Learning along the way with Bryan Gee

Drum & bass forefather Bryan Gee speaks to us ahead of his set at Shadow Demon Coalition's 15th birthday at Bowlers on April 4th.

Mike Warburton

Last updated: 16th Mar 2015.
Originally published: 13th Mar 2015

Photo: Bryan Gee

Saturday April 4th sees Manchester rave emporium Bowlers welcome one of the most respected drum&bass outfits in history to celebrate their 15th year of operations - Shadow Demon Coalition.

Billed as the biggest drum&bass event Manchester's seen in a long time, the line up certainly backs up that bold claim, with a great crowd of scene luminaries bringing the ruckus firmly to Bowlers' door.

Coalition members Bassman, DJ Sly, Trigga, and Shaydee will all be present and correct, as will a host of the scene's most celebrated tastemakers - Nicky Blackmarket, Logan D, and one of the first pioneers of the genre, Bryan Gee.

Having caught the DJ bug at a very early age, Bryan grew up in Cheltenham as part of a tight knit Jamaican community, exposing him to the wonders of sound system culture. He invariably ended up playing the role of selector on the town's Challenger rig.

His love of roots, reggae and dub took him to Brixton in the eighties, and after a few complications with the law, Bryan threw himself wholeheartedly into the scene, DJing at both sound system parties and on pirate radio, adopting acid house as time went by and soon enough the brand new sounds of jungle and later drum&bass.

Since then he's continued to have a pivotal role in the evolution of drum & bass, not least thanks to his work with V Recordings, which has continued to be one of the benchmark imprints in the history of the scene.

Fresh from hosting the Drum & Bass Awards, we grabbed five minutes with Bryan Gee to get his take on the current state of drum & bass, find out how he manages to run more than one successful record label, and the vital role music played in his younger years.

You were one of the hosts the Drum & Bass Awards this year, what do the Drum & Bass Awards mean to the scene?

I look at it as a celebration of what we do, a chance for people to be recognized, especially people behind the scenes and as drum & bass is a pretty faceless thing, these things are important. It’s also a chance to meet and connect with other DJs and producers as sometimes you don't see these people.

Moving on to V Recordings (check the latest podcast above), not many labels can say they've stuck around for as long as yours, and been so vital to the development of drum & bass as a whole. What would you attribute that longevity too?

We release music to make people feel good. It comes from the heart and if it feels good that’s all I care about. We don't follow trends and fashions, we just try and release music that feels good.

If we like it most probably other people will feel the same and that’s why we stand out a bit from most labels. Where most have a sound where you can kind of know what the vibe’s gonna be, but with us it can be any style of drum and bass, cause that’s what we’re about. 

You’re also involved with Chronic, Liquid V and Philly Blunt, three quite different sub labels. Can you let us in on any new forthcoming releases you’re pretty stoked about?

All the labels are on fire at the moment. There’s so much great music around in drum & bass at the moment and we’re fully taking advantage of this.

We're just about to drop the new Chronic Rollers Volume Two 2 album (above) at the end of this month. On Liquid V we just released Rowpieces’ ‘V Like Vivacious EP’, then we’ve got the DJ Chap and Andrezz ‘Back’ EP to be followed by Command Strange's 'Visions’ EP and Saxxon featuring Jon Scott EP which features real saxophone on all four tracks… pretty dope.

I want to drop another club session as well later in year so look out for that…

On Philly Blunt we’re gearing up for the first album on the label, and I think we've gone in big! With help from my boy serum we've managed to get a collection of tracks and remixes from Firefox, Bladerunner, l Side, Yush, David Boomah, Lion Dub Explicit, Voltage, Heist and Serum. It’s going to have remixes of some of the classic Blunt tunes and lots of fresh jungle so watch out for it late summer. 

You've been involved in launching the careers of some big names, Leftfield, Moby, Roni Size, how do you know if an act is going to be big? What is it that you look for in new music?

To be honest when I started working with these guys I never considered where they would be in years to come, I just enjoyed the relationship we had and tried to get their best music out. There’s no formula to success except hard work and dedication.

Your younger years weren't the most straightforward, you ended up getting into a bit of trouble not longer after your move to Brixton. How important a part did music play in getting your life back on track? What advice would you give to other people going through similar situations?

It’s hard to tell young people what to do sometimes! They’re just their own person like I was when I was young... you think you know it all, but you learn along the way.

All I can say is, if you love music there are so many more opportunities and chances to make a career out of it, unlike when I was young and you had to keep your day job. But now there’s so much work in the music business, you can afford to follow your love for music and make a career out of it.

Out of the new crop of drum & bass producers, which have you most excited? And where do you see the future of drum & bass heading?

I'm really into L Side, Level 2, Command Strange, Jayvbee, Phase 2, Think Tonk, Submorphics, Paul T and Edward Oberon, Unreal and BTK.

See Bryan Gee in action at Shadow Demon Coalition's 15th Birthday on April 4th.

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