Performance Type: LIVE & Eclectic DJ
Aliases: Halcyon Daze, Mango Boy, The Reaver, Tommy Atkins
Where From: UK
Based in: Marketborough UK
“Sitting the drums in the bass is an art-form,” says Colin McBean. If that is the case, he is the Michelangelo of dance music—an old master both literally and figuratively. During his long career he’s perfected the art of reducing dance music to its core elements and is still making an immediate impact. “The drums and the bass and a good top line are the things that turn me on in a track, so when you hear a Mr. G tune, the speakers are really working.”
Decades after starting out, the man best known as Mr.G has never been more confident in what he does. He credits this to finding himself sometime in the last year. He now accepts he knows what he’s doing after decades of perfecting his craft as a DJ, live act and producer who has more than seven albums and 120 EPs under his most popular alias alone.
“I can relax now, so I can take more risks and that makes you more dangerous,” he says from his studio, where you’ll find him five days a week between nine and six. He won’t always be making music, but sampling, recording, digging through his own records and reliving a lifetime of memories. “I can be heavier and push things further. If you set me up right—good bass and tops, loud monitors and access to the stage cause I like to get down with the kids—I will give you my very best, and you will feel it.”
In your chest and in your soul is where you can feel Mr.G. He is a genuine connection to the old school that epitomises the sense of authenticity that an often-shallow modern scene so desperately craves. He was there in the nineties, playing the seminal May Day raves in Germany. He played the original Tresor, back when it was a bank at risk of collapsing at any moment. “I thought, ‘fuck, if anything goes wrong in here we're dead, we're in this cellar at the furthest point from the door!”
He remembers driving from London to Frankfurt, destroying Sven Vath’s Omen club as revered live techno outfit The Advent with Cisco Ferreira, then turning round and driving straight back home. His fondest memory is playing to tens of thousands of people at a mega-rave in the Olympic Stadium in Montreal back in 1999 with the likes of Carl Cox, then driving round in a buggy afterwards and chatting to their sound engineer, who also worked for U2.
That gig was one of the final ones for The Advent. “I was always about the soul and the funk,” explains McBean. “I brought that to The Advent, but when it feels like that goes missing I run away and start again.” So he did, emerging under a number of different names such as his own personal favourite Mango Boys, which is “the bones of what I am” and best represented his roots in reggae and dub, and could well return in 2019. Then came his most famous alias, Mr. G, under which all ensuing music came in order for people to know what McBean was all about.
19 years after the Mr. G name first appeared, it is synonymous with stripped back, raw, powerful analogue music that is free from hype, gimmicks and digital effects. Mr G’s music is real, never super cool and certainly not faddy. He lives it and breathes it, and you can tell. His own real life experiences inform what he does, from mourning the loss of his father via his Personal Momentz album to serving up a jazz-flecked, broken beat fusion album A Part Of Me Vol. 2 in 2018 after rekindling his love of those genres when prepping for a radio show on Worldwide FM.
“I want to educate, to leave some kind of weird legacy,” he says. “I have knowledge, so why not show people all the different connections?”
Most of his music comes on his own Phoenix G. label, because he considers his productions his babies, so doesn’t like to adjust them for anyone, and likes to get them out there as quickly as possible. That said, he’s also landed on the likes of Rekids, Underground Quality and Bass Culture. He’s released such fittingly deep and raw music on seminal Detroit label Moods & Grooves that he is often mistakenly put down as hailing from the Motor City.
Of course, once he’d left The Advent, McBean still DJed but stopped everything else, looking for what he calls “the next steps”. His thrilling and visceral live sets are never the same. “They are rolling things, I’m always adding, and taking away, rebuilding, cutting, pasting, tweaking, sampling.” His deceptively simple but unmistakably effective approach earned him the Best Live Act award from DJ Mag in 2017 and that is something he still holds dear. To make sure he stays on his game, he watches as many clips of his sets as he can find in the days after.
“You have to be critical,” he says. “Is my dancing on point? Is the energy there? It would be easy for a man of my age to look at myself and go ‘raah, Colin, you’re not doing it any more’ but not see it. I want my records and this music to paint a picture. To be a document so that at some point people say, ‘there was this mad guy who used to come on stage called Mr. G.' I don’t want to be the old guy who ended up all bitter.”
Since he has become satisfied with his live set, he has again started DJing more and more, because where Mr. G actually comes from is sound system culture. Record collecting. Playing the right tune at the right moment. “When I was a box boy for a sound system, you grew to want to be a selector. That’s the guy who has the 7”s behind him and he gives the correct selection of records to the DJ to keep the place bubblin’.”
Nowadays, ‘selector’ has come to mean anyone who pays eclectically. But not for Mr. G. "A selector could select a cheesy pop record his granny gets down to. You know that record works. It’s selected. These days, people just reach for a rare old record people don’t know and thinks that’s it. But a selector is about the right tune for the right moment.”
To that end, you can look forward to hearing Mr. G offer a window “into my very soul” in a series of upcoming selector sets around the world. They will find him go left, right, up and down, and are designed for self-nourishment. “There are no rules. Deep dark dub in to disco. A ballad straight into Human League.” It will be a widescreen Mr. G playing “the records I grew up with, came home with, snuck out late at night to party to. These are the records I am made of.”
Of course, one of the most prolific producers out there also has more of his own music in the works, including a meditative album of dub with fizzing effects designed simply to trip you out and calm you down, and a release with old friend Duncan Forbes formerly of Spooky fame, as well as “an amazing tripped out jazz house EP” from someone he mentors called Livejam, and his own annual Record Store Day release which he promises is “an absolute bomb.”
Next to that, his preference for really settling into any venue he plays extends beyond a few drinks afterwards: he likes to make sure the vibe is right all night long, ideally by curating the line-up either side of his own shows, and he will do that with is own stage at Gather Festival in the US.
“I'm not a guy who goes out to get loads of dough. I do it for the right reason, to feel the fire inside from a great sound system, and get the love from the floor” says McBean, who continues to keep on the same pressure he has throughout his entire career. “I reckon if you asked my wife she would tell you I love music first, and her second,” he laughs. “But if you give up caring, you let crap music win.”