There are only a few artists out there that have truly widened the spectrum of trance and Gareth Emery is definitely one of them. This man is extremely talented when it comes to all things music. He is certainly ahead of the game with his productions. Even his shows are more creative than other artists out there — just take a look at Laserface. He’s also had tons of great accomplishments throughout his career; like when he won the ASOT Tune Of The Year award in 2017 with his track with Standerwick and Haliene, “Saving Light”. Some of his other more notable tracks are “Concrete Angel” with Christina Novelli, “Sanctuary” Lucy Sanders and “U” with Bo Bruce.
Gareth is one of my personal favorites, I have seen him countless times and his sets never fail to surpass my expectations. On February 8th, I had the distinct pleasure of being able to have a conversation with the man, the myth, the legend; Gareth Emery. So without further ado, here is our conversation about all things trance. The following transcript has been edited for readability.
FMF: Hello, this is Nadine from Fresh Music Freaks. I’m sitting here with Gareth Emery. You have been producing and DJing since the early 2000s. What made you choose trance over everything else?
Gareth Emery: It was the first genre that tempted me away from rock. I never liked dance music before I heard trance. I’ve heard house music and stuff like that and it never really did it for me. The mad thing is when I first heard trance, we didn’t know it was called trance — that’s how new it was. We would just go to a night at the university we were at. And the thing is, at that time we didn’t have Spotify or Shazam. There was no way of knowing what songs were called. We were hearing early Ferry Corsten and Paul Van Dyk. It was 1998, so it was that sort of era and this music was fucking amazing and made me want to throw away my guitar and start using a computer to make music. It wasn’t until this album came out on Ministry of Sound called “Trance Nation”. It had all the songs on there that we’ve been listening to. So, we were like, ‘Oh! The music we like is trance!’ And at that point I knew and it just kind of came from that.
Lots of people have different definitions of trance and you have your own. What does trance mean to you?
For me, it’s very difficult to define trance as a genre. This can be the longest answer ever, by the way. But part of the reason why trance has remained current for so long is because it has evolved. I think anybody that sticks to a very narrow definition of the genre, whatever that is; it’s probably not that great for it. Since 1998, the original trance back then was very uplifting and then it went hard. You had hard trance with people like Scot Project and Cosmic Gate — when they first came on they were complete hard trance. Then in 2005 or so, the genre went really into tech trance. When Sander van Doorn first came around, he was such an incredible artist. Then a few years after that it all went progressive. So what I’m saying is that trance has been through so many different re-incarnations over the years. That’s why people are still into it. When you look at genres that don’t evolve, that don’t absorb other influences; they disappear. That’s the whole point of trance — I love the fact that it’s evolved. For me, it’s always been a feeling rather than a narrow definition. Eric Prydz, for instance, makes some of the tranciest music you can listen to. “Stay With Me” or “Trubble” — those tracks are way more pure trance than the trance that calls itself ‘pure trance’. For me it’s a feeling, but nobody’s got the right to define it. If people think it’s trance, it probably is.
Based on your whole “feeling“ of trance; name three songs that define trance for you.
I’m probably going to end up naming old ones because most people’s fondest memories are when they first get into a genre. “Sunrise” by Ratty is one of my favorites of all time. I first heard this song in 1998 or 1999 and the fact that I’m still playing it now is amazing. This next one is going to be a bit debatable, but I’d say Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400”. It’s still a classic. It’s hard to explain how powerful that record was. It was like nothing you’d ever heard before. You would hear it five times in a night, it was that good. The third one would be something more well known like Three Drives – “Sunset on Ibiza” or “Greece 2000”, “Cafe del Mar”, Binary Finary – “1998”, maybe some early Ferry Corsten stuff. There’s literally so many good ones during that era.
You’re playing Luminosity this year, so you’re going to be playing for a ton of die-hard trance fans. You dropped trap at Dreamstate, so what are you going to bless us with at Lumi?
Let’s just dig into that claim a little bit because people often say that to me. ‘Oh, you dropped dubstep or trap.’ The thing that people would have thought was dubstep was a remix of Public Domain’s “Operation Blade”, which was a trance classic. So it was a dubstep remix of a trance classic. Now if people are too stupid to know that it was a remix of a trance classic, that’s not my problem. It’s a good record. Secondly, even if I did play dubstep; that drop lasted 15 seconds. That’s 15 seconds out of an hour long set. If people get pissed because of 15 seconds out of an hour long set, then don’t fucking listen, fuck off. I would understand if people came to see me for an hour and I played 20 minutes of dubstep or 20 minutes of hip hop. That would be a problem. But mixing things up a little bit — I kind of enjoy doing it and it makes a ruckus as well.
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. I actually enjoyed the change up. I listen to trance nonstop, but having a little bit of a break in a set is kind of nice. I like to hear something different in the middle, something darker, deeper or heavier than usual. And you do that during your longer sets. So how exactly do you prepare for open to close sets musically?
It’s exactly that. It’s not going to be the same style all the way through. When I played New Year’s Eve, that was seven hours and it began ambient. Musically, I’ve done enough of these sets now so a lot of it is just favorite tracks of mine and there’s certain tracks I only get to play in my open to close sets. So I already know what I’m going to play most of the time. I just bring out those old favorites of mine. Then other times it’s those tracks the don’t fit into a normal set. You get to go so much deeper and wider than what you normally get to play. I’ll start playing super fucking chill, tech house tracks like Hot Since 82 and move into banging trance and that’s what makes it fun for me. I’ve heard open to close sets by other artists, who I’m not going to name because they’re good artists and people I like. But it’s like one long song because every song sounds the same. Surely the whole joy of playing all night is that you get to go outside of what you’re normally known for. At least it is for me.
How do you prepare for your open to close sets, physically? How do you like not use the restroom in the middle of your set?
Well New Year’s Eve was alright actually. And the cool thing I’ve learned now is that you can bring in some other artists — like I had Ashley Wallbridge, Emma Hewitt and Jonathan Mendelsohn (on NYE). I can let them do their thing and that provides a good chance for me to go to the restroom. Otherwise it’s really difficult not to go to the restroom unless you have little sips of water all night. I think that’s the Markus Schulz strategy — you just have tiny little sips of water all night. But I’m playing seven hours, I want to drink. Not the whole time, but as we get towards the end I want to celebrate. So I’ll put other people on and that’s how I get to go to the restroom.
Your job is to create fun for your entire crowd. So, what do you do for fun?
I like to ride my bike on the beach and hang around with my kids. I don’t have much time for hobbies. I probably should get more and that’s a thing I need to do in the next few years. So that my life is not entirely making music and playing music because it’s an all consuming job. You don’t get much time for anything else.
You have your Laserface tour and you’ve got openXclose. But what else can we expect from you?
I’ve got my album with Ashley, which comes out at end of March. It’s amazing. You will like it — you as in the audience. Nadine will like it too, hopefully. But also I just want to spend the year making the best music possible. It’s really easy (when you’re touring a lot) to get distracted in this world of constant traveling and Instagram and social media stories. This year I just want to get my head out of all that shit. I deleted instagram recently. I’m going to let my crew post updates. I’m just trying to make the best fucking music I’ve ever made because I still think I can make better songs than I have so far. But to do that, I need to put in some serious hours in the studio. So, that’s the aim. Just make music every single day and see how good I can make it because ultimately when the shows are finished and I’m dead or whatever. What lives on? It’s the songs you made that’s all that really matters, right? So for me, it’s about making the best possible songs in the next few years.
That’s awesome and true because your songs are going to live forever.
That’s the thing. Ultimately, nobody’s going to really give a fuck how many people came to see me play on ‘x’ day or how many Instagram stories I did of my lunch or whatever. And it’s really easy to get distracted by all that shit. Yeah, you’ve got to do this and you’ve got to do that. So this year I’m like, fuck everything — I just want to make music and make it really fun.
*Featured image via Rukes.com*