Gallago is someone I’m keeping in mind for my summer playlists. The young South African born and Bristol-based producer is making some serious gold at the moment and he’s not ready to stop. I caught up with him off the back of his Kitsune Hot Stream release.
You were born in a fundamentalist Christian family and had to listen to radio in secret. Talk us through that experience and how you managed to access this medium/how it changed you.
Well my family was very musical and encouraged me with playing the violin and piano, but I could only access Classical and Christian music. I’ve still got love for Classical, but there is only so much Christian music you can listen to before you start to lose the plot – it’s all incredibly mundane and don’t even get me started on the lyrics. This combined with the fact that you usually want what you can’t have, led to me listening to songs on the radio in secret and trying to copy them on guitar. As I also wasn’t allowed to watch regular tv, learning to write songs with the guitar became my main escape; I came to be obsessed with trying to express myself through music. Unfortunately, having the top 40 as a yardstick in my early years also meant that I grew up listening to a lot of complete shite. I have my dad to thank for introducing me to The Who, Led Zeppelin and other 70’s greats later on, but there was a huge gap in my knowledge of good 80’s and 90’s music that I’ve been trying to catch up on.
You were raised in Johannesburg. How big of an influence has South Africa been on your productions?
I think it’s had a subconscious effect on my sense of rhythm. I didn’t really appreciate House music during my time there as In my teenage years I was immersed in Indie, Ska, Rock and Metal, but I’d heard House playing everywhere; from the radio to shopping centres etc… It’s so ingrained that it’s basically pop music there, which I’ve realised in hindsight is really quite special. It’s also worth mentioning that Fidget was massive for a couple of years and I did quite enjoy the swing of it – hadn’t quite heard anything like it at the time, but the lack of emotion didn’t grab me. To answer your question; I think growing up in Johannesburg (especially in terms of House music) had an indirect effect on my music.
What’s the scariest decision you’ve ever had to do make?
Ha that’s a tough one. Haven’t had too many scary decisions… I’ve had quite a few scary experiences, but that’s different. With decisions, I usually know what I want and it almost always revolves around music – makes the choices a lot easier. I guess deciding to move over to the UK by myself when I was 19 was daunting, but it was also exciting because I had no idea what I was getting myself into. There’s scary decisions and then there are tricky ones… I tend to struggle with those more. The trickiest decision I recently made was whether to go for a four cheese or spicy Mexican pizza. I chose the Mexican, no regrets there.
Bristol has a huge musical heritage, is this the reason behind you moving there?
Well, I actually moved here due to necessity. After uni, I got offered a job as a mix engineer/sound designer so I jumped at the chance and moved down the week after handing in my dissertation. I was aware of the musical heritage here which made it even more of a bonus – it was a complete no-brainer. I pretty much instantly fell in love with this city though and can see myself living here for a long time – feel really privileged to be here. Could wax lyrical for hours, but it really is special living somewhere that has such a wide range of music on tap all the time.
You were previously known as Sønder. Why the change of alias?
Two reasons. The first is that when I started making music as SØNDER, the Internet word had only just begun to make waves. Three years on, there were just too many people making music as Sonder… searching for my artist name became an American minefield. The second is that my music has moved on from SØNDER in a new direction and I feel like I’ve been entering a new phase in my life. As my music is an integral part of my identity, it just made sense to progress under a new alias and put the past to bed.
Your latest tune ‘Lifeboat’ has been steaming up the CTC office (see what we did there…), what’s the story behind this track?
Ha thanks, I’m glad it floats your boat. It’s a long story really, so I’ll just say it’s to do with someone close to me. It’s really just about staying positive and looking forward; a message I tried to convey in the musical progression of the track and how its mood slowly lifts.
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What’s the most exciting new thing in your life right now?
Definitely my Roland TR-8, best purchase I’ve made in a long time. In the two months I’ve owned it, I’ve spent so much time jamming on it – hours at a time. I would never have thought I could get so lost in a drum machine but I was completely wrong. I’m saving up and looking forward to getting the last few pieces of kit I need to get the live show going.
How’s the future shaping up?
Music wise, really well. Feel like I’ve finally hit my stride and now have quite a few tracks that are waiting to be released. Also happy to say that I’ve got a remix for Edapollo coming out on Svnset Waves mid June that I’m pretty excited about… it’s definitely more along the lines of where Gallago is going so I’m looking forward to sharing that! Apart from releases and writing new music, I’m going to be spending a lot of time figuring out the setup for my live show… that’s the end goal; to have a flexible live setup that allows me to intuitively and spontaneously perform my music in different environments, whether it be a rooftop bar or a warehouse.
A tune you love but have never been able to drop in a DJ set.
At the moment it’s definitely Faith In Simplicity by Concepts of Colour, the spontaneous alter-ego of my friend TÂCHES. No matter how many times I listen to it, I can’t get enough of this track. It’s a beautiful roller and I’ll play it out at the first appropriate opportunity I get.
A tune you wish you had featured on. What would you have added to it?
Four Tet X Floating Points X Katy B – Calm Down. I would have subtracted more than add; less of the vocal and more atmos. Don’t get me wrong, the chorus is catchy, but I feel it detracts from the bass-line and groove which are killer.
The most underrated artist right now.
If your music was food…
Another tricky one. I’d have to say pizza as it’s one of the other indulgences I can’t go without. It would be a pizza that initially looked like a Margherita, but had gorgonzola, olives and possibly a few chunky jalapeños hidden underneath that initial layer of mozzarella.