Gecko Turner (born Fernando Gabriel Echave Pelaez in 1966) was raised in Badajoz, a small Spanish town halfway between Lisbon and Madrid. As a teenager he fell in love with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, as well as soaking up the international and Spanish music he heard on the radio. Hearing the Stones sent him on a quest for the music that inspired Jagger and company, and he discovered Elmore James, Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Big Joe Turner, and other blues artists. He taught himself guitar in his teens and formed a band to cover American and British pop from The Kinks to David Bowie, Talking Heads to James Brown.
In his late teens, Turner discovered jazz, finding a special affinity for the Afro-Cuban sounds of Dizzy Gillespie. He hitchhiked all over Spain to follow Gillespie on tour, listening to bebop and reading Jack Kerouac. At 20 he moved to London and busked in tube stations with a borrowed guitar. He did not make much money, but learned how to grab a crowd’s attention. He also soaked up London’s jazz scene. He returned to Badajoz for his mother’s funeral, got married, and took a job at a bank, working nights so he did not have to cut his hair or take out his earrings. When his wife died, after a long illness, Turner quit the bank and went back to music full-time.
His first band as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter was called The Animal Crackers, a Joy Division-meets-Sonic Youth aggregation that reveled in its own noise-making. They made two albums and Turner almost went deaf, after which he quit and started The Reverendos, with his childhood friend Gene Garcia. He played acoustic guitar while Garcia would blow the blues harp and do his impressions of a Southern American Baptist preacher.
In the mid-90s, Turner moved to Merida and got a job in a 24-track, two-inch tape analog recording studio — the same studio where The Animal Crackers albums Work My Body (Jammin’, 1992) and Sounds Like A Hit (Jammin’, 1996) were recorded. He learned how to produce records and started Perroflauta (literally “Dog Flute”, a term used in Spain for people with a lifestyle similar to gutter punks and hippies) with Alvaro “Dr. Robelto” Fernandes on bass, Edú Nascimento on guitar, César González on drums and percussion, Irapoan Freire on trumpet, Rogerio Da Sousa on percussion, Rodney d’Assis on percussion, and Markos Bayón on guitar and vocals. Half the band was Brazilian, and they played a blend of samba and reggae. They made several CDs and toured all over Spain. When he went to the copyright office to register his songs, the form had a space for both proper name and an alias. He’d been nicknamed Gecko since was a kid, and loved the music of Big Joe Turner, so he wrote down “Gecko Turner” on a whim. When the copyright office sent him a confirmation order addressed to Gecko Turner, he took it as a sign and began using it as his stage name.
When Perroflauta broke up, Turner made demos of the new tunes he had been writing that combined the Brazilian reggae he’d been playing with the blues and rock he’d always loved. Gecko spent his last $1,000 to book time in a small studio in Madrid. He finished the album, and enlisted the big names that helped him make Guapapasea! by promising to pay them when he got a record deal. Lovemonk, a new independent label, put out the album in Europe and Japan, allowing him to pay off the studio and his friends. Turner, who sings in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, put together a band he called The Afrobeatnik Orchestra and toured to support the album. Guapapasea! won Spain’s Premio Extremadura a la Creación in 2005, given each year to writers and musicians who have created work that furthers the recognition of the Spanish language as a creative medium. This album was also published by Quango Records in the United States, which led to a promo tour and several concerts on radio and television in Los Angeles, New York City and Texas, playing prestigious venues like Knitting Factory, in Hollywood, or the vibrant SOB’s, in Greenwich Village.
His follow-up album, Chandalismo Illustrado (“Illustrated Sweatsuitism”), is heavy on the funk, with highlife, various Cuban rhythms, and a Tom Waits tribute adding to his already eclectic blend. It was considered one of the best 20 records of the year by English magazine Swell, including all genres and styles, and also acclaimed as revelation of the year by the readers of El Pais EP3. He continued playing concerts in Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Germany, where he played in Berlin during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. In September, the album was also released in Japan by Argus Records, so he played a concert in Tokyo for his Japanese fans.
In 2007 Gecko Turner moved to the United States to work on new songs and record with musicians in Austin and Los Angeles. The year after, Lovemonk released a CD called Manipulado, a compilation of remixes of Gecko’s songs previously released on 7″ and 12″ singles. In 2009, Gecko finished working on Gone Down South, released in 2010 by, again Lovemonk, including album artwork evoking old sixties jazz covers. The first single off it was ‘Truly’, a tribute to the classic Motown productions he loves so much.
His fourth album, That Place By The Thing With The Cool Name was released in 2015 and again came about after sharing experiences and recording sessions with musicians from remote places, thanks to Gecko’s globetrotter lifestyle. On the album, The Afrobeatnik Orchestra was joined by players from Texas, Nigeria, Brazil, Cuba, Guinea, England and Gecko’s home region of Extremedura, transforming what Spanish journalists once called “afromeño” (a contraction of “afro” and “extremeño”, which means “from Extremadura”), but he himself defines as his “soniquete”: a unique and unorthodox interpretation of soul, funk and jazz with profound echoes of Spain, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.
Over the years, Gecko Turner’s songs have been featured on over 70 compilations released all over the world, and they have been used in several TV commercials and a few films, such as Isabel Coixet’s Elegy, Montxo Armendáriz’ Obaba and Don’t Be Afraid, and Mexican director Jorge Colon’s Tired Of Kissing Frogs. Also, his work as a producer led him to work with different artists like Californian jazz and blues singer Brenda Boykin, and late flamenco singer Fernando Terremoto, producing their albums Chocolate & Chili and Terremoto, respectively.
Gecko Turner @ Lovemonk.net: tag/gecko-turner
“Guapapasea!” CD English
“Chandalismo Ilustrado” CD English
“Manipulado” CD English
“Gone Down South” CD/LP English | “Gone Down South” CD/LP español
“That Place By The Thing With The Cool Name” CD/LP English | “That Place By The Thing With The Cool Name” CD/LP español
Artist: Gecko Turner
Title: Manipulado EP
Format: 12″ – digital
Cat Nr: LMNKV34
Release Date: 2008