Like LCD Soundsystem? Soulwax? Klaxons? Hot Chip? Then chances are your Thursday nights have been pretty grim of late. But now The Apartment is hosting ElectRock, a band-new night dedicated to electro-rock, dance, punk and new rave music. And given the mish-mash of influences that fed into these bands – rock, punk, dance, pop and more – it makes sense that Tom Gandey, aka Cagedbaby, should be the man to open the night.
After all, his debut album, 2005’s Will See You Now, was itself a vibrant mix of 80s pop, dance, modern electronica, Röyksopp-style downtempo strangeness and David Bowie-esque vocals – almost as strange a mix of influences as the man himself. ‘As a kid I got into Pink Floyd, then into Trevor Horn and disco artists like Giorgio Moroder,’ Gandey reveals. ‘And I listened to a lot of swing – Harry Connick Jr was my favourite – and bands like the Eurythmics and Queen. I went through rock, too. I loved the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam and The Black Crowes, and Kurt Cobain was the king of grunge when I was growing up.’
No wonder trying to pigeonhole him results in such a headache. ‘Variety is the spice of life,’ he quips, ‘and my productions vary a lot. I have a style that people know, but I write everything from techno to pop and funk to blue-eyed soul. Genre-busting is good, but inventing your own genre is even better. I’m doing new-wave Bollywood disco at the moment. That’s pretty exciting.
‘I tried writing a bit of commercial music but I would always get bored halfway through and take a left turn into psychedelia. Commercial music is all too manufactured and easy to make. It’s like that joke: what’s the difference between a rock guitarist and a jazz guitarist? A rock guitarist plays three chords in front of thousands of people and a jazz guitarist plays… well, you know.’
That creativity hasn’t lent itself to prodigious output– it’s been three years since his debut album and his fans are still waiting for the follow-up. So what’s happening there? ‘The new one will be released later this year. The first single is called ‘Forced’ and is out in October when we have the whole package ready to go. I’ve been honing the sound since my first release, and the new album uses everything I’ve gathered over the past three years. I’m now a lot more practical and direct, and I’ve learned to use the live element to increase the funk.’
Over that time, Gandey has also been busy creating some 50 mixes for artists as diverse as Armand Van Helden, The Presets, Sugababes and, er, Will Young, alongside touring with The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim. ‘Touring Japan with Fatboy Slim was special for me,’ notes Gandey. We went all over the country, eating in the best restaurants, exploring the temples and really experiencing Japan. I remember wearing a kimono while DJing at the Tokyo Autodome to 80,000 screaming Fatboy fanatics.’
But it wasn’t all sushi and swanning about in kimonos. ‘Out there I learned that the DJ is an entertainer. Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care. Put the party into the set, and the lovely people will respond, it’s funny how people watch the DJ. It’s not like the DJs are singing or performing in the traditional way, but people want the DJ to be into the groove so that they can get into the groove.
‘I’ve played over 200 sets in the last three years,’ Gandey continues, ‘and I’m starting to get the hang of it now. Preparation is key. You have to know what kind of tracks work well with others, and knowing your track’s arrangements is paramount so you can blend the music without losing the ambience. I edit and remix all the tracks that I play to stamp my name on them. I also play a few of my own tracks, but you’ve got to play to the crowd sometimes to get them on your side. Then they will accept what you play and trust your professional judgement.’
All of which leaves just one question: what is with the name Cagedbaby? ‘Ah, the million dollar question! It was my call sign on the radio when I worked for a yacht charter company and it kind of stuck. It sounds quite edgy, but it was meant to be a bit of fun. Unlike angry, rabid babies in cages, roaring to get out, which is the picture it normally paints. Also, it was always going to be next to The Chemical Brothers in the music store racks.’
Cagedbaby plays The Apartment on August 7.