Gareth Emery: 95% of Trance is Cheesy Bollocks
In all honesty, most trance is shite. 95% of the promos I receive are just crap, totally unplayable, generic production and derivative melodies youve heard a thousand times before. They might be alright for 16 year old kids who have just graduated up from Lasgo, but not for anyone with at least partially developed taste.
24 year old British DJ/ producer Gareth Emery is the first to admit the genre hes most associated with trance, comes with more than a little baggage, though hes equally happy to defend it to the hilt.
Ive had loads of people come up to me after a set and ask what was that music you were playing? and I reply something like I dont know some sort of trance I guess, and theyll be like no way was that trance, I hate trance yet I was loving your set, he laughs.
I guess Im on a mission to try and show people theres another side of the genre thats much more edgy, leftfield and, dare I say, mature; a side that incorporates a lot more influences from house, tribal, techno and electro, and that totally blows away the sickly-sweet nonsense that a lot of big names spoon-feed to the kids.
But, and this is a huge but, the 5% that dont fall into that shite category are great, really quite special, against all odds theyre some of the best dance music records in any genre, and its this 5% that keeps my faith, he continues.
Unfortunately, most people who arent really into trance might get to hear one or two sets a year and theyll invariably be dreadful, so they assume the rest of the genre is like that as well and brand the whole lot as a load of cheesy bollocks.
Tipped by Mixmag in 2002, Emery is now a regular guest at UK clubs including Godskitchen, Slinky and The Gallery, co-runs his own label 5AM and produces records as GTR though hes quick to point out he started his precocious career as a DJ.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You said in a recent interview: As a producer cum DJ, you do find yourself under a hell of a lot more scrutiny from people than a DJ whos never produced might do, even though they might be a worse DJ: why do you think its like that?
Gareth Emery: Its like this: if youve helped make your name by producing, people often think youve fast-tracked your way to playing in the big clubs, and although thats true to a certain extent, it doesnt mean you cant DJ. I was personally DJing before I was producing. The problem is essentially caused by two groups of people: bitter, non-producing DJs who wish they could jump up the ladder in the same way, and producers who are dismally bad DJs but who still get booked. Clubs should really work out if a producers any good or not before booking them as a DJ, but sadly most trance clubs just book flavour of the month producers on name alone without even checking out a set of theirs. That means you get loads of producers who turn up at a club, play a pre-planned set of all their big hits plus a few tracks done by mates of theirs, all mixed with zero technical aplomb, and they end up giving a bad name to all the other producers who know what theyre doing behind the decks.
Skrufff: Have you encountered any big name DJs who have surprised you by their lack of skills?
Gareth Emery: You know, I havent really. Perhaps Ive just been lucky but with most of the big names Ive played with, its been obvious why theyre big names. Even some that might be slightly below par in technical ability might make up for it with track selection and general presence, and thats alright with me.
Skrufff: Youre much younger than most of the big name jocks: have you ever encountered hostility or anyone trying to trip you up?
Gareth Emery: Yeah, of course. The dance scene has no shortage of twats, as pretty much anyone in it will vouch for. However, the interesting thing is that all the genuine big name jocks are usually really sound. After all, theyre the ones raking it in and rocking the choicest clubs every week; theyve not exactly got much to be hostile about. You usually find the biggest knobs amongst the B and C list wankers that have been knocking about for donkeys years but never quite made it to the top which theyre quite bitter about, and those are the ones that see younger people coming through as a threat.
Skrufff: I read youre growing your hair long, now that clubbers all face the DJ, how important is brand and image these days for DJing?
Gareth Emery: Its definitely become increasingly important, and although its all meant to be about the music, theres no doubt someone with a bit of rock-star presence is more interesting to watch behind the decks than some look-at-the-floor no-mark nerd. That said, that wasnt the primary reason behind me growing my hair I just got bored as Id had variations on the same haircut all my life and wanted a change. Unfortunately, to get to the holy grail of longer hair, youve got to get through the grim stage of mid-length hair first, and whether I manage that or pack it in and get it all cut off again is yet to be seen.
Skrufff: Whats been the biggest disaster youve experienced behind the decks?
Gareth Emery: Oh god, there have been loads. Probably turning off the wrong deck about six tunes into my debut appearance at Godskitchen and plunging the entire club into silence for a few seconds. It was going great up until that stage, until I got a bit over-zealous and royally fucked it up. Although I laughed it off, I felt absolutely gutted until Mark from Godskitchen came over and told me not to worry because a pretty big DJ had done exactly the same thing the week before, which made me feel a bit better. The rest of the set was wicked. That hasnt happened since, thanks to Pioneer and their CDJ-1000s with eject-lock.
Skrufff: You also said recently iIts a transitional period, music changes, fashion changes, and at the moment dance music in the UK is having a tough time, but thats life: do you ever worry that certain genres could become obsolete, such as trance?
Gareth Emery: I dont worry about it, but sure, it could happen. If you look at trance, that particular scene has got a hell of a lot smaller over the past three years, and whatever people might say, its continuing to shrink: there are fewer clubs, less labels, not as many big crossover records. Whos to say it couldnt die out altogether? You cant worry about this stuff though, the whole reason I like the dance scene is that its always re-inventing and morphing into something new. I dont pigeon-hole what I do into a genre, its just quality dance music, which there will be always be a place for.
Skrufff: How much do you see DJs like Tiesto and PVD as role models?
Gareth Emery: Not much these days. Obviously a few years back when I was a clubber they were role models, because I was going out and seeing these guys behind the decks, and thinking how much I didnt want to be in the crowd: I wanted to be where they were standing. Ive still got massive respect for what theyve put into the scene, theyve both made some incredible records and I owe them both a lot for helping me out on my way up theyve both been really good supporters of my tracks. But as role models, no. These days Ive got my own studio, I co-run one of the best trance labels in the world, and thus its about carving out my own sound and doing my own thing, not imitating anyone else.
Skrufff: Your online biog talks of bitter genre politics: sounds quite specific, have you been burned in the past?
Gareth Emery: That quote was something in the press release for my last mix album, we wanted people to actually listen to it as a dance album rather than just thinking its a load of trance and dismissing it. Its really hard to try and change peoples negative perceptions, but a lot of people were pleasantly surprised. The next album will be even less restricted by genre and should continue to blur the boundaries watch this space.
Five AM Volume Sessions is out now.
Jonty Skrufff (JontySkrufff.com)