You win some, you lose some. When UK trance maestro Gareth Emery first made the move from Southampton to Manchester three years ago, he did so with much reluctance. Convinced by his girlfriend at the time to relocate to the opposite side of the country, Emery wasn’t thrilled about the prospect but figured he’d give it a shot nevertheless. Fast-forward to 2010 and the relationship is over and done with – but Emery’s career has skyrocketed beyond his wildest dreams.
“And this album [‘Northern Lights’, 2010] is a nod to those last few years,” he confirms. “I just didn’t want to move to Manchester because I grew up in the south and my family was there and it all seemed too far away… By Australian terms, of course, there was barely any distance between the two areas! I’ve had people in Australia drive two hours just to see one of my shows! Anyway, it was just a case of everything working out for me in Manchester once I set up a proper office and DJ set and started the Garuda record label. And I actually quite enjoy living in this part of the country now, too. To be honest, I never thought that I would say that!”
And while ‘Northern Lights’ is dedicated to the success and good times Emery has experienced ever since his relocation, the DJ claims it’s possible that things may have worked out just as well had he stayed in his hometown. It’s that whole thing about “parallel universes,” as Emery laughs…
“Possibly it could have been just as good, but it would have been very different. I don’t think I would have started the Garuda Nights at Sankeys [Manchester superclub] because that was a direct result of moving to the north. The building where I founded my office happened to be the same building where Sankeys had their office. At first they weren’t too sure about my music, they definitely had mixed emotions about it! Then eventually I guess they started liking my music and that’s how the whole thing began. At the time I was also working from home when I moved, which meant that I was completely immersed in what I was doing – day and night.”
It’s the approach that’s stuck with Emery – working around the clock with minimum sleep and plenty of junk food by his side is exactly how ‘Northern Lights’ came about last year. Now, if he could only rid himself off that pesky McDonald’s addiction developed during his studio lockdown…
“It took me about six or seven months to write this album,” he recalls. “That, to me, is pretty quick. When you’re releasing a big project like this, it could take you forever to work on it. By the time you get a track to be exactly how you pictured it in your head, you could spent 10 years on it. That’s why you’ve got to impose deadlines on yourself and know when you’ve spent enough time perfecting it. I didn’t have a life at all during those months. I was in the studio all the time writing with no time to do anything else whatsoever. I was doing like 18-hour days with four hours of sleep. My entire diet was made up of McDonald’s… But I think I got a pretty good result in terms of progressive trance. Still, no matter how good it is, when it’s time to draw the line and finish it, you’re always nervous and thinking ‘shit, am I ready to leave it and move on?’”
Usually, you know you were right when the album receives stunning reactions from both fans as well as critics, then goes on to reach the number one position on the U.S. iTunes dance chart after just hours of its official release. Knocking Deadmau5 off the pole position for a few days is certainly also a bonus, as Emery chuckles.
“It’s just been a mad year overall. I did about 130 shows in 50 different countries, which made it pretty hectic. The first half of the year I was writing the album, then the second half of the year I was playing it out and promoting it. This year I’m starting another album which is the most important thing for me right now.
I’ve got bits and pieces and demos sitting on my laptop but there’s not one track that’s finished yet, though. I’ve also got a remix album of ‘Northern Lights’ coming out in March. That one, especially, has been a really fun project to do because it’s a new version of the current album. The cool thing is I didn’t have to make new tracks, I just picked my favourite producers to remix the songs I already made. It’s really exciting too because some of the tracks were also re-done with live musicians and that’s a whole new level of production.”