Dave Evans sat down for a glass of bubbly with the Grand Master of the Grandmaster for a chat about his life, DJing and exactly what he thinks of his Mastermix brother, Richard Lee.
Q. Gary, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Let’s go back to where it all started.
You first started DJing at school aged seven – how did that happen and have you always had an interest in music and DJs?
Yes! 1970 was my first attempt at playing records to an audience. The opportunity came about because even at that age I had all the top records. ‘Yellow River’ by Christie was in big demand and there I was, playing it on a Trixette electric gramophone piped into a 20W speaker. I had a microphone and I hid behind the stage curtain every time I used it!
Throughout the 70s I would DJ the annual school disco and gradually advanced to twin turntables in 1975, when I became resident DJ at the local youth club using a Carlsboro Twin Deck 102, which had rotary faders and the newly launched Garrard SP25 MK4 turntables.
Mixing hadn’t been invented at this point, but I was obtaining two copies of the top songs, which I used to create a phasing effect.
In 1980 I auditioned at the Rotters nightclub in Doncaster. I was only 17 and I’d never been in a nightclub before. I was given a trial period on an agreed fee of £8 a night.
The first record I played was ‘Rock With You’ by Michael Jackson. I played there for six months before I relocated to Lincoln to work with ‘Stars In Theatre’ and push my DJ career on.
Q. I have to ask you about the Gaz Glasses Bright Red Roadshow. Apart from a fantastic name, how did you find working every day and trying to vary the nights to keep it fresh?
Gaz Glasses came about in 1983 with a friend called Keith Gee [no relation]. We built all the light boxes in his garage and they were huge; 4x4ft and 6x4ft – 6 of them! I couldn’t afford to cover them in a vinyl wrap, as they had cost nearly £2000 to build, so we painted them red and it just so happened that I wore bright-red Timmy Mallett-style glasses at the time.
I couldn’t think of a name for my new mobile disco, so Keith said, “the lightshow is massive, it’s bright red, and you wear them big daft glasses. So why not call it ‘Gaz Glasses and the Bright Red Roadshow’?”
After only two bookings, I landed a residency at the Lively Lady Hotel in Mablethorpe, so Gaz Glasses was performing seven nights a week from 9pm to 2am/midnight on a Sunday. I was so popular with the locals and holiday makers that I was soon calling prize bingo on the fairground seven days a week. My schedule was 10am to 7pm for bingo and 9pm till 2am performing my Gaz Glasses show. It ultimately became unsustainable.
Q. One of your biggest residencies was at the Roxy in Sheffield. How did this come about and what are your memories of there?
I stumbled across the Roxy one Monday night in 1985 and the place was literally out of this world. Barry Noble had installed 40 – yes, 40! – Bose 802 speakers and 20 Bose 301 Bass bins.
They were driven by 30 Carlsboro 450W pre channel amps and these were racked up behind the DJ as a feature. The club had the most amazing hydraulic lighting rig and to this day I have never seen or heard anything to match it.
The DJ console was a sea of touch controls, with 40 Pulsar Touch Panels and two dedicated light jocks. Four Technics SL1200s and a Formaula Sound PM80 Mixer were at the DJ’s disposal and there was a tape deck so that Barry could record the nights. It was all state-of-the-art stuff at that time and I knew I just had to become one of the DJs there! I did, spending four years total at the Roxy before I was poached by First Leisure in 1989.
Q. When at home, which music do you like to listen to?
I don’t listen to music much at home, only when I’m in my studio room, as I’m always very busy. When I do find the time to unwind and pop on an album, it’s usually the likes of First Aid Kit or Amy MacDonald. I am a massive Abba fan and often have that on while doing the housework.
Q. You have a very special relationship with Richard Lee, where did you first meet him and how would you describe him?
I first met Richard Lee in 1999 at a disco store in Stoke-on-Trent. Shall we say this wasn’t a particularly successful meeting – we still talk about it to this day – but we became aware of each other. The same day I met Richard I also met Madison Avenue, who had come to do a gig at the nightclub I was performing at.
The lead singer Cheyne came over to me and asked if I had any of those ‘dreadful bootlegs’ of their song. I asked why they were dreadful and she explained they were out of key. I asked how you would put them in key and she told me all about Sound Forge.
18 months later I drove down to the Music Factory Entertainment Group, the home of Mastermix, with this bootleg 2-tracker thing I’d created in Sound Forge. It was the Whitney Houston mash-up! I met Richard for a second time and found him to be fabulous. He gave me loads of his time, offered me a slot on Mastermix Issue 187, and that really was that!
There has never been a cross word and we laugh like drains when we meet up or call each other. We share the same sense of humour; we love all things ‘Carry On’ and quote lines and send images from the films to each other daily. There is a bond there that’s certainly like siblings.
The whole Mastermix concept is quite wonderful and I am still as proud to be part of it today as I was all those years ago.
Q. Your look has always been very extravagant. Is this a natural extension of you and do you feel appearance is important to a DJ?
My look, extravagant? These days I’m all Adidas and Crocs! It’s all about the comfort not the fashion. I think appearance is less important that it was 20 or 30 years ago. The DJ concept has changed, hasn’t it? I think you need to be presentable; I don’t think you need all the designer gear. Or do you? I certainly just wear and do my own thing.
Q. I first met you in the back of a van going to BPM. It was the year you did your infamous BPM bingo while a certain superstar DJ was on another stage and you drew a bigger crowd. Is it safe to say you like to do things a little bit differently?
It was indeed the day I went to BPM (I thought we’d met on a train? But I may be wrong; I’ve been in the back of a few vans in my time!) and the day Richard said, “I’ve got you a big pink bingo machine, so get that feather boa on and start calling them numbers.” Absolutely outrageous. And, of course, the more people laughed, the more outrageous it became, and you are right, we drew the biggest crowd!
Things are always a little outlandish with me. There was one night I was launching a ‘Decades’ show for First Leisure and I was dressed as JR Ewing complete with a massive cowboy hat. All of First Leisure’s top bosses were coming to the launch and I was warned I had to be professional.
The place was packed to capacity with 2500 people singing, “why are we waiting.” Then the Dallas theme music started and I burst through a big circle of tissue paper! Everyone started screaming and I was so nervous I just camped it up! My introduction to this new, no-expense-spared show with dancers and extravagant costumes AND all the big wigs watching was, “I’ve just come from my dressing room, there were feathers everywhere. I thought there had been a cock fight, no such luck!”
The place went into uproar, the ladies were trying to pull my trousers off, and my cock ring rolled onto the stage! What a launch that was. The bosses thought it was all staged, really enjoyed it, and rolled the show out all over the UK.
Q.. Your mash-ups are known for being ‘creative’ to say the least. One of your most famous ones is Enya vs The Prodigy. How do you look at selecting the tracks for them?
I used to knock up two or three mash-ups every month. I have done some that shouldn’t work but do, such as the Enya mash-up. I work things out by putting songs in order of key rather than BPM, so if two songs are in the same key (or near as damn it) they should work. It goes back to the Madison Avenue scenario and those dreadful out of key bootlegs.
At this stage, I was churning out bootleg style mixes ‘IN KEY’ exclusively for Mastermix. The Enya vs Prodigy mash-up came about because they were simply in the same folder on my computer. Everyone at the time copied it or claimed it was their creation, which of course is the greatest compliment.
Q. Over the years you have produced well over 500 mixes, mash-ups and Grandmasters for Mastermix. Which ones really stand out for you?
I have indeed done at least 500 mixes, mash-ups and Grandmasters. And if you include the DJ-Sets – my work for Pure Energy, sister company to Mastermix – then it’s over 1000. My absolute stand-out mixes are not necessarily my best technically!
Grandmaster Mashed-Up 1 was ahead of its time and was done at a very unhappy period in my life, so I’m quite proud of that. I also love our Gee and Lee productions and the latest Grandmaster Jams concept. I think the Jams and Session mixes are technically my best work, and they are track-listed by the genius that is Richard Lee.
Q. What software do you use for your production?
To this day I still use Sound Forge as my go-to main music editor, although it’s much more powerful than it was in 1999. A demo is available on the Magix website for anyone interested in giving it a go. I supplement it with RipX (for stems) and Mixed in Key. I do not use a multi-track DAW, midi or anything like that! It’s all done manually by ear and I can spot a double beat by just looking at the waveform. This is how I taught myself and how I’ve continued to work all these years.
Q. What’s next for Gary Gee?
As I reach ‘that age’ my aim in life now is to continue with Mastermix. To help, develop and produce new and exciting albums, mixes and concepts. I’m currently training as a driving instructor, so my plan there is to either have my own driving school or train further and become an examiner.
I’ve spent 53 years playing out music, so whilst I will continue to produce from my studio, I do plan to hang up the headphones on the gigs in the next couple of years and enjoy a quieter life.
Thank you so much for your time today and stay fabulous, always.
The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 121, Pages 34-38.