Chicago was in for a full proper dose of trance music this past weekend, as industry veteran Gareth Emery reigned in a massive crowd at PRYSM Nightclub.
Delighting fans with a full two-hour set, all the die-hards at PRYSM kept up their 10/10 energy for classic anthems like “Saving Light,” “Sanctuary,” “Concrete Angel,” “Hands,” “Reckless,” (just to name a few) and kicked up the hype with his vamped up versions of “Castle On The Hill,” “Lights and Thunder,” “Mr. Brightside,” “Electronic Malfunction” and so many more. The real fun crept in as Gareth’s longer set allowed for ample time to bump up harder trance rhythms that left more melting faces, more bodies thrashing, and more hands in the air. Winding down with the ever-soulful “Long Way Home,” Gareth sent his fans into a blissful exit and left them already looking forward to their next live set with the man himself.
Continuing to stand as one of the true gems of dance music, Gareth has a genuinely special way of connecting with his fans via purely impactful music. Within the past year we’ve seen him bring four Laserface Productions to life before our eyes, with the fifth and most epic still to come this weekend at Dreamstate SoCal. With two albums in the works, both a collaborative with his beloved cohort Ashley Wallbridge, and a solo album to follow 2016’s 100 Reasons To Live, potential for the music and innovative performance to come is boundless.
We sat down with Gareth and his right-hand laser man Anthony Garcia for a whole lotta laughs, quality convo, and good (mostly clean) fun. Catch a peek at their insights, wits, and humor in our in-depth interview below!
Nocturnal Times: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us tonight here in Chicago! How did the show go for you tonight?
Gareth: I mean, I knew the club was more of a commercial club which can be hit or miss. You know the nights that are going to be all fans, and you know the nights that are going to be part fans part bottle service. And the bottle service nights, they can go well like tonight, or they can be a fucking disaster. You never know coming into them how it’s going to be but tonight was great. I didn’t have to change up what I normally play, and the crowd was pretty receptive to everything so that was awesome. It was a good crowd!
Nocturnal Times: We want to ask you about a few of the projects you have going on. You got involved with Choon and have been the face of it in the electronic scene up to now. You obviously have an interest in the cross-section of music and technology. What are other ways in which you imagine technology could positively impact the music world?
Gareth: I guess the hardest question that we’ve had over the past 20 years is how to pay artists fairly for their music. A lot of money right now is spent on recording music. There’s this myth that there’s no money in music, but there actually is. We’ve been told for years you have to earn nothing and make your money doing it live. Which for me is fine, I get paid great doing shows. But for other people, it’s a really fucking hard business to break into. And for me, if I could have some legacy that got people paid fairly for sitting at home making music, that would mean a lot to me because not everyone wants to tour. Not everyone wants to travel to 100 different cities a year to play shows.
Also, it’s not always the best for your music when you’re constantly on tour. I think we definitely see it in dance music. An artist is really amazing, then they suddenly become big and tour all the time, then their music starts to suck. That’s a natural progression because all of the sudden they’re not spending five days a week in the studio, they’re spending five days a week touring and six hours in the studio. So for me, Choon was just about using blockchain to try and tip the balance of power a little bit. Again it’s never been about me, I do fine. It’s about artists who are trying to make a living before they can tour, and Choon is a way that I think we can potentially do that. It’s a really uphill battle because major labels are really invested in Spotify, and that whole system kind of works really well for the major labels and the publishers, but not so well for artists. So just fighting a good fight on that level.
Nocturnal Times: We of course need to ask you about Laserface! To what extent does your vision for Laserface go? Does it ever stop?
Gareth: We don’t really see an end to it. We’re so passionate about the project and the thing is I’ve got to give credit to Anthony Garcia who is the brains behind it. I first met him when he was doing lasers for me at The Shrine in Los Angeles back in 2015. He did the best lasers I’ve ever seen, then he ended up tour managing me. So we’re traveling around the world and I’m saying to him like, what would happen if we gave you the budget to do your own light…and he was like well I would make it all about lasers. It really was me giving him complete free reign to go and do whatever the fuck he wanted.
We kind of realized that lasers sucked at most shows. You’ll get the basic green pattern and they wouldn’t do anything with the music. Laserface is pretty unique because every track essentially is choreographed in advance. So he’ll take a song of mine and make sure the lasers are doing particular things at particular times. Nobody was doing that. The first one was in New York and we said, just do your fucking thing. That one went really well, then we did San Francisco and a few more. We’ve got Dreamstate on Saturday, and he wants to do it in Wembley Stadium in London so…just having fun!
Nocturnal Times: We thought the show in Vegas was incredible. Like you said, it’s nothing like we had ever seen before from an artist let alone at festivals. We’re interested to see how it all unfolds at Dreamstate as it’s making its festival debut there.
Gareth: Yeah, you know at festivals they may have many lasers but they don’t know what the music is. For us it’s like, how do we make the lasers perfectly synchronized to the music? We kind of felt like everyone has amazing visuals and stuff so, that was kind of played out. It was finding what came next. It’s been super fun.
Nocturnal Times: You have a very motivational persona – everything from your music, to performances, to being a presence on social media. Do you feel like it has become a challenge for artists to solely focus on what you’re here for, (music) with the distraction of social media?
Gareth: It’s THE serious challenge. It’s the biggest challenge for artists. There are periods of my life where I probably spend, in a week, like five days on social media and half a day on music – and that’s not even an exaggeration. There are even periods where the whole week was spent doing social media. If my job was Gareth Emery’s social media manager, I’d be fucking great at it! However, my job is Gareth Emery! Which requires more than doing just social media. It also requires making music. I’ve been full circle on it and I guess what I’ve realized is if you do the music right, and you make good music, the social media to an extent will take care of itself. You look at someone like Eric Prydz who is by no means a social media specialist, but the music he makes and the shows he puts on, means that people are interested in him, therefore he has a good social media presence. I think that right now everyone is looking for the way to get a quick result by being good at socials whereas really if you invest your time into the real thing which is music, that will work out much better for you.
Nocturnal Times: What do you think would be a good way for artists to start using social media in a better way?
Gareth: If you’re an artist who has never had any success, it’s easy. I was mentoring an artist recently who is doing some stuff for Garuda but he’s not really got any fan base yet. I’m like, just don’t get involved with it. Don’t do any socials. Learn how to become really fucking outstanding at music, and when people start going “why is he not on socials?” THAT’S the time to be on socials. So if you start from fan zero it’s kind of easy. The hard thing is, say you’re in my position, you’ve used socials to get bigger over the years so you can’t just ditch them. For me it’s been very much a process of not being on there every day. If I wake up and go straight onto my Instagram, my day is fucking done. All of the sudden I’m involved with a million random conversations, and in order to make good music you need to really focus and do a deep level of work where you can’t be sending emails or doing socials. So I have to get out of that world. I’ll write five or six days worth of posts in one afternoon when I’m feeling inspired. Even though it seems like I’m there posting every day, in reality, it gets done it batches. I’ll do it in a six-hour session, and that’s how I do it.
Nocturnal Times: Which leads us to generally talk about balance. Health and fitness are one of your major keys to staying on top of your A-game and proper life balance. Would you say this is your biggest way to stay mentally healthy as well?
Gareth: It’s really important. I think we all have times where we’re killing it, and we have times where we’re not and that’s part of being human. You have times where you’re just fucking hot and when you’re not, and for me it’s really about appreciating that there’s going to be ups and downs. There’s times when I’m in the gym six days a week and there’s times when I’m drinking and partying, and it’s about maximizing the times when you’re crushing it, and minimizing the damage when you’re not.
Balance is something I never feel I get right but I think about every day, because how can you? I’ve got a load of different projects, there’s family, there’s health and personal stuff. I’d also like to have some time off from time to time. It’s impossible to balance, but every day I think about it, I think about how can I do this better? As long as you’re thinking about it, you’re probably winning to a certain extent. Being aware of it. Like the person we don’t want to be is the person who just fucking wakes up, picks up their phone, and all of the sudden it’s 10 pm and they go to bed. That’s the person I don’t want to be. I want to have a conscious awareness of what I do with my time. And I may go and say I want to spend the next two hours laying on my bed watching fucking dog videos on YouTube, and that’s fine. If it’s conscious, I’m good with it. Not like an automatic behavior, and it’s really easy to fall into those automatic behaviors because social media and the internet in general is really fucking addictive and everything is designed to retain our attention.
Unless you have some kind of awareness of what you’re doing at any point, it’s easy to get dragged into that. I’m sure we’ve all done it right, like oh I’ll just get on and look up this one thing…the next thing you know it’s like where the fuck has the day gone?! The time I realize it is when my phone is literally running out, like I’m laying on my bed thinking I’ve surely lied down here for something work-related, but that was an hour ago and now my phones on 3%. And I’ll do it till the phone fucking dies then you’re like well, now no choice left. So avoiding that is the thing. And listen, the good thing is most people are hopelessly addicted to social media and the internet in general and they don’t even know it. The moment you have some awareness you’re already kind of winning a battle to an extent, but it’s a hard one.
Nocturnal Times: This New Year’s Eve you’ve announced a special Open to Close set in Brooklyn. Why did you pick Brooklyn? Also, was there anything in particular that made you feel like now is the right time to begin doing these type of shows?
(Gareth) I love doing all night sets. It’s actually much more satisfying for me to start out with an empty room and play the first song of the night. I love that moment. I love seeing the first people come in. I’ll literally start when there’s nobody there – the bar staff are filling the ice trays and stuff, I fucking love that.
(Anthony) We’re still plugging cables in and the doors aren’t even open. I’m like dude do you want to just chill out? Starts out slow!
(Gareth) I just love that and like normally, I’m so used to getting on the stage and everyone’s like “Oh my God!” and you kind of expect it to go hard right from the off, and I like to try and make it a journey and build it up and I don’t get to play the progressive music I like normally. I get that normally I’m playing an hour and a half headline set, and I love doing the long sets. I did a tour of them back in 2015 and since then I haven’t done any so I figured it’s been three years and now we have this New Year’s Eve show, and it wasn’t right for Laserface because we did New York last year, so we were like fuck it let’s do an all-night set. It’s going to be really fun!
(Anthony) I love them as well, I mean when you have the control of the crowd that you get with the video and the lighting – people don’t realize how much the production really affects their mood. I can choose any moment of the night to be like, “Oh yeah, video is on right now!” and then people are like “Oh, Gareth!” and he’s been playing for two hours but until they see his name on the screen and they realize shit’s changing, we’re not going to be playing the same piano music we played – things are kind of moving. Same thing as him. I like to build up the night and it’s hard if I have to start off the night straight strobing and white lights and lasers. It’s fun to build up.
(Gareth) Often on those all night sets, people haven’t even known I’ve been behind the decks until a certain point. Even though I’ve said I’m playing all night, but people are like, “Wow, we didn’t even know it was you until two hours in.” And the way I kind of say it is like it’s doing my own opening set, and my own closing set. So like the two hours I played tonight, it’s basically like if you imagine a three-hour opening set for that, and a two-hour closing set – that’s basically how this night is going to go.
Nocturnal Times: Do you think that this won’t be the first and last Open to Close for a while? Do you think you’ll do more soon?
(Gareth) No, I want to do some more. They’re kind of good if you can batch them because the preparation for an Open to Close is dramatically more than for a standard headline set. Like you know, a set like tonight, 50% of the set is “Saving Light,” “Hands,” “U,” “Concrete Angel” – like 50% picks itself, so then you really only have an hour of music to figure out. Open to Close set, fucking six hours.
(Anthony) Quintuple the time, and you know the songs you’re gonna play already, so it’s not like you can just go to your “Saving Light”s and all that shit because they’re already taken anyway.
(Gareth) Exactly, so it’s a much longer period of preparation and obviously they’re kind of exhausting, both mentally and physically. Like after an all-night set you’re like wow, I’m done. But I mean there’s a reason they’re called marathon sets, like I wouldn’t compare them to running an actual marathon, but yeah. So I can’t do too many of them, but every one I do I put my heart and soul into it and for me, I want people to be like “Wow!” I want people to be fucking shazaming songs, like “Oh what’s THAT.” And I think more DJs should do them – not enough do.
Nocturnal Times: We have a couple of off-topic and random questions for you to split this up. What are three items towards the top of your bucket list?
(Gareth) I have this weird desire to go to dangerous places in the world. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been drawn to playing in somewhat dangerous places. So I’ve played in Syria, for instance. Not recently, (laughs) it’s a bit too dangerous for me right now, but even when I went it was still a pretty fucking far out place. Emma was actually on the show as well. Obviously dance music got so big the last few years, and I’m doing all these shows in America and Canada – I haven’t really gotten the opportunity to go to these crazy places where I think, “What the fuck am I even doing here?” So I want to go to some fucked up countries because I’m just drawn to them. So I’d like to play in North Korea – that’s a really interesting one for me. Various parts of the Middle East you know, like Saudi Arabia doesn’t really have that much of a scene but that would be really interesting to me. I like seeing bits of the world I wouldn’t normally see, so that’s one for me.
I want to be fluent in a foreign language. I’m learning Spanish right now because we’re going to Ibiza. We’re moving there for the first four months of next year. It’s very Spanish in the off-season, so I’m learning Spanish for that. The language I think I would be best at is actually Mandarin Chinese because it’s a tonal language, and if you’re musical, you’re actually quite well equipped to speak these languages. I’ve been taught bits of Mandarin Chinese, and apparently my pronunciation is quite good.
(Anthony) What’s your name? Introduce us!
(Gareth) **Introduces himself in Mandarin** – (our apologies for not knowing the proper characters…)
Apparently my Spanish accent sucks, but my Mandarin Chinese accent is pretty good. I find it linguistically easy enough, but the accent is tough so I’m always going to have a bad accent. So that’s on the bucket list. I feel like most of the things I wanted to do like you know, become a famous DJ. Wembley Stadium would definitely be on the bucket list. I would also love, in all honesty, to have a legit hit record, but I also wouldn’t want to sacrifice everything I believe about music to do it. Because I think I could have done it earlier if I wanted to, so I would love to have a hit record that is also me.
(Anthony) We can’t just pay a pop singer to come along, and then pay a bunch of producers to come along. Even if that’s a hit record that’s not your hit record.
(Gareth) Right, you know. Like Gareth Emery featuring Akon (laughs) – that’s not going to happen.
(Anthony) I don’t know how you picked Akon of all the people that would be weird for you to collab with (laughs) …that’s just strange that you threw it back to 2007.
(Gareth) Whoever the modern Akon is! That wouldn’t happen, but I’d love to have a hit record that’s on the radio that I care about and that my actual fans don’t hate.
Nocturnal Times: What are 2 or 3 of your favorite British slang words or sayings?
(Gareth) I have to think about this because I don’t think of them as slang phrases – for me they’re just like words or normal vocabulary, but I’m going to find them.
(Anthony) Chuffed, chisel, and gear are my three favorites.
(Gareth) Chisel and gear? Two of them are drug references!!
(Anthony) Yeah, cause it’s hilarious! “Hey, you got any fucking chisel, mate?” It sounds adorable (laughs.)
(Gareth) So put down chisel as one of Anthony Garcia’s. That’s slang for cocaine. What else?
(Anthony) One time I pull up to his house and he’s like, “Oh yeah, could you get the torch out of the boot of your MX-5?” And I’m like no, but I’ll get the flashlight out of the trunk out of my car. Like he went full English and I didn’t understand it and I had to think about it a few times. I was like wait all those words are fully not American. Who knows any of those.
(Gareth) There’s obvious ones, like I even argue with my family about it. I say “toilet” and my daughter says “potty.” And I’ll be like do you need to go to the toilet? And she goes, “No, I need to go potty.” (laughs) I’m like no, you don’t. “Birds” is one that’s not generally used here. There’s definitely funnier ones but I can’t remember them.
(Anthony) You definitely say “cheeky” a good amount. You say “cheers” a lot. Pretty much when you start working with him you’re allowed to put “cheers” at the end of your emails, and we all do that. *Cheers!*
(Gareth) Yeah, people do say though what does “cheeky” mean? In the context of you know, playing a cheeky classic. Like you didn’t expect it! It was there, it’s cheeky!
Nocturnal Times: Do you have plans to write a masterpiece like Sansa for Elise someday?
Gareth: Yeah, there’s a demo in my iTunes called “Elise.” I just haven’t produced it yet. It’ll be on the next album. “Sansa” the song, was a successor to “Long Way Home,” because I made the song and I had not ever made a song like that, and it turned out to be one of my most popular records. And I was like shit, this random song that was the last song on the album ended up being one of my best tracks? So then “Sansa” became the “Long Way Home” successor, and “Elise” hopefully will be the “Sansa” successor. Right now it’s just a demo.
Nocturnal Times: Lastly, what do you have in store for the album in 2019?
Gareth: So me and Ashley have done a collaborative album. It’s not CVNT5. It’s literally just me and Ash making music because we make music in exactly the same way, and we think about music in an identical way. He’s a really easy person to make music with because normally, you make a track and you’re like “Yeah that sounds dope” and somebody else is like, “Nah, I don’t think it does.” But me and Ash – we never disagree. We always have the same opinion about music which is why we collaborate well, and he’s a good person to own half of Garuda. So that comes out end of March, I think.
And after that, I’m going to have another album of mine. Last time was 2016 so I’m kind of due for a new one. For a time, I didn’t think I had another one in me. I was like I’ve done Northern Lights, Drive, 100 Reasons, and I was like what else is there? But then I’ve just re-inspired by making music, and that’s the great thing. You go through times where you’re not interested in it. It’s peaks and drops, like life! You find ways to get better at it, but there’s definitely times when you go through months of not writing anything, and then you find all of the sudden you’re writing like fucking crazy. So for me it’s like, if I’m not writing anything, I will find ways to be more creative. But when I am writing, I will take every fucking opportunity. So when I’m in a really creative period, I will miss any engagement or whatever, because those times don’t come that often, and it’s about getting down as many demos as possible. Because even if I’m not feeling creative, I can always finish demos. But writing new stuff – that’s kind of rare. So when I’m in that zone, I’m going to write every demo possible.
Photos via Gareth Emery, Anthony Garcia and Rukes Facebook.
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