Gervase Cooke, the Boy Lost In Music, certainly has a lot to say about music, and we could have chatted for hours if it wasn’t for the phone card giving up the ghost. Getting into dance music because he was self confessedly too pretentious to listen to indie as it exploded into commercialism, he’s become one of the most important figures on the Breaks scene today, and cites Australia as the reason that breaks parties are some of the best parties in the world.
Cooke got the name BLIM because he literally was ‘lost in music’. “I used to write music on headphones in the corner of the lounge room of where I lived so other people wouldn’t get annoyed by it or if it was late at night,” he says of his name. “And I used to do it for quite long periods of time on end, and if anyone come up and tapped me on the shoulder or anything I’d jump out of my skin because I was just somewhere else completely. A blim is a very small piece of hash here in England, the very last little bit,” he adds “so I thought of that and how it could come to mean something else, and thought up Boy Lost In Music, and it stuck.”
His introduction to dance music came from early Warp releases. “I was into indie music and rock, and when it came to about 1988-1989 I was primarily into a lot of indie – Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, and a lot of underground stuff as well; and I went to Manchester because that was really good for that kind of music. Just as I arrived there it exploded on a commercial level, and made me not want to listen to it. Coz I’m pretentious in that kind of way,” he says, and I’m not really sure if he was joking or not. “Then I heard some Sheffield techno, some really early Warp releases, and because I was a scientist at the time, I was studying mathematics, the logic of the way the music was put together was instantly recognisable to me, and appealed to me and made me want to buy some machines to make music.”
Whilst some may think that beginning his musical life from an essentially classical orchestral base of piano and violin would aid him in leaps and bounds, Cooke isn’t so sure. “Learning an instrument growing up as a child is a frustrating experience really,” he says candidly. “Because you kinda don’t want to do it, you know what I mean? You see it as a chore.” So Cooke doesn’t think that it has had a big influence on the way he makes music. “Just the experience of growing up in constant contact with musical instruments, however badly you interact with that” may have had an impact, he says, “but I would have to say it’s intuitively… I have to say I’m not consciously aware of it.”
Cooke started his electronic music career producing drum and bass for Emotif and SOUR, before moving over to Botchit & Scarper with labelmate Freq Nasty. “The simplest way to explain it is I just wasn’t happy doing it anymore,” he says of the change in musical direction. “I didn’t feel it anymore, I didn’t believe in my music, didn’t believe I had an opportunity to make myself heard in drum and bass, for a number of reasons – some to do with the music itself, some to do with the people involved in it. And when I first started to make breakbeat, it made me feel happy, and that’s the choice I pursued. It’s not even necessarily a conscious decision; it was a matter of doing what I wanted, what I liked.”
Cooke is known for making and playing music with a party vibe, and is partly responsible for the term “festival breaks”. I say partly, because it seems it’s a joke that, due to the music press, has spiralled out of control. Certain aspects of the UK music media have pointed to it as a move away from the harder sounds of breaks, but Cooke says, “It’s not a move a way from anything. It was just a joke me and Rennie (Pilgrem) had in the studio one night when we recognised the sound that we were making. I don’t think we deliberately set out to make anything… it was just something that when Rennie and I get in the studio we make music in a certain way – it sounds big, like its at a festival, we’ll call it ‘Festival breaks’, just laughing and joking about it… and one of us mentioned it to somebody and then all of a sudden…” he trails off with a smile.
Cooke believes the real party vibe comes from visiting Australia. “Everywhere I go this year it’s exactly the same,” he says. “I’ve got a digital camera, and at some point in the night I take a picture and everyone’s got their hands in the air, and I’ve got them all in a line, and unless you take close look of the racial mix in the crowd you’d never notice the difference,” he says. “And it’s been the same everywhere I’ve been… all around Eastern Europe where I used to go 5 or 6 years ago and they had a scene but really tiny and small. They all got scenes going on now. I used to play in Israel and it was just dead – it was good, you had a couple of people into it but you couldn’t get a party going. Recently they had a rocking crowd and I ended up playing for 4 hours – they kept the venue open for two hours longer than it was supposed to be! I just played in China and they fucking loved it, and they never even heard it before. They just couldn’t help themselves.”
He cites Stardust in Adelaide and Two Tribes in Perth as the places he started to notice this. “This year all the gigs are like that, everywhere I go. It’s phenomenal, absolutely fantastic,” and you can tell he is really enjoying the breaks scene at the moment. “I think the music has become a lot more fun, and I feel that it’s the British DJs who go down to Australia for the summer bring back that influence.” An unusual statement, considering it’s usually the English scene that has been seen to influence our dance music scene in the past. “Breaks parties are the best parties to go to in this country [the UK] now, there’s no question about it. I wouldn’t have said that if I didn’t think it wasn’t true, it definitely didn’t used to be true,” he states. “You go out now to a breaks night, and it’s a real fucking party. It wasn’t in London for so long. We were amazed to find out that in Australia that was like the norm. In some ways I think Australia’s party and fun vibe has filtered back into England and made the vibe fun back here.”
“You know what I mean, just real fun, proper parties,” were the last words he said to me before the phone card cut us off, and you can see exactly what he means as he hits Adelaide.