In Conversation With…Gary Beck
Gary Beck is a name, which is embedded within dance music and has featured at the world’s most reputable dance music venues. The Glaswegian is a veteran from the early days of Techno and is one of the driving forces in the world of the genre today.
A keen and knowledgeable selector, Gary Beck is known for bringing his own take on techno and delivering the goods each time he takes the stage. By gaining early attention from Richie Hawtin and releasing on the legendary Minus imprint, Gary has featured on many of dance music’s most prestige labels, Cocoon and Drumcode just to name a few!
Beck has collaborated with leading names such as Green Velvet and has featured on Pete Tong’s infamous Essential mix, as well as featuring on Boiler Room. Gary’s career has excelled and it’s obvious that people have taken notice. Gary’s CV boasts gigs at the legendary Fabric, Berghain and Timewarp. Now a frequent headliner, Beck is also running his impressive BEK Audio imprint, which explores the realms of Techno and beyond. Its safe to say that the future is looking bright and it is utterly deserved, especially for an artist who has given so much to dance music.
We caught up with Gary to discuss his upcoming release on Alan Fitzpatrick’s We Are The Brave, Glasgow and key issues within dance music.
Hi Gary, How have you been? What has been going on with you recently?
I have actually had a bit of a change to my usual life at the moment, due to my son being born but apart from that, I am currently curating a special pack for my label, which will include both past artists and new artists. I am also trying to work on some of my own productions too.
I just want to touch on how you initially got into DJing and if the city of Glasgow played a part in this with institutions like The Arches, Subclub and Rubadub.
I initially got into DJing from a friend. I went to school with an artist who is known as Sia-A, real name Andy Graham. He was in the same class as me at school, One day he bought a pair of turntables and I immediately got hooked and obsessed with it, which then led me to buy my own pair of belt drives. I used to practice for hours at home learning how to mix. I got really engrossed in it.
In terms of Glasgow as a city and the scene in general, I have to say that it most definitely had a hand in developing me as an artist. The Arches in particular, which tragically shut down, was an Iconic space. I actually ended up working behind the bar there. They used to bring some incredible artists to the city, people like Matthew Herbert and Richie Hawtin and I used to sneak away and hide for an hour just to watch and hear the DJs play. With Rubadub their shop exposed some of the great dance music that was going on around the world and took this music into Glasgow. There was also some great record stores such as 23’rd Precinct and Kushi Records.
I sense that Glasgow has always had a strong DJ community. Do you feel that this is still the case today?
Yes most definitely. There is so much help for up and coming DJ’s in Glasgow, There is actually a studio called Shoogle which is run by the massively talented Simon Stokes, and they offer courses that specialise in DJing and electronic music production. It gives the opportunity for anyone who is interested in DJing to go and do it. Glasgow is a city that I believe cares about the DJ culture. DJs like Slam in particular always look to bring the new crop through and are always at hand to offer advice to young DJs.
There seems to be a lot of praise for the Glaswegian and indeed Scottish scene at the moment can you tell me about why it is so special to you?
For me the people make it. As a DJ you love it when a crowd is really keen as opposed to being on their smartphones. Clubs like Subclub has probably the best crowd in the world. There is such a good vibe in Glasgow it really is a dream place to play. Glasgow also has remained quite true to itself and hasn’t changed dramatically like some of the other main cities across the UK.
Do you find that it is vital for a DJ to produce in order to gain recognition or can they rely solely on their DJ skills? What have you seen change from when you started and today?
I actually think it is much easier to gain recognition and to secure gigs from DJing alone today, especially with the help of social media. I think it was much harder back then and I felt like I needed to produce records in order to get recognised. I was actually in the opticians when Richie Hawtin called me, and I was like yeah right! But it was and he wanted to sign my track to Minus. Richie was great for this as he consistently tried to push good music even if it meant the artist was unknown. I feel that with technology today it has become much more easier to make a name for yourself just by having a strong online presence. There are so many great producers who get gigs but are awful DJs and vice versa.
I agree I feel that although Social Media and technology has helped in a way it has also taken away the talent aspect of DJing and producing.
I am not a huge fan of Social Media, I feel that people put too much emphasis on it. Unfortunately today some people may feel their career slip if they have not got a strong presence when in many cases a lot of artists are fairly shy. I also believe that social media has caused DJs to lose their mystical identity and has demystified the whole scene. Nowadays a lot of people are overshadowed, they know too much about the DJ like what they have had to eat. Back in the day you used to find out about the DJ by hearing their records and going to see them. That was so special.
I totally agree with you but I also feel that the Internet has allowed for a lot of garbage to be released purely due to the ease of getting your music out there, especially with genres such as Tech House where I find a lot of music sounding the same.
Exactly! I mean, to be honest I have no idea what the fuck they are talking about when it comes to Tech House/house anymore, I mean to me Tech house was artists like Joeski, Tony Thomas, Dj Sneak and Jay Tripwire. Each with their own unique sound identity. Now everything Tech House seems to sound very similar, and very sample pack based. I guess the same applies to how Techno is perceived today. I’m such a fan of artists who sound like they haven’t changed too much sonically. A perfect example is someone like Luke Slater and his Planetary Assault Systems project. It’s so unique and intelligent and always has been.
You have been a key figure within the Techno scene since 2007, can you tell us about how you have developed since then both with your sound and as an artist in general?
I see myself as an artist who releases primarily underground Techno tracks and I am blessed to have found a signature sound. I mean I would like to perhaps release some slightly more experimental material in the future but my roots firmly lie with Techno. Collaborating with artists has helped me with finding and maintaining my sound. There’s an artist who I was working with early doors called Edit Select (real name is Tony Scott). When we were at the studio writing music he taught me to strip back my material, this was vital to me as I was able to find the sound I was looking for. It is a method that I continue to do today. Less is more.
I want to discuss your Label. How did the concept of BEK Audio come about and what are you trying to achieve with your imprint?
Initially, I just wanted an outlet for my own productions, it was created solely as a platform for myself. In time I was receiving some really good music from the likes of Mark Broom and Slam, so it became impossible not to release some of it. Occasionally, I take the label back to the initial concept by releasing consecutive Gary Beck EP’s. I am really looking forward to releasing BEK030 It will include some of the labels past and present artists. I am also looking to do more label showcases around the world as the last one was at Berghain in 2014.
I see you have an upcoming showcase for the label in Barcelona on the 23rd November can you talk us through it.
Well, showcases, in general, have been fairly difficult recently due to scheduling, but the label night in Barcelona should be amazing. I always love to play In Barca and I have Mark Broom playing alongside me, he is an outstanding DJ and is extremely underrated in my opinion. The Barcelona scene is fairly similar to Glasgow as the crowd always comes game.
You are due to release an Ep soon on Alan Fitzpatrick’s We are the brave label, can you talk us through your relationship with him?
Well, I have known Alan for many years now, he’s a great guy and a wicked producer/DJ. We met around 2010 when we were both coming through, making records for Drumcode. It’s exciting to release the two tracks on Alan’s new imprint ‘We Are The Brave, which is releasing some excellent 90’s Techno vibe tunes at the moment.
Is there a possible album coming from yourself in the future?
It’s something I want to do but I don’t want to force the issue, I am looking to release an album next year but at the moment there is no direct plan or destination for it. It is something that will happen soon though as the last one was in 2012.
I just want to talk about your ADE show with Dave Clark, Charlotte De Witte and Boys Noize can you tell us why ADE is so special and seems to be getting better every single year?
Well ADE is always great to play. It’s an amazing event overall. Anybody who is involved in dance music should go, there are so many great panels and different things going on at one time. It has something for everyone. Amsterdam is always great to play but during ADE it is truly amazing as it has such a great atmosphere and vibe about it.
I need to go myself to ADE. It’s very educational I feel and a hot topic of discussion especially within dance music recently has been mental health issues amongst DJs and producers. How do you keep yourself healthy and sane as a DJ who has been in the game for so long?
I am a firm believer of keeping yourself active. I try and stay as healthy as possible by playing sport. I regularly play football and try to eat as well as possible. When I started touring and playing 3/4 gigs a week I took a step back and thought this is actually affecting me both mentally and physically. The fact I have a family too plays a part, I try and keep my schedule to two gigs a week that is manageable I think. Sometimes it is hard to say no to partying particularly after a great festival or club gig. Saying no and looking after yourself comes with time and experience. I mean I see some DJ’s about who play 5 times a week and I am thinking how do you do that. It must have a lasting effect on the body and mind. I feel that 2 gigs a week works perfect for me and keeps me healthy. When I see these DJs some of them still look young so I guess its true what they say Techno keeps you young (Laughs). Don’t get me wrong I still like to party but now I know my limits.
What is coming in 2018 that you are particularly excited about?
I am looking to tour America again. It’s been a while since I played in the States since my Visa ran out, so I’ll be getting that renewed and hopefully travel there soon.
I will also be playing the Sub Club in January which is one of my favourite clubs in the world. Watch this space for lots of BEK Audio parties around the globe.
This is a question I love to finish on mainly because it is so upfront, can you give us at Data Transmission your most inspirational producer, DJ and record store?
This is hard. Hmmm in terms of producer I have to say MR G, I have always been so inspired by him, his tracks ‘Space Bassed’ & ’Pepsi’ is amazing OHHH MY GODD and the track ‘What, Eh Pardon? They are incredible records.
To be honest MR G is one of mine too his record ‘Hear Me Out’ wakes me up every time I listen to it!
He is incredible. In terms of a DJ, I have to say, Laurent Garnier. He was the first DJ who I was properly amazed at. He is an unbelievable DJ with an ability to mix very different records. The record store that most inspired me was probably the first record store I went into, I must have been 16 at the time, it had a big counter and would blast techno music out. It was called 23rd Precinct. It has shut down now, unfortunately. It was a place that really inspired me when I was growing up.