Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interview: The rising star of Gary Beck

In 2008, British-born techno pioneer Richie Hawtin plucked 17 producers from obscurity and featured their work on a special newcomers compilation.

For many of them, it was their debut release on Hawtin's respected Minus label. For all of them, it was a major opportunity for their electronic music careers.

With the backing of such a formidable DJ as Hawtin, much speculation was made about the possible futures of these young and talented producers. Out of the 17, it is arguably Glasgow-based producer and DJ Gary Beck who has made the most impact so far.

In the three years since 'Richie Hawtin Presents Sounds From Can Elles', Gary Beck's music has reached many of techno's most respected labels including Slam's Soma Records, Len Faki's Figure, Nic Fancuilli's Saved Records, Speedy J's Electric Deluxe, and Sven Väth's Cocoon.

Beck has also DJed at some of the world's most important dancefloors like Tresor and Berghain in Berlin, Amsterdam's Awakenings, London's Ministry of Sound, Glasgow's Sub Club, and Chicago's Smart Bar.

And perhaps most impressively of all, Gary Beck's set at Scotland's Rockness festival in June 2010 was broadcast as an Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1, an important milestone for any serious dance music performer.

But what is the secret to Gary Beck's ongoing success? Why has he progressed further than any of the other 16 Richie Hawtin-backed producers?

"People really started to take notice of me when Minus released 'Consumed'," says Gary Beck. "It was a big surprise when Richie called asking to sign the track. I was always confident that something was going to happen with my tracks but this release was more than I expected at the time. It gave me extra belief in my productions."

The release, Gary Beck says, was like a catalyst and pushed him ever deeper down the production hole. But rather than try to replicate the 'Consumed' formula, Beck concentrated on finding his own sound, not that that is ever an easy task.

"Finding my own style has probably been the toughest challenge of my career," he says. "There is so much music out there, I had to be unique. I wanted to create a sound that people would instantly recognize as a Gary Beck production."

Part of that process involved setting up his own record label, Bek Audio, as a base for his musical experimentation. So far Gary has used the label to release rolling, militaristic techno (Yes!), bleep-fueled soundsystem destroyers (Paragon), sleazy, sample-heavy tech house (Hands In Mine), and all manner of techno grooves.

Bek Audio has also released tracks from some of Gary's favourite influencers including British DJ and producer Mark Broom, and Dutch techno innovator Speedy J, who collaborated with Beck on the track 'Vaag'.

Speedy J has taken Beck under his wing somewhat, and released some of his work on his revered imprint Electric Deluxe. Speedy J's booking agency also looks after Gary Beck's gig schedule in The Netherlands.

Beck is particularly excited about his next Bek Audio collaborator, the under-the-radar British producer Mr. G. "As a producer, he is probably my main influence," says Gary. "His style gripped me from the very beginning with his raw analogue sounds. Every track he has released is packed with energy and funk. I'm extremely happy to be collaborating with him."

Despite being a relatively young producer, Beck hasn't overlooked the need for consistency - his production values have been very solid across the large number of tracks he has released.

From his early deep and hypnotic bass on 'Deep Poetry' [Variance], to the slow-burning minimal soul of 'Drifting' on Perc Trax, the melodic groove of 'Restoration' on Soma, the big drums of 'Say What' on Saved Records, and his dark atmospheric remix of Pig & Dan's 'Deliverance' on Cocoon, there has been an unfaltering level of excellence on Gary Beck's releases.

When he talks about the dedication that he has in the studio to the finer points of music production, you get the feeling that he is very passionate about what he does.

"I really love what I'm doing right now, so maintaining a high standard of production is the most important thing for me," he admits. "I simply love producing."

Gary Beck has also played with other forms of music, constantly pushing himself as an artist. For a while, he released ambient and downtempo electronic sounds under his not-so-widely-known alter ego Ruskin Franks. His forthcoming debut album on Soma Records reportedly includes experimental and alternative styles too. "I take a lot of interest and inspiration from ambient and classical," he says.

In the studio, Beck is something of an analogue addict too, which has given his productions more room for idiosyncrasies. Everything that comes out of Beck's studio is tainted by unclean circuitry, copper wiring, and the impreciseness of human latency. You can hear this, in his rough drums and impure synthesizer moments.

"I use a lot of hardware in the studio," he says. "I have a bank of kicks which I have created over the years. When building a beat, I usually layer lots of kick drums together, before compressing the hell out of it all.

"For texture I sprinkle some percussion sounds over the top (usually taken from my Roland RS50) and just go from there. My bass often comes from a great setting I have in my MicroKorg."

Gary Beck's dancefloor upbringing has also helped him hone his craft too. As a young Glaswegian, he grew up listening to some of Britain's most accomplished techno protagonists, including Slam and Ben Sims. Sweden's Adam Beyer was also an inspiration.

It was at clubs like The Arches where he first witnessed the potential explosive power of techno. "Glasgow has always been known for enjoying the 'harder' styles of electronic music. Although now there is an interest in all forms of electronic music, the techno scene is still going strong, and I love techno," he says.

"It has been around me for the last 10 years since my very first visit to the The Arches. It's a genre that can go anywhere it likes. There are no real limits, as long as the energy is there!"

Much closer to home, there is another secret to Gary Beck's success. His mum. "My Mum was into dance music when I was just a kid," he says, with a laugh. "She has a backlog of mix tapes from guys like Carl Cox, Roger Sanchez and Pete Tong, so she has always been very keen on what I do musically.

"She is my greatest critic, and has one of the best ears for music I have ever known. If she doesn't like a track of mine, 99% of the time she will be right. I might argue that it's 'a bomb!' but she will dismiss it as a load of crap."

Gary Beck's debut release on Adam Beyer's Drumcode label has been a long time coming. Beck admits that he has "been buying Drumcode records for years", and says that "the label is one of my favourites, so it's a real pleasure to come onboard."

He describes the Drumcode sound as "raw and energetic, the way techno should be." His new Drumcode two tracker certainly fits into that mould.

Lead track 'Askaig' brims with gnarly, heavy techno hats and incessant bleep lines. As the track morphs into ever more dynamic grooves, it burns with an intensity usually only found in smoke and strobe filled warehouses come 5AM. Ever present in the track are Beck's classic-sounding techno drums.

The flipside 'Mock Tease' is more musical. Built around a grand wave of warm pads that wash over the track's underlying techno train, the track is both serene and driving at the same time.

As the unstoppable rhythms push your feet forwards at a breathless pace, the continuous chords of the main synth keep your mind in a state of reverie.

At what point in a set should a DJ play 'Mock Tease'? "It's difficult to say, but at the right moment with a great crowd, this track is fantastic," says Gary. "I had a fun time in the studio making it."

With Gary Beck now officially a part of the ever-growing Drumcode family (he also did a guest mix for Adam Beyer's Drumcode Radio show recently), it is nearly certain that the Glaswegian's techno star will continue to rise. Of course, that may or may not impress his mum.

(Words: Terry Church)

Listen / download Gary Beck 'Askaig' [Drumcode]


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