FIVE STEPS: Bryan Gee
One who certainly needs no introduction, Bryan Gee has and continues to be one of the scene’s front-runners in terms of contribution and commitment to Jungle and Drum & Bass in the twenty-four years or so since first getting involved in label management, with Rhythm King offshoot Outer Rhythm. Having run a relentless gauntlet as co-manager of V Records (formerly V Recordings) and its many sister labels with co-head Jumping Jack Frost, the iconic figurehead is showing no signs of letting up in 2013 with a plethora of new material already confirmed for release. We caught up with Bryan following on from the debut success of Planet V Drum & Bass Vol. 1 – a thrilling live-set snapshot of all things V: past, present and future – who gave us his Five Steps from the reggae sound system era and Jungle’s original inception, through to the influence of Roni Size & DJ Die’s ‘Music Box’, Planet V Drum & Bass Vol. 1, and the future of V Records.
Step 1: Origins
I wouldn’t say there has been one specific track that triggered it for me. I come from a family where music was always on in the background in our house; all my brothers were in sound systems and loved music, and my mum would have music playing on the gramophone every day. Reggae music was what I grew up with and with the reggae sound system era you were either in one or you followed one. Fortunately I was in one called ‘Challenger’ from my home town in Gloucester and managed to promote myself to the selector, which was an important job as on the night there were three main roles – the toaster (MC), the controller who mixes down the music live on the mixer i.e. dropping the bass on and off at the right time to get the dance nice, and the music selector (my role) which involved going to london to meet artists and cut dubplates which sometimes would have intros with your sounds name in it or exclusive mixes which you would use in soundclashes coming up.
When I moved to London I spent a bit of time in prison and that’s where I opened my ears more to RnB, Hip Hop, Jazz and Funk, listening to guys like Robbie Vincent, and being banged up with a Funk DJ helped me learn a lot about other music. I decided to start a ‘sound’ in London and play Funk, Soul, Reggae and Rare Groove which we did until a friend invited me and [Jumping] Jack [Frost] to an Acid party in London Bridge and the rest is history. After that night their was no doubt about what I wanted to do, the vibe in the party was like nothing I’ve felt before: the oneness, the crazy music, the crazy strobe lights just got me and from that day I’ve been following dance music to where we are at now.
Step 2: Introduction
The first track I ever released was actually a Techno track under the alias The Magus Project. I’ve been in the studio a few times over the years but found it’s something I’ve not had a lot of fun doing, although if the opportunity arises I would jump at it… But my first label Outer Rhythm was given to me and my colleague Carlton as a sub-label of Rhythm King‘s. It was the beginning of Hardcore / Jungle and after months of telling them to get involved in Jungle it was only when I brought Kicks Like A Mule – ‘The Bouncer’ to them and they laughed me out of the office with it, that Nick at XL Records decided to release it and it get to Number 1. After that they started to take note and gave me the opportunity to release underground tracks like One Tribe – ‘What Have You Done’ and Congress – ’40 Miles’ which were both successful at the time.
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jylmWz59e2Y” modestbranding=”1″]
Step 3: Foundation
Starting V was something that started from my time working at Rhythm King doing club promotion and also doing mailouts for Warp, Outer Rhythm and a few small jungle labels like Shut Up And Dance and for Jonny L. When Rhythm King pulled the plug I took a demo tape that was sent in from Bristol’s Roni Size and went down to meet him with the intention of just getting some dubs for me and Jack to play but after meeting him and Krust, getting a good vibe off them and hearing the amount of music they had it made sense for me to take what I had learnt at Rhythm King and start up a label. The first few releases went without too much fuss but when Roni & Die’s ‘It’s A Jazz Thing’ dropped people stated to listen and a lot of noise was being made. A good thing to come of this as well was at the same time was Roni and Krust deciding to set up their own imprint Full Circle, which later changed to Full Cycle. Their first release was a track called ‘Music Box’, so all of a sudden you had two big tracks at the peak of the Jungle era getting played by everyone so I’d say the track that got us on the map was ‘It’s A Jazz Thing’ but then you have tracks like ‘Angles’ and ‘Warhead’ from DJ Krust – crazy big. And probably would have to say Leviticus – ‘Burial’ turned into the biggest tune, so hard to say which was actually the biggest tune. Top three ‘Burial’, ‘Warhead’ and DJ Marky & XRS – ‘LK’.
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdR8fAIFnAk” modestbranding=”1″]
Step 4: Present
‘Planet V Drum & Bass’ was something I had been thinking of doing for about 5 years now, me and Mosus (Need 4 Mirrors) even drew up a shortlist of artists that we were gonna approach about the project. It was at first gonna be all unreleased tracks just like the first Planet V album but we decided to concentrate on other projects that had started to form already like Eveson and David Boomah‘s albums, ‘Big Bad and Heavy’, the ‘Club Sessions’ series, ‘Viva Brazil’ and the Retrospect series which I felt was important as this was a way of getting all the back catalogue on digital with some PR thrown in. During this time we had also released a lot of singles and EPs on V, Liquid V, Chronic and Philly Blunt, and also with us doing more Planet V parties we thought it made more sense to go back over the last two years and and do a compilation [for ‘Planet V DnB’] as i feel that it would be better compiling some of our faves [and new material]. It gives a good snapshot of the flavour of V as a label and an album that represents the sound of our nights… I’m really excited about it and happy with the selection of tracks and of course there was a lot more that we couldn’t get on it. It’s something we’re looking to do each year if possible and already with the forthcoming stuff we have lined up for it, it’s looking like another big one.
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtAixvApm6Q” modestbranding=”1″]
Step 5: Future
I’m just buzzin’ my arse off on all the forthcoming releases and projects. First off, the David Boomah album is something I’m really proud of: it’s an album that takes me back to my roots, it’s got a very urban feel to it. But the biggest thing about the album is being able to do something on V which i never thought would happen and that’s releasing Reggae / Roots and Dancehall through it….
Another project ready to drop soon is Warehouse Music which is funny as it started off as a four track various artist EP and just grew and grew – it’s now a 25 track monster compilation with tracks from Bladerunner, Need 4 Mirrors, Savage Rehab, Serum, Command Strange, Level 2, Unreal, Ruffstuff and more. Another [!] project that’s coming soon is my little baby Liquid V Club Sessions Vol 5. It’s already compiled and I reckon it’s the strongest Club Sessions to date. There’s so much good music around at the moment and it was so much fun doing this album which’ll hopefully drop around August / September time… Forthcoming releases from T-Power and John Rolodex, MC Fats and Command Strange, Serum and Bladerunner, the N4M EP with Ed Oberon, a BTK release. All on V soon. Dropping soon on Liquid V: DJ Chap ‘Inna Streets’ Remix EP, Paul SG, Blade, and Unreal solo EPs, and what looks like the last ever EP from Dramatic and dbAudio as a duo … which one I’m more excited about I couldn’t tell you! The artists are all working hard. As for touring, I’m looking to do a major tour on the back of the next Liquid V album, ain’t done a tour for a few years now and looking forward to getting back on the road again so look out for Bryan Gee in a town near you soon.
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjCrHqm9Lho” modestbranding=”1″]
Planet V Drum & Bass Vol. 1 and David Boomah – One World Many Cultures are both out now on V Recordings.