the strobe – especially when people were letting off dancing.

It was a place where you had to dress up. The extreme Soul and Funk heads would have wet perms, Lacoste or Fred Perry jumper, pair of corduroy trousers and a pair of moccasins. The Jazz Fusion guys would probably be dressed in stretched jeans, frayed at the bottom and split to cover their spat dancing shoes. The dancers would carry all their gear in camera bags – towel, talcum powder for the floor. And the dancefloor was strictly for dancing.

A couple of years ago I happened to be in Manchester city centre – hadn’t been back there for 10 years at least – and I thought I’d go check out where Legend used to be as the city was completely different. We parked in the back street and as my brother walked past a skip noticed, to his surprise, one of the mirror balls. He took it for posterity and it’s hanging in my studio today.

In my teenage years the name Greg Wilson was synonymous with Bank Holidays and Christmas and special times. His name would come up on Piccadilly Radio at these times. As soon as I heard there was going to be a Greg Wilson mix on the radio I would run over to Shadus, the local electronic shop, and buy a brand new Chrome C90 TDK cassette tape. I would make sure I was in front of the Amstrad with my finger on the pause button when that mix started. It didn’t matter what was happening anywhere else. That mix would get played to death – the tape would be worn out until his next guest appearance on Piccadilly Radio. Around Christmas, he would mix all the popular club music from the entire year into one great big groove soup. There would be all sorts of things going on – plays on words – bits of melodies swimming around – intros from tracks that you’d grown to know and love and if you knew anything about dance music at the time it was almost as if he was having a conversation with you with his mix. In Legend he’d be mixing what sounded like his own versions of the tunes, using 2 or 3 copies of the record – that also inspired me.- A Guy Called Gerald

A Guy Called Gerald in his studio – mid 90′s

GW’s Best of 82 Mix: http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/mixes/the_best_of_82.html

GW’s Best of 83 Mix: http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/mixes/the_best_of_83.html

Full interview: http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/mixes/no_sell_out.html

More on Legend: http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/legend-manchesters-other-club