Behind The Beat: Gareth Emery Interview
ONLY THE BEAT: Gareth, amazing show. It was so cool to see you…you were just beaming up there.
GARETH EMERY: Thank you! I genuinely enjoyed it. I was having fun!
OTB: So when you do something like [an open to close set], are you thinking here are three or four different sets that I’m doing or are you making it a continuous flow? Do you think of it as opening for yourself?
GE: That is a very good question. I do think of it as three or four different sets. When I’ve done these long sets in the past, I did look at it as one set. Where as now, I think, what’s going to be the easiest way to do this? I have some playlists…there’s the chillout playlist; there’s opening which is deep house; there’s main set, which is what I normally play, with a bit more music thrown in there…and then there’s…banging trance close. I have a rough timeline in my head of when I want to move from one playlist to another. But it’s more for easily categorizing tracks.
(listen while you read!)
I know at what point in the night a track will fall. But you know, it’s all fluid. It’ll all get mix up. There’s really no structure done to it, apart from it’s in four playlists. And obviously once we started doing the tour, you start learning a few combinations that work well. So the first show…my mixing was…not that great, because I hadn’t mixed a lot of those tracks in the club before. So I was like, oh that worked, that kind of sucked. As you go along, you start repeating formations that works. Now it’s a bit tighter.
OTB: And you can just tell by how the crowd reacts?
GE: How the crowd reacts…and if something just sounds horrendous, you know that those tracks don’t go well together…they will not be together ever again…sorry you guys had to hear that!
GE: I had kind of fallen out of love with the podcast. I had been doing it since 2006 and when I started the podcast it was really cool, like underground music. I’d go searching high and low for tracks that people wouldn’t have heard and it was genuinely really good fun. Fast forward eight years and it became a point where it was just the hits of the week. it was very EDM, like a lot of the other shows. There was a point when it was like, “I don’t even want listen to my own show!” I wasn’t enjoying making it, I was just going through the numbers. So I was like, “Why? Let’s just fucking tear this thing down and start from scratch.”
Electric For Life was the rebirth of me getting the love back for doing a radio show. And I’ve got back to enjoying it. I spend a lot more time searching for tracks. There’s certain styles which used to get played on the Gareth Emery Podcast that you don’t really hear. For instance, you don’t hear David Guetta on Electric For Life. Even if David Guetta makes a great fucking pop record, it’s not necessarily what the Electric For Life listeners want to hear. It’s just been nice to get back to the sort of music that was why I got into it in the first place. For me now, programming the show is a joy, listening to it is a joy, and if it ever stops being that way…
OTB: …you’ll start something different?
GE: Well, no…the thing with the podcast, is it was like a relationship that it started getting bad, but I didn’t turn around and say “hey, we need to sort this out!” It just continued to get fucking bad until it was beyond the point of repair. Whereas Electric for Life…I’ll just subtly change it to keep myself enjoying it.
OTB: What surprised you the most about Electric for Life?
GE: I’ve learned how much amazing music is out there that I wasn’t listening to on the podcast! But also, it’s been amazing how open minded people are. It’s easy to give the fans not enough credit for how diverse their musical tastes actually are. On Electric For Life we play some pretty fucking underground shit on there, and people generally are very open minded to it. If it hadn’t been due to that reaction doing the show, we wouldn’t have done the all night tour. When we would get the slower tracks voted as the most popular track of the week…and if people are feeling it this much, let’s go on a tour where we can actually play the track.
OTB: Do you feel any different playing in the Seattle area versus the other places you’ve played?
GE: Every show is different. Like tonight, when it sells out in advance, you know it’s going to be a lot of fans. Often at a show you’ll have a mix of fans and people that just kind of ended up in there. When it’s sold out, you mostly know it’s your own fans so you try and play a lot more of your own stuff. So that’s why I would say tonight would be different than say, Freaknight, where there’s a lot of big guys on the lineup. There’s obviously a bunch of my fans in there who I want to try and play to, but you also try to have a bit more of a broadly appealing set, so everyone in there can enjoy it. It really differs show by show, more than by city by city.
If I’m playing to fans that are mine, I’ll probably stick more to my own material because that’s what they want to hear. Like tonight, that’s why it was quite heavy on Emery back catalogue. But it’s also a long night, it gives opportunity to play those older tracks. I’ve made so many tracks! With a regular two hour set, if I were to play all the tracks of my LP tonight, that would take like an hour and a half of the set!
That’s the nice thing about doing these long sets. I like to able to curate the vibe from the word go. Whenever somebody else plays before you, you’re always following whatever they’ve done. The records they played, the mood they set for the room…when it’s just you, it’s the ultimate freedom. You’re your own opening act, your own closing act, and then you play the middle set. I like pressing play when not a single person is in there. Especially when you know in four hours time it’s going to be fucking wall to wall.
OTB: So…because it just happened. The DJ Mag Poll. You’ve been pretty vocal about it in the past…
GE: Not for some years.
OTB: I remember in 2013 you got that call, and you made that Facebook post about how it was the most unreal thing I’ve ever experience. Why is this poll so damaging?
GE: Why is the poll damaging? Or why is the fact that it’s corrupt damaging?
OTB: (laughs awkwardly) ummm….both?
GE: It’s incredibly corrupt…but that’s not for me to talk about, because it’s just not something I give any attention to. Honestly, my most successful years, however you gauge that…whether it’s biggest records, most fans coming to my shows…have all been when I’ve had shitty positions in the poll or not at all. Which is why we don’t campaign for votes, I don’t talk about the poll…the only time I talk about it, with all due respect, is when someone like you asks me about it.
So you know what? Yeah, we could do that and go, “Yeah, vote for me! Vote for me!” and maybe fucking pay a robot in India for 20,000 votes as well, and maybe we’d be in the top 10 again, but there’s two reasons why we don’t do it. One, it wouldn’t make a fucking difference anyway because because everyone that matters in the industry side knows it’s a joke; and two, I didn’t get into dance music after doing politics to go back and be a campaign politician. I got into this to make records and to go play those records for people. So honestly, I don’t think it makes any difference to me, but even if it did, I still wouldn’t do it. because life is too short to do with bullshit you don’t fucking like. And it is bullshit.
OTB: Can we change this or do we coexist with it?
GE: You know, I think it just exists. It’s there. There’s many things about the dance music scene that I like and there’s many things that I don’t like. You can take two approaches to this. You can take the Mat Zo approach. And I love Mat Zo by the way, he’s a friend of mine and a fucking awesome guy…um, he’s crazy as fuck, but…
Electronic music has rotten teeth that need to be pulled
— Jewish Cracker (@Mat_Zo) May 29, 2015
For too long these guys have pretended make their own music succeeded and leave us actual producers to struggle
— Jewish Cracker (@Mat_Zo) May 29, 2015
You can do the Mat Zo approach which is to talk about everything you don’t like, and tell people “I don’t like this! This is bad!” Or, there’s what my approach is, which is just doing your fucking shit, and getting on with your life, and if somebody is doing some shit you don’t like, so fucking what?! The world is full of people doing shit I don’t like. And as long as it’s not harming other people, I don’t really care about it. There’s a limited amount of time in the day and for me, I try and use that time as efficiently as possible. And doing shit that I enjoy, which is spending time with my family, making records, and traveling around playing those records.
I don’t really have time to think about it whether it’s right or wrong. I could go and write another Facebook post about it, but that would take me a day to do and I think my time is better spent writing new music. I think I owe it to the people that are in to what I do, to spend my time writing music rather than being engaged in a debate about it. And it’s not just DJ Mag, there’s lots of other things that you could name that are a bit controversial. I try and keep out of it.
OTB: Last thing! The Electric For Life Foundation. Let’s talk about it to get the word out. What is it and how can we get involved?
GE: I’ve been wanting to do something a bit more official on the charity side for years. It’s something where we’ve been doing bits and pieces, but we’ve never been doing anything really official. Some friends of mine who are in a rock band, Simple Plan, they’ve had this foundation for four or five years now, and they’ve raised over a million dollars, which is fucking insane! And this is just by setting something up!
So I thought, let’s get the foundation set up. We did a show in Vancouver, that was the first one we did. The main Electric For Life show sold out really quickly, so we were like, let’s do a second show, rather than repeat the first show (because I didn’t want to play all night twice in a row), let’s do a charity show and give all the money to charity.
So we did that. We made about 15 grand for the Vancouver Food Bank. But also, all of the merchandise we sell via Electric For Life is non-profit. Every t-shirt, every hat…I think there’s already like 15-20 grand that is going to to charity, just made from selling the merch in the last couple months. When there is something going on in the world that we feel the need to channel funds to, we can be ready to be active on that level. It’s kind of early days. Right now, we’re setting up our website, which will show how much we’ve made so far and also how much you’ll contribute if you buy, say, a hat.
We’re looking at doing more shows! I’m in a pretty privileged position to be able to do this. For the longest time, I was just very focused on getting bigger as an artist, and now the two things can work in tandem.
OTB: Now that you’re in this position, you have the ability to do something with it. Instead of campaigning for votes, you campaign to help people.
GE: Exactly! We all chose how we spend our time. And this is probably because I’m a little bit older, but you do start to think, what is my legacy going to be? What are people by me when I’m dead? (laughs) Not that I’m planning on that happening any time soon, but there’s a lot of things in my life I spent doing that quite honestly, were bullshit. Had I replayed those years again, I wouldn’t have spent time doing them. Campaigning for the DJ Mag poll was one of those things. It’s not even a source of bitterness. It was something I did in the past, it didn’t make me happy, it wasn’t a good use of my time, so now we don’t do it in the future. We try and spend it on shit that is a bit more valuable.
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