Gavin King, aka Aphrodite, has cheekily been dubbed "The Fatboy Slim of drum 'n bass." He may not have crossed over to the pop charts the way the "Rockafeller Skank" guy did, but Aphrodite brings a more Pop and populist approach to Jungle. Unlike Jungle kings Goldie and LTJ Bukem, Aphrodite is first and foremost a club DJ and his 12-inch records and debut full-length reflect that. There aren't any dark, symphonic pieces or attempts at grandiose statements, just grooves and hooks.
But first there's that name, possibly the worst in Electronica.
For those who didn't take Latin in high school, Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty. So it's a decoy of sorts that a guy, well, a straight guy, would take that as his stage name. "Aphrodite" was the name of a club night that King helped run during England's renaissance of dance music in the summer of 1988. Now, despite his status, he still occasionally gets a bit of flack when he arrives for a DJ set and promoters expect someone with more, uh, curves.
"Now and again it confuses people," he says.
"Any time a normal, heterosexual guy turns up it's like, 'Why are you called Aphrodite? Are you gay? Are you a woman?' I've heard all those questions before. In the next year or so, I'll probably shorten it to Aphro, but you can't do it instantaneously."
Since that summer of '88, Aphrodite has become one of those in-demand DJs who jet off to all corners of the globe for parties, do remixes, and is a star in the U.K. He spent the last weekend of February in South Africa and returned to England for only a couple of days before leaving for a month of dates in North America. The current jaunt is in support of his self-titled debut, which follows on the heels of dozens of remixes for groups like Blackstreet, NWA, the Luniz, and A Tribe Called Quest (some of which were done with collaborator Mickey Finn, under the name Urban Shakedown). It was their Drum 'n Bass remix of the legendary Jungle Brothers' eponymous song helped bring the Hip Hoppers back to dance music, on their recent V.I.P. record.
But Aphrodite hasn't let it all puff him up. His list of mundane things to do before leaving for the tour includes: build a bench, alter a song that he uses in his set, go see his sister and make dubs of music. ("When I'm actually on tour I have a lot more free time than I have here," he laughs.) More importantly, his non-diva status means that he travels alone.
"What do I need a road manager for? I'd rather (carry my records) myself than fork out $11,000 in airfare just to have someone carry my records; I've got big enough arms." he says. "I don't particularly need a road manager, because most of my fees are paid upfront, so it's not a question of hassling the promoter for money — that's not a problem. If I was a band and there was shitloads to organize and shitloads to do while I was on tour, yeah, cool, then get someone to go along with me. I've just got to make sure I'm on the plane with my records, and I can sure as hell do that on my own."
Besides, when he's not entertaining the dancing throngs with a furious set of beats and hypersonic bass, he just chills. And he likes solitary activities, like golf.
"To be honest, I like to relax a bit; I like to sit in the hotel and not worry about doing anything except watching a film on pay-per-view," King admits. "You know, that's cool for me. Less is more for me and always has been."
Of course, less is more doesn't mean less of his own original material. His DJ set includes more of his music than anything else, 60-70 percent by his own account.
"Probably in my set at the moment there are only two tracks that I play that are from the album. I'm a DJ; I'm not promoting the record. The record is, I'd like to think, self-promoting, it's a nice enough record," he says. "So if people come to hear my sets, if they've bought the record, there's no reason for them to just turn up and hear me spin 12 records that they know. There's no point in that. And if it was the other way around and I'd bought an album from someone, I'd want to hear what they're up to now."
Asked if there's anything in his current set that he just has to play, he fiddles with his computer and pulls up bits of three tracks he's currently working on. This guy loves to play music for people. And despite the fact that it's coming across transatlantic phone lines and through a phone speaker, it sounds like Drum 'n Bass, even when the bass farts out in the telephone.
"These are the kinds of things that I have to throw in my set because I'm testing them out," King says enthusiastically "These are tracks that are going to turn into 12-inches and because it's in the mix, so to speak, people will happily cruise along to it without realizing it's not as well produced as the final record. This is the kind of thing I do all the time."
APHRODITE performs March 16. Venue info and direction can be obtained by calling Clubhead Records (665-9999), the Yum Yum line (648-9647) or the Still Fresh line (956-0750).