20 Things We Learned from Gareth Emery’s Reddit AMA

We cover a lot of Reddit AMA‘s here at EDMTunes to round up the best questions and answers, but we have to give credit where it is due. Gareth Emery sat down this Friday to celebrate the release of his latest album, 100 Reasons to Live, and conducted one of the most in depth, funny, and revealing AMA’s we have ever read. Read on below to learn about his history of trance, his personal history with drugs and everything in between.

1His brief history of trance

“Essay alert coming up, because I could write forever on this, but safe to say it would be a very broad definition. I first started listening to this beautiful style 18 years ago and it’s changed so much since then, and I think the change is a positive thing, and part of the reason why the genre is still so big today. This is a little at odds with the “138 or nothing” mentality which is quite prevalent at the moment, but let me give you a little history into my journey in this beautiful genre.

When I first started DJing in the late 90s, although I played ‘trance’ I was highly influenced by the new progressive movement which was big at the time, guys like Timo Maas, Corvin Dalek etc. Then in 2001 I started enjoying influences from hard trance – Scot Project, old Cosmic Gate, and all those German guys were massive, and whilst that music has more in common with hard style today, you’d hear those tracks in most trance DJs sets. In 2003, everything got very influenced by hard house, and I’d frequently finish off sets with Paul Janes / Hyperlogic, or BK tracks. This isn’t unique to me by the way – I recall Armin playing BK’s Revolution (an amazing record) back then too. Er, what was next? In 2005-6 it was all about tech trance, mainly due to Sander van Doorn and the music the Spinnin’ was releasing at the time. Every trance DJ was playing those early Sander van Doorn tracks which sounded nothing at all like the trance today, but they were fucking amazing. In 2007-2008 it was kind of a new progressive moment again – Inkfish, David West and the rise of deadmau5 were interesting so my sound went a little more progressive again. 2010 was Northern Lights era when I got a lot more focussed on songs (before it was mainly instrumentals) so you had Sanctuary, and then a few years later Concrete Angel, and then in 2012, it was, as everyone knows, EDM. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

On the most basic level, it’s about feeling isn’t it? If you feel it is trance, it probably is. The internet seems to spend a lot of time trying to agree on the definition of the genre, and I don’t think we’ll ever get there – so I just try and enjoy playing it, making it, and occasionally (like now) talking about it.”

2He thinks Trance will be here for many years to come

“I’ve heard it’s been ‘on it’s way out’ since I first started listening in 1998 (not even joking) so I think we’re good there. Trance has amazing longevity because a) it’s never really been cool / trendy (because these things inevitably then become uncool) and b) it’s something of a chameleon of a genre that changes over time to remain relevant. That second point is important.”

3Which producers he looks up to the most:

“Anyone who I think is being true to themselves and making legitimately great music. Eric Prydz, Solomun, Kygo but also Calvin Harris for sheer commercial success whilst also making great music. But I try not to reference others too much when I’m in the studio myself, or you end up copying someone else’s sound. Following my own instincts usually seems to work out better.”

4The inspiration behind his track “Long Way Home”:

“It started on a train from San Diego back to LA after a show – I was listening to the Something Corporate track ‘Fall’ (an amazing band) and the melody for LWH sort of evolved in my head from that, even though they sound totally different. Once I finished up the track, it felt pretty special, and something of a homecoming track, which is why it closed out the album.

Drive was inspired by driving from New York to Los Angeles with Kat when we first moved to the US (the single greatest experience of my life), and on that final day as we drove into LA having done 2500 miles through deserts, mountains, Route 66 etc, 5000 miles from home, but also arriving at a new home, I decided that Long Way Home would have been perfect at that moment, had it been written, and that’s where the name came from.”

5He really loves Something Corporate’s Leaving Through the Window

“It’s one of the best! Incredible album.”

6You might bump into him on the dance floor at a Loco Dice or Hot Since 82 set

“There’s not really a need for a disguise, because most of the acts I’d want to see (Hot Since 82 / Loco Dice) are different enough that I don’t get recognized that much. I’ve had a few amazing raves to both of these artists at festivals on the dance floor, and every now and again someone would go “Gareth Emery? What the fuck are you doing in here?”.”

7If you want one of his acapellas, he’s got you!

“Which one do you want? I’ll try and sort it out for you.”

8He’s not so sure about a CVNT5 show yet:

“We’ve been asked loads already, but I’m not sure. What do you think about it? Would you want to actually see CVNT5 play? Maybe we’ll do a cheeky 5 minute pop-up at one of the major festivals this year and see if we get booed off the stage or not.”

9One of his favorite artists to listen to right now:

“I love the new CHVRCHES album and newer electronic guys like Louis Vivet.”

10Would he collab with Armin or Deadmau5?

“Would love to do either!”

11His CVNT5 ghost producer call out accidentally upset Markus Schulz and DVBBS

“The director (who isn’t an dance music guy) wrote some names that had no association with electronic music, which we thought was safe, and then we were extremely creative with the bleeping in an attempt to leave it open to interpretation. That video was never aimed at anyone in particular.

Unfortunately the internet kind of latched onto the idea of a few acts, including Markus Schulz and DVBBS and ran with them… to the extend that Markus sent me a message asking if the video named him personally (ouch). And I was sat next to Chris from DVBBS flying back from Miami this year, and as you can guess, it was very awkward at first, because they’d heard the same things. But we talked it out and both the DVBBS guys are fucking lovely.”

12How he felt about getting 2 ASOT Tunes of the Year?

“With both Concrete Angel and U, winning just felt like validation of what I already knew, if that makes sense. By the end of the year, I could tell both those tracks had had a huge affect on people, and had definitely changed my life for the better, so it wouldn’t have phased me if they didn’t even feature in the list at all. But having some sort official recognition is always nice :)”

13How much it costs to book him

“It’s totally variable. Last year I did shows ranging from 0 (charity ones) right up to a little over $100,000 (embarrassingly high, I know), plus everything in between. A lot depends on the circumstances of the show. If I’m in the area anyway, and the show looks fucking cool, price isn’t much of an issue. But if I need to miss 3 days with my family to travel and do a show that might not look like the most fun show ever, then sometimes, I’d say no at almost any price.”

14What drugs he’s tried

“Drugs… I think I’ve tried all the good ones, but nothing hard like heroin, crack, and no hallucinogens (I am far too neurotic and would probably have a panic attack). That’s really in a historical sense though – I’m a parent now and to be honest, the night isn’t worth the 3 days it would take me to recover, so I stick to good old alcohol and even that I don’t drink that much, and occasionally take a few months sober if I really need to focus on finishing up some major projects. Everyone works fucking hard in the industry these days, and most people are way cleaner than you’d think – it’s just too hard to maintain the musical output you need if you’re up to 7am after gigs doing blow. Been well over 10 years since drugs were a ‘thing’ in my life, and I was always too paranoid to do a lot anyway. So alcohol’s my fav.”

15How his set strategy changes from clubs to festivals:

“For clubs, I don’t have any structure, I just wing it. Sometimes you find combinations that work, which you’ll roll out a few times, but I never plan clubs.

Festivals, it’s helpful to have a plan because the penalty for playing a shit track is higher. Play a bad track in a club, and maybe people will go to the bar – do it in a festival, and they’ll fuck off to another stage. Plus you have a lot more stuff to handle at a festival: people expect some level of performance as opposed to staring at a screen searching for your next track, plus we’ll often have custom production etc, so it’s just easier to roughly plan it. I never stick exactly to the plan, but having it there helps.”

16He wants to do more open-to-close shows

“I loved doing the OTC tour. I think we’ll bring that back in some form next year. This year is really about 100 Reasons To Live touring, but last year’s EFL tour was pretty incredible, and musically challenging in all the right ways.”

17How his caravan from Starbucks to San Diego got cancelled

“Yeah, it was bullshit. I was so excited for it, then it turned out Omnia’s lawyers picked up on it, and said we’d be liable if people drunk drove, or crashed their cars. So understandably Omnia pulled out, and said they could no longer back it, and I could still do it, but all the lawsuits were on me if anything happened, so then my guys decided it was too high risk either. The one small downside of living in a society as litigious as the USA.”

18He’s tired of Big Room

“My sets now are ‘trancier’ than they’ve been in ages because there’s a lot of good music coming from the trance world, and I’m pretty bored with EDM / big room (I can hear the collective sigh of relief here)”

19He had a rough year with Vegas residencies

“As you know last year at the SLS was a bit of a disaster, with LiFE closing half-way through the year and most of the residents leaving, and being involved in that shitshow probably contributed to not having any shows there in the first six months of this year. With hindsight, staying at Marquee would have been a better move, but you live, you learn, and I’m sure I’ll be back in Vegas at some point.”

20His essay on work-life balance

“This is a great question because the #1 challenge for me getting the work-life balance right. I don’t think I have it perfect, but I’ve made a series of incremental improvements over the last 5 years, and it’s pretty good now.

The key thing is this: it’s not about the hours you put in, but how effective you are with those hours. You can actually work less, but get more results, if you are extremely selective about the work you choose to do, and make sure you only do the things which will impact your career the most. If this interests you, the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss is a life-changing book on this subject.

Here are a few rules I stick to.

  • I never, EVER wake up and check emails, social media, or anything work-related. Why? Because these things have a habit of taking over my entire day, so instead, I’ll engage with them when the critical tasks for the day are done.
  • Each day I have a ‘power list’ of a few critical tasks. These might be difficult, or awkward, or just stuff I’d forget, but they are the 3 or so things I need to do to move forward that day. The list might look like this:

1) Produce Electric For Life / 2) Mail Armin to ask if he wants to cameo in CVNT5 video / 3) Spend 1 hour writing piano part for Save Me Unplugged video

Before engaging with the world, I do the list (or at least most of it).

The ‘old’ me would have spent a week doing these things (particularly emailing Armin – I would have put that off for weeks) because I’d pick displacement activities like Twitter or reading Buzzfeed to avoid doing the real work of the day.

  • With this system in place, I get my shit done pretty quickly – by 2 or 3 PM, I’ve usually done everything I want to do that day, leaving a few hours for fucking around, going on social media, working out, or whatever.
  • I never use my phone before bed because it fucks with my sleep. Instead, the phone goes on Airplane mode, and I read a book, which does a better job of knocking you out than any sleeping pill I’ve tried.

And that’s basically it.

With discipline, the right systems, and self-awareness, you can get more done by 11am than most people do in a fucking week – and that’s why I very rarely work past 5.30 (it’s daddy time after that), take at least 1 day totally off every week and very rarely have my phone on during social occasions, dinners, etc.

Takes some self discipline, but it’s worth it.”