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Gareth Emery Returns To India

The British EDM artist on his new album, the change he’s seen over the past six years of playing in India and new musical directions.

Ambika Muttoo Feb 10, 2014
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Gareth Emery official October 2012

Gareth Emery is a familiar, loved figure on the tour circuit, having visited the country steadily over six years. His new album, Drive, is scheduled to release in April and if the first single “U” is an indication of popularity, then he has nothing to worry about. “U” features Brit vocalist Bo Bruce, and released last month to an incredibly favourable response. In an email interview with ROLLING STONE India, Emery, who played a four-city tour in July last year, discusses his new album Drive, which he says isn’t about trendy genres. In a statement he made a couple of months over Facebook (that instantly went viral), Emery said, “News flash: my upcoming 2014 album will not feature trap, dubstep, drops or “that sound” we’ve heard in about 10,000 EDM tracks this year.” It sounded like a larger commentary on the scene to us, so we decided to dive right in to talk of genres, dance music clones and more.

Are you pleased with the response to “U”? Tell us about the music video as well.

I’m really happy with the reaction ”“ the response to both the track and video has been incredible. I was pretty nervous before announcing this record as I’d not had a big single out since “Concrete Angel,” and had been very quiet on the music front because I spent most of 2013 writing this album, so when I saw people were digging it, it was a huge relief. Having someone as talented as Bo [Bruce; the singer] to work with really helped though.

I think the video is my favourite music video we’ve done yet. It just totally encapsulates the whole carefree road trip, old school Americana vibe of the album ”” the directors really did an amazing job.

You’re going to have to give us some more details!

[laughs] Well, it’s that classic Gareth Emery sound, but with a modern twist. The melodies and songs are all me. I’ve got a great bunch of collaborators working on the record with me. Besides Bo, there’s [Chicago EDM trio] Krewella, who are some of the nicest, most talented people ever. My sister, Roxanne Emery returns on a track (she also co-wrote a few of them), plus of course there’s a follow up to Concrete Angel with Christina Novelli. Other than that, I’ve got some great vocalists who’ve never sung on dance music tracks before. I’ve always been about finding people who are new to this world rather than the voices we’ve heard many times. One guy we found on YouTube singing covers in his bedroom ”“ he currently works in a shop full-time. I have a feeling he won’t be there for that long, he’s fucking incredible.

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“It’s all about melody & songs. In a variety of styles.” That’s your Facebook message that went viral.  Tell us about what happened (or is happening) in your life, to get to that moment.

I guess I was feeling bored with the “put your fucking hands up” type drops we were hearing in every track. I mean, I like that stuff, its fun, it works well at festivals, and I’ll play it now and again, but it’s saturated. So with my new album I’ve tried to bring back melody and songwriting, rather than these big-room EDM drops.

Of course, there’s still a bunch of styles represented on the album. I guess what I was trying to tell people to expect was melody and songs, which are packaged in different ways. I mean the wrapper might be house, trance, progressive or whatever, but inside it’s always the same Gareth Emery music.

Was the statement also a larger commentary on what’s been happening in the electronic music world lately? While there’s some incredible music, there’s also been a massive swell of clones and same old-same old.

Yeah, the clones suck, and there’s been an awful lot of them about, but essentially we can’t change that. One thing I’ve learned from my time in this amazing world of electronic music is that good music always rises to the top eventually, and whilst crap might be popular for a while, it’ll always fade away. The scene’s actually pretty amazing at policing itself and filtering the good from bad, it just takes a while.

#KickDrumFree [Emery’s non-dance music related playlists] has legs! Speaking of which – who are you currently listening to or can’t get enough of?

London Grammar, Chvrches, Lorde, and on a dance tip, my favourite album of late has to be Hot Since 82’s Little Black Book. I get a lot of inspiration from non-dance stuff so I try and listen to as much stuff as possible. And yes, the #KickDrumFree style playlists will be back soon!

Is it time for genre purists to shut shop? Or does the dance music world still benefit from categorization?

There’s always a need for genres – I mean, if you like a certain style, you want to know what it’s called, so you can find more tracks like it. My issue is when people get obsessive about one genre that they refuse to listen to anything else. I mean, why miss out on so much potentially amazing stuff? Personally I’ve always listened to a lot of different styles – a good record is a good record. Even when I first started buying vinyl, I was buying Sasha and Timo Maas alongside Armin [Van Buuren] and Tiesto.

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I’ve always been unapologetic about playing music I like regardless of genre, however much some people don’t like it, because as a DJ, you have to be true to yourself. Once you start choosing your music based on what you think people want to hear, as opposed to what you like yourself, you’ve fucking lost it. You might as well retire. You basically have to honest to yourself, play the music you love, and have blind faith that other people will like the same shit too.

Tell us a little bit about your relationship with India. You’ve visited a few times; what are the changes in the scene you’ve noticed over the years? Any stories from previous visits you’d like to share?

I love India ”“ it’s always the most interesting place I tour every year. The noise, the smells, the utter chaos; it’s just such a vibrant and fascinating place to be, and whilst touring here comes with a few challenges, it’s well worth it. It’s been incredible seeing the scene grow over the six years I’ve been touring here. The clubs have got better, the production’s improved, the promoters have got more professional, and I think it’s only going to continue to get better. The fans are simply incredible here too. I’ve had a few interesting experiences, from getting dragged off the decks by police at an oversold gig in Delhi, to getting the worse food poisoning of my life, but it’s worth it.

Plus, of course, the food. I grew up eating Indian food, which is incredibly popular in the UK – literally every small town has about three Indian restaurants. However I’ve spent a lot of time in the US lately and it’s just hard to get good Indian food there, at least not compared to what I’m used to back home. So when I come to India I become a bit of a food tourist.

What does 2014 have in store for your label, Garuda?

We’ve got some amazing artists signed to the label who are just getting better and better. Ben Gold is turning into a major star of his own, as is Christina Novelli, plus Luke Bond, Craig Connelly, Rob Naylor and various others are doing amazing things. I plan to spend a lot more time in the Garuda offices in 2014 to see how we can push things further.

Gareth Emery India Tour:

February 13th ”“ Royalty, Mumbai

February 14th ”“ Pangaea, Delhi

February 15th ”“ FAVA, UB City, Bengaluru

February 16th ”“ Shanku’s Farm, Ahmedabad

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