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Herb Sundays 87: Derrick Gee + midyear report
The Sydney-based DJ/podcaster/radio host shares some sacred music.
“Sunday is a sacred listening time for me. I've had my first solid day of rest following the week that was (Friday night sleeps never quite do it for me) - so Sunday I'm feeling fresh and alert. When I'm in that state, I'm looking for music that is familiar. I'm looking for music that welcomes the day in rather than forcing it down my throat. Typically, that means 70's soul, romantic things, things that push a lot of atmosphere through my speakers. Oftentimes that means songs that have more space between the notes. There's a definite hue to this mix, Persian orange.” -DG
Derrick Gee is a radio host, podcaster, and what would be called a “music tastemaker” (or TikTok influencer) these days. He shares music, hi-fi reviews, and other musings with his hundreds of thousands of followers in an affable, unpretentious way. Derrick’s bio is a little opaque but I could gather this much: Gee worked for a decade in TV, Moved to London, worked at Mixcloud, NTS resident (2016-2020), worked at a record label, now back in Sydney.
With Herb Sundays, I often cover people who create context around music and art, be they DJs, podcasters, writers, critics, publishers, venue runners, one-time bloggers who DJ, etc. so I felt it was important to examine this kind of presenter as it may be a crucial part of how a new generation understands music. I’m not sure what the opposite of “gatekeeper” is but maybe that’s a better description for Derrick and his cohort. They want you to discover and love the music they care about.
We’re living in a golden era for music history access with a ton of documentaries and podcasts digging in on every niche. However, there’s a disconnect between our playback devices and the context we want. For more than just passive listening, Music needs context to survive in people’s minds, so I think this is a new personality that will likely continue to fill this space. But it wasn’t always this flush, as those sentient in the ’90s will remember, VH1 (positioned as sort of a boomer MTV) served as a rare context vessel, replete with documentaries, game shows, and the twin demons of Pop-Up Video and Behind The Music which were absolute catnip for those seeking a deeper look into music on TV.
There has been precedent for more journalistic depth in recent years, often finding its way into expanded liner notes, an old-world standard that reissue labels have upheld. A deeper version of this in audio form was found with the Song Exploder podcast (by Herb 52 Hrishikesh Hirway) and the like, which have been welcome, especially as print magazines dedicated to music have dwindled to a few. Dirt’s Daisy Alioto opines on the power magazines in general:
Magazines were containers for someone else’s taste, and when you read them you were inhabiting that taste. But you were also co-creating with the magazine, because by reading the magazine you were contributing to its fantasy of lifestyle. “Dreaming is free. You can’t be stingy with dreams,” said Franca Sozzani, the late Vogue Italia editor.
This co-creation was (and is) a big part of music fandom, whether it was ripping out images of your fave artists and tacking them to your wall (something I did as late as college. Herb!) or bootlegging live performances for friends. The throughline of older siblings, radio DJs, record store clerks, club DJs, magazines, music supervisors, blogs/substacks/discords acted as a taste network that still is hard to beat and all helped really push my taste and maybe posts with Derrick Gee’s conversational tone feel like an equivalent for young fans.
Apart from playlist-making and Fan Army tweetstorming, where can we co-create these days? The average Apple/Spotify release page actually carries little artist information and while we get an artist bio, there’s no room for release or album bios which labels spend a lot of time on (I can confirm). Also while “recommended if you like” is useful, it doesn’t explain “why” in any way. A friend Mary posted about this recently and got me thinking about what presenters like Marg and Derrick represent, potentially.
When I first dipped a toe into frigid TikTok, Derrick was one of the first people I saw and followed. He’s sort of like the affable record store person you can’t tell is flirting with you, but actually just loves music. He wasn’t trolling, or embroiled in Anthony Fantano hot takes and when I saw him pop up in my friend’s newsletter, Colin put me in touch. While I don’t agree with all the takes he posts, I also accept that I’m not necessarily the intended audience. He knows his audience is younger and is trying to stretch them a bit, or at least unpack what things mean which is admirable.
I asked Twitter for more influencer types and most convos led to Margeaux who also now DJs for NTS, etc. Like Gee (who interviewed her for his podcast), she’s omnivorous in taste and is looking for things that are not pop but in an inviting open-hearted fashion.
There’s a new AI DJ feature on Spotify which I used in preparation for this post. It’s a fake person talking about picking out songs which made me feel kinda sad. Why it does work though, is that it is affecting the idea of someone playing music for you, a general comfort. This is probably what music playback will feel like for many going forward. Will these new influencers become the radio DJs of tomorrow? It’s possible. Maybe some will sign to music services as in-house talent, maybe similar to Zane Lowe at Apple or a BBC radio personality.
mid-year 2023 playlists
Speaking of taste engines… Herb Sundays rails against the tyranny of ‘recency bias’ by encouraging playlist makers to avoid time altogether! However it’s important to shine a light on music being made now, so we don’t have to reissue it in 10-20 years. I put the Herb Signal out to the community and got some lists of tunes, both new and old, that are being played in 2023:
“A perfect mix of cosmic country and folk, leaving your brain feeling smooth and your mind relaxed.”
“My 2023 has been defined 1) sonically: by a mix of R&B, UK garage, piano-forward house, and everything in the latent space between those styles, and 2) spiritually: by searching for lessons, secrets, directions, and inspirations in dance.”
“A hybrid –if you will– of new music culled from three months of a residency at The Lot Radio, two recently burned CDRs (yes, I still do this for the whip) and one night DJing outdoors at Nowadays.”
“I always keep a general, public-facing playlist to index and share where my music listening is heading. During the last record, it was all kinds of industrial noise and techno and 'Musick to Play in the Dark'-era Coil. Now it's "a faint glow"...
“There is taste in people, visual taste, taste in emotion – and there is taste in acts, taste in morality. Intelligence, as well, is really a kind of taste: taste in ideas. (One of the facts to be reckoned with is that taste tends to develop very unevenly. It’s rare that the same person has good visual taste and good taste in people and taste in ideas.)” - s.s.