Exclusive Interview with Ralf Gum
The DJ - Ralf GUM is one of the highest respected figures in the house music scene for the distinctive qualities in his exceptional productions and DJ-sets. Since Ralf`s career started in 1990, he stayed true to his passion for cool and diverse house music. Harmony & Soul & Groove - just some aspects of Ralf's typical sound. With a feeling for the vibe, he convincingly at venues all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, North- and South-America. In autumn 2008 Ralf toured South Africa for the first time with great response and was the first German house DJ who was booked in Botswana and Swaziland...
The Producer - Ralf is creating music since 1993. He worked with notable artists as Inaya Day, Monique Bingham, Beate S. Lech, Michael Procter or Concha Buika. Ralf released in 2008 his first artist album 'Uniting Music' containing the hit-single "Kissing Strangers", which was a bestseller in its genre in 2008. Thus it got #1 in the "Top 100 Singles 2008" and the "biggest house track 2008" in the chart of Traxsource...
The Music - The hallmark of Ralf's sound is his love for live instrumentation coupled with wicked deep house beats. But the distinctive groove isn't the only reason for Ralf's success - his passion and love for all things soulful shines through all time and helps create a simply irresistible vibe...
The Label - Next to his productions and remixes for labels like Defected or Tommy Boy and his seducing DJ-sets, Ralf GUM receives as well worldwide plaudit with his own label GOGO Music...
The Person - crazy not only about music, but also about good food, red wine, faithfulness & his woman.
MzHouse Diva: When did you get started in the music scene?
Ralf: I had my first DJ gig in 1991 and my first productions were done in 1993.
MzHouse Diva: How did you get into djing?
Ralf: Already as a teenager I had strong love for funky, jazzy and soulful music and started collecting records. As a record collector, I felt that I want to show people my taste in music and this led me naturally to DJ-ing.
MzHouse Diva: What was the first record you bought?
Ralf: To be honest , I do not remember anymore, but the first records I bought with my own money must have been early electronic sounds from the likes of Kraftwerk.
MzHouse Diva: What was your first paid djing gig?
Ralf: It was at the smaller room of the Airport, which was and is the biggest club in my hometown Würzburg. The smaller room was the more un-commercial, experimental one, so I felt at home right away.
MzHouse Diva: How would you describe your djing/production style to people?
Ralf: I do not really believe in boxes for music, but if it has to be categorized I would call it deep and soulful House Music with a strong emphasis on songs when we speak about my productions.
MzHouse Diva: When did you first full in love with house music?
Ralf: It was in the very early nineties on a visit in New York. I liked and played House Music already before together and within other genres. In NY I experienced there the first full House Music Nights. I instantly was hooked and never played other genres after that again, but tried to establish it in my area.
MzHouse Diva: What draws you to the deeper, soulful side of House? Why has it often been overlooked by mainstream audiences yet thrives underground and how can that be changed to reach a broader base?
Ralf: The deeper side of House music just combines all music elements I like. You can incorporate jazz, funk, soul, Afro, Latin elements and so much more in it. The music is often treated as a “DJ tool” only and hence was not really pushed to a mainstream market, where you need radio-edits of songs and, in an ideal case as well, a video. Furthermore, it’s helpful if an artist is literally performing the song. The labels in the deep House scene often concentrated only on an individual single release by someone, instead of building their name with consecutive releases. All the aforementioned aspects are truly no secret in the music business for many decades, but have most times been overlooked in the House scene. Lately, a change seems to have started worldwide and is already in full effect in South Africa where House music is treated just as every other mainstream genre. It hopefully keeps on and helps the music to get more of its deserved and overdue attention.
MzHouse Diva: What are the differences between the House music Scene in South Africa vs United States?
Ralf : There is a scene and market for House Music everywhere and if you look at the core of the scenes, it is the same music that is appreciated everywhere worldwide. However the big difference is the size of the scene as nowadays. House Music became (one of) the biggest genres in South Africa. Hence while in the states an only a smaller group of people appreciate the music, South Africa is House Nation to date.
MzHouse Diva: How did you come up with the name “GOGO” for your record label?
Ralf: I just was looking for a memorable name and liked it.
MzHouse Diva: Your record label, GOGO Music, successfully reached a significant milestone last year. How does that feel and what’s your secret to longevity? When did you know this was your calling?
Ralf: GOGO Music was launched by me at the end of 2001 and we celebrated the 10th anniversary last year. It was a great feeling to reach such a mark, as I saw many labels come and go during that time. As well, I am really happy that the fan base of the label is still growing steadily. Before I started the label I already was releasing on other labels for almost a decade, but always felt that artist development was something unknown for many of them. It was my wish to show my specific taste of music with a platform which not only releases mine, but as well, like-minded artists. There’s no real secret behind the label’s persistency. I just release music which I think is well-written and timeless. I am happy to see that people seem to appreciate the quality of the records. As well, we reached in 2012 our 50th vinyl single release which was the first single taken off my new album, Never Leaves You. It was the collaboration with Robert Owens titled, Fly Free.
MzHouse Diva: You’ve got a new album out, "Ralf GUM - Never Leaves You", The CD album hit GOLD status in December 2012 in South Africa and is the best-selling album of the year on Traxsource; what is your inspiration, what pushes you to do new work?
Ralf: It seems music is just in me and there’s no need to push myself to the studio. I am rather unhappy once I do not find the time to work on new music. To see that the own work is appreciated by other people is the best acknowledgement and reward for the efforts put into a production or album.
MzHouse Diva: As a producer, how do you decide which song, the artist performs on your albums?
Ralf: I always start with the music and while working on it, I get a clear idea which singer would fit to a specific playback. Sometimes I change the music after recording vocals, but usually my feeling who to feature on a certain sound works quite well, which might come with the experience I gained during the years.
MzHouse Diva: Who were some of your musical influences?
Ralf: Too many to mention. If my time allows, I listen to many various genres and a motley of artists, as I think there’s good music to be found in most categories. From Jazz to Soul to Funk to R&B to Disco and even a bit of Techno or Classic - everything can broaden the musical horizon and influence you in some way.
MzHouse Diva: Who are some of the artists in the music industry, would you like to work with in me future if given the opportunity?
Ralf: By now I worked with many top artists in the house scene and would find it interesting to collaborate on some house tunes with soulful people from other genres.
MzHouse Diva: What is your most memorable moment in your career?
Ralf: It is always difficult to mention just one. Maybe it was when I realized that “Kissing Strangers” was the bestselling house tune of 2008 on Traxsource. Or my first gig in South Africa, which gave me an idea of the lively scene there. Maybe it was my first time at the Southport Weekender or one of the GOGO Music events at the WMC. The 20 years in House music contained many highlights, but it has to be said that there were as well many struggles.
MzHouse Diva: What was the best advice that was given to you?
Ralf: Be patient and always follow your heart. This is what I try to tell newcomers nowadays, too. Own skills and eventual success don’t come overnight.
MzHouse Diva: How did you get into producing?
Ralf: While listening to music I always thought to have own musical ideas and hence wanted to try and get them done somehow. Luckily a friend of mine who owned a studio allowed me to experiment with his equipment in his off-hours. After a while I started buying own equipment as I realized that production is my call.
MzHouse Diva: When you aren’t busy djing and producing; what do you like to do in your free time?
Ralf: Free time? There’s almost none…if I have a bit I spend it with my wife and daughter.
MzHouse Diva: How do you feel about House Music becoming more digital? Do you think that hurt or help the house music industry?
Ralf: I am unable to answer it in general, as it has advantages and disadvantages. The internet and its social sites enables artist to promote their music on a global level quite easy and cheap, while the illegal downloads and file-sharing strongly decreases the income artists have out of their sales. All in all I would say that the positive and negative sides balance each other, one just has to adjust to the new circumstances and deal with them in a futile way.
MzHouse Diva: What are some of the house tracks that you are really feeling right now?
Ralf: House Music unfortunately became quite fast moving and by the time an interview is published favorite tracks might have changed again, hence personally I see the necessity to produce good timeless songs. There are others who do the same and really put effort in good song-writing. The new EOL feat. Josh Milan single is an example for this. It still will sound up to date in the years to come.
MzHouse Diva: If you could change one thing about the house music industry, what would it be?
Ralf: Again there are many issues that need to be addressed and it is tough to mention just one. Let me touch on two. First of all people should be educated, how illegal downloads and file-sharing affects the music industry and might in a long run kill creativity, as people might stop putting real effort and money into productions, if they can’t make a living out of it. It leads to a lot of mediocre music done by hobbyists. A global law to even ban illegal downloads would be nice. Second: stop politics within house music. House music is a peaceful sound that should bring joy into peoples live. Everybody who puts work into the scene to keep it alive or to grow it should be respected and all the “comparing”, “dissing” of producers should be stopped.
MzHouse Diva: What do you see in the future of house music?
Ralf: I don’t have prophetic skills and thus don’t know where the journey of House Music will go to. I wish there could be a scene and a understanding of soulful House in other countries as we have it in South Africa to date, but to achieve this, the media in those territories must be more supportive as it is now and as well the labels need to learn a thing or two how to reach more audience.
MzHouse Diva: How would you like to see “GOGO” in a few years from now?
Ralf: I hope the label will further grow and reaches more people with the music we like. We will continue to release the music we really feel and hope to influence the global house scene in a positive way by delivering quality tunes.
MzHouse Diva: Can you tell us about your future plans or Have you any plans (personal or business) that you can share with goals?
Ralf: After the success of my second album “Never Leaves You” I will definitely start to work on a third one, but of course don’t know a release date yet. The completion of “Never Leaves You” took more than 2 years, so it might take a while…
MzHouse Diva: I definitely can't wait until your next album is released. Thanks for your time and it was a great pleasure doing this interview with you.
*Follow the links below to get a taste of the Ralf Gum