Exclusive Interview: Gareth Emery Talks Electric For Life, Marathon Sets And New Album

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Do you try to balance enough of your own records with other people’s records in your sets? Or is that not a concern?

Gareth Emery: I always know that there’s a certain amount of my records that need to be played. Like “Concrete Angel,” “U,” “Sanctuary,” those have to be played. I’ll always play some unreleased material, too, just to test stuff out. In fact, getting to play those is better for me than the people out there, because I get to see how they react. And in a longer set, people do expect to hear more old material. So I’ll dig a bit deeper and bring out stuff from Northern Lights and whatnot.  I mean, some of these tracks are like 7 minutes long. You can’t play that in a regular set. These are the nights though where I can pull those records out, and it’s nice.

You mentioned unreleased material. Has this tour been a good testing ground for that?

Gareth Emery: Oh yes, massively.  The thing is, with your standard 2 hour set, you need to be careful when you drop an unreleased record. Because those don’t normally get the reaction that your older material does. Especially if it’s a vocal track. With these long sets though, you can play records that no one really knows, because people are expecting it. And they’re a lot more forgiving, too.

With a 1 hour festival set though you gotta be careful. I’d be nervous dropping unreleased material in a situation like that. Especially if it’s a vocal track. If it’s an instrumental you can kind of get away with it, but I probably wouldn’t do a vocal song.

Even with “Concrete Angel,” it never got much of a reaction until people really knew it. If it’s a vocal track, people need to know it.

And what about your upcoming album. Will it be more contemporary trance like Drive, or more pure trance like Northern Lights?

Gareth Emery: It’s somewhere in the middle, for sure. It’s a good meeting of the two. But I wouldn’t compare it to either of them. There’s some really amazing tracks on it though. About 7 out of 10 are vocal, too.

With Drive, we always knew that “U” would be the lead single. With Northern Lights it was always going to be “Sanctuary.” With the new album, there’s like 7 songs that could be the lead single. A lot of cool bands are featured on the album, too. Like people who have never done electronic music before. But there’s some familiar faces as well. Like Christina Novelli has a song on there. Actually, it’s the follow-up to “Concrete Angel.” But at the time, we decided that it was too similar to that song, so we put out “Dynamite” first and saved this one for the new album.

Looking back now, though, I’m like “wow, this record is even better than Dynamite. It should of gone on Drive.” So I’m not making the same mistake again. [Laughs]. It’s definitely going on the new album. It won’t be a single though, you’ll first hear it on the album.

Does the album have a release date yet?

Gareth Emery: February. And first single in November. It’ll be a track called “Reckless,” with a band I like from the UK. Back to your original question though, the album will be more trance-y than Drive, stylistically. Like in terms of traditional trance. But, you know, a Gareth Emery album is always hard to fit neatly on the genre spectrum.

Have you ever thought about going pure trance – like Gaia?

Gareth Emery: Sure, I love the idea. I’d love the idea of a progressive side project, too. Some of my favorite parts of these long sets are the pure trance, or the pure progressive. It’s just a time thing. I don’t have the time, unfortunately.

Do you feel pressure to be more contemporary?

Gareth Emery: Not really. I actually see the more pure trance sounds coming back into the industry. My sets are more trance-y than they’ve been in years. I’m excited about trance music now. I think there was a time when I wasn’t that into it, a few years ago. But now I feel like a lot of those great trance producers who deviated, they’ve now come back to the genre. So there’s definitely a rise in the standard of trance right now.

Speaking of trance, you were announced to be playing at Dreamstate. How excited are you for that?

Gareth Emery: Really excited. Insomniac is awesome. I love those guys. And San Francisco has always been a good city for me. And for me, it’s a great showcase for the new album.

You recently had a daughter. Is it tough balancing the tour life with that?

Gareth Emery: Well, the whole year really has been light on shows, which is nice. So it hasn’t been too much of a challenge. I’ve been focusing on my residencies and I didn’t travel outside North America at all really. Next year though, the travelling will pick up and that will be tough. I won’t be staying places too long though, which will help.

Like if I go to Europe I won’t stay the weekend, I’ll come back after the show to LA to where my family is. The other thing though that I saw this year is that I need to be on tour. I live for touring and for playing for crowds. So I’m excited. It’s just about efficiency and managing my time. Like I won’t take a month away from home, which I’ve done in the past, but I’m ok with touring. And besides, when I’m at home, I’m there. I’m not on my phone, I’m in the moment. I make sure I’m present.

That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Gareth Emery very much for taking the time to chat with us. Be sure to catch him on his Electric For Life tour, as there are still several dates left before the end of the year.

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