Back Track 02 _ Gez Varley / G-Man _ G-Man II EP
The idea behind Back Track is to chat to a producer about one of their older releases, with the intention to document some of the gear, technique and graft that went into it.
It’s an interesting concept as there is an opportunity to compare and contrast, with the present and the past, while gaining an insight into where they were in their lives back then and more importantly; where they are now with their music.
Gez has has made some wicked tracks over the years and has a very long list of stuff that he can be proud of. He was an original member of LFO during their most influential period, had loads of solo releases, couple of albums, done music for adverts, computer games, loads of gigs, his own label.. the list just goes on & on & on..
This year, he released material on Adam X’s Sonic Groove Records and has more to follow. The G in G-Man obviously stands for grafter.
I’ve been following his music for years, so it was a great pleasure to have the chat with him. As usual, I was delighted to find that someone I admire was a decent human being. He was very open and honest answering my questions and came over as being a cool guy.
Released in 1996 on Swim Records, the G-Man II EP was the follow-up to Varley’s storming first attack. These tracks continue to be relevant today; being remixed by the likes of Perc and featuring on commercial mixes such as Craig Richards’ Fabric 58 – The Nothing Special.
Big thanks go to Ronny “The Facilitator” Pries
I hear that you’re a big gamer Gez. Any similarity in your personality to G-Man from Half Life?
Haha.. I love computer games and I´ve been playing them from an early age. Around 7 maybe, but the name has nothing to do with that computer game. The name G-Man came from my love of The Untouchables.. so my mates quickly called me G-Man and somehow, it stuck.
What was the first game that captured your imagination?
The first game which got me addicted was Space Invaders. I used to knock off school and go to our local swimming baths and spend all my dinner money on the machine. I loved it. Many years later I bought the original machine, which I used to play every day for at least an hour until eventually it blew up! I still play computer games today but to be honest, I´m normally playing old retro games, like Neo Geo, Dreamcast, N64 and all the old classics..
I remember my mind getting blown when I played The Last Ninja on my cousins C64 – haha.. Did you have any moments like that?
I think the last game that blew my mind away was Shadow Man back in 1999 for the dreamcast.
Can you be sentimental about games, the same way you’d be about music? Can you share the experience of gaming, or is it even more personal than creating something?
Yeah I´m very sentimental about computer games. It’s very similar to music as you can put on an old game and memories come flooding back..
Your early years with LFO etc.. is well documented at this stage, but I read that you were buying hardware from about 16 years old? I did a double take when I read that – where did you get it or how did you get the money for it? Must have been pretty expensive..
Yeah I always wanted to be in a group. At an early age, probably around 8, I got into music through my father, who was playing records from The Police, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd. Also, my older brother was into heavy metal, stuff like Mötorhead, Judas Priest, UFO, Saxon.. and Iron Maiden. So I began buying records very early on. Then when I was around 12, I got into break dancing and early electro music. I had some mates in Newcastle who were DJ´s at the time and they also made electronic music. They showed me an 808 and a 303 and how easy it was to program them. I was totally blown away. So I began saving all my money to start buying electronic equipment.
What were the first few bits of kit you got. Do you still have any of the original stuff?
The first thing I got was a Boss DR220 drum machine, then an 606 and 303, followed by a Jen SX-1000 and a Casio FZ-10 sampler. I also had an Atari sequencer and a Kawai K1 keyboard. Most of the original LFO equipment was mine actually. I think Mark had a Jen SX- 1000 too, which he painted black. Not sure why.
We shared a few bits of equipment when we first got some LFO money. There was a Studio Master desk, Korg Wavestation, a DAT machine and so on. Yeah over the years most of the equipment was either sold, broken or lost. I think all I have left from those days is the Casio FZ-10 and the FZ-1. The FZ-1 is still a great machine, considering the time that it came out.
I remember reading about the album that LFO did with Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk and the fact that it got shelved by Warp. Did stuff like that make you want to go off and do your own thing? It must have been pretty frustrating to lose a body of work like that..
Yeah we worked with Karl Bartos in Dusseldorf for 2 weeks back in the end of 1990 and we went back for another couple, just for the mix down. We got a few tracks done together, though unfortunately Warp Records thought the tracks weren’t commercial enough to sell. We had also gone over budget in the recording of the tracks. At the time we were very frustrated to say the least. Not just me and Mark, but also Karl Bartos.
Is working on your own.. or collaborating, easier to control now? Have you seen the other side of decisions like that since you have become responsible for everything? Is time a healer? Or do you just stop giving a fuck? Haha!
Yeah doing the G-Man solo project was the best thing I ever did as I was in full control. Also I really wanted to prove to myself and to the world that I was the man, as everybody thought that Mark Bell did everything in LFO. LFO started as a 3 man project, which quickly became 2 and then down to one. If you look at it from a sales point of view, the less people that were in the group; the fewer records we sold. I finally decided to leave in 1996 and continue with my successful G-Man project.
What was it like going it alone been like and running a label etc.. I’d say it has the potential to be a bittersweet experience, especially now.. Getting plenty of respect alright, but maybe it doesn’t always translate into sales?
Yeah I think it’s gotten a lot harder over the last 5 years to make a living from music. It was always hard before. For example, every G-Man release I did sold at least 2000 copies. The last release I did on vinyl sold around 600, which I´ve been told is really good by today’s standards. So, you don´t make much money from vinyl or releases anymore. You have to be doing a lot of gigs to make a living, or make “pop” music. There are too many people now doing remixes for free and giving away their music, also for free. They’re playing for peanuts too and that undermines the whole scene for people like me. Anyway, how many people pay for music now? Most people just download it for free.