Charming and cheerful when he picks up the phone, you wouldn’t think that English DJ and producer Gareth Emery has just spent three months in lockdown, having a massive effect on the release of and tour for new album The Lasers. But the guy is rolling with the punches, happy in the knowledge that the new record is a banger.
“The Lasers is my imaginary band that I wish I was a member of,” he says. “When I wrote the album, it felt like a band album. Then I started thinking, ‘If I was going to start a band now what would I call it?’ Most of my favorite bands have ‘The’ in their name, and I’m known for crazy laser shows. I almost told myself that it’s a new project, which allowed me to have a little bit more freedom because I could drop the expectation that comes with making albums under my own name. When it was finished I decided to put it under my own name but call it The Lasers.”
Over the years, Emery has seen his sound switch between, and blend, trance and progressive house. He’s been in the game for a shocking 18 years now, releasing four full-length albums (including the new one) along the way. His style has evolved, he says, as his location shifted and tastes changed.
“When I started, I was playing underground trance in the nightclubs of England,” he says. “These are hot, sweaty venues. You could barely see the DJ because the smoke would be so thick. They’re open till 6 in the morning, everybody would be off their tits, so the music is dark. Probably the first real change is when I started playing a lot in the United States, because the venues weren’t open as late. I feel as well like the scene in America was more alcohol-based whereas the scene in England was more drug-based. When I moved to the U.S., my music just became a little less underground, a little more commercial, with a few more vocals.”
In the past year though, he’s gone further back into his roots, exploring more of a “band” sound. Prior to DJing, Emery played guitar and wrote music for bands, and that’s a vibe he wanted to bring into his electronic project.
“I used the same vocalist on all the tracks because I wanted to get that same consistency you get when you’re listening to a band, and I didn’t really work with any other features — I worked with one other songwriter who helped me develop my ideas,” he says. “So every song is my own life, my own experiences, and it was almost going back 20 years.”
Emery kept busy during lockdown, performing two very elaborate virtual sets.
“We did two pay-per-view livestreams,” he says. “Each one was super successful. We sold 3,000 tickets for each stream. This was a full production. We built a full laser rig in my garden and the way we filmed it, you couldn’t tell you weren’t watching a massive rave. Loads of smoke — it looked super cool. That is a concept that could be a good model if live shows don’t come back, but I’m still crossing my fingers that we’re gonna be in front of crowds if not this year then early next year.”
Finger’s crossed for sure. Emery says that there are three things he’s simply chomping at the bit to do.
“I’m looking forward to getting on a plane, checking into a hotel, and then playing my music for a big fucking crowd of people,” he says. “Every day I’m dreaming about doing those things again.”
Gareth Emery’s new album The Lasers is out July 10.