Careers

Guy Gerber on zombies in Ibiza and what it's like to be called a genius by Puff Daddy

Find yourself daydreaming in the office about a career change? How does being a DJ who spends his time throwing exclusive parties at Coachella and in Ibiza sound? Guy Gerber is a man who spends his life jet-setting around the world hosting some of the wildest events – and that's his day job. Get ready for some serious career goals...

Guy Gerber has a lot of impressive attributes – his affinity for music undoubtedly ranking above the rest – but, curiously, his hearing is not one of them. When I sit down to interview him I have to repeat my first question three times. Granted, our phone connection is frustratingly fuzzy, crackling and cutting out at 30 second intervals, but it soon becomes clear that his ears are also working against my, “So, when did you first get into in music?” “I’m a DJ,” he offers as both an explanation and an apology, before asking me to repeat it one last time. Such is the life of an international DJ who spends the majority of his time in recording studios and nightclubs. We get there in the end and his story, as you'll soon find out, was worth the wait.

Hailing from Israel, over the past two decades Guy Gerber has become one of the most influential techno DJs in the game, thanks to the success of club bangers such as “Belly Dancing” and his inherent knack for hosting a good shindig. Starting life as an underground series of free beach parties in Ibiza in 2014, his brand, Rumors, is responsible for throwing some of the wildest events on the planet, from the Coachella afterparty he threw at a $50 million estate last year to raves in the streets of LA's Chinatown. Incidentally, Rumors also happens to double up as Gerber's very own record label, making him a true music mogul.

I know, you want his life. So do I. Unfortunately, my university's careers counsellor wasn't best equipped to advise on how to become a world-renowned DJ and entrepreneur, so I've had to turn to Guy Gerber himself to find out how exactly he made it all happen. From collaborating with Puff Daddy (or Sean Combs, Diddy, Brother Love, or whatever other name he wishes to go by now) to his Hollywood ambitions, we caught up with Gerber to find out just what it took to head up his own party empire and record label. Take notes.

The inspiration

“I was very interested in music before knowing it was music. My first kind of, like, spiritual moment was at school. I think I was about nine years old and the teacher took us to Masada, this mountain in Israel. We climbed to the top and he asked us all to lie down and close our eyes. He put this flute music on and I remember really enjoying it in a way that I could only translate years after. It wasn't until I was 17 and listening to The Smiths and The Stone Roses that I began to create music on my own.

I play guitar and I was in a band, but I got tired of all the ego fights. Daft Punk had just released their first album and it actually felt more rock than anything else that was around at the time, so I started to experiment [with electronic music]. Then I was like, if I have a sampler, I can make drums on my own. If I have a synthesiser, I can make the bass on my own. Then I started to go into the roots of electronic music and listened to Detroit and Chicago house and I just fell in love with it. I realised that maybe my destiny is in making songs for the dance floor rather than stuff with lyrics. It was also a bit easier to make music without words, I think I was a little bit too shy and too exposed when I was in the band. I don’t know, the rest is history.”

The lousy jobs

“Back then I was getting paid something like £80 for every show and I had to carry my whole computer, the monitor, the synthesiser and all the cables and everything. I used to fight a lot with the club promoters, but they were also my friends because Tel Aviv is pretty small.

I worked all of the stupid jobs possible. My last job of this kind was working in a restaurant as a bus boy. They wanted to promote me to be a waiter, but I told them it wasn't for me. They were like, ‘But you're going to earn more money, it's better to be a waiter. Tomorrow we're going to open for lunch, so there will be no tables and you can actually practice.’ There were only two tables in the restaurant, but I still made so many mistakes. At one point I was just standing by the kitchen lost and one of the customers said something like, ‘Hey waiter, you can't do this, why don't you just grab a guitar? This is not for you.’ So I said, ‘You know what? You're right.’ I just started walking. I was out and I never went back.”

The breakthrough

“I was just [making music] for years and then a few friends of mine from London said, ‘Hey, you need to send this to this label.’ All of the sudden somebody liked it and it became what I was doing. I had a few club hits, but I remember one particular song that I wrote when I was heartbroken – I didn't want to leave the house. It's called ‘Sea Of Sand’. Until then, I was a bit more into so-called progressive house, but this track was signed by Cocoon, which is more techno. It was everywhere and it changed my career.

I was always stuck in the studio and obsessed with music and I remember asking myself what's better, me being out there [at nightclubs] or my music being out there. But when I finally heard it in those places it was nice to see how it makes so many people really happy. Even though the music was sometimes written with pain, I could feel that it touched a lot of people and I think it's an amazing feeling to be able to share your emotions with a lot of people. I wrote it with pain and it definitely transformed into something optimistic.”

Working with Diddy

“He invited me to New York because he liked one of my songs. He just said, ‘Come to the studio and let's make some music.’ I go to New York, to this huge studio, but he wasn't there and all of the people in the studio look at me like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I didn't even know what I was supposed to do. Then someone comes and he says, ‘This is the main inspiration for the whole album,’ and plays a song that was actually the intro to my own album. I thought, ‘OK, that's cool, I can make some stuff like that.’ I did some stuff, went home and the next day, because it was pretty uncomfortable being in the studio with all those people looking at me, I just decided to work at home on my laptop. [The people from the day before] kept asking when I would come to the studio and I kept saying soon. After like five messages I get a text saying, ‘Are you going to come, because Puff is about to leave?’ He was actually there. I had to rush out, with my hair and everything looking basic. I got to the studio, said hi to him and told him, ‘I'm going to go to the room’ and set it up so he could hear what I was doing last time. But when I tried to press ‘open file’ on the track I had just been working on at my place, literally about half an hour ago, it said the file was corrupted. I went back to him and I said, ‘Look, I have a problem with the file, but I'm going to make something new. Just give me like 20, 30 minutes.’ He's like, ‘What?! People told me it was amazing, you have to find it.’ I told him not to worry and that I'd do something really quick. I kind of reassembled what I was doing the night before and, just before he opened the door to come in, I added a vocal track. The software that I was using does beat matching, but it didn't really recognise the vocal track because there wasn't a beat formation on it. It just made something random. I put this track on and then he walked in and it changed the whole thing. He put up the volume and went, ‘You're a genius!’ I was like, ‘Yeah, of course!’”

© Galen Oakes

The Rumors story

“[At this point in my career] I felt like I was making a lot of big songs and each label that I was signed to expected more of them. I wasn't in the mood to do that kind of music anymore, so I thought I should start my own thing, because then I could just release whatever I want all of the time. I enjoy having a little bit more artistic control.

When we first started [the parties], it was so fresh and so different from anything else. There wasn't any promotion and it was on the beach with no barriers, so basically everyone was there. That is definitely one of my favourite parties I've done. Besides that, I really love the party we did in Chinatown in LA. LA has so many restrictions, but because they want to promote this area, when we did the party over there they just let us do whatever we want. It was great to see people in the middle of the street in LA, just for one night. DJ Harvey also played that party and he's like my hero.”

The side hustle

“I have a concept for a movie. It's about zombies in Ibiza and it's going to be called Zombiza. It's going to be great. I've been working on it for years. I still have a long way to go. It's already very good, but it has to be amazing. The script is a little bit like From Dusk Till Dawn and Shaun Of The Dead, something in between those two movies. I'm still working on it, but it will happen. I promise you. I don't know or care how it's going to happen, but it will. I'm obsessed with it. That's my other thing.”

The advice

“It's funny because today everyone is a DJ in some way. It's kind of cliché but my advice would be that you always have to differ yourself from other people. The journey and the emotions are much more important than the technique and I feel that when you play people should feel the person behind the decks. It shouldn't be perfect. I like a bit of a punk attitude. Sometimes it's too loud, sometimes it's not working, but in a nightclub, some people go to take drugs, some people go to hit on girls, some people go to drink, some people go to listen to the music and the only time when everyone looks at the DJ is when the music stops. Everybody turns around, so people need to feel that somebody's there.”

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