Techno Kingdom: Gary Beck on his new album
We speak to Glaswegian techno mainstay Gary Beck about new album Dál Riata, the long-awaited follow-up to his 2012 debut Bring a Friend
For those who don't know, Dál Riata is the name of a Gaelic kingdom which, at its height in the late 6th and early 7th centuries, covered most of the west coast of Scotland and part of Ireland. It is also the name of the new album from Gary Beck, the Glaswegian DJ and producer who has likewise been reigning over the heavier end of the Scottish techno scene for almost a decade. Alongside fellow Glaswegians such as Harvey McKay and Slam (who released Beck's debut LP Bring a Friend on their Soma Records imprint in 2012), Beck has established himself as a primary figure in Scottish techno.
We meet Beck for coffee in Glasgow on an early Tuesday afternoon. He's already ticked off another interview – an 8am Skype call – from his to-do list, after a weekend of shows in Spain and Italy. In two days, he'll head to Amsterdam for ADE 2018, and has plenty more shows lined up between now and the end of the year. Though his schedule remains as busy as ever, he explains that the pace of his life has changed since the birth of his young son.
"My studio used to be in my house, but it's kind of hard to make techno with a little guy running around your legs," he laughs. Moving to a new studio in Glasgow's southside was a pivotal part of album number two, Beck explains. What constitutes the right space, we ask? "A bathroom! I have a bathroom so I can take a shower, a little kitchen, my equipment, space where I store all my records."
This space is where the new album was created, in a short six-month burst of creativity and inspiration. Beck came away with a wealth of material – "I literally had like 60 tracks from that six-month period" – which were whittled down to ten tracks (the digital release will include a further two bonus tracks) that showcase Beck's skills, influences and styles. "I wanted to show what I could do," he confirms. "I felt like the time was right to showcase what I'm feeling at the moment in the studio. I had been releasing EPs, mostly on my label BEK, so I felt a new challenge was needed where I could showcase various styles of my music."
Dál Riata is a thundering follow up to Beck's debut LP, with big room techno tracks that sit comfortably alongside its more ambient moments. Opener Fools Regime begins with a heraldic rattle of drums, morphing quickly into an ominous synth drone. The club-friendly Isle then bursts into life with a deep bass end, while Return A590 is driven by resounding kick drums, and the aptly-named Bonkers Bus drives up the album’s BPMs. The album closer, Absolute Gem is a beautiful counter-point, a one-and-a-half-minute orchestral soundscape made sweeter by Beck's explanation: "It's named after my wife's mother, who sadly passed away a few months ago. I used to call her an absolute gem, and when it came to naming this track, I had to name it after her."
When pressed to choose a favourite track from the album, he hesitates for a moment, "probably the title track – it's a banger!" he laughs. "Even over the weekend in Rome, playing that track and seeing the reaction of 2,000 people, that's the best thing. That's why I do it, for that reaction."