Shades of Sound – A quick call to Guy J

Progressive house is dead. Long live prog.

It wasn’t so long ago when shimmering breakdowns, eerie vocals, and dark-tinged melodic moodiness were the defining traits of that which dominated international club culture. A halfway house between trance, techno, deep house and breakbeat, it rolled and thundered its way on a course that would see huge rooms with even bigger rigs provide a home for these ecstasy sounds.

Like everything in music, it was never meant to last forever. And wane it did, as producers jumped ship and the trademark tracks of globe-trotting DJs diversified. But it’s still possible to locate sonics that twinkle in the night, before erupting into powerful rhythms saturated in atmosphere, growing and grooving towards some impossible destination. And not least if you end up dancing in Tel Aviv.

When Guy J dropped Esperanza, his debut album, people rightly took note. Along with fellow countrymen like Guy Gerber, Sholmi Aber and Gel Abril a new entry had been added to the global encyclopaedia of dance music, meaning in 2008 people were talking about Israel’s second city and peak time builders, while fans like Hernan Cattaneo and Sasha were won over. Though that’s not too surprising, considering the imprint that carried said LP was none other than John Digweed and Nick Muir’s Bedrock.

Three years later and J has now unveiled the difficult second album, 1000 Words. Not that you’d think he had many problems with the production, as the staggering fruits of his labour are sprawled over no less than three wholly epic discs. The sublime arrangements span downbeat, ambient, electronica and contemporary classical, though the words driving, purposeful and proggy aren’t too far away either.

The release harks back to a time of chill out rooms and space age harmonies, though here such memories are dragged, sweat-soaked, into the new decade. Its effect on our mental state was such that we couldn’t resist giving the man responsible a call. So we talk about why he made such a mammoth piece of work, his hometown, and how music is a personal thing. Read on for further details.

P&S: Hi Guy, how are you today?

GJ: “Fine, thanks.”

You’ve been busy recently we imagine?

Yeah, I have had a few interviews today, and I’m working on a new promo mix at the moment.”

So, tough album number two is done, satisfied?

Very, very happy with it yes.”

What was the idea behind putting three CDs worth of music together?

I guess it was to try and deliver something different, and new. I wouldn’t say better than my last LP, but maybe more upgraded in a way. I can’t wait for it to be out and see if people feel the same.”

Was it hard gathering so many tracks together?

Yes, it was difficult as I had more tracks that didn’t go into this release, so trying to find the right ones to deliver the right story, and realise the right idea was not easy.”

When Esperanza hit there was a lot of attention on Tel Aviv, why do you think that happened when it did?

Oh, er, coincidence really. Things like that just happen. I think every time it’s a different place people choose to focus on, and it’s a case of wherever they decide to look at, rather than what’s actually happening- there are brilliant musicians everywhere.”

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You’ve now relocated to Antwerp in Belgium, but how important was your hometown in developing your sound?

Well, it’s a sunny place… I don’t know, having moved it’s difficult to guess how that has changed my music, because I can’t say what would have happened if I had stayed in Israel, you know, and vice versa. I think music is more personal than that, it’s a case of how you react to stuff.”

The progressive edges are still evident, is that how you describe your production style?

I think so. I try to develop like a mix CD, starting from really deep, I think it starts at 121 BPM and then goes up from there. Really this is to try and make an overall build, which I suppose is mostly an element of progressive. But there is other stuff in there too, I think there are different tracks to be found that will fit to different DJs, which is what I hoped for.”

There aren’t too many people making progressive house right now.

Yeah. During the end of the 90s, and beginning of the 2000s obviously progressive was everywhere, and as a DJ you couldn’t go wrong with it, you know. But I think it lost some magic when the music industry became more accessible, which helped a lot of new artists get noticed. But I think since that happened you cannot identify one genre as being dominant. But I do miss it all a little.

What were the biggest influences on the new album then?

Probably, no definitely the new places I’ve been to, and new people I’ve met. Experiences, new stuff… It’s a really personal album, and I’ve tried to express what I’ve been through in the last couple of years. The good stuff, and the not so good stuff. You know- life. And it came out the way wanted it to.

Finally, what else is coming up at the moment?

We have the second album launch party in Tel Aviv, after Arcadia in London. Both of those are with John Digweed, so I’m very excited about all that. It’s hard for me to call what I’m doing a live set, as I don’t have any instruments, I’m using Ableton. But it’s basically a case of me chopping up tracks and trying to give people something differentI also have three remixes coming up over the next few months. The first of which is for Spooky, and then one for Infusion, and 16 Bit Lolitas, so that’s plenty for me to be doing at the moment.


Guy J’s album, 1000 Words, is available now on Bedrock.