In the year 2000, Gina Garza was a San Antonio teenager who fed most of her Barnes and Noble paycheck to CD Exchange. She picked up an album, caught by its cover art: a translucent angler fish against a simple black background, the name of the artist — Lowfish — and the title, Eliminator, in plain text at bottom left. Melodic, spacey synth lines alternated with crunchier sounds and warped deadpan vocals, held up with a relentless drum machine backbone.
“I had no way to classify that,” Garza says. “It was totally different because at the time I was listening to [Texas emo band] Mineral, you know, those bands in that era. I was just like, why do I like this? I love it, but why?”
These elements stacked by the Toronto producer, Garza sees now, brought together much of what she’s drawn to, sonically. “Not until I got older did I realize, I really liked freestyle, and there was a lot of freestyle in San Antonio — there’s a lot of sounds from the 808 in freestyle. And there are the same sounds in electro,” she says.
Garza — who’s known as Gina G — is making her name throughout Texas and outside it because of her ease with electro. The genre was born as a mix of funk, hip-hop, rap, and electropop after disco tapered off in the early 1980s. The niche bumps into house, and sometimes hyphenates with techno, but the electro designation is a purist’s specialty. Glenna Fitch, who’s the techno buyer at famed Gramaphone Records in Chicago and DJs as Sold, invited Garza to play the city for the first time last year.
“I thought she was a good fit because I had Antenes as the headliner, who back in the day used to be an electro DJ, and [Cleveland billmate] Kiernan Laveaux was also playing a lot of electro at the time. It seemed like a perfect fit,” they say. “I’ve always been wildly impressed by Gina; her collection rivals DJs like Stingray.”
The methodical curiosity behind Garza’s selections is part of who she is, back to when she first put Lowfish’s Eliminator on in her car, where, she says, it remains. When the music quarterly Under The Radar started printing in 2001, Garza, a visual artist, noticed the lack of gloss on its pages. She flipped through them eagerly, craving more sounds like the ones she’d been listening to by herself.
“It was just reviews, reviews, reviews. I would circle reviews based on — if it said something like, ‘organic sounds,’ or something. And then I would go online — not Napster, but it was called Aimster — and I would download one of [the artist’s] songs, and then if I liked it, I would keep my eye out, and see if they were playing Austin, and I would drive to Austin, because Austin was 45 minutes away from my parents’ house.”
About eight years ago Garza found herself at the end of grad school with two gold turntables secured from a seller’s failed eBay auction (thanks to Starbucks stock, after a long tenure as a barista) and a blossoming vinyl collection. Garza took her experiments from her apartment to house parties, which she started DJing regularly. DJ and producer Gavin Guthrie (TX Connect) noticed. He asked her to join him at Denton’s now-defunct Rubber Gloves and their collaboration became a memorable weekly called Deep Shade.
Through the years Garza has been trusted to command electro’s original strain at venues like the Texas Theatre, where she was tasked recently to channel electro pioneers Kraftwerk after a screening of the related (Joseph) Beuys documentary. Garza is sought for her ambidexterity, too, though, in Dallas, where she’s now based. This month Gorilla vs Bear released a deep house mix on which she’s credited.
NIGHTCAP is Gina G’s first collaboration with longtime music friend and peer DJ Sober (Will Rhoten), besides a live one-off years ago at Zubar. Their hour-long deep house dive is coded to reveal the nuances in both of their styles. Note the darker, ambient-R&B influences in Garza’s selections, especially Vincent Floyd’s “Dawn Notes” by Route 8, and the whispers of electro-hustle on Palms Trax’s “Forever.”
Gina G and Sober will appear at New Math Mondays March 5 at Off The Record. They’ll hand out copies of NIGHTCAP on CD, with art and notes.
Tonight Gina G, Sold, and Kiernan Laveaux play Dallas at an undisclosed location. One way to connect with the community who hosts events like these is to join the Dallas Techno Facebook group, Garza says. (Requesters answer a series of basic questions about the genre to gauge and confirm their interest.)