It's fitting that Guy Gerber's newest label, and accompanying series of parties, is called Rumors. After all, these have abounded since he first revealed that he was recording an album with Sean “Puffy” Combs, hip-hop mogul and all party guy. Originally slated for the release date of 11/11/11, something to give numerologists a field day, it's now so long overdue that Diddy has reverted to his original moniker of Puff Daddy – a surefire sign that something is afoot.
After a listening party in Miami, at which Puff announced he wanted to call the release Ketamine, and an IMS Address in Ibiza which saw them teasing fans further, the 11-track album (see, there is some significance) is finally here... almost. Promised to be available free, via Beatport and Thump, the latter of whom are filming a documentary on the unlikely duo, there will also be a limited edition double vinyl for sale.
Yet at the time of writing this it's all still unsubstantiated fact, the physical reality of the music in our hands as gossamer as the beauty of Gerber's mellifluous back catalogue – such as last year's Who's Stalking Who?, an entire album given away for free to promote the launch of his Pacha residency, Wisdom of the Glove, or Fabric 64, an entire set of his own music to launch him into the iconic London club's cannon the previous year.
Over a broken line from a hotel room in Las Vegas, we get hold of Guy at his summer Ibiza home, pacing as he speaks, breaking off to chat in a variety of languages with friends at the barbecue he's hosting and at one point almost choking on a pickled onion. With the accent of his Israeli up-bringing still apparent, we start by asking how these roots affected the career that has followed, taking him from a young artist recording on John Digweed's Bedrock label to an international star of house and techno, with two parties and two labels (his other, Supplement Facts) to his name.
“Because there wasn't really a scene around me, not a scene maybe, but not a Tel Aviv sound, I could just do whatever I wanted without being pushed to do minimal, or French house... you know, different sounds,” Gerber tells us, his answers typically well considered.
“Also, being an Israeli, it's a Mediterranean state of mind. People are very straightforward. If they love you, they give you a hug, if they don't like you, they tell you to fuck off.”
It's this essence of truthfulness that has made Gerber such an attractive force. A love for affecting melody has defined his career from early hit “Belly Dancing,” to more recent successes such as the sublime Clarian collaboration “Claire,” or his latest Rumors release with Dixon, “No Distance.” But while this has now defined his studio output, the route was not always a safe bet.
“My first album was a huge challenge, because before, when you do music in your free time, nobody expects anything,” he tells us of 2007's Late Bloomers. “You just feel inspired, then you do whatever. You don't know what people want.
“At that time I started traveling and the dominant sound in the world was minimal, but more the Luciano/Villalobos sound. I loved what they were doing, so I wanted to reflect it in my album. But I was thinking, I'm not from Chile, I'm not playing percussion. It's not my sound. So I decided to be brave. That was a big challenge. I just decided to be really loyal to myself, to think as naive as possible. I released the album, which to me sounded a little bit old fashioned, because it was very melodic, and at this time there were no melodies at all. But it turned out to be a good decision because people really appreciated it, including people like Ricardo and Luciano.”
If this helped to cement him as a force to be taken seriously by the industry and clubbers, an artist who can turn out not just the odd killer track but an entire body of work, then it's been his more recent ventures that have anchored this feeling within himself.
“I think when I created Wisdom of the Glove, I created a world within where everything is possible,” he carries on, unprompted, about his monthly party at Pacha Ibiza, the paradise party island's infamous club. “It can be stupid, it can be artistic. It can be challenging. I think it really – I wouldn't say changed my life – but it changed my enjoyment in my career.”
Indeed, enjoyment – and creating his own in-jokes for himself and his crew - seems to be something that Gerber is good at and is keen to share, tacitly acknowledging that some of clubland seems to have forgotten what having a good time is about for everyone, not just the DJs and their friends huddled together in the booth.
“I felt Ibiza needed to be about love and freedom and music, as much as a cliché as that is,” he explains. “It used to be mainly about that. Then, first the authorities tried to breakdown the after parties and stop them, then later so much money was injected here, it became all about marketing. I didn't have this marketing budget, but I still wanted to get some attention. I wanted to offer something else. The idea of coming up with such a name, it's almost like Spinal Tap, very ridiculous, but at the same time 'Glove' is very sexual.
“By bringing cutting edge artists, that didn't even want to come to Ibiza, to Pacha, which is one of the most commercial clubs in the world, I think I've created some kind of absurdity,” he goes on about his season's bookings, which include the likes of Nicolas Jaar and Four Tet, happy to be creating the same kind of WTF incredulity that happened when his name was first linked with Puff Daddy's. “Come to the party and enjoy, dress nicely, I promise you it's going to be weird and some things are going to happen. Also, there should be an alternative to everything else. I feel people take themselves too seriously. I mean, when I'm in the studio I'm very serious, but in a party it shouldn't be that serious. That's my belief.”
While this ruffled a few feathers in Ibiza, and island allegiances meant it was hard to get some DJs, possibly another reason behind his inventive programming, it was also the catalyst for his latest venture, Rumors. “Everybody loves rumors,” Gerber ventures, telling us that he has a WhatsApp group for girls working for him in Ibiza to spread the latest news that they've heard.
But the idea of unsubstantiated stories, of Chinese whispers and grapevine gossip had a more prosaic purpose when it came to the launch of the label, and its Ibiza party – which has also spread to editions at Sonar, in London and will, very soon, take over a rooftop in New York.
“Most people come to party because they want to see some girls, they want to get fucked up and they want to listen to great music,” he says, with that characteristic Israeli directness. “I just thought, there's so much politics on the island, you know what? People will play unannounced, then everybody can play, and I can assure the people that it's going to be great. Just come there, be part of it, who cares? It's more like an after party mentality when you don't know who's playing and when.”
Still without a regular home, he admits this is a difficult concept to pull off, but it's a testament to Gerber's commitment to experience over income that he's willing to do something that is so difficult to promote, relying instead on a groundswell of word of mouth support and excitement. “I'd say it's a very charming set-up for a party, rather than a rave,” he goes on, trying to define it. “All the girls that work for me are kind of like hippies. I'm not a hippy! I work with hippies.
“I really feel it's something I'm doing for the people, not for me,” he adds, some of their hippy spirit – and probably glitter – having possibly rubbed off on him. “It's not trying to make me big, it's just to create a party that is a little bit more comfortable, a little bit nicer, in my beloved island.”
There's no doubt though that Gerber is getting bigger with each new project, and 11:11 looks set to catapult him to a new level of respect, without compromising on the creative instinct that got him to this stage.
While it was Puff (then, still Diddy) who discovered Gerber's output during the recording of Dirty Money's 2010 album Last Train to Paris, inviting him to his New York studio to start their outwardly strange, but obviously symbiotic, relationship, Gerber admits that he wasn't originally aware of Puff's own significance.
“He was just a famous name for me at that time,” he admits. “But then I started investigating a little bit and I actually saw that movie Notorious about Biggie. I asked my friends what they thought. My really good friends, whose opinions I appreciate, said this guy is really important in the history of music. He actually created a new sound, he discovered a lot of people, and the more I got to know him, I discovered he's really about the music.
“Of course, he's a personality, he's also a celebrity, but he's actually much more one of us than most people that I've met. You know, he's a party guy, he's funny, he sometimes doesn't take himself seriously... and sometimes he's also Puff Daddy, you know? He's very motivated to push things forward.”
Like a kind of musical personal trainer, this seems exactly what he encouraged with Gerber, who at the start of the project bought a load of new analog gear and decamped to Tel Aviv to knock out ideas. “I would say I reached some musical heights and for me it was worth it, even if this never comes out,” he tells us, cryptically still leaving a last little bit of doubt over the project.
“There are some moments there that are so epic, for me. Not everybody has to think so. When you're in the studio, first you're with yourself. And he was pushing it towards this. 'Be yourself. Don't think.' Then I would send it to him. If he wouldn't like it, he wouldn't like it, if he did like it, he'd tell me immediately. That was a long journey.”
We ask Gerber to expand what he means by this, and how exactly he created a middle ground, which satisfied both artists who, at the outset at least, seemed to occupy polar positions - one an underground head producing early morning club music, the other a global superstar more used to getting played on mainstream radio.
“The reason it took some time is that his idea was doing something really strong and quirky, and really strange, something that you hear in some after parties. I thought that if we do something that is actually very deep, and very emotional and very sensitive, but still strong, in a way, people who hear his name will be really surprised.”
So what DOES the finished album sound like? “I think it's kind of historical,” Gerber states factually. “Not that the music is historical, but I think so many things today are commercially intended, including things from the underground scene. So if something comes and says, ‘you know what, fuck everything, that's the music.’ That's how it sounds. Yeah, I hope people appreciate it as much as people who are around us appreciate it...”
Hints of what to expect – such as the Jamie Jones' 2011 remix of 11:11's “Tourist Trap” - plus the proven talent of those involved mean that this is pretty much assured, so is there finally a definitive release date?
“Yes, yes, yes,” bats off Gerber, probably well over fielding the question. “Actual release date, I would say middle of August. And if it doesn't come out then, OK, maybe we should never release it,” another off-hand remark to keep everyone guessing.
If Gerber's ability to confound expectation, and appeal to fans precisely because he doesn't play the game, reminds you of Seth Troxler, then it's because he admits the pair, who sometimes play back to back, share the same sense of not trying to be politically correct. “First of all he's my close friend. I admire what he does. We're both big Larry David fans. I think the musical aesthetic is kind of like a certain beat, but the music on top changes all the time.”
Troxler was even with him the second time he went to Puff's studio, and was instrumental in helping to craft Gerber's favorite album track, “My Heart.”
“I was doing something with the bassline, and I was really struggling with it,” he recalls on a time Troxler visited him in Tel Aviv. “He was like, 'Dude, that's too white. Drop this bassline.' I changed it to the bass guitar and it became what it is today.”
It's a friendship that's even survived the time that Gerber, staying in the same flat as Troxler in New York, raided the fridge and ate half of his pastrami sandwich from Katz's Deli, the famous New York restaurant, featured in When Harry Met Sally, which both jocks are obsessed with.
“Two months later, I'm walking in the airport and I realize, 'Oh my god, I think I ate his sandwich...'” laughs Gerber, recalling the incident that solidified their bond, the pair buying each other Katz merchandise when they visit. “You know, it's a huge sandwich, so you take half of it home and in the fridge it's even tastier. So you go out thinking, 'I'm going to come back and it's there.' But I ate it! I was like, 'What the fuck! He didn't even say anything.' So I called him and told him I ate it. And he was like, 'It was you! I was freaking out.' That was funny.”
While 11:11 arrives after a long overdue gestation, Gerber's previous albums have been produced at an astonishing rate. Who's Stalking Who? was recorded in a week, while his Fabric release took just a month. How prolific is he on his own and what is the working process?
“I work very quick,” he admits, “then it depends if I finish the track at that time or leave it for later.” The reality, it turns out, is that while Gerber enjoys the act of playing and improvising, it takes a kick in the butt to get down to the tricky art of arranging. “So once in a while, there is a deadline and I just have to edit, and I hate editing.”
Unlike a swathe of modern DJs, who seem to churn out functional releases just so that they can get gigs, Gerber simply revels in the act of creating. “When I have some magical moments when I'm jamming, I really want to have them in the final product. Sometimes I spend loads of time just to have this moment when you get goose bumps. For me, you have to have the goose bumps. Otherwise, what's the point? You have to feel the intensity in the studio. Sometime I get it in a second, sometimes it takes me months.”
While the pinnacle for many producers is the moment that they drop their track to a packed club, Gerber seems to be at his most complete when engulfed by the purity of being on his own in the studio. “It's very easy for me to create all the time, but when I'm moody I just have to create. Then when I'm in it, and don't want to deal with anything else, I just feel the music and I'm more connected to it,” he says on the trance like state he enters. “When I'm happy, I just want to hang out. When I'm sad, or something like that, it's like my best friend. In a way it kind of gives me this cosmic hug. Ah, that sounds really bad. It's caressing me, then it's an amazing feeling. It's better than feeling good.”
While his progressive house roots seem to contribute to a sense of wanting to tell a story with his tracks, today he feels the sound is too polished. “I'm trying to create a warmer sound. I like Moodymann. So, you know, something trancey but with a Moodymann vibe.” His DJ sets are a similar story, not as full of the wide, expansive moments that his own releases might suggest. “I'd rather play beats, darker and weirder, and once in a while drop a melodic tune,” he tells us on the kind of sound you'll hear when he takes over New York's Marquee club on July 4th. “You have to create a drama without giving all the elements,” he says on this more underground house sound, “It's more subtle.”
His CD wallet is currently bursting with new tunes. Up next for Rumors is an eight-track various artists EP, including tunes from Martin Buttrich, Chaim, Clarian and Gerber himself, before a release from Troxler and a “heroin house” single from Konrad Black and his girlfriend. It will also be home to the 11:11 album.
“I think it's the first time I've had hype [surrounding a] label,” Gerber reflects on Rumors' runaway success. “I never wanted to have something hype... I still haven't decided exactly what the sound of the label is. I'm just going with it.” Supplement Facts, on the other hand, will continue to concentrate on what he calls “more classic deep house.”
Just when we think we've got everything, Gerber suddenly dangles another tidbit of information to get tongues wagging. “I'm going to start on my one big artist album that I'm working on with songs, but is still electronic,” he drops, when we ask what's next. “Like Jimi Hendrix had this album, and he never actually lived to make it. He actually built Electric Ladyland Studios, but he died before finishing that album... I'm gonna live! I don't know why I'm mentioning that, but I do have this one big album that I'm working on.
“It has to be song based and it has to have lyrics,” he goes on when we push further. “I feel that my music, the names, the titles, kind of feel personal to the people who listen to them. They're tracks for a special time in your life. So I want to write some lyrics that will do the same.”
Will he sing these, we ask, eager to know more, or is there a guest vocalist planned?
“Here I have a big surprise for the world,” Gerber tells us, the excitement rising in his voice. “I have this concept, but I can't reveal it. I hope it's going to work. If it's real, it will be... yeah, I know...” You can almost hear him straining to tell everything, pulling back at the last second. “But it's not up to me, I'm working on it.” Now that is how rumors start.
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