Introducing: Gene On Earth
Introducing: Gene On EarthJune 28, 2022
With the release of his debut album and bookings at the biggest festivals and clubs on the horizon, Gene on Earth is finally hitting his stride. But as Niamh O’Connor learns, it took years of hard work to get here.
Following five months holed up in his Berlin-based studio from July to November 2020, Gene On Earth delivered his second album via his own Limousine Dream imprint. Time On The Vine arrived on cue for lazy nights spent outdoors, the kind to which Gene’s music is most suited. Warm and wonky melodies weave in and out of the album, and it conveys Gene’s laidback sound to a tee.
While Time On The Vine leans into the minimal house category, it has plenty of club-ready feels, too, like “Pinseeker” or the more breaks-flavoured “Flux Deluxe.” Gene — real name Eugene — has found that sweet spot between blissed-out rhythms and undulating basslines, resulting in a global fanbase of new generation and old-skool house lovers alike.
But Gene’s profile didn’t pop overnight. The 33-year old has spent the bulk of 15 years exploring electronic music production. While his Gene on Earth alias boasts a sprawling back catalogue on his Limousine Dream label, including his debut album Local Fuzz, Gene’s journey has seen plenty of ups and downs.
Gene is currently speaking to me from his plant-filled apartment over Zoom. Sipping on a Club Matte, Gene is still recovering from flight fatigue having recently returned from a gig in Egypt — a long way from his roots in Redwood, California.
Growing up in the city just south of San Francisco, Gene studied at The University of California [UC] in Santa Barbara. There, he discovered electronic music through “one of my roommates who had a DJ set up thing,” he recalls. Together they would play “blog house slash early EDM” on a midi controller and tinker with production on Fruity Loops. In his third year, Gene studied abroad in Bologna, Italy, “thanks to the sage advice of my older cousin who told me, ‘no matter what you do, study in a different country during university.’ So I followed that advice.”
Italy marked a turning point for Gene. “I discovered I was more suited, I thought, to Europe than to the US,” he says. “Not that I didn’t fit in. I just didn’t always quite feel completely in my element there.” It was 2009, and Bologna was a “Ryanair hub,” Gene says, where one could purchase a flight to almost anywhere in Europe for as little as €5. “I sort of led a group of three American friends I had [in Bologna], and I’d be like ‘this weekend we’re going to Paris to see Laidback Luke play at Social Club, and you guys can choose whatever museums and stuff we see.’ I kind of did that in basically every major club capital in Europe, like loads of them.”
Gene’s musical taste expanded, and with a newfound appreciation for dance music beyond blog house, Gene returned to Santa Barbara to complete his final year. Alongside his aforementioned roommate, he used their sprawling balcony — capable of holding 150 people — as a dancefloor and threw multiple parties. “I was like ‘ok, now you guys are listening to tech house.’ That was kind of how I cut my teeth into DJing, playing on that balcony in front of really drunk uni students.”
Having visited Berlin on his travels, Gene shot back to the German capital after the summer he graduated in 2011. He had no job but landed a three-month internship at Resident Advisor, where he “learnt the inner workings” of the platform. Aged 22, he was still drawn to the weekly Beatport tech house chart but slowly, and after multiple trips to Panorama Bar, that changed. “I was obsessed with it,” he says, speaking of the renowned institution. “I went there multiple times a month for a couple of years, and I would get stuck in. Then I started getting into more classic and deep house and discovered the Kerri Chandlers of the world.”
Inspired by friends, some of them DJs too, including San Soda, Gene began producing on Ableton — a gift from his mom — under his now-defunct alias Yooj. Releasing on labels like Jay Sheppard‘s Retrofit — where he also worked as Label Assistant after his RA internship ended – and Monique Musique, Gene’s mostly self-taught production skills proved captivating. But in his opinion, the tracks weren’t where he wanted them to be. “I don’t know if it was copycat, but it was somehow uninspired. It was definitely not breaking any ground,” he says. “But it was just practice to really get to where we are now.” DJ bookings came through, with Yooj billed in Chalet, Farbfernseher, Bohnengold, Watergate and Monday parties at Tresor.
Between bookings, Gene was financially scraping by. Taking remix requests and “random gigs” helped to ease the burden but when he took an admin role at Sweat Lodge Agency in 2014, Gene’s financial worries took a backseat. “I wasn’t loaded, but I was no longer financially stressed every month. I could live just from that.” As music was no longer a money-focused necessity, he plugged away at production in a different mood and rethought his artistic career.
In 2015, he stopped releasing music and DJing as Yooj. “I was like ‘I’m going to reset. This alias is not working. It’s not gotten me to where I want to go, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get me to where I want to go,'” he remembers. “‘I’m going to reset, and I’m going to work on some new alias or project. And I’m going to work really hard for the next couple of years and then relaunch it and reinvent myself.'”
Enter Gene on Earth. Since launching in 2017 and working full time on the project since January 2019, this is the alias that’s worked out, and it’s because of one thing — consistency. “I am not some super skilled musician or genius or anything like that,” he says. “The only thing that maybe I do differently than what some other people may not do is that I worked consistently week in, week out, for ten years. That’s what you need to do if you want to make it happen. There aren’t any shortcuts for hard work.”
His debut release as Gene on Earth was the Lazy Bones EP. It marked the first record on Limousine Dream, and he describes it as “a sort of crystallisation of what I’d been trying to get at” in terms of sound. By his third release, Like a Glove, Gene was in full swing and churned out several more releases, including the 4-track SUB/007 on Voigtmann’s Subsequent label, a V/A contribution on Youandewan’s Small Hours imprint and one on the Mindhelmet 01 V/A curated by Truly Madly.
With a summer schedule spanning Planet Pleasure in Berlin, Haughton Festival in Norfolk and Dimensions in Tisno, amongst many other festivals, Gene on Earth is living proof that perseverance is the key. Booked and busy, Gene is still working on Limousine Dream and its TSOL compilation series too. An idea to run eponymous events is in the works and build a larger sound “not just from me but from a group of people,” he says. “Just keep pushing it really.” It’s the same sentiment that led him to this fruitful point in his career — the result of sheer dedication to his craft.
Niamh O’Connor is a writer, talent booker, event manager and DJ living in Lisbon, Portugal. Find her on Instagram.