If you’re a fan of top-tier, industrially-minded drum & bass then you’ve definitely been on the receiving end of a typically thumping barrage of artillery from these two. Formerly known as trailblazing duo Gerra & Stone, Harry Hackett & Dave Stone have really carved out a niche for themselves in our scene with their minimally-charged, evocative ethos of extreme sub-low tendencies and razor-sharp sonic aesthetics. Slick, dastardly licks like Arashi, Too Deep and System provide instant insights into their meticulous ambition but now, and moving onto pastures new with a fresh name, image and direction, they’re really breaking new ground.
Enter GEST: the acclaimed duo’s brand new, reforged alias, now officially signed to K-Tee & Friction’s industry mammoth Shogun Audio. Wiping their illustrious slate clean and charging forth with glowing intent, they’ve already made their intentions known with a slew of progressive, varied singles that pay homage to their influences whilst birthing something entirely fresh for the storied drum & bass sound.
We’ve witnessed the brisk, digitalised tones of The Foundation; the gruelling, low-ceilinged etches of Been Thru; typically brilliant Quadrant & Iris-collab Sequential; acidic future-classic Inertia – all have been entirely unique, yet wholly interconnected through their eclectic magicka and supreme art style. What’s up next I hear you ask? Well, it’s the shuffling, blasphemous volcanics of Huaxi, which delights as you peer further into its leering gaze. UKF caught up with the boys to see just what makes this new alias tick, taking a deep dive into everything GEST.
How are you finding the GEST life, direction & alias so far? Although, I guess it’s not really an alias!
D: Yeah, it’s fair to say new alias really, we tried to link it into our old alias so it wasn’t a total departure from it, but it’s definitely a new project for sure. It’s been great so far considering the situation we’re all in regarding the music industry right now! But we’ve been lucky enough to launch this new project through that, and make the best of a quite weird situation in terms of events but yeah man, it’s been great so far – working with Shogun’s been great!
Did anything particular spark it off, and how involved were Shogun in the transition between the two phases?
H: Very much so, we’d worked with Shogun on their SGN:LTD label as Gerra & Stone, and then they invited us to Brighton, just sort of out of the blue; we had an A&R meeting with them and they suggested the name change! It’s something that we’d toyed with for a long time, we’ve always thought that the ‘and’ names don’t always work so well for various reasons so I think it was maybe a little push in the right direction from them. Ed Friction sort of sheepishly said “would you guys consider changing your alias?” and I was like “yeah!”
D: We knew that Ed had probably been pushing that, and was pretty much gunning for that the whole time which we were more than happy with as well.
H: I think we just needed someone else to go “guys, maybe you should…”
Give you a push in the right direction?
Was that something that was on your mind? You wanted something that was a bit more in the middle…
H: I think it’s good to have a cohesive name for both of us, rather than our individual names. We just stuck with that for years because it just evolved that way!
D: We didn’t really need to change it prior to that either, we didn’t have as much of an incentive to change it, but like Harry was just saying, a lot of the time when you turn up for gigs, particularly when you go to other countries, they’re maybe not as familiar with how things are and they’re thinking, “where’s the other guy?!”
H: Where’s the ‘and’?!
I guess, for people who don’t perhaps know which one you are, it makes it a bit simpler there as well!
D: Bit more anonymity with it!
H: For me, it’s more like it’s a name for the music as well you know? Rather than our individual DJ names, it’s a name for the project, for the music.
Focusing on Shogun, especially from the outside looking in they’ve always given off these real familial vibes, was that an important aspect for you – to find a home there? They’ve got that reputation of being a really close-knit unit.
H: I don’t know if it was something we necessarily looked for, I don’t know Dave do you think so?
D: I’d say it was more that we’ve been hugely appreciative since its conception really, right back from the very first Shogun release so we always had it in mind, even when we were releasing on smaller labels when we were a bit younger we knew we would’ve wanted to sign with Shogun one day, and the family aspect bit is definitely true. We’ve mentioned it a few times now just how good they are to work with, super professional obviously as you’d expect and people assigned to lots of individual roles which makes the whole process really fluid. Not strained at all, as it probably can be in some other situations. That sort of thing’s just a bonus really, but it was more how prestigious the label’s been and how much of a pedestal we’ve always held it on since back in the day. That was the main incentive!
H: The family side is definitely a bonus, it’s something I’ve really enjoyed actually. They’re a real pleasure to work with, they’ll do so much for us and there’s such great communication as well. I don’t know if we were necessarily seeking out a close-knit family vibe but the fact they are so tight-knit and professionally run is an absolute bonus.
If we look at the origins of Gerra & Stone, did you ever have a specific vision in mind from the beginning, and has that changed now or become a bit more focused with all the new GEST bits?
H: I’d say it’s the other way round really, that we started making music for fun. We’d both DJ’d for years beforehand, we started making beats together – yes and no! I think we both had ideas about what we wanted to do with it and certain sounds that we liked but to be honest, my vision now is very clear compared to what it was 8/9 years ago when we were doing Gerra & Stone. It’s a really hard one to answer because I can’t really remember!
Yeah I was looking back and I wondered whether you’d remember talking about it!
D: That was a pretty good answer! I’d just add that when we started off all we wanted to do was just get out there, put some tunes out and as we said, we’re DJ’s first, appreciators first, vinyl heads first, just buying vinyl from the age of 15 and wanting to be a part of the drum & bass world in some way. We definitely didn’t have a really focused direction in the beginning and probably went in quite a few different directions over the years. Recently, we’ve had this slightly more techno-influenced sound, and been coaxed into pushing that a bit more with Shogun – that’s definitely a lot more of the focus we’ve got now for sure.
Especially on the run of recent singles, you can definitely tell those influences are at the forefront, especially on the latest drop ‘Huaxi’ – I haven’t actually heard anyone say it so hopefully I’ve pronounced it right!
D: That’s about as good as you can say it yeah!
As you said, it’s gone down that deeper route, what’s the story behind the single? I had a bit of a Google into the name…
H: Do you want me to explain the name to you?!
I saw something about a self-proclaimed ‘richest village in China’ called Huaxi! Is there a hidden meaning?
H: That’s the one! It’s not a hidden meaning it’s just a really stupid story really but I’ll tell it anyway. Now this tune’s been going on for quite a while, the original sketch is from more than a year ago, what did I call it – ‘Snake Blood’?!
D: Yeah, the original working title was ‘Snake Blood’!
H: We thought you can’t have that as a name so we researched where people might come into contact with snake blood and apparently Huaxi is the place where they drink that, so that’s the name of the tune!
D: There’s possibly more of a story behind the actual musical direction of it although obviously there’s quite a funny story with the name. Musically, it was very much setting out to some sort of Bristol/old skool roller influence but with a percussive/modular techno percussion element to it.
H: Because it really started off with the percussion didn’t it? That’s where it came from, from some percussion loops that we’d recorded from our hardware and it sort of went in various different directions over the last year and then ended up like how Dave said, with that Bristol roller sound/bassline.
Sick. The artwork has really stood out to me a lot, really industrial and gritty which flows through the influences as well. Did you have an input on that?
H: Yeah absolutely, Shogun asked which direction we wanted the artwork to go in and I had quite a clear idea of what I wanted that to look like. We had a meeting with the designer – Army of Few…
D: Shout out Andy at Army of Few!
H: Legend, smashed it. I had this concept of ‘brutalism’, I love brutalism, gave him that and let him run with it and he came up with this awesome artwork concept that we’ve just followed through for all the singles. I’m glad you picked up on that because it was something that was pretty important to us, to have that aesthetic with the music as well, and Shogun asked us what we wanted to do you know? Create a mood board, show us all these ideas of what you want it to look like and they made it a reality so shout out to Andy for what he did with that.
D: Not only made it a reality but really took it a whole step further and just did stuff that we weren’t even expecting with the concept that we were really bowled over with, smashed it.
That’s something that’s always stood out to me, it must’ve been really satisfying for you guys to see it come to life. Obviously the music’s there but that visual aspect is essential.
D: We’re going to be continuing with these visuals for everything we, we’ve got a few other bits of artwork we’ll be putting out and we’re actually going to be starting a night as soon as things can actually happen again. We’re definitely just gonna keep this vibe of the artwork going across everything that we do.
Was that starting your own night?
D: Yeah, basically we’re going to be doing a GEST Invites event here in Berlin which is where I’m based, secured Void Club which is in East Berlin and we’re gonna be running that once things are able to happen again! Got them on board and we’ll be running it bi-monthly where we’ve got DnB in one room and techno in the other, inviting lots of other similar artists.
Amazing! Especially on your new work, you can really hear those influences shining through from the various strands of techno and acid. Are they collective influences fusing together, or does one of you draw from that and run with it, then you both build around it?
H: I’d say a bit of both really.
D: I think Harry’s maybe pushed it a little more in that direction initially. I would say we’ve definitely both loved techno, flirted with it over the years and made a fair bit on the side and never really put it out. It’s a joint influence but I’d say it more comes from Harry, and then we realised what we could do with it and perhaps not too many people are pushing that kind of vibe for the type of DnB we’re into.
H: I have a deep love for techno music, my writing process actually quite often starts out as different styles of music, and then I take what I make from that and put it into drum & bass. Especially the most recent stuff, the influences come like that so maybe I’ll write a basic techno track and I’ll think I made this arpeggio or bassline and, still on the synthesiser, take that and change the tempo – that then becomes a riff for a drum & bass track, so that’s where a lot of that influence is coming from.
For those proper vintage, bespoke sounds, is that all mainly hardware-based?
D: Definitely. The leads, the ‘synth’ sounds (it’s all synths obviously), pads, chords, effects – most of that is all coming from hardware. Quite a few of the bass sounds do as well, still use soft synths but predominantly for the sound design of the bass. For the beats, kicks, snares, hats, breaks and everything, most of those are still being made in the computer but a lot of the secondary percussion, the little polyrhythms and the bits that make up the full drums, Harry often does a lot of those, starts them off in analogue and then I’ll maybe make a few on my analogue bits here as well. Quite a big part of our process will be Harry making lots of sketches, I’ll strip them down a lot sometimes to a few elements, and then add a few bits of my own.
With everything that’s been going on, we need to look forward through 2021. We’ve got all this incredible new music, but what’ve you got lined up event-wise? There’s rumours of an impending remix for Rizzle as well.
D: Yeah, a remix for Rizzle, and an EP for Shogun. We’ve potentially got quite a few other singles that aren’t far off, definitely trying to not go longer than a month between putting something out, that’s been quite a big part of our plans and something that Shogun have been helping and pushing us with – keeping that consistent and quick-fire every 4-6 weeks.
In terms of events, we’ve got quite a decent calendar going on at the moment! We’ve got a launch party for Membrane Festival in Croatia at the end of June, hoping to start running our parties in Berlin over summer as soon as restrictions allow, also Shogun Bristol with the Intrigue crew and one in London at Fire & Lightbox which hasn’t been announced yet. Membrane Festival in August and then obviously Shogun London should be the big one!