On Cue: Preditah
Whether he’s making garage, bassline, tech-house or grime, DJ and producer Preditah’s sound is unmistakable. With his new tunes ‘Glucose’ and ‘Don’t Cry’ making waves, he records a dancefloor-focused mix for the On Cue series, and tells Ria Hylton about working with Jorja Smith, the importance of music theory, and how lockdown made him up his game
It had been a quiet few years for Nathan Gerald, production-wise, but the release of ‘Glucose’ in July was a clear return to form. The sultry club banger was inspired by a series of tech-house listening sessions during the lockdown, though Gerald, aka Preditah, likens his final cut to minimal garage.
“Minimal has got elements of garage, but it’s still four to the floor,” he explains. “No vocals, just sick drums and sick basslines. When I heard it, I thought, ‘safe, I’ll just apply my sound and see what comes up’.”
Made on New Year’s Day, ‘Glucose’ leans heavily on the bass, but its bouncy, Balearic atmosphere, brimming with lush synth pads and steely beats, is designed to put you in an Ibiza frame of mind. The artist followed this up a month later with ‘1950’, a breezy after-hours cut, along with a vinyl release of the two tracks and a D Double E remix of ‘Glucose’. We’re told Gerald made at least a dozen more in the first two days of the year.
It’s an early afternoon in late August when the 31-year-old appears on our computer screen. The DJ and producer is in his home studio in Hertfordshire, sporting an Adidas hoodie, neat moustache and readying a rollie. His camera phone, set to portrait with a black and white filter, doesn’t give much away, but as he lights up and begins to swing lightly in his office chair, it’s clear he’s up for a chat, proper.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Gerald has managed to straddle a credible underground and commercially viable career, bridging sonic worlds with remixes spanning grime, garage, electropop and hip-hop, to name a few. How to explain this longevity? “I never had anyone around to tell me how to do this — this was all a guess game,” he says. “This was all just going off intuition and hope.”
Gerald came of age in the early 2000s, when word-of- mouth trumped follower numbers and the economic boom promised to float all boats. Justin Timberlake and The Neptunes ruled the radio, indie was about to ride a new wave and Dizzee Rascal had just won the Mercury Music Prize, raising the game for those who followed. Grime artists were themselves rare in the Midlands, but the likes of Wiley, Kano and Lethal Bizzle had set a strong blueprint from London.
The Preditah alias emerged when Gerald was 14. Between 2005 and 2010, he worked Birmingham’s nascent grime scene, making beats, recording sets and building connections.
“I was doing it because... better than being in the ends all day,” he explains, “and coming from where I come from, I just saw the bigger picture through music.” Between 2008 and 2010, he rode the bassline wave, even appearing on DJ EJ’s legendary mixtape series ‘EJucation’. This established his tag sound and brought him recognition beyond the grime circuit, but it was a collaboration with an artist from a rival area that put him on Boy Better Know founder JME’s radar.
“I’ll be real,” he explains, in a moment of candour. “I’m from a certain area, and that rapper was from a certain area, and certain people hated that I worked with him, because of the whole, you know, road politics.” The result of that was 2011’s sino-grime instrumental ‘Big Wok’, a haunting, melodic track that turned the tide in the young producer’s favour. JME, who heard it through a friend in Manchester, began raving about it on Twitter, and after much cajoling from friends, Gerald decided to reach out.
He had an army of tracks by the time he dropped his first EP ‘Solitaire’ in 2011. This may explain the slew of instrumental EPs that followed: ‘Eightsome’, ‘Circles’, ‘Red Bull’, ‘Gears Of Grime’ and ‘El Futuro’ were all released over a three-year period. ‘Circles’, perhaps his most widely-praised EP, is an essential listen for students of early ’10s grime.
‘Circles’ has all the hallmarks of a Preditah cut: the voice tag, muffled echoey atmosphere and harmonised “woah” vocal samples are all there — though there’s been little “woah”-ing of late. What happened, we ask? Gerald cracks a smile. “I’m gonna bring it back, for you.” The EP’s title track was inspired by Spooky Bizzle’s ‘Spartan’ and follows a similar eight-bar flip structure. It remains among Preditah’s most-played grime records.
A series of collaborations, a FABRICLIVE mix and many remixes in the latter part of the last decade secured Gerald’s status as a long-standing tastemaker, but it was a studio session with Jorja Smith that took his career to the next level.
“I felt comfortable,” he tells us about the collaboration. “We were just talking about growing up in Birmingham, but most importantly, more than anything, we both like jazz music. I think ‘On My Mind’ was an R&B track at first and we were like, ‘Maybe this will sound cool if we speed it up a little bit’. We crossed our fingers and hoped it would sound good at a garage tempo, and we were like, ‘This sounds sick’.” At the time of publishing, ‘On My Mind’ has over 49 million YouTube views and over 139 million Spotify streams. “Everywhere I’ve been, everyone knows that song, word for word,” Gerald tells us, beaming.
A protege turned father figure of the grime scene, Gerald is keen to pass on advice to would-be beat makers. He had dreams of becoming a music teacher at one point and has even uploaded a production video of ‘Glucose’ to YouTube. “This is something I tell everyone: learn your theory. Some say, ‘Why can’t I just download sample packs and jump into it?’ You can, but you’ll be there for two years. If you know your music theory and how to layer out a song, even if it’s just beats, you’ll go far.”
He attributes his longevity to time spent at music college and a decision to study music at university. “All the songs I make have a bridge, they have a middle section,” he explains. “I made one yesterday and it’s got a two-bar intro, then a 16-bar pre-chorus, chorus and a middle eight. I learned all of that at university, as well as with my scales. Before all of that, I was doing everything by ear.”
Speaking about how the challenges presented by the past 18 months have affected him, Preditah says: “As everyone knows, I had a hard year last year and those things either make you or break you — and it’s made me. I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he continues. “Lockdown changed me. I know what I want out of this. You don’t come this far to stop and retire. You go this far to break barriers, push boundaries.”
In September. Gerlad released his third single of the year, ‘Don’t Cry’, which, he confides, is giving him ‘On My Mind’ vibes. “It feels special, this record. It’s been a headache to finish it off, hurdles and jumps, but I think it’s a song for everybody.”
With 10 professional years under his belt, Gerald’s journey from local beat-maker to one of the UK’s most-celebrated producers seems far from over. If the flurry of activity sparked at the turn of the new year is anything to go by, it looks as though he’s found a new stride.
“You’ve got to love what you’re doing,” he tells us. “You can’t just be doing it for the money, you’ll get bored otherwise. When it comes to music, if I’m not making it I’m playing it, if I’m not playing it I’m reading it, if I’m not reading it I’m listening to it.”
Listen to Preditah's On Cue mix below. Preditah's 'Glucose', alongside a remix from D Double E, is out now on Palm Recs. Check it out here.
Want more? Check out recent On Cue features with Sully and Nene H
Ria Hylton is DJ Mag's staff writer. You can follow them on Twitter @ria_hylton
Photo credit: Alex Douglas
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