DJ Bryan Gerrard talks 'House Proud,' the vibe, and what's missing

Bryan Gerrard has been a fixture on the dance music scene since the '90s in Minneapolis, starting out as one fourth of the Minneapolis Soul Music collective that gave the former VIP Room its reputation for raucous dance parties. Today, Bryan is best known for his Celebrity Records imprint and, most recently, one of the most underrated, good-time dance nights in the Twin Cities: House Proud. 

Held in the boozy basement lair that is Honey nightclub, House Proud took place over the last year pretty much when Gerrard felt like organizing it, and featured some of the city's best beat freaks behind the DJ booth. It mantra was the same every time: Give people back the "vibe" on the dancefloor and do it by banging the best in true, honest-to-god house flavor. Not the David Guetta crap you see buffoons dancing to on Jersey Shore, but that tracky, soulful house music championed by artists like Masters At Work, Cajmere, Kenny Dope, Frankie Knuckles, Roy Davis Jr., and so many others.

We talked to the loveable, longtime scene vet this week on the advent of another House Proud event this Friday night, and here's what Bryan had to share. It's a mouthful and filled with a dash of tough love, but anyone fortunate enough to know him won't be surprised.

Bryan Gerrard at last month's House Proud
Bryan Gerrard at last month's House Proud

Why all this hoopla around house music and bringing back the vibe? What does house mean to you?

Over the past six years or so, I feel like dance music has lost a lot of it's soul. I'm not talking about "soulful" house music but a lot of what has been passing for "House" music for a good many years has just felt really sterile to me, and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

The time just feels right to bring the "vibe" back to the forefront. It's kind of a cliche to even use the word "vibe" but whether you like it or not, it's what every party is chasing. I think a lot of people are just sick of being bogged down in subgenres and getting cliquey around one particular one, and "House" encompasses it all. It''s just about getting down. What does House mean to me? It's about THAT vibe. It's about people losing it on the dancefloor. It's about feeling the music inside you, having it move you. It's something you almost can't describe in words but when that certain track has it, or that certain party was it, you just know!

What are you looking forward to about this show? Why the SEXBOTZ and Havens + Hart?

Same thing I look forward to at every HP...smiling faces, thumping music and a packed, sweaty dancefloor. As far as the talent is concerned, Our #1 priority in booking is making sure we (myself and partner in crime Nicole Johnson) are booking people that have a unique perspective on house, understand the history, and are guaranteed to bring their A-Game. There's no shortage of any of those qualities with Havens + Hart (JD Havens & Aaron Bliss) as they are dusty old veterans like myself. And SEXBOTZ...I mean come on, they're robots right? That has to be good for something!

Why not have House Proud on a certain day of the month? It's been pretty random, right? 

Initially, we just wanted it to be a once in a while type thing that people could look forward to and jones for, which worked great at first but honestly people begged us to do it more often. So starting with this event, we will be on the 1st Friday of the month. Gotta give the people what they want!

How would you describe your relationship to the MN music scene? What makes you keep pushing on with your music and parties?

It's a love/hate thing but like 90% love. As with any music scene, there are things that bug the shit out of me that there's no need to go into, but It's been so good to me that most of those things just become trivial. I've been doing this for 17+ years now and the fact that people will continue to come out to nights that I do is truly humbling to say the least, and that is what keeps me pushing on. The kind of love you can feel pushing back at you from the dancefloor, andi it's enough to make me do it for the rest of my life!

What's one thing about the "old days" you miss most? What was a typical house event like back in, say, 1999 with MPLS Soul Music?

I really hate the idea of missing something that used to be, like its gone forever or something. I guess if anything, I miss the level of innocence with dance music. In the "old days" the DJ was the sherpa, showing you things you had never heard before and likely wouldn't hear again any time soon because he spent the endless hours and thousands of dollars to get this music and bring it to you on vinyl. These days, it's pretty easy to get any track you want, or friggin' Shazam it right off the dancefloor, so there's not as much mystery and surprise. If you want know what a typical House event was like 12 years ago, come down to Honey this Friday and you'll find out! Just ignore the grey in my beard.

Locally, which artists in the MN music scene are you really into?

So many good artists right now it's crazy! On the house tip, Havens + Hart's new stuff is downright sexy and Nate Laurence has been makin some banging music. Other than that I'm loving Polica, John Swardson & Get Gone, Communist Daughter, Me & My Arrow, Cloud Cult, The Night... I could go on forever.

Last question -- anything new with Celebrity Records?

We've been on hiatus for a bit but have plenty of releases lined up for 2012 as well as a new offshoot label that will drop in March that will be focused on deeper, moodier, and more mid-tempo sounds. Celebrity was founded by myself and David Drone and is still our label although D finds himself busy with a lot of other projects these days.

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