Despite his hectic schedule, Gareth Emery still found time for a chat about Garuda, his recent debut artist album Northern Lights, and his keen interest in politics.
British Trance producers are starting to make a serious headway again,with acts such as yourself, Lange, Mat Zo and others. What role do you think this Country has in Trance? Do you feel British producers and DJs offer something not heard anywhere else?
The UK is one of dance music’s key global territories for all styles of dance music, not just trance, and we’re lucky to have an amazing scene. You often hear a lot of negativity and people complaining the scene’s not what it was, but despite having less clubs than before, we’ve still got a hell of a lot more than virtually anywhere else. In terms of mass appeal, we still lack compared to, say, The Netherlands, but in my view that’s largely because dance music is more commercially accessible there, whereas here it’s more or less ignored by the large radio stations save for a handful of commercial house tracks. But yeah –look at guys like Andy Moor, Ashley Wallbridge, Above & Beyond… we may not have as many producers as the Netherlands but we’ve got some of the best.
Your mad schedule and die-hard dedication suggests that time is of the essence. When you do get some free time, how do you like to relax? Do you have any weird or strange interests people might not expect?
Er, I’m quite interested in politics, and have a degree in it from Warwick. SoI’m always devouring the political section of a newspaper on every flight. But apart from that, quite honestly relaxation just hasn’t been on the menu this year. I’ve had a mad tour schedule usually with 7-8 countries a month, then for the few days a week when I wasn’t on tour, I was in the studio working on the album. I nearly killed myself and didn’t have much of a social life outside of work…. …I’m not complaining, because the end result has been worth it, but it was really fucking hard work. I mean, there were occasions where I’d do a gig and cut loose and drink too much, but the next day I’d always be on the first flight home dealing with a hangover whilst flicking through iTunes listening to album demos. Anyway, right now we’re preparing for the Northern Lights Concert on 8th October, then after that I’ve got the new Sound Of Garuda compilation to think about… which is going to keep me pretty busy up and until Christmas. I’m planning on taking next year a bit easier.
You also run your own club night at Sankeys which shares names with your record label, Garuda. What is the most challenging aspect of running your nights? Have you ever been to one of your own nights as a guest rather thana DJ to see what it’s really like? What do you think Garuda offers which is unique as a label and a club?
We’ve never had a night I didn’t play on, so I’ve never properly gone as aguest, but I always without exception try and spend a bit of time mingling onthe dancefloor and just see how it’s going down. It was easier when we first started, but now more people know me, so I tend to find I spend most of that time chatting to people and taking photos, which is cool, but probably not the authentic punter experience. The night’s aren’t a big part of what we do but the calendar we always do. On the flipside, they’re a lot of work and occasionally can be quite stressful, but the end result is always worth it.
Do you have any plans to expand Garuda outside of Manchester?
Not really, I think it works well in Manchester and that’s where we live; that’s the home of Garuda. We’re doing the Northern Lights Concert in October in Leeds, but that’s simple because the O2 Academy is a brilliant mid-sized arena venue that perfectly suits the show, and there isn’t really a comparable venue in Manchester. We may do the odd one off like Miami next year, but we like to have control over it. I’d always be worried about doing a Garuda night elsewhere and it being shit. When it’s in our home town we can make sure the sound’s good, the lights are good, etc. For instance we always spend a shit load on extra production, bringing in lasers, VJs and extra stuff on top, often so much we don’t make any money on the nights. Doing a show elsewhere we wouldn’t have this level of control so we’d need to be very careful who we worked with.
It must be hard for a DJ/Producer with success like yours to keep your feet rooted to the ground. How important to you are your roots and how you grew up? Are there any major influences on you as a person and a musician now from when you were younger?
Very important, and I’m always keen to point them out when people refer to me as Northern or Mancunian, because I’m neither of those things. I’m originally from Wales but lived all of my life up to the age of 26 in Southampton so that’s where I consider myself to be from, that’s my football team, etc. And as much as I love Manchester and as much as it’s my home, it’s not where my roots are. Iwas always enveloped in music from a very young age by my parents so that was definitely key in ending up in this job.
There’s a huge amount of talent out there and a big part of what you do must be checking out new producers and releases. Are there any producers out there right now you’re really keen on? Who do you think we should be looking out for come 2011?
Ben Gold, who’s on Garuda, is without doubt the most exciting and interesting producer in the trance field at the moment – he’s been around for a while but all of a sudden has really honed his studio skills and has incredible potential.
Northern Lights is one of our favourite albums of the year. Having elevated yourself to such a high standard, do you feel any pressure to keep up your current form? Or are you just concentrating on enjoying it?
I’m just enjoying it really – gigs now are more fun than they’ve ever been so although the traveling is tough, it’s hard not to enjoy it. The next album’s definitely going to bring a degree of pressure, as Northern Lights has done reallywell – especially Sanctuary – but I’m feeling positive about it as I’ve got longer to work on it. Northern Lights was essentially written and produced in seven months, whereas I’m not really thinking about dropping another artist album until at least 2012 so I’ve got plenty of time to get it right.
And a couple just for fun…
You’re doing a gig at a club, but when you get there, one of the CDJs isbroken and the mixer is a joke. What do you do? Have you ever been in asimilar situation?
Yeah, loads of times, especially in the early days! Who hasn’t?! Assuming therewere three CDJs to start with, I wouldn’t give a shit about one bring broken. Butif there were only two and one was broken, then you’ve got a problem. To be honest, nowadays the stage setups are lot better, I mean you do get some terror situations, but generally it’s ok. But it used to happen a lot where you’d turn upat some random club in some random country and find a random mixer, two CDJs you’ve never heard of, and no monitors. And then they tell you it’s being broadcast live online.
We imagine that you hope to carry on with things how they are for the future and look to develop yourself further. But apart from the obvious future ambitions, do you have any crazy dreams you wish to fulfil? First DJ on the moon?
Nah, not really. Working in music is a dream, especially given there’s basically no money to be made from actually selling music any more. So I feel lucky and privileged to be making a living from my biggest passion, and as long as that goes on, I’ll be happy.
Thanks Gareth for taking time out of your schedule to answer our questions! We look forward to the Northern Lights concert, and good luck in the Top 100 DJs.