DJ Guy: “I try not to think too hard about the music I should be making.”

Words by: Paul Corey
Posted: 4/6/15 13:20
DJ Guy: “I try not to think too hard about the music I should be making.”

Guy Evans, aka DJ Guy has taken a long time to become known, even if his profile is still low key. His release on All Caps last year first brought him attention on the back of tracks that he composed in the 1990s. He has also released archive material on cassette and, any day now will have a double pack released on Nord, a Danish label called ‘Ancient Future 1993-1997’. Guy’s music can loosely be categorized as techno, but is greater than the sum of its parts and, for music that has lain untouched for such a long time, feels incredibly fresh and potent. This interview more than showcases the enthusiasm that Guy has for his craft and, in doing so, simultaneously reveals him to be a very genuine and sincere person. Here’s hoping he goes on to achieve the success his music deserves.

I was way too critical of my own music, never truly happy with the production,and always thought it wasn’t good enough for the labels I wanted to get in touch with...For me the most obvious question to start with is why didn’t you release all of this great material when you made it; what took you so long?
I was way too critical of my own music, never truly happy with the production,and always thought it wasn’t good enough for the labels I wanted to get in touch with.  Some of it was recorded at home on a crappy Amiga computer running some software called OctaMED, plus I was using a 3-channel DJ mixer as a mixer (no eq) and bits of low-fi equipment, which probably couldn’t equal the equipment of a big recording studio. Also I was just messing around with bits really and just trying to learn how it all worked together. I did borrow equipment from friends, such as an SH-101 and a MC-202, which are great machines. Although not having MIDI (or even CV sync) I’d literally have to sync the sequences manually using the tempo dial (like using a pitch control on a turntable) and record onto a 4-track machine, which if anyone has tried will know is incredibly difficult...  Just getting a looped bassline in sync was a major challenge and if you listen to some of the music released on the NORD LP, you can hear the 202 acid sequences slightly drifting slightly, which in hindsight give the music a unique sound.

‘Ancient Future 1993-1997’ is, like last year’s ’20 (All Caps 004)’ made up of archived material. What criteria do you have for selecting tracks to be released?
With the ALL CAPS EP, I literally sent Bake about 2 gig of MP3’s. Approximately 120 tracks I think (which was about half of all of my archived tracks so far). Some of these tracks were just unedited jams, which lasted 10-15 minutes each and some of tracks had multiple takes of the same track being recorded. These longer tracks were edited down to a more suitable length for vinyl. I think Bake made a great choice of tracks for it.

With the ALL CAPS For the CRISIS URBANA cassette release, and also my recent CEJERO and NORD releases, it was the labels that chose the tracks to release. Obviously, if I were to have any objections then I would have voiced my opinion but so far I’ve been really happy with the selections so far.

Do you have a particular sonic focus and how do you categorise your output?
I try not to think too hard about the music I should be making. I guess when you’re sitting down in front of a keyboard and drum machine/laptop writing a track it’s best to just follow your instincts. It’s a bit stranger nowadays after having a few vinyl and cassette releases, as I do make some comparisons with the music I made back then, but I still try and pull the useful elements from what I enjoyed about making music in the past and use them today. For example, I made a conscious decision a few years ago to return back to more jam-orientated tracks and also just recording stuff live with hardly any quantisation, compared to intricate plotting notes and midi CC messages on a screen. 

I try not to think too hard about the music I should be making. I guess when you’re sitting down in front of a keyboard and drum machine/laptop writing a track it’s best to just follow your instincts...What is the material you’re currently working on like, compared to that which you have archived, and when do you plan to start releasing it?
I’ve made music all my life regardless of any possible chances of stuff getting released. As you know, most of the music I’ve been releasing recently was produced in circa 1992-1997 although I’ve continued to make music since these releases. I got heavily into the jungle scene (post 90’s rave), as from a producers point of view it was such an exciting, challenging sound that pushed so many boundaries. It really pushed forward the possibilities of using sampling and midi sequencing/editing to the limit and combined so many influences such as dub, reggae, dancehall, soul, funk, jazz and hip-hop. Other styles such as broken beat have also been a massive influence on me and I’ve got some archived tracks of stuff I recorded back then. Sadly though, during the 2000’s and using PC computers for production, sometimes I would have a hard drive failure or virus which would wipe out months of work. Nowadays I’m much more savvy with backing stuff up multiple times, and I suppose with cassette tapes at least tracks were stored away fairly safely.

I’m currently in talks with a couple of record labels who want to release some of my more recent (2014/2015) productions. That’s something I’m very happy about, as its great releasing all of this old music I’ve made, but it would be nice to show people that I’m still as passionate about making music nowadays as I was back then. Hopefully I should have a couple of vinyl releases out of new music by the end of the year.

Also, in respect of the Detroit techno I grew up listening to from 1988 onwards, I always liked electronic music with soul, which connected with you on an emotional level, as well as physical one...Your melodic, analogue approach has a lot in common with the sound of The Black Dog and B12 and also with more recently-exposed artists like A Sagittariun, it also feels quintessentially British. Who do you see as your peers, and what, or who, have been your biggest influences along the way?
I think my father was a big influence on me without me actually realising just how much, until after he sadly passed away in 2000.  He was a jazz/blues guitarist and I grew up listening to him play guitar pretty much every night at home. His style reminds me now of people like George Benson, and many others too.

I’m guess that’s why so much of my music is so melodic. Also, in respect of the Detroit techno I grew up listening to from 1988 onwards, I always liked electronic music with soul, which connected with you on an emotional level, as well as physical one.

My biggest influences growing up were quite varied. Both my older brothers, one of who was a DJ, had huge record collections. I’d spend days exploring their albums, looking at album artwork and reading the sleeve notes, I learned so much, plus my dad had lots of jazz and blues records, which I’d hear him playing quite a lot.

Great albums for me at the time were things like The Stranglers ‘Black & White’ released in 1978, (I thought the keyboard player was incredible, playing at a frantic speed on some tracks, pretty amazing listening back). Also Tomita, Vangelis and Jean Michael Jarre (particularly, the album ‘Zoolook’). I’m also a big fan of the Italian group Goblin…I think my first memory of ever hearing an analogue synth filter was in the 1978 film ‘Dawn of the Dead’ aged 8 or 9. The Goblin musical score, in the Dario Argento version, completely fitted the scope of the film and made a big impression on me at the time.

Interview with Guy Evans aka DJ Guy

In spite of the amount of creativity in electronic music, its relatively conservative outlook has ensured that music you made in the nineties sounds more imaginative and fresher than that of most of your current peers. Fair comment?
I don’t know if I agree with that really, maybe current music doesn’t generally have a conservative outlook, but maybe the conditions in which music exists nowadays makes it harder for music to progress with as much momentum. Music is consumed at such a blisteringly fast rate nowadays via the Internet that it’s almost impossible for things to take root. I regularly chat with friends about this and the general consensus is that similarly between 1990-1995, so much happened in ‘dance music’ in such a short space of time.

Music is consumed at such a blisteringly fast rate nowadays via the Internet that it’s almost impossible for things to take root...Week by week and month-by-month, new styles evolved which were built on those tracks which came previously and it really felt like the entire musical spectrum was converging at light speed. However all of these tracks from the era (1990-1995) really took root and made a big impression on the whole dance community and have gone on to influence much of the music we hear today.

In your interview with Juno Plus from last year, you talk about the “creative act” of DJing. What does this involve for you particularly, and how open are you to new DJing technology?
I’ve been DJing since I was about 12 years old (approx. 1984?). By that I mean starting by just messing about with two turntables (no mixer at all), playing two identical copies of the same record at the same time and making weird flange/phase effects and echo delays. Then later with scratching, vinyl records became musical instrument tools and each vinyl record had infinite potential sounds to scratch with. Then, with ‘Beat Matching’, these allowed infinite combinations of live remixing to be created.

Nowadays I still use vinyl, although I have in the past used Traktor quite a lot. I love the fact of being able to change speed without changing pitch, and looping sections & creating cue points...I remember I used to buy ‘Record Mirror’ magazine in the late 80s (before it became known as DJ magazine) and one time I sent off for a DJ mixing fanzine (explaining how to BPM records etc.) and from that point onwards, I would BPM every single song on every single record in my collection. It’s almost like a science then. You can literally lock a record before putting the needle on it. If one record playing is 120 BPM and you put a record on the turntable of 126, you instantly know by looking that this record cued up needs to be pitched down (approximately by a certain amount) and so it gives you a head start, which is vital, if you want to mix consistently over a longer time slot. For me, mixing records without BPM’s always felt like potluck every time. BPM’s also really help when teaching others how to DJ too.

Beat matching has been my main choice of mixing though, for if you had a selection of ten records of roughly the same BPM, you could mix any of these records with the other nine and make numerous live variation/remixes. I always found this really interesting, as you could play a mix live in a club, which could not be purchased on vinyl, but something that existed just for that moment while it was being mixed.

Nowadays I still use vinyl, although I have in the past used Traktor quite a lot. I love the fact of being able to change speed without changing pitch, and looping sections and creating cue points. I find it all fascinating, although I think vinyl is vastly superior in sound quality compared to mp3.

I only recently got Serato, which has been interesting to use, although I do still like the immediacy of using Traktor more. But yeah, I’m all for integrating new technologies into mixing, as it helps push the whole art form forward and stops things from stagnating.

Do you still DJ out a lot? If so, where do you play and how important is practicing?
I still DJ nowadays of course but not very often at all. At present just a few gigs a year really, although I would love to be more active DJing. I guess I could really do with a booking agent, as I’m too busy with family life at the moment to contact promoters to try and get gigs. I’d love to be DJing much more regularly. I practice most days and also teach DJing and Music Tech classes in Cardiff quite regularly still, and so I find it almost impossible to ever get bored with mixing/DJing..

I’ve still got a few huge bag of tapes (I never threw any of them out) and they really are like audio time capsules documenting this now long musical history...Was there ever a pirate radio scene in Cardiff, and were you involved?
Yep there were various pirate stations in Cardiff over the years, such as Bass.fm and others (although I was never directly involved with them). Back in the 90’s I grew up listening to tapes of pirate radio stations such as ‘Centreforce’, ‘Kool FM’, ‘Dream FM’ and lots of other unknown stations. These tapes became iconic over the years, and each track would slowly be discovered one by one by friends and other DJs etc.. (pre ‘Shazam’ days of course..)

I’ve still got a few huge bag of tapes (I never threw any of them out) and they really are like audio time capsules documenting this now long musical history.

Have you always lived in Cardiff, and how important is locality for you?
Yes I have always lived in Cardiff, but I try and go travelling whenever I can. My recent trip DJing in Copenhagen was superb, I love the city and I hope to return there soon. I recently became a father (in January 2015) and so my roots are now firmly here for the time being, although I’d love to travel more so in the future and perhaps maybe even relocate someday if the opportunity arises.

What are you listening to at the moment?
I mainly listen to NTS Radio most days in my free time, also the podcasts off Mixcloud, tracks/mixes of Soundcloud, plus I’ve recently been archiving more of my old tapes from the 90s. I overlooked quite a few tapes when I first started archiving my music back in 2012, I literally forgot to archive whole sides of tapes of tracks which I overlooked first time round,  (plus, I just got a new tape deck so I’m also re-mastering lots of my old tracks too).

Thanks for the interview Paul, it’s been a real pleasure. All the best…

An unedited version of this interview can be found on Cacophonous Bling

DJ Guy Online

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