To say Gareth Emery has had a good year would be a vast understatement. Over the past twelve months, the popularity and buzz surrounding the young Brit reached explosive proportions, culminating in him being voted no.9 in 2009’s definitive DJ Mag Top 100 poll: one of only a handful of DJs to crack the world’s top ten before the age of 30.
Was this down to producing pure club anthems like Exposure and Metropolis alongside stunning remixes for Armin van Buuren and Above & Beyond, all of which led to him spending more time at the top of Beatport’s trance chart than any other artist in ‘09? Maybe it was the launch of his new Garuda label and club night, responsible for selling out Manchester’s iconic Sankeys club four times in a row whilst releasing his critically acclaimed compilation ‘The Sound Of Garuda’. Or perhaps it was the sheer amount of people he played to, banking half a million air miles travelling to over one hundred gigs at some of the world’s finest clubs and festivals. Whatever the reason, one thing is for certain: he’s on fire like never before.
Of course, what seems like ‘overnight’ success is usually the result of years of hard work, and Gareth Emery is no exception. He started learning the piano at 4, and whilst he’d completed his classical music training before he’d finished school, his real interest lay elsewhere, initially in guitar-based sounds. This was the UK in the mid-90s with Britpop and indie the order of the day, although as one might expect, Emery was no slouch, following the footsteps of Green Day and Oasis by headlining Southampton’s legendary Joiners venue at the age of just 15 with his band at the time. But it was a chance trip to Ibiza in 1998 that opened his eyes to the appeal of dance music, and after spending the next three years learning to make music with computers and midi, rather than guitars and pianos, he wrote his first electronic classic: the seminal ‘Mistral’, famously made whilst on holiday in France on a £500 laptop. Plenty more were to come.
These days, his records (which are composed, produced, and engineered entirely by him), span the worlds of trance, progressive, electro, techno, and a few other places. Languid, spacey grooves, juddering basslines and original melodies that take your breath away mean that it’s a given that Armin, Tiesto, Oakenfold, and Judge Jules have all been fully paid-up members of the Emery fan club for years. But more importantly, he’s firmly established as one of those rare producers who values quality over quantity, preferring to make five amazing records in a year then twenty average ones, and even happily refusing to release a track if it doesn’t feel “just right”, to the occasional frustration of his fans. It’s this uncompromising attitude, that drive for something unattainably perfect, that has made him one of the most sought-after producers and remixers on the planet.
But if there’s one place where he’s even more at home than in his studio, it’s behind the decks, where he’s morphed into the consummate superstar DJ, unequivocally demolishing dancefloors the world over. From global superclubs like Zouk in Singapore and Guvernment in Toronto, to epic festivals like Global Gathering, Trance Energy and Dance Valley, to the mega-brands like Ministry of Sound and Godskitchen, the utterly unique, instantly recognisable Emery sound continues to pack out more clubs, in more places across the world, than ever before.
The rise of Gareth Emery to dance music’s premier league has been untraditional in almost every sense, and looking at his career, one gets the feeling he almost likes being the underdog. In 2009, when he was advised against launching his Garuda club night in the midst of one of the harshest recessions in living memory, he went ahead regardless, going on to totally sell-out every Garuda party that year. He also chose the road less travelled in 2006, when he turned down numerous offers from established radio stations to instead experiment with a virtually unknown format known as podcasting. It was a gamble that paid off, as four years and 100 episodes later, The Gareth Emery Podcast is now one of the most popular and influential dance music downloads in the world, with Emery’s famously diverse track selection and charismatic broadcasting style resulting in TGEP being nominated for ‘Best Podcast’ at the Miami Winter Music Conference IDMA Awards three years running.
Having also eschewed the lure of corporate major labels since the beginning, (almost all of his singles have been released on his own imprints), he’s living proof that you can amass a truly global following with little more than the power of the internet and some outstanding music. With millions of viewers on YouTube and legions of fans on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, he’s a modern artist in every sense of the word; one with his finger truly on the pulse of the globalised, digitised planet we now inhabit. He sums it up in a recent interview: “At the start, there was no helping hand: I had no record deal, no money, and no idea about how to make my way in the music business. Basically I was just a kid from Southampton, who was making half-decent music on some very cheap equipment, and told people to check it out. The rest just sort of happened”. Inspirational stuff for talented kids everywhere.
With a list of achievements already far surpassing most DJs ten years his senior, Gareth Emery could easily sit back and be content with his lot, but you get the feeling that won’t be happening. After seeing his Garuda brand become the hottest label and club night launch in recent years (the quantity of Garuda t-shirts you now see at Emery gigs is testament to that), his plans for the next year are firmly rooted in the studio, where he’s determined to finally finish his long-anticipated artist album. “2009 was really all about Garuda. I started the year without a real home for my music, and now I’ve got one – as well as our Manchester residency which really was the surprise success of the year. But whilst Garuda has some amazing releases and nights lined up for 2010, for me, the next year’s all about finishing my album. I’ve been promising it since 2006, and whilst making a LP is undoubtably challenging when you spend half of your life abroad touring, I’m determined to put everything aside to finally nail it this year”.
At just 29, Gareth Emery’s well on the way to conquering the electronic music world, and if he finally cracks that artist album, he might just do it. Whatever happens though, 2010’s set to be a big one, as the worldwide Garuda massive eagerly await to see what’s coming next from this uniquely talented artist. We can’t wait - see you on the dancefloor.