Gareth Emery is anything but ordinary. From his music, to his sets, to even his personality, Gareth is the embodiment of what all artists should strive to be as even with all the success and talent, Gareth remains humble and direct. With his recently released “Drive” album and a tour to go along with it, Ascendance Radio and Fusion Radio caught up with Gareth for an in-depth, no bullshit, eye-opening interview.
Gareth Emery Interview:
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): I’m Dayanna with Ascendance Radio.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): I’m Ron with Fusion Radio.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): And we’re here with Gareth Emery at the Garuda Miami 2014 Showcase.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): Hey, I wanted to ask you about your biggest fan.
Gareth Emery: As in, like, what do you they do, what do they kind of…
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): It’s actually a special person, I think, who really loves you. Peter the Bear?
Gareth Emery: Oh, how did you find out about him?
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): We all do our research. We love you.
Gareth Emery: That’s some amazing research, because I don’t think he’s mentioned online anywhere. So, I’m wondering, did you talk to my sister?
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): Oh, who knows, who knows?
Gareth Emery: Did you talk to my sister or my wife? Because only those two would have given that away. But, yeah, he is a big fan. He’s very happy at home. We’ve recently got a dog, so he’s had to be moved from his normal place on the bed to a slightly higher position where he can’t be torn apart by our eight month old puppy. So, he’s not too happy about that, but yeah, he still digs my stuff. He’s been listening to it for 33 years, so longer than anybody else.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): So there are five days until your new album, “Drive“, is released. You had people send videos, pictures, doing a bunch of crazy things to win a pair of VIP tickets to the show of the lucky winner’s choice. What has been the craziest submission thus far?
Gareth Emery: There have been two that have definitely been the most crazy. I mean, there’s been lots of crazy ones. There has been two I will pick out in particular. One was a dude who jumped into a freezing cold lake in subzero temperatures. He called it the “Polar Plunge” and he had a sign up that said “six days to Drive” and he had his buddies film it and he yelled six days to Drive and then he dived into the ice cold water. The other one, which is crazy but also cool, was today was five days to Drive, so people had to do something with the number five, and one girl had five song lyrics from Gareth Emery tracks tattooed onto her back. And then wrote below it, not, this wasn’t a tattoo, she wrote below #fivedaystodrive. So, she’s actually she’s our winner today. But we’ve had people shave their dog, people have shaved into their chests. Yeah, they’re definitely, the fans are definitely going the extra mile in this one.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): When they get to the first day, “one day to Drive”, anything else more for it?
Gareth Emery: I hope to have something really special for number one. I’ve been trying to plan it all week. If what I’m trying to do I can pull off it’ll be cool. But yeah, I won’t say it just in case it doesn’t happen.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): There seems to be a trend with some dance artists who experiment with new sounds, oddly enough, this experimentation always seems to happen with the sounds that are ranking in the big money, like EDM.
Gareth Emery: Right, yeah.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): As much as fans want to believe that every producer is in it because they want to create works of art, artists also have a business to run and what works creatively, doesn’t always work financially. So my question to you is, where’s the line between being an artist and being a business person?
Gareth Emery: I mean, you definitely need to be a bit of both because if you don’t, I mean. First and foremost you’re an artist. That’s clear, but if you don’t have a bit of business person in you, it will be a very difficult road and I think what a lot of people would often forget it, it’s not easy to make money from selling music these days. I mean, it’s pretty much impossible. I’m reasonably big as artist, and if I wasn’t also a successful live artist, I would struggle from the money I make from my music alone for this to be a full time career. And I sell a lot of records compared to some other people out there. So, it is a tough world and you do need a bit of business acumen to make things work.
On the other hand, I think fans are also smart in that they kind of know when something’s not you. And if you’re doing something for cynical reasons, simply if you think it’s going to make you rich, they can tell. And people can tell when your hearts not in it. I think we have to give the fans credit. Often people go, hey, this guys a sell out some say like David Guetta or whatever. No, like he loves that stuff he makes. He just has to be very commercially viable, and you can tell that. So it’s a tightrope, you’ve always got to walk it. But ultimately, you can’t fake it too much because people will know.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): It’s funny you say that, because it is kind of like human nature to always categorize things, whether it’s putting music into specific genres, or ranking DJ’s in a poll. You’ve run into issues with both, either being labeled as Trans DJ or bowing out and participating in last year’s DJ Mag Poll.
Do you think it will ever be possible to stop classifying music in these buckets called genres, or to judge a DJ by the merits of their production instead of his or her ability to get their fans to cast them in imaginary cyber ballots.
Gareth Emery: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I guess it’s kind of two different questions. I’d like it if we stopped ranking people. I wish we could just judge people on their merits, and I also think it undersells electronic music to the rest of the music world to have this stupid fucking list. And don’t get me wrong, I bought into this in the early days, and I think it really undersells us when we have these, like where we like, rank at people from one to 100. I don’t see rock bands doing it, I don’t see hip hop artists doing it, why would we undermine this amazing music and these amazing scene we have, which in so many other ways is better than all those other scenes by ranking our leading musicians like it’s a fucking beauty pageant, it just doesn’t make sense to me.
Plus the fact, I think that polling of results have really reflected the scene. There’s people that sell incredible amounts of tickets that were number 200, and then there’s people that have done one gig in the last five years will be at number 50. So, will it ever change? I don’t know. I’d like it if it did, and I’ll be my lone voice saying hey, this sucks. But I’m just one person and I’m limited in what I can do.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): Right.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): Talk about crossing genres, how did you meet up with Krewella and how did the track come about?
Gareth Emery: So they came to a gig of mine about four years ago, before they had really blown up. And somebody was like, hey you’ve got to meet these kids Krewella, they’re really good. So, I didn’t really know any of their stuff, but I met them and they had a record called “Killing It” at the time, their first single, I think. And I went and listened to it and I was like, fuck, they can really sing. And they can really write a catchy song. So, I had the instrumental rights to Thunder Knocking Around, so I sent it over to them. They wrote me this beautiful vocal topline, and then the next year, we both played it in our sets, we bounced it backward and forwards, we kind of changed bits that didn’t work. And we probably went through 30 different revisions of the track, and then eventually the girls came to my studio in Los Angeles and we hammed it out in two hours and we had a finished track. They’re super talented people. Very, very, fun to work with.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): There’s no doubt that music pirating is a big issue for the music industry. While pirated songs do get distributed much faster and wider than songs legally purchased there is of course the issue that the artist isn’t being paid for their work. What are your thoughts on music pirating? Is it good, bad, or is there a gray area?
Gareth Emery: In terms of morality, I think it’s bad. People should be paid for their work, and whether it’s a musician, a guy that writes computer software, somebody that’s producing films, and I think, what a lot of people don’t realize is they look highly paid DJs and think it’s okay to steal Gareth Emery’s track, which it is, ‘cuz I don’t necessarily need that 79 pence. It’s not people like me where it’s an issue. The issue really comes to those guys that don’t want to tour. The guys don’t want to really be live musicians, they just want to sit in the studio and make music. And fifteen years ago, you could make a good living and you could quit your full time job just making music and now you, sadly, can’t and we’ve lost an entire generation of musicians and producers who don’t want to tour because they know can’t afford to do that. It’s also sad, because I’m a realist and we have to live in the real world and you’re very disengaged from the whole process when you sit behind a computer. It’s not really comparable and stealing something off the shelf. So, people are going to do it and all we can do is make it as easy as possible for people to buy music, I think it’s not easier now than it ever has been, legitimately, do discourage people from pirating.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): Speaking of touring, it’s really a hard life, being on the road so much. How do you balance your life touring, producing, your family life, etc? And staying healthy.
Gareth Emery: Yeah, producing, I tend to write a lot on the road. I’m always on my laptop. Whether it’s plans, back of cars, whatever. Otherwise, I’d never write any music because I’m touring so much. I’m constantly, I don’t get any time in the studio. I finish stuff in the studio, but I write it on the road. You know, in terms of staying healthy, the most important thing is, I don’t really party or drink on the road. Like, when I tour, I generally don’t do any alcohol, I exercise, I kind of eat healthy and that allows me to tour and then come home and feel alright. There are certain exceptions, like Miami week, I have so many friends and family here. We partied a little bit this week, but generally speaking, I really move away from that side. It’s a job, must people don’t get drunk at work, so I’ll drink Coke and a water and alcohol free beers, and that’s my set.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): You’ve always made music in a variety of genres including trance. It was there that you came up with a number of your best tracks and gained a loyal following. When you decided to spend some time with other genres, some Trance fans took issue with this. With that being said, how good did it feel when you came out with the monster Trance hit that was “Concrete Angel” with Christina Novelli, which one “Tune of the Year” on the State of Trance for 2012? And does your new album, “Drive“, have any trance goodies in store for your fans?
Gareth Emery: Oh yeah, totally. “Drive” is very trance-y. It’s kind of a mix of progressive house and trance, there’s no drops on and it’s at 128 BPMs, so it’s slower, but the melodies are trance and the feeling in the records is that feeling I fell in love with from trance music. It’s kind of like a misnomer that Gareth Emery doesn’t like trance or wants to get away from trance. That’s never been the case. I love trance. I love all of my fans, like identify themselves as trance fans and trance family and I love it as much as the next person. But see, my record, like McGee for instance, getting major airplay on A State of Trance. What I also love is doing different things. And for me, it’s never about making money, or whatever, but I’ve never enjoyed making the same sound for years in a row. I couldn’t be making the same records now as I was making ten or fifteen years ago. Don’t get me wrong, some people, say like Aly & Fila, who I think are awesome guys and very talented producers, they’ve always made pretty much that’s the same. Same speed, same vibe to it. They’re very good at it and they’re cool with that.
For me, I couldn’t do that. I like to do different stuff. I like to listen to what’s new and go, hey, that’s cool. Let’s take some of their ideas and try and implement into my own stuff. So it’s just my natural wish to experiment and fuck around with different stuff and not everyone gets it. Fortunately, some people do. There’s always going to be a part of me and again, it’s what I feel creatively, I should be doing, that’s what I’ll be doing.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): Awesome.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): You make song with your sister, Roxanne, is it a challenge to work with your sibling?
Gareth Emery: It used to be. We’re a lot better at it now. In the early days, we used to fight incredibly when we tried to write music together, but now it’s pretty chill and she co-wrote four tracks on “Drive”. She sang on one of them herself, so it’s been an amazing song writing relationship and she’s a very, very talented songwriter. We’ve done some great other tracks as well, like that one with Luke Bond where it’s been like such a hot track. So, nowadays it’s great. We had to get, pretty much, each to the age of 30 before we were able to do it, but it’s good working with her now.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): Also, you’ve collaborated with a lot of interesting people over the years. Is there anyone right now that you’d like to collaborate with that you haven’t yet?
Gareth Emery: I get most interested in finding people outside the world we’re in. I mean, obviously the easiest thing to do is go out and find high profile, because that’s what record labels and management say, go and find somebody high profile, whereas I’m not as interested in working with somebody who’s done, like, loads of other EDM records because they come with all that baggage and your records are going to be compared to the ones they’ve done in the past. So I’m all about finding people that have never done electronic music before. Christina Novelli, had never done that kind of music before. Three of the vocalists on the new album, had never done that type of music before. So, two people I’d love to, my boyhood hero, Noel Gallagher from Oasis, I’d love to collaborate with him. It’ll probably never happen because he’s sin insanely rich and successful, if I had to pick somebody in electronic music, a guy that really never collabs, it would be Eric Prydz, I’ve always been a big fan of him. I love his sound, and I think we’d both sound really good together. But, yeah, that’s two dream collabs, rather than realistic ones.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): In the studio, what software do you work in?
Gareth Emery: I work in Keybase and Ableton, but Keybase is my primary door. And the stuff I use is pretty basis. No producer would be surprised by my lineup. It’s kind of like Nexxus, it’s Cylink, it’s Sausage Fattener, it’s the compressor, the glue. Nothing really too out there. A few little tricks, that people might not know about. A guy called Steve Duda, I love his plug-ins, he’s actually works a lot with Deadmau5. There’s one called LFOTool, which is fantastic, I use it in almost everything. But yeah, it really is what you do with it rather than the gear you use. I’m probably not using anything different to 99% of people out there, it’s really what you do with it.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): Speaking about gear, when you’re spinning live, are you on CD, are you on thumb drive, using laptop?
Gareth Emery: I just switched to Traktor, though. I just switch to track to like nine months ago. I’ve been on the CDJ’s my entire life. Well, I was on vinyl first, then I went to CDs, then I went to USB, and now I’m Traktor. Just because I found it was more stable, I was coming into stability issues with USB and SD cards, and then also the creative freedom that track affords you. It’s just insane. The way I can edit tracks live now is amazing for me. I used to do all my editing in Ableton before, whereas now, I have the full track and I can play three minutes, or I can play two minutes. Or I can play it for two minutes and then play that breakdown again, press a button and bang, it happens. That’s some pretty hot creative power.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): Do you use controller with that?
Gareth Emery: I use 2×1’s.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): Okay.
Gareth Emery: 2X1s straight into the 900. It’s also good for, we have a lot of time synced visual for our live show so it makes that easier as well.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): You don’t make the visuals as well, right?
Gareth Emery: No, I don’t make the visuals, no, no.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): Multi-talented.
Gareth Emery: Art was never my talent, so I leave that to people that are better at it.
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): And online, what’s the best way for people to follow you? Is it Twitter, is it Facebook?
DJ Ron (Fusion Radio): And what would you like to say to all your fans out there?
Gareth Emery: Thank you for sticking with me. I was a little bit quiet after “Concrete Angel”, I think I was too into it heavily and maybe I was dying down from the success of that track for a little bit too long, so thank you for staying there. Thank you continuing to sell out my shows everywhere, even when I haven’t released any music for two years. I made “Drive” for you guys, and hopefully you’re going to like it.
Dayanna Ramirez (Ascendance Radio): Perfect, thank you so much.
Gareth Emery: Great interview. Thank you.