The concept album carries a lot of baggage with it. Invariably, it conjures up images of bloated, cape-wearing prog rock dinosaurs performing 20-minute solos about the summer solstice. In the electronic music world, it usually means that an innovative artist has hit a creative block and is ‘reinventing’ themselves.
In short, the term usually has negative connotations. There are some exceptions however, and Scottish producer Gareth Whitehead’s ‘The Brood’ is the latest work to buck the tendency towards self-indulgence.
Nearly four years in planning and making, as Gareth explains, it is inspired in part by his own background. “I grew up outside Glasgow and when I started to get into electronic music in the late 90s, the Arches and the Art School were the places to go,” he recalls.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and Whitehead and some of his friends run a night at the Club venue in Paisley, the venue for Rubadub’s infamous techno night, Club 69 (which still takes place on a quarterly basis at the same venue).
However this only tells part of Whitehead’s story and he was originally a rave-loathing indie kid. “When I was growing up, I was into Nirvana. They were a big influence on me and I was in a band. I didn’t like rave, I found it too synthetic and it didn’t inspire me. I was well known among my friends for despising electronic music,” he laughs.
By the mid-90s, Gareth had started to tune in to rock acts like Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson. “They had this energy about them that was similar to electronic acts like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers - once I heard ‘Firestarter’ I could make that connection,” he adds.
In 1999, Gareth attended Homelands in Edinburgh. He was there to check the Chemical Brothers, but ended up wandering about and visiting other tents. Soon afterwards, his band dissolved and he started frequenting Glasgow clubs.
“The other people had jobs or were in college, so I ended up with no one to rely on or fight with,” he says, half-seriously.
For a producer who clearly relishes the solitary life, Whitehead’s approach to this debut album seems strange.
Comprising contributions from some of house and techno’s best-known and most established artists, it includes collaborations with UK veterans Carl Cox and X-Press 2, Chicago house lifers Robert Owens and Marshall Jefferson and original rave and hardcore artists from both sides of the Atlantic in the shape of Adamski and Industrial Strength gabba overlord Lenny Dee.
Does the title refer to the family of legends that Whitehead has gathered around him - his own ‘brood’? “Yes, it could be that. ‘Brood’ is a Scottish word for family and it seemed like an apt name instead of some pretentious collaborative name,” he chuckles, spitting out each syllable.
The other meaning behind the album’s title is the way that it brings together a family of sounds. Spanning the house and techno continuum via Chicago, Detroit and London, it also takes some unexpected turns through UK rave and the underbelly of New York’s harder electronic past.
“It’s more of a history lesson of the genres – it’s deeply rooted in the history of music,” Gareth explains. I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel. If it came out that the music sounded innovative, then brilliant, but the main focus was to write a concept album, to pay homage to the wider house and techno genres and to recreate the music that me and my label (Bullet:Dodge) were inspired by,” he adds.
One of the more interesting contributions comes from Lenny Dee and Frankie Bones. Recorded with Whitehead using hardware equipment, ‘E2X’ marks a departure from Dee’s high-octane, hardcore sound, but its dub techno groove is still peppered with incessant bleeps and piledriving, discordant riffs.
Gareth believes that New York’s role in the development of techno has been overlooked. It’s a valid point as Jeff Mills’ first DJ residency was at a New York club in the early 90s and around the same time, the Synewave label provided a platform for a range of techno artists to start releasing music. Some, including Function, have gone on to have leave an indelible mark on contemporary electronic music.
DJ Mag has nabbed an exclusive stream of Brood. Watch it only via DJ Mag TV.