The Adventures of Garth
On the West Coast, Garth is the stuff of legends in the realm of dance music. This is not hyperbole. I can close my eyes and imagine some acidic, disco-y deep house playing on a monster sound system in a dark, dank warehouse in an industrial part of downtown LA. I look around as the bass is about to drop; people are drenched in sweat and they look like they’re losing their minds. Literally. Every person who lives on the West Coast and loves house music has a story like this. And also thousands around the globe.
This is Garth Wynne-Jones. Born and bred in South East England, Garth earned his degree at Westminster University in London before moving to the United States in 1990. “England can feel very grey even when you are 20 years old and have it all in front of you,” he says. “I came to America, San Francisco specifically, to live – really live. I loved dancing, clubs and acid house, but had no definite plan. Just a bag of mix tapes, some t-shirts and a suit in case I got a real job.” The real job lasted six weeks and Garth never looked back. “We just did it,” he continues. “Rented a small sound system. Lugged it down to Baker Beach, called some friends and got our rave on.”
For the next decade or so, Garth helped lay the framework of the San Francisco underground as part of the Wicked Crew with fellow DJs Jeno, Thomas and Markie. Together, they toured the US in the crew’s own 1947 Greyhound Bus with a 15k Turbosound System in tow. Wicked was even the pioneering sound system at Burning Man in 1995. Garth helped deliver acid house and sound system culture to the West Coast and went on to produce more than 60 records, mostly on his own labels Wicked, Grayhound Recordings and Golden Goose. In addition to 26 years with Wicked, he had a decade-long residency at Come Unity and, more recently, has done some back-to-back sets with Jeno and solo all night long loft parties in SF.
While Garth continues to be a DJ in demand the world over, he moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to pursue a new career as an actor and voice-over artist. Since then, he has appeared in more than 40 films, commercials and music videos and currently has a new television show in the works. Just like when he first came to the states, when he moved to LA, it wasn’t with much of a plan. Dan Frank, a former promoter turned filmmaker was interested in making a documentary about his life as a DJ. This eventually led to a part in Frank’s feature film Speed Dragon, which premiered at Cannes and won Best Feature Film in the NY International Independent Film Festival. “I was hooked,” says Garth. “I love acting. It’s very pure. Analog, if you will. Not unlike playing records. There’s a magic between the words action and cut. Nothing else matters.”
While there is no doubt that house music and the scene and culture surrounding it have changed over the years, so has the man. “There is no pressure,” says Garth. “I just play records for fun now.” He’s been playing records for Leonard Donjuan at Futurehouse for 20 years, so to say that the May 19th event will be special is likely an understatement. “I am a firm believer in the last man standing,” he says. “They have always done it right. The music comes first. Good people. That is everything.”
In addition to Futurehouse, Garth will appear at several festivals this summer in addition to his quarterly For The Record party at Monarch in SF where he plays vinyl all night. Then there’s the annual Wicked Party at the Great Northern in August for which people come from all over the world. He’s also got a remix of Strafe’s “Set It Off” coming on the soon-to-be reborn Wicked Records.
In reflecting on his career, there is humility, but the historical significance is not lost on anyone else. Garth has made an enormous contribution to house music and the underground scene on the West Coast, especially in San Francisco. While we wish him luck in his Hollywood endeavors, we hope that he will continue to return to the decks for the events that are special enough to lure him. Because with Garth, it’s clear that there is so much music left to be played.