“I don't think anything that has happened in Ibiza in the last few years is an advantage to anyone in dance music.”
Guy Gerber has long cut a distinctive figure in the sometimes dry, often earnest, atmosphere of the house music world. The Israeli DJ and producer made a name for himself in the mid-noughties with a series of huge releases on progressive labels like Bedrock, and has retained a loyal following ever since. Gerber has kept up the creative energy over the years by throwing curveballs like a Fabric mix entirely consisting of his own music and teaming up with rap icon P Diddy for one of the most unpredictable partnerships in musical history.
His self-curated Ibiza party, Rumours, is a bastion of quality party music—as the rest of the island drowns in a tidal wave of EDM—and a return to a popular, but more sincere sound after Gerber’s weirdo ventures in the world of VIP clubbing (his single-season stint at Pacha featured the world’s most expensive glove for sale as a centrepiece).
When he’s not at Burning Man you’ll find Gerber globetrotting to man the decks at some of the world’s finest clubs. With his taste intact and tongue-in-cheek, Gerber was his usual honest self on the subject of Ibiza, social media’s role in club culture, and his lifelong commitment to rocking the boat and having as wild a time as possible in the process.
Your party, Rumours, is now an Ibiza favourite at a time when the island is struggling or at least radically evolving. The local government doesn’t seem too happy with the club industry after all these years, and clubs are more expensive for the partygoer than ever. How can Rumours transcend that?
I would say, as an artist, that it’s all about curation. You just have to try different things—more interesting bookings, more decoration, and I changed my musical style. Before the move, I was playing to three or four hundred people, and now I’m playing for a few thousand. And I had to find a certain sound that was still loyal to the original sound of the party, but was a bigger style. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything that has happened in Ibiza in the last few years is an advantage to anyone in dance music.
It would have been difficult to imagine this situation ten years ago. Especially in the UK, a trip to Ibiza was a key part of youth culture. I don’t know how bad things have gotten from a government or resident perspective, but tourism is such a huge industry over there, that it seems strange to bite the hand that feeds.
In general, it’s not a bad thing, but underground dance music became more mainstream in a way. Back then, if you went to Ibiza, you were more ‘as one’. Whereas now, everybody goes to Ibiza to listen to so-called ‘underground music’, and to be honest, maybe it’s a little bit less special? Today a lot of people also copy the same concepts and in the old days, you would discover music and find new producers. Even at the after parties, people all just play the same music now. But I will always want to do parties in Ibiza.
You seem to occupy a position somewhere between the mainstream and the underground, and you’ve always been quite honest about that. A few seasons ago, you were also hosting and programming parties in venues like Pacha, which is one of the most commercial clubs out there. How was that for you, as something of an outsider?
I think that when I went to Pacha, I tried to do something hilarious and outrageous, because everybody takes themselves so seriously. I was actually really enjoying it and lots of other people were too, but my name didn’t really mean anything. Right now, I definitely feel more comfortable, but if I’m being totally honest, I have tried to look into other mediums to express myself. I was quiet for a few years, but now I’m looking to do something more ridiculous yet again, trying to write scripts and working on two indie albums that are totally different from electronic music. Because I think that, alongside the role of a DJ and promoter, I need a new concept.
Most Israeli DJs I’ve spoken to seem to have a DIY, ‘indie’ if you will, perspective. Your entry points to alternative music were bands like The Smiths or My Bloody Valentine. Is a part of you still on the rock scene in Tel Aviv?
I wouldn’t say there’s so much rock and roll in Tel Aviv, but I would say, if you come from a rock scene, like I did, it’s different. Especially if you’re travelling the world, going to after parties and getting fucked up. When I was on the rock scene, I wasn’t much of a party person, I just loved the music. Then I discovered Daft Punk or Derrick Carter… When you go and see a rock band, you typically know the band and you listen. Whereas in a club, there’s such a mix of people—some people are there to see the DJ, some people there to take drugs—it’s more like a hangout, and it’s very interesting.
You had a fairly successful career as a footballer with the Israeli Under-21s team. Was there a friction between the more regimented routine of a professional sportsman and your life as a club kid?
When I was a teenager, there was always something very romantic about being an outsider. Even when I was a kid, six-years old, I was always questioning people and systems. That never changed, I guess. It’s just hard for me to accept things as they are. People can’t smoke in a club, but a DJ can. A DJ might kneel down to take drugs with three-thousand people in front of them. Why? Because they’re the DJ? But I like it like that, actually [laughs]!
You collaborated with P Diddy on an album that came out three years ago now, after a notoriously long gestation period. It’s been nearly a decade since you first began work on it. The record split opinion when it came out, how do you feel about it in retrospect?
I feel a lot about the record. I was enjoying making it, but to me, the concept was almost more important than the actual content. My goal was to do something that was very loyal to my music, but also outside of the box. It didn’t do that well, but that was also to do with the way it was handled. I didn’t have proper management, and it leaked onto the internet twice in one week. It was a nightmare!
There was a documentary made about the album, and towards the end there was me talking about him, and him talking about me. When he was talking about me, he said that in his entire life, he had never followed anyone, but, “with this guy, I knew there was no other way.” I thought that was really cool. There was fighting, and when he hired me back then, he wanted me to do something that sounded like Afrojack. So for my career, it could have gone better, but for my personal truth, I was very happy with how it turned out.
Club culture can be fickle, but you seem to have been able to maintain an audience for the past fifteen years, while finding room to evolve as an artist. From the success of those early releases on labels like Bedrock to your current tenure at Rumours, what do you think has been the most challenging way in which you’ve had to evolve as a DJ?
Well, obviously social media is a huge one. It’s ridiculous, but I’ve noticed that DJing is no longer just a hobby, in the way that some people play guitar. Everyone is a DJ these days. You just go to Beatport and make a chart. It’s not a bad thing but it’s taken some of the magic out. When I went to clubs fifteen years ago, there was no Instagram, no Beatport. Only the DJs would have certain music, and if there was a big track sometimes you’d hear it four times a night because it was so exciting to listen to it. Now, people hear a track, they Shazam it, they listen to it all through the week and they’re over it. I’m conscious because if everyone is the DJ today, you have to be better.
Guy Gerber will be performing at Lovebox on the 12th of July. Tickets here.