Gb (Gifted & Blessed)Talks
Gabriel Reyes-Whittaker is probably not a name you recognise right away, but you may know his work as GB, or his label, Gifted & Blessed, if youre a fan of deeply underground electronic music that has little time for genre constraints. which is a claim many make, but few can justify. But when your first album (Soundtrack For Sunrise, 2004) earns instant props with its broken-beat / neo-soul stylings and is held up as an influence for the LA beat scene
then you seem to disappear for a few years (more on that below) until you start making music again a few years later, this time using new aliases like Julian Abelar, The Reflektor and The Abstrakt Eye, while pushing a tougher sound, well, youre going to get noticed whether you like it or not.
Because the thing with GB as its more convenient to call him is that you never know what youre going to get. It could be the Mayan electro/ techno of The Reflektor (whose Las Ruinas Mayas exploded onto Kyle Halls Wild Oats imprint in December 2011) or the bassy electronics of The Abstrakt Eye. What we do know for sure is that hes got a new album out under his GB alias entitled Within These Machines
and thats why Londons SUNK crew (namely Andy Green, truly-madly and Chris Chippindale) are getting him over for an extended LIVE set to headline their second event on Saturday 9th November, in an appropriately private SE1 location. This will be GBs UK Live debut, so the SUNK boys asked me to have a chat with GB. Below is the result warts and all, even when my questions seem totally on the wrong track. Well, if ever a producer was as enigmatic as his music, GB would be the one
?You refer to your music-making as technoindigenous studies, which is a term that sounds both futurist and anthropological was that intentional?
My intention is to bridge the ancestral with the technological…in other words, in this current age of technology, my goal is to use the tools of today to channel the spirit of our ancestors, using music for the same purposes it has been used historically by all cultures, whether for healing, praise, communion, etc. It is my view that synthesizers and most any electronic instruments can serve the same purpose the drum has served for most primitive cultures since the beginning of our history.
What were you up to during your long furlough from making music?
I never took a break from music. Those who didn’t know what I was up to just weren’t checking my work. I have done at least one release per year in one form or another since putting out my first records. I did various productions for other artists including Steve Spacek, J*DaVeY and others in 2005 and 2006, plus had a group project called POLY under which I released several limited 12″ records and mixtapes in 2006 and 2007. I also released the Japanese-only Julian Abelar CD in 2007 and the remix project GB Interprets His Contemporaries in 2008, not to mention many digital-only projects which have been downloadable via my web site. The releases have been more consistent since 2009, as I took it upon myself to start my own label, Gifted & Blessed, to serve as an outlet for all the music I had been making, rather than waiting for the so-called cutting edge record labels to get with what I was doing. And as the liners notes to my current album Within These Machines imply, I’ve used these years as a period of study as well, learning many aspects of MIDI composition as well as analogue synthesis, which I had only scratched the surface of prior to that.
Which clubs and events have been influences on you musically and personally? Is LA still good to party in?
Frankly, clubs and events have not been an influence on me musically or personally. I’m more influenced by the aspects of my personal life, nature, the people around me, and other musical pioneers who have come before me and who are still creating music. I’m not much of a partier, and I don’t currently live in L.A., so perhaps I’m not the best guy to answer that. But I’m all for creating the sonic environment for a party atmosphere.
You seem to be part of the long dance music tradition of using different aliases which other artist(s) who use different aliases are you a fan of?
It seems to be easiest for some folks to lump me into a dance music lineage. For others it seems to be easiest lump me in with the L.A. beat scene, which is kind of silly to me since I was doing this music before there was a so-called beat scene in L.A. I don’t consider myself to be a representative of either scene. When you look at the breadth of my catalogue, dance music and so-called beat music are just two aspects of a much larger variety of styles upon which I have touched. Now to answer your question about other artists who have used different aliases…there are many, across many genres…take Charlie Chan aka Charlie Parker…or the Black Bull/Toro Negro aka Stevie Wonder…or Werbley Finster aka Jose Feliciano…or Jaime Starr aka Camille aka Joey Coco aka Victor aka Alexander Nevermind aka Prince…there are a ton of them. I think most people expected me to say Drexciya or Madlib but it’s a much longer standing tradition than that. Some say that William Shakespeare was an alias, too…
You are clearly a fan of jazz how did you first encounter it? And which artists would you recommend people new to the genre try and check out?
I have been around jazz since childhood. Hard to say what to recommend as tastes vary, but Duke Ellington would perhaps be the best starting point I can think of. It’s such a wide genre with a long history and many stylistic variations, but Duke and Charles Mingus embody perhaps the best and most important aspects of them all in my view.
You refer to one Divine Source of inspiration in your Popyourfunk interview from 2012 and theres the fact that GB stands for Gifted & Blessed, as well as the fact that one of your new album tracks is called The Gospel, what are your religious or spiritual beliefs?
I’m not religious but I do believe we’re all expressions of one Source, whatever that means to you.
How did you hook up with Kyle Hall for your (excellent) Mayan-civilisation themed electro /techno tracks as The Reflektor? Why the interest in the ancient Mayans in the first place?
Kyle reached out as a fan of my work, and we connected pretty quickly. I also dig the music he makes as well as his adventurous, fearless youthful spirit. He doesn’t have the same kinds of limitations in his mind that a lot of older disillusioned folks have about the industry. For him, like me, the music is really all that matters. I started working on some of the music and the concept for that Reflektor record back in 2008. I had spent a little bit of time visiting the Mayan ruins around Mexico with my partner. She leads retreats there for women once or twice each year. Her interest in the ancient Mayan civilization sparked an interest within me as well. There are many unanswered questions around the Mayan civilization regarding what happened in ancient times, what purposes the ancient sites really served, what the true origins of the civilization are, what kinds of spiritual knowledge the people possessed, etc…it’s all very intriguing to me.
What musical scene, if any, do you consider yourself a part of? Youve been written about as part of so many
None. Im interested in staying open to all music and charting my own territory.
Which producers do you look to for inspiration?
None. I enjoy the work of many musicians, both contemporary and of past times, but I don’t necessarily look to them for inspiration. Of course lots of music inspires me, but I’m hinting at the distinction between searching for inspiration from others vs. enjoying the work of others.
To refer to that FACT cassette mix you did for them recently, the beat tape scene of the 90s seems to have been an influence on you whose beats were really an inspiration and why?
Actually, that FACT mix is more of an homage to the cassette culture of the 80s. When cassettes came around it became possible for folks to finally manufacture their own recordings for much cheaper and in smaller quantities. I’m really interested in those folks who were making music from their hearts and duplicating a handful of tapes for their communities, without necessarily looking to capitalize on them. There’s a certain purity to that; in the sense that these people were not making music in the way that a capitalist makes a product to earn a profit. That is an inspiration to me. Of course this carries through to today and isn’t limited to cassettes, but has also been the case historically with privately pressed vinyl, burned CDs, free digital downloads, etc…I know this doesn’t directly answer your question but I thought I would throw that in. Now as far as beats go…its really hard to name just a few…I’ve always been so open to different beatmakers. Would you consider Prince and Sly Stone beatmakers? I would. They were early inspirations. I’m trying to avoid telling you the same thing a million other folks would tell you…the Pete Rocks, J Dillas, Beatminerz and Premiers of the world of course made lots of music that I loved as a kid and still love…but again, it’s a longer standing tradition than that and I can’t say the influence is as direct as you might want to believe it is.
What have you got coming up music and gig-wise, post the new album?
Right now, I’m looking ahead to a few live gigs in Europe supporting this new album…there’s this extended live set I’ll be playing with the SUNK folks in London on November 9. Something else I’m really excited about is that I’ll be providing a live soundtrack to a presentation at the Anthropology department at the University of California’s Berkeley campus in December, which will be themed around metal artefacts found in a sacred body of water at one of the Mayan ruins in Mexico. Then there will be various parties, yoga and movement workshops, sound meditations and other reasons to share music, which I will announce on my website.
As far as releases go, I have a remix EP coming out in support of the new album: Afta-1, Dego (4hero/2000black), Ras G and FunkinEven have all contributed interpretations of pieces from the album. I’ll also be releasing a Technoindigenous Studies EP series using my moniker Frankie Reyes. After that I’ll be releasing several ambient electronic projects and more collaborations. Stay tuned.
Speaking of the album, would you care to explain track 7s title? Teslas Notebook is pretty intriguing
For me that piece is about the criminally under-appreciated scientist Nikola Tesla and what his notes on various subjects might have felt like if translated through sound.
Finally, how about giving us your top 5 current tunes?
Rather than five tunes, here are five albums I’m enjoying:
Steve Roach – Skeleton Keys (not yet released) (Tantum, LP)
Georgia Anne Muldrow as Jyoti – Denderah (SomeOthaShip, LP)
Dak youstandit / leftrecord (Leaving Records, format unknown)
Chilly Gonzales – Solo Piano II (Gentle Threat, LP)
Victor Manuel Morales – From the Edge of Time (Prodisc, digital download)
GB headlines SUNKs second event on Saturday 9th November at a private SE1 location. Check out the SUNK Facebook group here
Interview and article by the excellent Manu Ekanayake