its 10 years, the San Francisco-based Wicked Sound System
has become one of the most respected forces in West
Coast house music. The four DJs at the core of the group
– Garth, Jenö, Markie and Thomas (since relocated to
New York) – earned their way into the hearts of early
Bay Area ravers with their legendary Full Moon parties,
monthly Wicked events and Come-Unity weeklies.
this powerful collective didn’t begin to penetrate further
reaches of the country until 1995. At that point they
had saved up the money to buy the sound system they
needed, bought a 1947 Greyhound bus and took their vibe
on the road. Once the rest of the country heard Wicked’s
richly diverse house sounds, word traveled fast and
the DJ quartet was no longer the Bay Area’s best-kept
this point, the crew was definitely thinking about branching
out to original production. Pooling their funds together,
the four bought a studio. Timeshare, however, was not
very conducive to productivity, so they divided up the
equipment. The first release on Wicked Records was Garth
and E.T.I.’s “20 Minutes Of Disco Glory” in 1996. The
track took six months to complete, but it has been the
most successful of their releases and seems to have
numerous lives as it turns up on compilation CDs and
soundtracks to this day.
these endeavors, however, it soon became apparent that
Garth was the only member of the collective that was
ready to start releasing material on a regular basis.
Since his compositions were not representing the entire
group, it seemed more appropriate to establish his own
label. Named with the Wicked tour bus in mind, Grayhound
Recordings was born in 1998.
Garth began to build his own studio, he started only
with monitors and effects he inherited from the Wicked
studio. Since then, he’s steadily added on, with a Soundcraft
248 mixing console being his newest purchase – he’d
used a Mackie 24-channel desk for the last three years.
Other items include a Mackie 84 speaker, a Power Mac
7100 with Logic Audio, an E-Mu E64 sampler, a Nord Lead,
two DB2s, a Roland Space Echo with an old analog tape
delay, a Roland 303, a drum station with all the old
sounds from the 808 and the 909, classic keys console
for strings, and a Joe Meek lead box VC6 for the mic
pre-amp into which he plugs everything for on-the-spot
The first few releases on Grayhound were tracks that
Garth had done under various monikers and the productions
were varied in style. Garth worked as Crosstown Traffic
with a dub disco bent and as Rocket with Eric James
of E.T.I. with a more tech-y leaning. Today, Crosstown
Traffic is no longer, while Rocket has become Garth’s
main production project. Growing up in London, England,
and being exposed to reggae sound systems, plus dub,
punk and funk have greatly influenced the tracks Garth
prefer working with somebody else just because it’s
more fun,” says Garth. “You’re down in the studio and
it’s instant feedback. It’s interesting to see what
the two minds can come up with. I can come up with an
idea and if it’s crap, we just cut it dead, the two
of us. Instead of spending hours honing in on that one
thing and maybe trying to work at it, you just cut it
out and you move on.
we do a track with Rocket, there’s definitely signature
sounds, but we try to push the envelope a little bit.
It’s heavy, funky, a little bit punky, if at all possible,
in the house realm. We always use the house tempo. To
me, that’s the sexy tempo. If you can get people dancing
to your music, it’s a bit more effective. If you want
a good looking crowd that are coming out to have fun,
not just like trainspot, you’ve got to make sexy music.”
Garth’s latest mix CD, Vol. 3 – San Francisco Sessions
(OM Records), is another example of his spinning ingenuity.
Taking into consideration that mix CDs are listened
to at home and in the car, Garth starts gently and slowly
taking the listener through various stages and tempos.
Utilizing his broad musical range, there are dub influences
(Juan Trip’s “Shadows”) as well as jazzy flavors (Bibi’s
“Summer”) in the mix. The middle of the CD gets quite
pumping and then comes down again. It’s a formula that
has proven to be successful at Wicked parties, the places
where Garth made his name.
interesting about Wicked is that we mix it all up together
so that it all flows and you don’t even question it,”
Garth says. “You don’t think, ‘They sounded weird together.
That was an interesting mix of music,’ which is perfect
for house anyway. House, to me, is just a tempo. It’s
a frame of reference for all the influences that get
sampled in the music.”