Daniel Avery: After Inventing EDM, America Finally Decided They Like It
Like great electronic album artists before him such as the Chemical Brothers, Future Sound of London, and Underworld, Daniel Avery has crafted a coherent, confident and ambitious album. And like the best work of those bands, his Drone Logic (out this week) defies easy categorization because it incorporates influences from outside the club (gasp!) in this case, shoegaze and, as the album's title foreshadows, drone. For every sonically combative number ("Naive Response") there's a dreamy bliss-out ("New Energy [Live Through It]") to match. For every film ready score ("Platform Zero") there is a warehouse epic ("These Nights Never End").
Photos: Camilo Fuentealba
A string of stellar remixes for other people (Primal Scream, The Horrors, The Asphodells) and other remixes from stellar people (Andrew Weatherall, Paul Woolford, Factory Floor's Gabe Guernsey), a UK club night (Movement), a radio residency (RinseFM), a long-standing collaboration (with Justin Robertson), and a recent Beats in Space, it's been one hell of a 'journey' for Daniel Avery. We sat down with him here in New York to learn just how unexpected a journey it's been.
See also: Top 12"s of '12: Last Looks, People
Do you notice a difference in America, playing for a crowd that likely has never seen you versus playing at home in the UK?
It was a really nice thing the first time I played in Brooklyn to have people who'd traveled down from Boston. It was the strongest sense of excitement I'd ever felt before as it was the first time they could have seen me. I was really happy with that reaction.
How are you enjoying your Rinse FM residency?
Good. I'm really happy to have a radio show. Radio was a big deal for me growing up. I always liked Rinse and it's only expanding now. Optimo have a show, Horse Meat Disco have a show. It seems like an exciting time there and I'm very glad to be a part of it.
What do you like about collaborating so much?
I always work with an engineer, at least. We both do stuff, but having someone who has the technical know-how of the way every machine works helps. I like using analog machines and that always makes it much faster for me. It's useful to see a reaction from a real person in the room too. In dance music, if something is good and it hits you both immediately, which the best dance music does, then you know you're onto something. Multiply that by 500 people in the room and you should see the results.
You've done a lot of records with what I would consider the best-dressed DJ, Justin Robertson. What do you like about being in the studio with him outside of possibly gaining some fashion tips?
We share loads of interests, even outside of music. I think we knew from the second we met that we would get on. He's one of those people that I've really looked up to for a long time. He's a legend. Literally a legend in that world.
What interests would you say you have in common? Ascots?
It's such an interesting time for dance music and I think we both share the way in which we view it. It's funny that we're doing this interview here in America because clearly after all these years you guys have finally gone "Oh yeah, we like this now!" despite inventing it.
Inventing it and tossing it away.
This whole EDM thing is only going get bigger and bigger and is obviously infiltrating the world. But I think what's interesting now is how the underground is going to react to it.
It's exactly like the early '90s when "electronica" became an industry buzzword, but didn't have much to do with actual house music of the time. Or the way Nirvana's Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson's Dangerous out of the top spot on Billboard around the same time.
Yeah that huge monster of EDM really bears no resemblance to what most people I know do. The same way Ratt or Poison didn't bear any resemblance to Nirvana. As soon as you see a band--and I think there's going to be a few of these emerging again--where a guy walks onstage with a keytar, I'm like, "Nah, see you later. I'm out. Nothing good is going to come of this."
I know you're a big film fan; would you ever be interested in doing a film soundtrack? What are some of your favorite films or genres?
Definitely. I would love to do something like that. I studied film at university. I really love that whole French New Wave style of doing things. In fact one of the big reference points of this whole album is Lost in Translation. It really resonates with me. There's a certain atmosphere and a feeling to it that's beautifully confirmed by Kevin Shields' soundtrack.
There's a certain patience to everything in that film.
Patience is exactly the right word. That's the word I was searching for. It's not brash in any way. You have to go with it and watch it in its entirety. My friend and I were just playing records at home on his turntable at home and he said "it's such a difference isn't there when you put a record on and you don't have the option of just skipping through it or putting it in a different order." The best albums, people have toiled over for hours, the way tracks work together, I think that's really interesting. Something I really hope doesn't get lost now in the next decade is that idea. The whole iTunes generation idea of just picking the tracks you think you like for an album and discarding the rest --I don't get it.
Well, it's the whole pruning thing, where you're really taking something away from the selector. People used to say "I can't wait to buy Dark Side of the Moon when it comes out," and now they preview everything quickly and then deciding "I think I'll just buy 'Money'."
The idea of patience I think is a very good thing.