“I was thinking that I want to write a book on how to look smart without knowing anything.”
Guy Gerber wears a wrinkled black dress shirt and a taut, weary expression. Mexican sunlight spills in from the steakhouse door. Clockwork waiters make the rounds with hulking mounds of meat, slicing flesh in rosy slabs while our table’s card stays green.
“You can go to a table and order white wine,” he continues, grinning. “Look at the menu and say, ‘Let’s go for the German one.’ Most people will be unsure. And because they are not expecting it to be good, if it’s just OK… you already win.”
Gerber has a penchant for playing with perception. From his intentionally absurdist Wisdom of the Glove residency at Pacha Ibiza to his eclectic 11 11 album with Diddy, the 41-year-old delights in defying convention. Despite his sage advice, he orders an Italian red and rises for a smoke.
“Mexico is my favorite,” he says, eyes twinkling. “Here they celebrate death. There is still mystery here.”
The Israeli artist is enamored with intrigue — something he sees as a dying art in the Instagram era. Renouncing announced lineups and set times, his latest hybrid label-party concept, Rumors, is designed to recapture the magic of a music scene he experienced prior to the rise of commercial festivals regurgitating colossal lineups. He calls it a “party of the people.”
“How much can you even enjoy the music when the lineup is so big?” he asks. “It’s so hectic. Who do you know is actually playing right now? At Rumors, you don’t even see the DJ. I wanted to do something that is open for everyone, but not for everybody. It’s only for people who know.”
While Rumors got off to a rocky start in Ibiza, it eventually found its niche and spread to satellite parties at events like the BPM Festival and Winter Music Conference. Between bites of braised beef, Gerber contrasts his party’s lack of official promotion with the current dance climate’s competing publicity.
“A lot of people are saying things to be liked,” says Gerber. “An artist should criticize and challenge. But today, people are just trying to give the people exactly what they want. It’s a bit of a shame. The most important thing in your DJ career is not how good you’re playing, it’s how viral your posts are.”
Long before he gained acclaim for his lush productions and atmospheric live sets, Gerber grew up in Tel Aviv playing soccer and blasting punk rock. While he gave up the former to pursue his musical passions, the latter’s ethos still guides his artistic approach.
“For me, there’s always a message,” says Gerber. “I try to make people ask questions. I think that today though, there’s not so much of a message in the music. You go home and you’re like, “Wow, what did I learn today?”
Gerber also believes most modern records are missing a “sense of art,” citing classic cuts by Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano as examples of dance tracks that imparted experiences rather than merely providing a backdrop for them. He grimaces while describing a climate where throwing a good party and projecting a cool image have eclipsed the importance of meaningful music.
“What could you actually say about Calvin Harris‘s album in 5 years?” he says, sighing. “Listen to Nirvana — whether you like them or not, you can talk about what they were doing. What can you say about some of these albums that are made today? Basically nothing.”
While he’s apt to rage against the corporate machine, Gerber does not spare his less commercial contemporaries any criticism. He notes wryly that while many mainstream acts produce their own music, ghost production is a rampant and inconvenient reality in the underground dance industry.
“I think too many people, some of them I know personally, are very comfortable buying young kids’ tracks and putting their name on it,” he says, shaking his head. “I would say maybe 50 to 60 percent don’t make their own music. It’s almost common to do such things.”
Sated with succulent meats, he flips the table’s card over to reveal its red backside. The waiters steer clear of our enclave while Gerber rues what he sees as the absence of historical context in the American dance scene.
“In Europe, it brought a lot of people together that had lost jobs and started taking ecstasy,” he says. “It was kind of anti-establishment. It has kind of a punk feeling to it in the US, but it’s not like anti-establishment. It’s just fun in the sun, and people like the music.”
Gerber drains his wine with a measured flourish. A crafty smile creeps across his features.
“But at the same time, people are very enthusiastic.”
(Note: This feature is the second in a series giving select dance artists an opportunity to comment on the scene at large. Check out the first installment with Jamie Jones here).