Stamp Mix #63: Ge-ology

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Researching for an interview is always that bit funner when it produces some surprises. Three little-known facts about Ge-ology that surfaced in this instance was that 1) he’s produced a track for Jem that went Platinum in 2004 2) he was in a group with Tupac when they were at High School together, and 3) he’s made album art for Mos Def. What makes those bits of trivia all the better is that they’re so far removed from what he’s currently making his name for, as a burgeoning DJ and house producer. It’s because (rather than in spite) of these varied creative exploits that he’s reached the point we now find him, channeling an awareness of good pop music and visual arts into an underground house aesthetic that has caught the ear of Theo Parrish; first he signed a Ge-ology EP, the cosmic boogie workout Moon Circuitry, and now there’s a full album on the way.

While his productions come with a Parrish seal of approval, Geo’s DJing isn’t far removed from him either, with a keen awareness for the history and heritage of black dance music, be it jazz, soul, funk, disco, broken beat or house. After years spent in the shadows, hiding in the footnotes, this modest yet prodigious talent is finally stepping into the limelight and being recognised accordingly. On the cusp of something great, we caught up with Ge-ology to find out about his career thus far and what the future holds. He’s also done a mix to accompany, offering up a 60-minute sample of his energetic DJ sets.

Catch Ge-ology at Dance Tunnel tomorrow with Thunder – more info available from Facebook and tickets at Eventcube.

First, our usual ice-breaker. What’s your first musical memory?

Music is so inherently a part of my life, I can’t even begin to tell you what my first musical memory is. I was raised in a musical household, so naturally the roots of my journey extends back to my family. My parents were young when they had me, so I’ve seen photos of them dressed fashionably at the club while my mom was still pregnant with me. Maybe the vibrations from the speakers started speaking to me very early before I entered the world…who knows? My father and uncle both had sizable vinyl and 8-track tape collections, and often would have conversations about music in my presence. Also, my grandmother would frequently take me record shopping after school. So I first started collecting vinyl at age five, which I’m sure is a culmination of all of these factors making a deep impression.

You’ve spoken before about your father taking you to an Earth, Wind & Fire gig as a child and it making a lasting impression. Did you have a good musical education from your parents growing up?

Seeing Earth, Wind and Fire perform in late 1977/early 1978, around the age of seven, completely changed my life. It was amazing! Simply by growing up in a musical family in the 1970s, I was exposed to a wide range of influences. Music was much more experimental at that time, an amalgam of different styles and genres coming together. Jazz, rock and soul records back then often infused elements from each other, so there were a lot of grey areas in terms of labeling. In stark contrast to commercial radio today, radio back during that time was actually enjoyable to listen to, because even the popular music of the time was top-notch quality…great music artist making great music, no compromises. So I would say the roots of my music education was a very organic process; a combination of having access to music my parents listened to as a general foundation, 70s and 80s AM and FM radio programming, and developing my own insatiable appetite for finding and discovering music everywhere possible.

Back in High School, you were in a group with Tupac. What was it like to work with him at an early age? Did you get a sense back then, that he’d go on to do great things in music?

Yeah, we created a group called Born Busy back in the 80s (which also had two other members) while attending the Baltimore School for the Arts. I was the DJ and beat maker in the crew, and was the very first to ever record with him. It’s interesting how you refer to it as work, because it honestly felt more like fun…a passion we shared. We would have a lot of laughs, especially when I would record their rhymes a cappella (something I used to do in order to learn the lyrics for songs they wrote that I would come up with beats for). Individually we were all hip-hop fanatics long before knowing each other, so that became the common thread that eventually brought us together as friends, and later as a group. Being creative people, we felt we had something special to offer, and deeply believed we would all do great things in music, and in life period. Not everyone knows exactly what those things will be and how much of an impact it will make during one’s lifetime, but when you’re deeply driven, the possibilities can be endless. And although Pac and I chose somewhat different, yet still relatable, paths along our journeys, our lives have been a true testament that anything is possible.

Since then, a lot of your work in music has been behind the scenes as a producer, working with Jill Scott, Mos Def and then going Platinum with Jem in 2004. Looking back, did that popular acclaim impact the way you approached music after that point?

No…personally I don’t rate my success based on projects that I’ve produced, co-produced or co-written music for just because it reached the threshold of certified gold and platinum sales or became a top ten hit on Billboard. Of course, it’s all good that these things happened because it came about naturally and unexpected, but for me, it was never a formulaic plan for any of that to happen. I just love good music, and only want to make good music, period. Quality over quantity will always be my philosophy. I’m an artist that’s committed to challenging myself in various ways and pushing the envelope while remaining true to the art (and most-importantly, to myself). So popular acclaim will never be my driving force nor will it ever impact the way I approach making music, because I couldn’t care less about any of that trivial nonsense. Music has a deeper meaning and a much deeper purpose in my life, and in the lives of many people around the world I’ve been fortunate enough to come in contact with. Music is spiritual to me, I couldn’t imagine life without music, and the same goes for some of my peers.

We’ve been having debates at STW HQ about the modern face of pop music, and how there’s a chart-topping identikit emerging with people like Calvin Harris and Diplo making deep house-inspired hits. As someone who’s had experience with pop success, do you still maintain an interest in pop music? If so, what do you make of the current trend and it’s loose affiliation with the house sound?

When I was young Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton, Earth Wind & Fire and so many other greats were the popular, “so-called” pop music, of that time. Those were quality artists making quality music that creatively said something meaningful. That music affected peoples lives. It was either politically charged against the system, celebrated love or created babies, which helped to populate the world. It was melodic with beautiful arrangements, grooves and great song writing, which is why that music has endured the test of time and is still significant now.

Today’s standard of pop music is quite sad in comparison. It’s pretty much noise, materialism and debauchery. Love songs and activism are far less existent in popular music today. So I’m not a fan of pop music or anything that’s popular usually. I’m actually quite the opposite, I prefer things that are special and unique; something that has been hand-crafted, bespoke or that’s been made with love. I’m not super crazy about things that have been mass-manufactured or mass-marketed for the most part. I’m much more underground, although I’m completely capable of making hits obviously too. Still for me, it’s much more important to not be pigeonholed. Knowing that I can authentically create any style of music that I wish if I’m inspired to, and make it good (first and foremost). But in today’s current climate of hip-POP and EDM garbage, those are just bastardized versions of something that originated over 30 years ago in Black urban communities (back when the true source of these music styles was defiant, underground and actually something special).

Unfortunately these commercial hybrids that currently exists as the face of pop music today are so far removed from what it once was, which is a direct result of commoditizing music for public mass consumption, “fast-food” style. Most of today’s pop music has no depth in my opinion…it’s created for the primary purpose of making money and cashing in on popular trends of the moment; quick profits at the expense of artistic integrity. But that bubble will eventually burst and everyone will move on to the next thing before you know it.

If Rihanna or Bieber came knocking now and said, “make me a hit, and do it your way”, how would you approach it?

First of all, I doubt that this would ever happen, and second, I just don’t think that I’d be interested. But hypothetically, if I were faced with a situation like this, you can definitely believe I’m going to create something that challenges them, and forces them out of their comfort zone.

Staying with your artistic exploits, you’ve made cover art for albums by Jigmastas, Mos Def, DJ Spinna and tons more. What would you say your style and approach is as a visual artist?

I think it’s the same for me as with music. I’m capable of many different styles, so I’m not confined to limitations.

Do you see any crossovers between your visual and musical art?

For me music and visual art are the same energy. They influence each other. I can see something visual and hear it rhythmically, or hear rhythm, and picture it visually. 

After spending much of your musical career behind the scenes, recent developments in your DJing and production are seeing you taking center stage a lot more. What’s caused the change?

I disagree. I wouldn’t really say that I’ve been behind the scenes most of my music career. Although the very first releases of my music date back to 1993, I actually started releasing music under my name GE-OLOGY back in 1998. And outside of all the music production I’ve done for various artists over the years, I’ve also put out my own records with me as the artist featuring several well-known MCs and singers. And the same goes for me as a DJ. Although I’ve been DJing over 30 something years, and traveling abroad the last 16 years or so, I’ve been DJing around the world for over a decade now. Me headlining is not a new thing, I just think there’s a whole new generation of people starting to discover me, which I’m very grateful for. I also think it’s helpful that I started releasing records again, and started showing how expansive my diversity is musically.

Having known Theo Parrish for a while, what was it like to get such a strong personal endorsement when he signed ‘Moon Circuitry’ and ‘Escape on the Lodge Freeway’?

Well, he didn’t just sign those songs, we signed an album deal from the start, which also included those songs. We weren’t initially planning to release a single at first, that decision came about later. But yes, of course it was a great feeling and honor to have his support and excitement about the music I presented to him. I wasn’t sure if he would like it or not, or if anyone would like it. But I decided to let a select few of my peers hear it, and thankfully the response was overwhelmingly strong and positive.

You’ve also got an album coming out on Sound Signature this year. After having offers from a few labels, you’ve spoken about wanting to give Theo a chance to hear it before making a decision. Why do you see SS as such a good fit for your music?

Sound Signature is a very special label, and has a lot of history and a strong following. Prior to hearing the music though, Theo had previously offered me the opportunity to put out music on his newer label, Wildheart. I really appreciated that offer as well, but at that point, no one heard what I had been working on yet. Months later, he finally heard the music and offered me the Sound Signature deal right away. It was my ideal choice for this project, so I couldn’t be happier.

As a Capricorn, you’re a self-confessed perfectionist. Did that make it difficult to piece together a LP? Did you have an idea in mind before making it?

Haha! Being a perfectionist always makes the process more difficult, but regarding the SS album, all of these songs had a certain synergy with each other that started to tell a story as I created them, so fortunately in this case, it all came together quite organically. 

In your DJ sets you like to take your music all over the place. What common thread runs through a Ge-ology set? (Besides getting people dancing of course!)

Taking risks are always a part of my sets. I don’t plan my sets, so I never really know what I’m going to play until the moment approaches. It keeps it interesting for us all.

Speaking of parties, you’re coming to London this weekend for Thunder. Excited about your Dance Tunnel debut right? What have you heard about the space before?

Yes I’m very excited. I’ve been there before. I brought my brother Ron Trent with me the night my brother Sadar Bahar played there last year, so I’m glad to finally have a chance to play there in light of the sad news that the venue is closing. Definitely looking forward to Thunder!

Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us?

I recorded it at my studio using vinyl only, Technics SL-1200 MK2s turntables, and an analog rotary mixer with an isolator. I didn’t really have any structured ideas around the mix except knowing that I wanted to include some early work from Prince (that’s not as well known), and still somehow take the listener on a journey within the confines of a short 60 minute set.

What new / young talent is exciting you at the moment?

There’s a lot of young talented artists I’ve been enjoying for several years now. Kyle Hall, Jay Daniel, GB (Gifted & Blessed) are a few examples. Most recently I’ve been really enjoying the music Byron The Aquarius has been doing also and Norvis Junior. I think an exciting time in music is coming about.

And finally, what’s coming up on the horizon we should look out for?

Currently I have several things floating around out there at the moment. Of course, my Moon Circuitry release on Sound Signature, featuring Mark de Clive-Lowe is one of them. There are also several remixes out now that I’ve done for The Twilite Tone, Lay-Far and thatmanmonkz. There’s also another remix that should be coming soon that I did for Pablo Valentino, and a few others I can’t mention just yet. There’s a limited edition cassette series mix that I did for ASE (Altered Soul Experiment) as well, and my Sound Signature album is due out this year too! And on the art side, I designed and art directed the double LP vinyl and CD packaging for DaM-FunK’s DJ Kicks project, the latest from the famed K7 compilation series, which will be released later this month. So yeah, it’s been busy!

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