It’s been 4 years since we lasted a chat with Ralf GUM when he released his iTunes Dance Album Of the Year ‘In My City’. Now he’s back with a spanking brand new album of soulful goodness titled ‘Progessions’. We caught up with our favourite man in South Africa to find out more about it…
A huge welcome back to DMCWORLD Ralf Gum where on planet earth are you, still in sunny South Africa?
Many thanks for having me once more and yes, still same place. I did not move, just progressed.
How are things going down there, still loving it?
Absolutely, the sun you mentioned, the beautiful country, friendly people, the friendships I made, plus the great music scene make it home.
What is the best piece of new music you have heard recently?
That’s a difficult one, as I actually don’t have much time lately to look for new music outside my genre. Within House Music there’s a fortunate shift towards quality songs and production again, but I did not have the wow effect in every aspect of a track lately.
Congratulations on your 4th artist album ‘Progressions’, what delights have you got in store for us this time and what was the concept behind this album?
My goals were high and I wanted to redefine my own sound, as much as the formularised approach we often find within Soulful House Music. Initially, I chose a rather minimal approach for the playbacks and aimed straight at the dance-floor. In some of the tracks the first approach is still apparent, but as time passed my natural wish for music and detail kicked in and we started to add more elements to most of the songs. Progressions is as well an album of change for me, regarding my work-routines and the sounds I used. And there’s even more focus on good and interesting lyrical content than on previous albums, as I believe it is very important that Dance Music transports relevant messages, too.
We’re delighted to hear you’ve got some regular cohorts such as Monique Bingham and Kafele featured on the album with some amazing performances, but please tell us about some of your new collaborators involved on the project?
Next to them, who brought some amazing input again, you’ll find Lady Alma, who I met on her first SA tour in 2015, legendary Paul Randolph, Portia Monique, Tony Momrelle and Joseph Junior. South African superstars Mafikizolo complete the list alongside Ayanda Jiya and Bongi Mvuyana.
Were there any interesting stories or funny moments that came up whilst putting the album project together?
During the 4 years, the album has been in the making, I had to move my studio several times due to different reasons. Therefore some of the songs were partly recorded in different rooms and along the way the sound of the album changed several times, too.
It’s been 4 years since you released your last album “In My City”, which was iTunes’ album of the year, how does ‘Progressions’ compare and what were your biggest learning curves as a producer on this project?
I learned more about room acoustics and their importance during the production than in my whole life before, as well because I did not want to rely on recordings in other studios. Therefore it is as well my first album where more music was recorded in South Africa than elsewhere. My biggest achievement is that I finally have a great sounding studio right at home.
Your new single ‘Uyakhala’ with Mafikizolo has recently hit the top spot on the afro charts, tell us a little about the collaboration and the song?
Mafikizolo approached me in 2016 and told me about their 20-anniversary album which they had in the making. They wanted to return to their roots by adding a house track and asked if I would be keen to produce it. Of course, I was and the song became a soulful duet with Monique Bingham called “uMama”. The studio-work was flawless and so we decided to record another song, this time for my new project. “Uyakhala” fits perfectly into their discography which often deals with pertinent socio-political topics. The lyrics are based on the strong African belief that it takes a village to raise a child or a person is a person through other people, a call for more altruism basically.
And there is also a great video for it too, tell us a little about the concept behind it?
The story of the video is of course based on the lyrics. The first line of the song is taken from a Setswana folk song about a child whose mother is absent and the father is presumably struggling to keep the baby from crying. In the video, we hear the cry and are starting a search for the abandoned baby. Along the way we see reflections, reminding us about the wrongs in the world. It is a beautifully shot story which of course has a happy end and love conquers.
In a hugely singles driven market these days, as an artist why do you feel it is still important to release full albums?
An album still is the ultimate format for me to showcase a more facetted side of my work and which enables me to tell a full story. Hence I still like the format and encourage everyone to take an hour of his life out and listen to the full body of work, even it might not be the way music is often consumed to date.
How important are songs for our dance floors?
They are as important as songs for every other occasion. Dancing is one of the healthiest things to do and good music for it always needed.
Your GOGO Music label is still GOGOing 18 years strong, how’s it all going and what other interesting artist projects can you tell us about?
Running a quality label like GOGO Music often does not make financial sense on its own, but only makes sense as a mixed calculation considering income from performance. However the feedback received on the music is often reward enough. Luckily our approach led to a faithful fan-base over time, which enables us to continue and grow further. The last few years we mainly focussed on a small roaster with Sir LSG and MAQman as producers next to me. All of us have more music coming up this year.
How do you see things moving musically for the label in the future?
Never change a winning formula. Musically we fully feel at home within the Soulful House community, but always try to enhance the genre by giving the music a fresh twist.
You’re heading out on a DJ tour in the Spring, where can we catch you spinning?
The first half of 2019 is fully dedicated to the album release tour. We just kicked off in South Africa where I extensively tour until the Easter Weekend. Then I am heading to Europe with an international leg end of April and May, before I return and finish off in Africa. In the second half of 2019 I hope to perform my catalogue for the first time live on stage, which proves to be a mammoth task, as my musical collaborators are scattered all over the globe.
We come to raid your record collection, which embarrassing record do you chuck out the window before we arrive?
The first one coming to my mind is Sabrina “Boys”. I bought the 7 inch when it came out, probably because of the Sabrina’s bust size and not because of the music itself. Well, I was 16 back then….
What record makes you say ‘damn, I wish I made that’?
Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. It is a timeless killer production and I would be sorted for a lifetime.
What are your 3 current top tunes?
Ralf GUM feat. Mafikzolo – Uyakhala
Sculptured Music – Sad To think
Ralf GUM feat. Monique Bingham – Claudette
Any tips or advice for aspiring songwriters and producers looking to break through on the scene?
Don’t look for the breakthrough itself, but concentrate on what you have to offer, define your style, grow your skills, bring something new to scene, and things should fall into place sooner or later.
Finally, what else is in the pipeline for you that you can share with us?
Some new collaborations with beautiful talent are waiting to be started once I make it back to studio. In the near future we’ll release “Claudette” feat. Monique Bingham with remixes by Jimpster and Terry Hunter. So the cat is out the bag. I am still trying to finish a Dub in time for the release too.
‘Progressions’ is out now on GOGO Music