Gareth Emery has been consistently proclaimed the U.K.’s top DJ by DJ Magazine, and with bangers such as “Concrete Angel” and “Last Time” to his credit, it’s clear why. With an artist album due out later this year, a new bride and having just helped launch the EDM social media platform Vidiam, he’s certainly busy, although we did manage to catch up with the Marquee resident to download all that he has going on. He plays Marquee Dayclub on June 29.
How does being the highest-ranked British DJ affect your approach when you bring your sound to the U.S.?
For the last four years I’ve been doing 100-plus shows here, so it’s been reasonably well-received. Obviously, you can always [try to reach] more people, but it’s difficult to say what my sound is. It’s kind of a mix of everything—some house, some progressive, some trance. It’s very melody heavy because that’s the background I come from, a musical one. People will often say that they can tell a track that I will play or that’s by me. They can’t exactly put into words what that quality is that they pick out, but they know it’s me. So it’s kind of a nice thing. I play music I like and do my own thing.
Is that what you mean when you say your sound is, “Simple yet effective?”
Exactly, yes. I don’t like stuff that’s overly complicated. It doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be cheesy. A lot of stuff you hear today is very generic. You can be simple but intelligent, and you can be simple with a melody that you have never heard before. So it’s got to be smart music, and it’s got to be innovative and different from what’s come before. What I do is essentially music for dance floors. You can get away with less complexity in a club than with something that somebody would listen to at home.
When’s your artist album slated to debut?
When it’s finished! I’ve been working hard on it, and have got some great material. I try not to commit too heavily to release dates, but later this year.
What else is in the works?
I’ve got a new single with Krewella called “Light and Thunder” that I’m really excited about. We met at a show in Chicago back in August and talked about doing something. I sent them an instrumental I was working on, and they sent me back a vocal. It should be out within six weeks.
Does it bother you when people label you as a trance DJ?
No, I don’t mind it. I’ve come around. There is this thing where people think I try to get away from trance, but that’s not really the case. What I’ve always done is played music I like. If you go back and listen to my first podcast in 2006, the first record I ever played was a Funkagenda record. It was difficult to play those songs in my club sets back then when I was playing rooms where people were banging it out. For me, the transition was when people I was excited about stopped making trance. The quality really dipped, and a lot of the house guys actually picked up the trance melodies and were making better trance than some of the trance guys were making. I was thinking that this music has the spirit of why I got into this in the first place. It’s this new sort of house music rather than the really underground stuff.
I’ll always have some house in what I play, but if people think they are coming to see a house or trance DJ, that’s all great. I’ll deliver my sounds—the [Sound of] Garuda sound, and whatever box they want to put that in is cool with me.
The only thing that bugs me is when they expect a set of mine to be like a set of, say, Armin van Buuren’s—that’s not what I’ve ever been, and that was never my sound. And I think occasionally there is a misconception in that respect. The vast majority of my fan base is great in that they get that it is a mixed bag, and that’s a good thing for me.
Can you talk about the evolution of your sound from “Nervous Breakdown” to “Concrete Angel”?
[“Nervous Breakdown”] was a hard house or hard trance record, a style that doesn’t really even exist anymore, which was played by some harder guys such as Eddie Halliwell, Lisa Lashes and people known for delivering extreme, high-energy music. My first record that I identify with as being really “me” was “Mistral,” which was played by Paul van Dyk, Tiësto and Armin van Buuren. The crazy thing is that somebody made a bootleg of “Mistral” versus “Tokyo,” two tracks eight years apart, and they sound similar and flow into one another; so if anyone thinks I’ve changed my sound, this could literally be one track!
Let’s compare you and your British compatriots with other DJs on the sporting front. We all know the Dutch crushed the Swedes last Ultra Music Fest during that soccer match.
I am not the greatest footballer; I am more of a rugby player and they are going to kill me for saying this, but I don’t think the Above and Beyond guys have any hidden football talent! We’d probably get our asses kicked. There are some guys out of the U.K. who are good though, like Andy Moore and Ben Gold who is signed to my label Garuda. He was a semi-professional player.
Let’s talk about your Electric Area channel show on SiriusXM satellite radio, Gareth Emery Presents.
I’ve had my podcast, but had been nervous for a while about doing stuff in other ways because I wanted people that wanted to listen to me to come to the podcast. The difficultly with a standard radio show is you have to drop by the station and can’t listen to it as well. I’ve been spending a lot of time [in the States] driving and have been listening to a lot of BPM and Electric Area and that sold me. I thought, “This is fucking awesome.” We have nothing like it in the U.K. Here you have two dedicated channels playing electronic dance music 24/7, which is amazing. We’ve done a lot of live sets for them before, and they’ve played a lot of my tracks, and I thought that this works so well—even if you’re in the middle of nowhere, you still get reception. So I spoke to the guys and said, “Let’s do something,” and we are coming up to nearly a year.
You’re on the advisory committee of the new EDM social media/content management platform Vidiam (Vidi.am.com). What up with that?
The most interesting thing about Vidiam is there is this kind of gulf, a gap between the amount of people listening to your music and actually making any revenue from it. Personally it’s not that big of an issue because my revenue comes from live shows, but I think it’s really important to have a way to also support those guys who aren’t successful DJs yet and not making money from DJing. Things like Vidiam make sure they have ways to make enough cash to quit their jobs and come and do this full time as we did when there were better ways of selling music. Vidiam is also a great way of sharing content—be it photos, videos, audio files. It’s linked in with your SoundCloud, YouTube and other portals, and even though there is an advertising element to it that’s extremely subtle. Everyone hates the ads that go at the beginning of a YouTube. That stuff sucks and when you see artists tweeting stuff that is blatantly promotional I don’t think that’s the way to interact. The audience is smart. They get it and you don’t get a good level of response when you put out this blatant promotional. Vidiam does it in a much more subtle way that doesn’t piss anybody off.
How do you balance life on the road while juggling being a newlywed and having a home life?
She travels quite a lot with me, and we moved to the U.S. in January because I was spending so much time here. At some points last year, I was literally flying to the States two to three times a month to spend the mid-weeks back home to catch up with friends and family. The fact that I am now living in the place where I do most of my shows is pretty good. I also do as much work as I can on flights and in hotel rooms, so that hopefully when I get home I’ve got time.