Interviewed by Daniel Lubin
On a rainy afternoon, I met West London multi-talent GG Skips. DJ, producer, promoter, and manager, founding the Slow Dance label and collective, and producing eclectic, electronic tracks as ‘Glows’, Skips covers all ground and has carved out a substantial space in London’s musical ecosystem. Over a cup of warm tea we talk genre, visuals, and his place in today’s music scene.
Tell me about the name GG Skips.
It’s actually originally based on GG Allin, you know that punk guy, who would throw his shit at everyone and smash his face on the stage. It was actually from a conversation about what his favourite crisp would be. We reckoned he’d be a Skips man, so that’s where it came from, but it had a kind of blues ring to it.
And what’s the new EP called? Are you allowed to say?
It’s called J.L. HOOKER LOVE PLEASURE FOREVER. It was from some toilet graffiti I saw that said ‘hooker love pleasure forever’. I like the way names or sentences look visually. In the same way that GG Skips looks as a visual piece, I thought there was something weirdly interesting about those string of words. It wasn’t quite sensical, ‘hooker love pleasure forever’. With all my stuff, inspiration comes from strangely poignant things that don’t make sense as to why they strike you. Like that. In the same way, my track before last, ‘Foam’, spurred from seeing a sign for ‘Foam Cut to Size’ on a bus. I think it’s mainly the visual aspect of how the words look.
Your last few singles have played with a kind of melancholic ambience. What direction are you taking with the new EP?
This EP I think is the most brought together thing I’ve done because it’s quite genre-less. It skips about, it brings together hundreds of different elements, it’s very textured. There’s so many different samples and sonics there, hundreds of references to influences, different tempos, different sounds, which is the only way I can really make music and feel good about it. It’s quite hard to describe, but you have to look at it as a whole thing, like a space that contains so many elements. And that’s what I think this EP is a bit better for, there’s a lot of content in each song.
Throughout your releases there’s a refusal to conform to any genre, and Slow Dance includes artists who span many genres. Even within ‘Passing Talk’, about two thirds in it swaps style. What holds the music together if not genre?
It’s the most satisfying thing when you hear stuff that can skit around genre. The place where it sits is no longer about genre, it’s about something else. The pace or tone or emotion of a track. Genre’s such a weird thing to define a song by. Without it, the song is in a different context for the viewer… sorry, listener. Because they’re not really sure what to do with it. People find a lot of comfort putting something into a genre, but when you don’t do that, you’re a little confused and maybe a bit more intrigued. It’s more true of real life. Nothing’s ever one thing, everything’s constantly moving.
It’s quite artificial to jar everything into a genre.
But at the same time I’m not against that. People speak to death about “Why is everything genred?” Genre does have its place, I think it’s just more satisfying to everyone involved if a track’s not so confined. I do actually like making ‘genre-d’ songs every now and then. Like, “Oh I’m going to make a drum and bass track.” It might just be a drum and bass track with fucking… farmyard samples.
Visual aesthetic is obviously important to you. I think it’s funny that you referred to the ‘listener’ as ‘viewer’. It’s not Freudian, but it is a slip. How do the visual aspects of your projects interact with the musical?
Coming from an art background, I see everything as a whole. I’ve always been really aware of how cover art affects the way we listen to the album. I think about tracks in terms of what colours they bring to mind, with samples especially. When you listen, for instance, to more traditional band music, I think you imagine the band playing it. With sample-based music, the visual becomes way more important. You’re taking little snippets from any genre under the sun, and the listener’s trying to figure out what that sound is a lot of the time. Sample-based music, the soundscapes you make have a much stronger visual identity, even without providing actual visuals.
What direction do you see the music scene taking at the moment?
I’m very against the way it’s going, which is this irony music. Humour and music is important, but I feel music is losing sense of what it’s trying to say. I think people are scared now of actually saying what they really mean so they hide it in weird twisted ironic pieces. It’s definitely a reaction to the politics of the time. I’m not saying it’s bad, really, but I’m worried people are scared of being honest. People aren’t sure what to like, whether things are meant to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or deliberately bad. I think that gets you into dangerous territory. It has its place and it always has, but I want things to be a bit more honest.
As a listener of music and as someone who has listeners, what do you want your listeners to get or feel? A mood?
I want to create some kind of memorable experience of when they’re listening to the track. Not necessarily get any mood, but just those moments when you’re listening to a song that defines a certain moment in your life, hopefully that will happen for one of my songs at some point. (laughs) Whatever they get from it is fine by me. It’s not mine anymore, it’s everyone else’s.
Glows will be performing at Brainchild Festival from 12-14 July 2019 this summer.