Fergus has a chat to the Shogun’s Exclusive signing- GEST
Tell us a bit about yourselves? What is GEST about?
Harry: I think it’s extremely hard to describe your own music, it’s for other people to make their mind up about it. We’ve been making drum and bass together for, more-or-less, 10 years under the previous alias Gerra & Stone and then we signed to Shogun and launched our new project with them about one year ago. I think this time around we definitely focussed a bit more on analogue equipment and our hardware and there are a few more techno influences than previously. It’s just an evolution of the existing foundation we made with our previous project.
What inspired the change?
Dave: It was something that we’d previously thought about. There are various drawbacks to having ‘and’ in a duo’s name. Particularly from a gig standpoint when you turn up with only one person it can seem misleading. So we always thought it’d be nice to just have one name and we wished we’d have come up with it from the start. Really, it was because we signed with Shogun and they pushed us in the direction of starting again and rejuvenating things although not as a totally new project and we just wanted to find a way to combine the previous alias into one.
What’s it like working as a duo rather than having individual projects?
Harry: We’ve made music together for 10 years. We lived together for a while as well so spent a lot of time together writing music in Dave’s little bedroom in the shared house. Then I moved to Bristol and we thought how’s this going to work? But doing it over the internet actually worked really well because it allows you to have your own creative space. Fast forward to now and we live in different countries but still communicate every day and write music online. I think a really important point about why it works with us is that we did know each other for a long time beforehand as well.
I guess it means though you were one step ahead with the pandemic hitting!
Harry: We were ready for this! We’d been planning for ten years!
There’s our headline- ‘Meet the DnB duo who predicted the Covid pandemic!’
And how’s it been to work with Shogun, really heavy-weights in the scene?
Harry: It’s awesome they’re great guys. It’s quite different from some other underground labels as Shogun have got a whole team of people with specific job roles, whilst other record labels could be run by one or two other people. So that’s been really interesting and it’s a great way to work and you get lots of support and they put a lot of effort into the promotion side of stuff. It’s been fantastic for this new project.
Dave: Also by the same token, there hasn’t been much coxing in a particular direction in terms of the actual music. They wanted to take us on for this more techno-infused direction that we started to go in. There are no real rules about what we need to make, as I’ve heard from other friends involved in exclusive record label contracts, where you’re a little bit more shepherded into a particular direction. Shogun allows us to do whatever we want creatively, but support is in a really structured way.
I’m a massive fan of bringing elements of different genres into drum ’n’ bass, which you’ve really demonstrated with this project, so what are your main inspirations?
Dave: Acid techno sounds have been a pretty big one.
Harry: I listen to a wide variety of music but as far as influences that have seeped into our sound… I really love deep and brooding techno, especially from labels like Ostgut Ton and Sandwell district from the early 2010s and of course the classics from Detroit and Chicago too, I’ve got a real soft spot for that. You can probably hear that in the first couple of tracks we did.
You can really see these inspirations with your use of hardware so how does that affect your workflow?
Dave: It’s probably important to say that we do use a lot of analouge equipment and hardware, but there are lots still done on the computer. Particularly the drums, they’re still mostly done with software, whilst the secondary percussive elements come from analogue devices. The draw of the hardware is being able to get outside the computer and having a more unpredictable element to things. You need predictable often for the mixing side of things, it’d be exteamly hard to make a modern drum ’n’ bass mixdown all analogue. But the unpredictable element you get from synths and the hands-on vibe sparks a lot of inspiration.
Harry: For me, it’s the hands-on element and everything does of course go through Ableton or Logic, but a lot of sounds will originate on hardware. Fundamentally, the main reason is that it’s really fun and you need to have fun to make music. Sitting at the computer all day is what I do for my day job, so I don’t want to be spending all the time producing on a screen and standing up and having a jam on the hardware is a lot of fun. These machines will just splurt out weird stuff and a lot of the time that’s where the best stuff comes from and it’s harder to get those happy accidents with software. Of course, I do use software all the time especially to sketch out ideas and then I’ll run the MIDI through my hardware. A lot of the tracks will start with jams, sometimes not even drum ’n’ bass jams. So I just record tonnes and tonnes of jams and pick out the call parts and make something from that.
Dave: A lot of the time Harry will start with that and put together lots of small sketches and then I’ll pick one or two of those and take the parts from it. I mostly make a lot of the beats like the kicks, snares and breaks and I’ll take his jams, edit them down and whittle them down to the parts which I think are more focussed on and I’ll jam with my own hardware and do some soft synth sound design and send it back to Harry. It’s quite common for us to send projects and parts back to each other at least twice throughout the process.
What advice would you give to new producers about starting up and surviving the scene?
Harry: It’s a difficult one to answer because we started quite a long time ago and things have changed drastically since then. It’s a different landscape. Perseverance and passion and really wanting to do it is the most important thing. It sounds generic, but you’ve got to be really in it to survive in this as it’s not an easy world, especially as there’s not much money in the underground world. Make connections and be careful about what you put out, say yes to and don’t rush it. We’ve been doing this for a long time and I still think it’ll be a long time until we write the best music we’ve ever written. So perseverance and passion would be the key elements for me.
Dave: Don’t be fooled into thinking by stuff you see on social media and the internet that it’s an instantaneous thing because it takes so long to get any rough handle on how things work. So just have the patience to continue for a long time.
What’s on the horizon for GEST?
Dave: We’ve got our next single with Shogun coming out on 9th April with Shogun, called ‘Huaxi’. We’ve just finished an EP for Shogun too which will be released in stages from May onwards. We’re also working on a remix for Rizzle as well. We’ve got quite a lot of gigs penned in for the summer. There’re Shogun events in Bristol and London, we’ve got a festival in Croatia called ‘Membrane’ which is a smaller one, which should be pretty cool and a few others in Europe and the UK. We’re really excited to have a calendar of gigs again after a year, fingers crossed of course that they are allowed to happen.
Harry: We’ve got a couple of livestreams too!
Dave: We’ve got a couple of live streams too! Dave: We’ve got one with Goat Shed which Harry is going to do on 8th April, the day before the release. I did one for Goat Shed here in Berlin towards the end of last year so now it’s Harry’s turn! Also looking forward to doing one for HÖR Berlin in a couple of months which is a highly respected internet radio station here that we both love. We’ve got a few other mixes too like one for Kiss FM going out on April 17th, and a couple of others. We’ll also be putting out a full-length track breakdown over the summer for a music production learning company – more details to follow soon!
How have you found doing livestreams without the physical audience?
Dave: For us, the prepping hasn’t been too different. I think I’d probably put in a few deeper tunes than normal but I think all the livestreams we’ve done, we’ve approached in the same way as a normal gig. I think the main difference is the actual experience of doing them. It’s a good experience, but I’ll be happy when it’s not the only thing we can do. But I just try and treat it like a live set.
Harry: I felt a little bit more nerve-racking for me having a little camera in front of me than a thousand people. It’s very strange and I’ve only done the Shogun one and to start off I wasn’t that into them but now I do religiously watch a few every week and I really love it. The CNVX one is amazing! I’ve discovered so much new music and it’s seeped into our culture now.
Dave: I think it’s good that it’s seeped into the culture now because I think moving forward with events we could maybe see it featuring in clubs shows and festivals more than it did in the past. One thing I forgot to say is that we are going to be running our own GEST invites event in Berlin, and we’ve thought quite a bit about including a livestream element in it, but I’m not sure how feasible it’s going to be. But just going by how ingrained in the culture it’s become due to the pandemic it’d be good to integrate it more into live sets for people who can’t be there as they could be in a different country and still able to vibe out.
Most people would associate Berlin with techno, so what’s the drums scene like over there?
Dave: There definitely is a pretty decent scene here, however, I’ve only moved here during the pandemic. But we’ve played out here 3 or 4 times and it’s always been good. There are a few promoters and some people who’ve been doing it for longer than we have. Obviously, techno is the religion here, but there’s definitely a pretty big scene here and we’ve secured a venue, VOID club, which is one we’ve worked with a few times and we’re going to be running a night there with drum ’n’ bass in one room and techno in the other. But we’ll see how it goes when we actually start running the parties but people are going to be so gagging for a party so all the events will be live for a while.
So talking about when we can party again… what’s the first thing you’ll do once the lockdown restrictions are removed?
Dave: Go out and listen to a loud sound system! Although I’m pretty low on clothes right now, I’ve been wearing the same pair of jeans for about a year so I need to go and buy some new threads.
Harry: He’s just been living in Shogun t-shirts!
Dave: To be fair, not to say my partying days are over, but if this had been 10 years ago I’d have been straight out going crazy for a while, but I don’t think I’ll go as mental now and I’ll just enjoy being able to socialise and go to a club again.
Harry: I’m quite naturally a hermit, this is normal life for me, I didn’t even know there was a pandemic going on! No, I think what I’ll actually do is just go for a pint in the pub with my mates. Or five! I haven’t seen my mates for so long so to just sit down and have a pint with them, which was so normal back in the day.
And what kind of things have you done to stay sane during lockdown? Any weird hobbies?
Dave: Gaming definitely! We both work from home, I teach for Point Blank College, so my life has basically been exactly the same just without the social elements.
Harry: This is just my normal life, just with A LOT more gaming than usual! Nothing too weird but I’m a bit of a weird guy anyway! At the start of lockdown I did digitalise my entire record collection and try and make some mixes from it, which is something that took forever. Last week I sold 90% of it, and I’d been collecting them since I was a kid, which was sad but it needed to go. But yeah, I’m basically just a hermit!
If you could only pick one tune to listen to for the rest of your life what’d it be?
Harry: ‘ Lateralus’ by TOOL. 100%.
Dave: ‘Toxicity’ by System of A Down.
Harry: I bet you weren’t expecting both of us to come up with metal tunes!
I think a lot of drum ’n’ bass fans also like metal, me included!
Harry: I think metal’s just timeless and unique!
What would your dream collab be?
Harry: Dave of course!
Dave: I would be your dream collab?
Harry: I’m living the dream already!
Dave: We’ve honestly found with collabs it’s better if we have a real-world connection with them. So obviously it’d be amazing to collab with any of the greats and see what their studio workflow was, but we’ve found our best collabs are with people we’re mates with or have met on a tour.
Harry: For me, there needs to be a connection with the person you’re making music with, especially with us as there’s two of us so doing collabs is difficult.
Dave: It’d probably be dBridge I guess.
Harry: Or maybe Burial or Tom Yorke or even MF DOOM!
Which do you prefer a dirty warehouse rave or a Summer festival?
Harry: What about a quaint local village pub? I like both of those things but if you ask me right now looking at a grey sky in England I’d say Summer festival but I do miss a good old dirty warehouse party.
Dave: Right now probably the warehouse rave because we’re so deprived of any chaos, so I’ll be very happy to get back to that. But equally with Summer ones you can play more chilled deeper selections. But probably the warehouse on the spot, I just want the chaos again!
Thanks for joining us guys and make sure to keep an eye out for GEST’s new single, Huaxi, coming out on 9th April!