Gary Beck is techno through and through. He has never jumped on any hype styles or forgotten his roots. It has resulted in a timeless discography of powerful sounds on labels like Saved, Soma and his own BEK Audio since 2005.
It draws on Gary’s experiences of playing in clubs and at festivals all over the world, and comes with artwork by his father who is well known in Gary’s native Scotland as well as further afield for his work.
What have been the best and worst bits of 2018 for you so far?
Gary Beck – 2018 has been a very challenging and interesting year so far, there have been many ups which include getting married, moving to a new house, moving studio and completing my album. I’ve also played some really fantastic shows this year at venues such as Spazio in Rome and Tomorrowland in Belgium. When it comes to low points, I can’t really think of any, it feels like everything has been going at 100 mph.
How do you balance being a father with a musician who is away from home a lot?
I love the balance! It gets tough being away from him, but once I get home, it’s great to switch off from music and focus on family. Being a Father has completely changed my outlook on life in such a positive way. It almost puts everything in perspective. We are so fortunate to live in the age of video calling, which means I can see and speak to him every day when I’m away. This definitely makes things easier for me. He also has the Techno bug for sure. Every time a kick drums come in, his wee hands and head start flapping about, a bit like his old man!
Would you be ok for your child to get into the music industry? What advice for and against it would you give them if they mentioned it?
Absolutely. It’s given me an amazing career along with the most incredible memories, so I would have no problem whatsoever with him following a musical path.
The best advice I could give him is never look at it as some kind of job. Just enjoy the natural highs and enjoyment that music can bring, and the rest will follow. I always looked at it this way, and I loved it so much that nothing else mattered. At the early stages of my musical journey, I would even forget to get paid! Once you get further into the music scene, we all know the dangerous side of it can come into play such as bad health and temptation, but if you are sensible enough, this shouldn’t be a problem.
What shape is the Scottish scene in? Are the authorities with it or against it? Does it face the same problems of redevelopment, noise complaint etc that England does?
I feel the Scottish scene is in a good state now. Of course, like the rest of the UK, we are always battling against the authorities. We still have a license only until 3am which is always disappointing, and you get the feeling they are ready to pounce on anyone that wants to have a party.
One of the best venues was the Arches in Glasgow, and that unfortunately came to an end after a tragic death in the club. Initially, I felt this would signal an end to Scottish nightlife as the Arches was an institution, however it seems to have just got stronger! SWG3 came along and it’s now one of the most important venues in Scotland, along with Sub Club in Glasgow. Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen are all thriving too. Electronic music has never been so popular in Scotland and it’s great to see everyone pulling together to make it work.
Does it feel different playing in Scotland, like a home gig? Are crowd notably different than elsewhere in the UK and Europe? Can you play in a more natural or free way in places like The Arches and Pressure?
For me, playing in Scotland is up there with the best of them. It’s so enthralling to play for such a positive, energetic and passionate crowd. When I first started out, I couldn’t pull a crowd in Glasgow, and nobody really had much interest. Over time, I started to play more and more around Europe and I would wonder when Scotland was going to take note! But when they did, I have to say it was the most incredible feeling. To see my hometown go nuts to my music was unbelievable. It’s been a successful 7 years of sold out shows around Scotland, and now they give me the freedom to play what I like. I feel they trust in what I’m doing and it’s an incredibly nice feeling. Scotland has a reputation of being a bit wild and I can whole heartedly agree with that. I love it.
You’ve famously never changed your style. There are two sides to this – that you should evolve to stay in the news but also that risks you becoming a dilettante. How hard is it to find that balance?
I think being recognised as having your own style is very special. People instantly hear a record and know it’s one of mine. This is not an easy thing to achieve and it should never be lost either. I like to think that my music has a signature sound and I also feel that I have an abundance of variety in my tracks. I don’t believe I run the risk of becoming stagnant in any way as I always enjoy taking risks. For example, you hear a track like ‘Get Together’ or ‘Say What’ which is full of vocals and funk. Then cross that with something like ‘Hentzi’. They are worlds apart but in a strange way, not too dissimilar. If you stick to the same template of track with the same sounds and same breakdowns, then yes, I can see there being a risk of dilettante. I enjoy adding small new additions to my set up, but I will never change everything in some kind of drastic overhaul just to reach the next point of relevance.
They say now you need to be a social media expert and constantly posting to stay relevant – is that true do you think? How do you feel about social media generally?
I’m not a huge fan, as I prefer to be holed up in my studio making tunes. But I can see now that the social media thing is taking over. Not just in music, but literally everything. It’s a mind fuck, and it’s causing far more damage to people than they know. I find it quite sad that some DJ’s seem to get more gigs from what they say rather than what the play/make.
It’s still about the music to an extent, but nothing like it was before. I notice people getting so worked up about how hardly anyone liked their post. I’ve even been targeted for not pressing that like button. They need to get out more. It’s crazy.
Why now for a new album after six years? What was the catalyst? Why even do an album, are they relevant in dance music, and in the age of streaming singles and playlists etc?
I wanted a fresh challenge in the studio. I couldn’t actually believe 6 years had passed since the last one so instead of just making up the next EP, I wanted to test myself with a new project. I had not long moved into my new studio and I couldn’t think of a better thing to do. I couldn’t give a fuck if they are still relevant, I just wanted to test myself and put something a little different out there.
Once I came up with the name, I decided to try and keep a ‘Celtic’ theme going throughout the album. You can see this in the name and artwork, and some of the tracks have a Celtic feel about them too. I ended up with about 60 ideas in quite a short space of time. Some finished, some not, but I felt the final 12 were the strongest. It’s definitely got a few ‘bangers’ on there but there’s also a few little surprises.
You dad does your artwork right? What that like? Does he understand what you do? Does he like the music? Did you brief him on what you wanted or did he have free rein?
Yes, he does. Since my Dad retired, he decided to push on with perfecting his artwork. A few years ago, I decided to take him to one of my gigs in Buenos Aires, as he’s a massive football fan and wanted to see Boca Juniors. Initially, he didn’t want to come to my gig, but I finally persuaded him after a few beers! Next minute, he’s backstage at Crobar watching me play to 1500 people. So, he has a much better idea of what the scene is all about.
I wanted to expose his art as much as possible and I decided to keep the dog idea used in my first album, except dressed differently! He’s very talented and despite his warped crazy ideas, I love its originality, and it’s great to see him start to get the recognition he deserves.
You love animals but eat meat and are trying to be a veggie I understand. Is that driven by animal welfare or environmental concerns because of the impact of meat, or your own diet?
Haha, yes, I love animals very much and I’ve spent my whole life with dogs and cats. I have to admit I have always let myself down once I start to go veggie, so I can’t love them that much! Since my doctor said my body was producing too much iron, I felt I had to make a few changes. I’m not full on vegetarian yet however I have cut down on red meat and products that contain a lot of Iron.
I understand you played football at a high level until your teens. Why did that come to an end? What sort of life was it? Where did you play?
Football was my passion, and still is to an extent. I was training at Rangers as a young left footed teen and I also had trials at Aberdeen, however In Scotland, they want you to be big, tall and strong. I was not big. I wasn’t tall, and I certainly wasn’t very strong, so I was always going to find it hard unless I fully committed myself. I enjoyed the flair part of it however in Scotland, this is not seen as something important. They would rather you won headers and broke legs and I just wasn’t cut out for that side of it. As the years went on, I discovered clubbing and drinking so it was all uphill from there!
Has money changed football for the better or worse? Is it a better game now, more fun to watch, or too much like a business?
Yes, like most things, money has ruined the game. I have no interest in watching a team with a bottomless pit of money. I enjoy seeing young talent come through and grow together like the Man U team with Giggs/Scholes etc. There was a lot more passion back then and that’s why, as brutal as it is, I quite enjoy watching Scottish football. There’s an innocence about it and the players give their all.
Do you gamble on football? Seems now that people who don’t even like football watch it just do their ‘acca’. You cant move for gambling ads during games. I feel it’s the new smoking and needs regulating more tbh.
I occasionally put a coupon on but that’s about it. I agree about the ads. Gambling ruins lives as it’s addictive, so why plaster it all over the place. Money talks no matter what the absurdity of the message.
What are the things that keep you up at night, booth professionally and privately?
I’m always full of musical ideas. I’ve started playing guitar now so I’m going over songs in my head all the time! In terms of privately, I can’t divulge what keeps me up at night 😉