THE first time Charles Gettis came to the UK was as a private in the 91st Airborne Division of the US Army. His first sight of the country came through the early morning November mists covering the vast open spaces of the Greenham Common airbase near Newbury, Berkshire as he stepped out of the belly of a huge USAAF cargo plane onto the tarmac below.
Now long discharged from the army, the 26-year-old Gettis has returned to the UK in an altogether different role, in the guise of his turntablist alter-ego, Deejay Punk-Roc. He’s one of a small group of American DJs who have set up home here to take advantage of the burgeoning club scene which grew up in the wake of the acid house explosion of 1988.
Gettis, working in a series of dead-end jobs after he left the military, found his options severely limited in his home town of Brooklyn. The story goes that Andrew Erskine, the head of Merseyside independent label Airdog, somehow heard Punk-Roc’s self-produced My Beatbox, visited him in Brooklyn and persuaded him that he could make a splash in the UK by promoting his music on the back of his not-inconsiderable DJing skills. He didn’t have to ask twice.
Based in Toxteth, Liverpool since January, Gettis’s gamble has paid off in a big way. He’s been pleasantly surprised by the speed and scale of his success. His debut album Chickeneye was released to almost unanimously positive reviews last month, while he returned to the States to support the Prodigy on a two-week tour.
On his return to the UK, he played a couple of gigs, including one at NY Sushi in Sheffield, before jetting off the a festival in Holland. Next week he releases Far Out, another single from the album. A trip to Japan is scheduled for the autumn. It’s non-stop.
“For some people, what’s happening to me now might be a dream come true, but not for me – cause I never even dreamed it in the first place,” says Gettis as he relaxes in his hotel room after the Sheffield date. “I’ve been making music for as long time, but it was never made to be pressed up and sold to the public. I thought that music was something that other people made and I bought.”