As I was traipsing up the the steep streets north of Hollywood Blvd. near Las Palmas with Guy Gerber’s Fabric 64 mix pumping through my headphones, I was prepping all of the typical ways to crack an artist so that they lose the stilted interview stance and reveal themselves as an actual human being.
Just as I plucked my earphone out to check the address, exiting the melodic daze the end of mix had me in, I was beckoned by Guy Gerber himself from the other side of a fenced-in swimming pool.
“Come, come…you made it for the best part of the story,” he said with a wry smile as he motioned me around the gate and up to where he was standing, as if on stage, with his publicist and a female friend as his audience. He is about 5′ 10″ (taller if you count the tousled curly hair), a tattered black shirt and some thin black jeans with flip-flops adorned his slender frame, and he spoke with an Israeli accent that could easily sound French to an unsuspecting ear.
“At this age, I love food more than music and women.”
He talked about his life in his home country of Israel, making music in his tiny little apartment with an amazing view of Tel Aviv, and the ups and downs of women who had crossed his path, for better or for worse. He told the story of a girl who lured him to Italy and proceeded to make his life a living hell…but he told it with such light-hearted aplomb that it was completely accessible.
I was so taken aback at how entertaining and charismatic he was that my pen didn’t hit the paper for a good 10-minutes and I hadn’t even thought about turning on the recorder. This was not how these interviews typically went down.
“At this age, I love food more than music and women,” he confessed while explaining his love for red meat yet bemoaning how he too often wound up eating gnocchi instead with his ex. He has that burning artistic intensity about him and has led a life that extends far beyond studio cave-dwelling and hotel-hopping, including a stint on the Israeli national soccer team and adventures in the Sinai peninsula. He was a far cry from the nerdy, socially awkward or snobby DJ stereotypes.
And I had yet to ask a single question of my own.
Furthermore, I am straight-up at the man’s house. Not a random restaurant, not the green room of a club half an hour before his set and not sitting in front of my computer talking to a Skype avatar.
To be invited to someone’s home (yes, Guy Gerber is an official LA resident), down into his garage studio to hear all manner of outtakes from his Fabric live mix, and then out to dinner to finish off the interview with margaritas and Mexican food all point to someone who is a person first and an artist second.
I’d soon learn the full gravity of that truth when I witnessed the level of passion Gerber approaches his craft with.
It was a Fabric podcast by Tiefschwarz that I was listening to in the fall of last year when his track “Nothing Can Be True” came out of nowhere and smote me with its ethereal female vocals and a soaring, emotive quality that somehow still felt grounded in a reality that escapes most “big” tracks. It was musical, it was danceable and I was immediately hooked.
But I soon discovered is that there is no such thing as a “Guy Gerber” track. After being pulled down into his studio, I saw that the man loves chords but beyond that, whatever song comes out of that garage is the direct result of an in-the-moment, mood-defined aesthetic.
In discussing the process behind his recent Fabric mix, Gerber is animated, but not in the same, casual way he riffs on food and women. When he really gets going, his mind moves quicker than his mouth can relay the thoughts and his cadence becomes very staccato.
“With electronic music for the club, the music has to be functional, people have to dance, and I find it boring, after a while, of always doing an intro and 8 or 16 bars and then the song, and then an outro. With this, I wanted to skip all of that,” he said while taking cowboy-sized drags of a Marlboro Light that he sporadically forgot about and rediscovered as he shuffled around.
“I always try to have a theme because I can do techno, deep house, I can do indie or rock and because I do so many different types of music, I always try to find a theme and a way to connect all of them into one thing,” he said.
Whereas some artist albums come together through scraps of songs that already existed in some form, Gerber built this one from scratch, besting the only other three artists in the series (Ripperton, Ricardo Villalobos and Omar-S) to use all original productions.
Without question, Gerber poured himself into this one.
“There were some moments where I felt too exposed. When you’re playing on the actual synthesizer hardware, every motion…it’s me. Crowds can assume anything, but for people who know me and what I’ve been through, they can see that I’m right there,” he said as he gently swiped his hand across one of many keys that flanked both of us.
Most times, he cites “personal changes” as the reason behind the sensitivity, but he eventually told me that the entire album is the Phoenix that rose from the ashes of a bad breakup.
He was hesitant to dub this a “break-up album,” though, for fear of limiting the interpretative spectrum. He is quick to point out that he didn’t seek refuge in music or use it as an outlet. Instead, he simply had a deadline for this mix right when shit hit the fan. It might have more notes than a straightforward break-up album, but they’re all drenched in melancholy.
“If I made it how I wanted to at first, people wouldn’t want to go out, or they would start crying on the dancefloor, so I had to find a balance,” he said.
“I wanted to do something that would contribute to the legacy of the club and something people could talk about.”
His studio is littered with classic analog gear, from the Moog Prodigy to the Roland Juno 60 and TR-909, as well as a Machinedrum, an MPC and much more, all routed in serpentine fashion into a massive rack that hooks into an Ableton-equipped computer setup with a Maschine and a pair of beastly Focal monitors that could buy you a used Civic without breaking a sweat.
“When using synths, people work with presets, thousands of them, and I wanted to go the opposite direction and actually use the same sounds…mainly the same few the entire time,” he says, explaining the stripped down, band-like aesthetic he had in mind.
I asked him if this was a way to challenge himself.
“Challenge? Maybe. But it also makes things simpler. Instead of looking for different sounds, I’m looking for different melodies. Sometimes it’s the same harmony, but I can switch one note and it changes from optimistic to pessimistic,” he said.
And so went the story of how an Ableton production and mix that missed a deadline several times over and was scrapped and restarted just days before the drop-dead submission date came together.
Not only was it defined by his personal struggle at the time, but Gerber tried his best to inject the singular element of Fabric as a club into the CD.
“I wanted to do something that would contribute to the legacy of the club and something people could talk about. The club has this amazing sound system…the whole floor is subwoofers so you have this really deep bass and you don’t have to play too strong on the low end, you can play deep,” he said.
It fit perfectly with the simplified and emotive feel he wanted. This wouldn’t be dancefloor friendly, he said, but that was ok.
The result? The term “journey” is one of the most hackneyed when describing a mix or compiliation, but this one is truly a trip through the soundscapes of Gerber’s mind, traversing peaks and valleys without ever fully taking off or falling down. It has the same, liquid quality that the best Matthew Dear studio mixes have, where the sounds feel layered, not wedged.
It ends upbeat. Not quite as far as redemption, but definitely with hope. And as a whole, it retains more danceability than Gerber would let on. It came out this past June and was well-received.
On the touring front, Gerber’s live set is established as one of the best in the biz. It left people buzzing in Miami and Detroit and he continues to fine tune it.
Gigs will always be there for someone of Gerber’s stature, though. With releases on Cocoon, Cadenza, Bedrock, Great Stuff, Saw, Visionquest and his own Supplement Facts, he has a clear mastery of making people move to a 4/4 beat.
Every true artist wants to step outside of their comfort zone at some point. It was getting a personal call from P-Diddy that gave Gerber the chance to do just that.