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More Garth
- review of his new CD
- grayhound.net
- wicked.com























Knowing his influences and musical history gets you at the most only halfway to appreciating Garth. His past and present shows the trail of a strong and rebellious mind with a particular confidence resulting from a reward that only one's deep-rooted convictions can grant. The confidence and appeal of a leader, the soul of a rebel, and with a generous heart.

By attaching the idea and lifestyle of freedom to his innovative music, DJ Garth along with his friends Jenö, Markie and Thomas, brought the rave scene from London to San Francisco, joining together under the name "Wicked" and played a leading role in establishing both the West Coast House music sound and scene. Wicked is much more than just a sound, and more than an outlook on life. Wicked is a way of living, a loving reaction to life. Its music covers a broad spectrum of genres, as Garth explains, "Wicked house is much more than just 'dub', it's a mixture of everything, but held together by its foundation in soul, and the tempo is that of house."

So imagine you're all set to tour across the country. An old yellow bus, a bunch of merry pranksters inside, a customized and mobile sound system, and plenty of house music waiting to be played! Just as when it had belonged to a traveling Baptist church group, the Greyhound bus now belonged to the notorious Wicked crew. That vessel that would come to serve their adventures, five years on the road, and also served to inspire the name of Garth's recording label, Grayhound Recordings. Started in 1998 as a means to preserve the organic, spacey, and dub-heavy sound pioneered by Wicked, it's today considered one of the most innovative and forward thinking labels. Among its artists are west coast producers DJ Rasoul, E.B.E., and Doc Martin, and from the east coast Rob Paine, Q Burns and Huggy.

It's also the label launching Garth's new mixed CD "Revolutions in Sound", his fourth personal and second on the label, and features productions by himself, Jenö and Markie, as well as other artists from the Bay Area and Los Angeles including Joshua Collins, Ebe, Audio Soul Project, and Community Recordings. Describing it as "a snap-shot of the label" the selected tracks is a reflection of the orientation and influences in the Wicked sound today.

Representing the first member of the crew to embark on an independent career, Garth has an assortment of accomplishments that include the acclaimed single 'Twenty Minutes of Disco Glory' (Wicked 1996) - a production with ETI that later was featured in the cult rave film "Groove", and a dynamic collection of remixes including for 'A Tribe Called Quest', Perry Farrell, Rob Paine and Jason Blakemore. Garth produces both under his own name and as one half of the production duo "Rocket" the other half being Eric James of ETI. Spending two years in the studio together has resulted in a couple of new released remixes by Markie and Garth. One of Mutamaruka's "Time Unlimited" released on EQ, and another on Twisted Roots by Yabby You called "King Pharaoh's Plague".

A little on Garth's history...

"Growing up in London was an eye-opener" Garth says about his hometown. Referring to dub, punk, funk and reggae sound systems, Garth speaks of his major influences as "just the music that was around in England at that time." Starting off listening to bands like The Specials and the Jam, he later moved onto post punk bands like Echo and Bunnymen, The Cult and The Cure. Another important influence in Garth's music is soul, which he was first introduced to via James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Pollutions of the Gap during a year that he spent in high-school in the states.

In the early to mid 80's in England, before the house music movement began, the music that was played consisted more of sounds like rare grooves and hip-hop. The party scene was a lot of "break-ins in old meat-lockers and stuff like that", Garth started entertaining the idea of throwing parties of his own, and "then there was the sound system in England called Tonka. During the anarchic acid-house days of the late 80's, Garth joined the infamous Tonka Sound System, a renegade-party team with which he came to participate in a series of illicit underground parties thrown throughout the London area. And so it was that the four future members of Wicked met through a sound system.

He comes to America....

His experiences with the Tonka Sound System along with the acid-house movement was added motivation for Garth. "We wanted to see if we could get something like that going out there in San Fran but regardless of that I was going to come anyway, so I moved 1990".
Garth arrived in San Francisco greeted by a very young and undefined music scene and although there were some house-music parties back then, "most people had never even heard of a rave". Following him from England not far behind were Jenö, Markie and Thomas. Faced with the perfect opportunity the four of them started their now legendary Full Moon parties, and within a year had founded Wicked.

Considered as the catalyst that put the Bay Area on the global map for the rave scene, the Full Moon parties were a monthly series of free all night long house-music parties that were held at different locations on beaches and in parks all over the San Francisco Bay Area. Due to the lawless nature of the parties, the location would be changed and kept secret as long as possible for each soiree to avoid the police from interfering. While the cops would chase them, the legendary reputation continued to build through the rebel-like and law-less spirit in which the parties were thrown.

Garth also kept himself busy with monthly Wicked events, and a well-respected 10 year long residency at the house club Come-Unity. Today Garth continually plays established festivals such as Reggae on the River, Burning Man and Earthdance.

Got on the bus...

Around the same time that the Full Moon parties ended, a couple of Garth's friends had mentioned about an old Greyhound bus they had found in a junk yard and decided to restore. Things seemed to be coming together. "We got our own sound system, and we were starting to get a name in the States" - "and we decided that we would take it [the bus] on the road".

And regarding the similarities between the notorious Wicked crew and Kesey's Merry Pranksters, Garth smiles mischievously "there are similarities, we weren't quite as '60s about it… but for sure yes, lots of mayhem, lots of madness." Who wouldn't have wanted to be a roadie on one of their "amazing road trip experiences" where "the gigs were awesome too, but often times the fun was you know, on the way to the gigs".

Making music now...

So nowadays, how does the outside world affects Garth in his music?"Its difficult, music IS my life, that's what I do, I mean you take inspiration form everywhere, but I definitely like the idea of making rebel music really, putting some content into the music, where the vocals actually say something and address the current situation, you know in the world today, because these are serious times we're living in". In referring to his CD Revolutions In Sound, "I think there is some taste of that in here". My response? I think there is a taste of that in everything Garth puts his mind to.

On his thoughts on dance music today Garth explains, "what I like right now is that everything just sort of exploded… and there are all these sort of subgenres and right now they just seem to be fusing together". The fact that one can "take in two completely different pop-songs and fuse them together, I love that!" suits his independent persona and rebel attitude well.

Garth is currently taking a break from the studio as he has become a father for the first time in his life. "I just had a baby, I mean my wife had a baby, she did the work".

On future plans for his label Garth replies, "I'm just happy to be able to put out music that people send me, I'm just really honored that people want me to put it out for them, and a lot of the time, the music is really really hot".

"It's [the label releases] not that well distributed necessarily so it's one of those hard ones to get, -- , people really can appreciate it, -- , the records have already done the talking for me by the time I get there, you know". And with 45 releases under its belt, Garth's "feeling over formula" approach to music is working just the way he wants it. "We're just gonna keep doing what we're doing really".

The future...

Does he see himself always working in music? "I don't know about that… for now its great you know, I always definitely wanna have a foot in the door with music, but wouldn't necessarily say that I would close myself off to other things as well".

With all that he has accomplished in his professional and personal life at only 33 years of age, does Garth consider himself a dreamer or a realist? "Both, I have dreams, but I'm definitely a realist as well, I think I'm more grounded than some in this business, but I have dreams". At least at this point in his life, Garth seems to have found the balance in life we all strive to obtain.

Believing in the continuum and cyclic nature of life, cream ultimately will rise to the top, bad will be weeded out, and life will continue about its cyclic path. "Revolutions in Sound" no doubt was named with forethought. "You can't stop the groove."

- written by Annelie Persson


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