Cover Story: Daniel Avery
Cover Story: Daniel AveryNovember 14, 2022
“To me, that’s what a record label should be.” Like his music, East London-based producer Daniel Avery is a thoughtful, pensive interviewee. Signed to Erol Alkan’s acclaimed Phantasy imprint here in London, the two also share a similarly independent mindset, whether that’s musically or indeed mentally. For his new album Ultra Truth — out now via Phantasy (EU) and MUTE (NA) — he’s enlisted some fantastic electronic talent to help guide the ship, and these sailors include Kelly Lee Owens, SHERELLE and HAAi: you won’t find another LP that features a better range of smart artistic creative this season.
Originally from Bournemouth in the south of England, Avery first began producing in 2009 under the name Stopmakingme, including Hercules & Love Affair and Metronomy, but reverted to his birth name for releases from 2012 and it wasn’t long until he released his era-defining debut album Drone Logic. Now in his mid-thirties and a revered electronic artist in the very best sense, Daniel is of course here to talk about his new album but over the course of our thirty-minute conversation, he’s also open to divulge detail about his life and new love, his affinity for The Gun (a fantastic pub, or boozer, in local East London parlance) and how the past two years have felt for him. Best of all, I came off the call feeling like I understood the artist a little better — which is why, if you were a fan of his first two records, I urge you to dive into the third, which is a blast.
Well, let’s start with an easy question: why do you like The Gun so much? “When I first moved to London, I started working for the Lock Tavern pub in Camden in their office upstairs doing their events for them,” he explains. “And the year I moved was the year they started Field Day. It was a group of people and a family I just felt a connection with immediately and I’m still great friends with all of them now and Nick who was the manager of the Lock back then, when he left to do his own thing, he opened up The Gun. So it’s a group of friends who I’ve known the 15 odd years I’ve been in London: it just really feels like a family in there for me. I consider it my local even though it it’s not that close to me!”
How do you look at an album, like a new chapter? “Yeah, it does feel like a new chapter and particularly with this one. It got finished during lockdown. And while some of the recording started before the pandemic, lockdown was a really crucial turning point in my life in so many ways I was being dragged along by the runaway train of tour life and had been for several years up until that point. And when it all stops, we’ve all got forced to stop. I was left to really reevaluate my life: in so many ways. And the act of stopping actually made me realize that whilst tour life can be incredibly exciting, it can also there was also tearing strips off of my mental and physical health. And it wasn’t actually making me happy. And I realized in the lockdown period that I could still make music and it was music, the creation of music, the idea of leaving behind something after me that that’s what truly makes me happy. And along with that I was I was able to look at myself in several different ways during that period to take stock of who I was and readjust a lot of things in my life. I fell in love during lockdown. And the resulting album is Ultra Truth.”
I’m particularly impressed by the guests, from Welsh producer Kelly Lee Owens to SHERELLE. “Yeah, on the vocal version of ‘Higher’.” The key line in SHERELLE’s delivery is “those emotions had to get out.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah! I knew that I wanted to showcase her on the album: I admire her so hugely as an artist. And as a person, I knew that I wanted her involved in some way. We just spoke about clubbing and electronic music and the power of the community surrounding it. We spoke for an hour. And that line just stood out to me so much, because that’s something as you pointed out, that’s something I felt very strongly about the record itself. If this record is purposefully noisy and distorted, and I wanted it to sound like it was on fire, because that I felt like I had that inside me at that time. And above everything else, I wanted this to be a record that couldn’t be ignored easily. It’s an overflow of emotions, the entire record.”
NORTH AMERICA STREAM — MUTE (NA)
EU x WORLDWIDE STREAM — Phantasy
We should also talk about your buddy and Boiler Room sparring partner HAAi, who has also had a great year herself: she features on LP standout “Wall of Sleep.” Can we talk about her for a minute? “We become dear friends over the past few years,” says Daniel. “And we were going through some similar things in our lives. When we first met, and we became very close very quickly, and I knew that I wanted to have her on the record in some form, and it just expanded. We weren’t just gonna make a track together. I also knew that she had this incredible singing voice inside her. And so it ended up being that she sings on two of my favorite tracks on the album.”
Can you tell us what connects SHERELLE and HAAi and also what makes them stand apart? Daniel thinks for a moment: it’s an important question. “I think the thing that connects them is that they are unique characters, both of them, and they both dance to the beat of their own drum and everything that they do. And they both have styles that are immediately recognizable as theirs, and, and strong characters who bring a lot of light to the world. That’s the thing that I would say, joins them, but in terms of their personalities, they are unique. And that’s something that’s sort of undeniable.”
NORTH AMERICA STREAM — MUTE (NA)
EU x WORLDWIDE STREAM — Phantasy
Lockdown wasn’t easy for anyone, but for Daniel, it was a chance to ponder his life, his career and his journey. Or, in the words of Avery; “lockdown made us all realize that our time is precious, and it’s not unlimited. So if we have the opportunity to do special events and unique experiences, then we might as well reach we might as well reach for them.” Hence Daniel is now thinking beyond the club, to special one-off events in unique, bespoke spaces. He’s an artist who enjoys contemplation as much as the club kick, and comfortable in both.
Do you still feel like you have a lot to achieve as an artist? “Well, on the one hand, I’ve achieved more than I way more than I ever dreamed was possible. I never considered this as a career path. When I first started making music or even when I started DJing, it was never an idea that I could do this full time. So to have been doing it for ten-odd years is incredible. Here’s my dream scenario: that I can come back every year or every two years with a new idea whether that’s a new album, or some kind of new collaboration or a new project and present it to the world and to be accepted enough that I can go back into the studio and do and attempt something else. If I can keep that up for as long as I possibly can. And that’s an incredible life and an artistic life. That’s all I want. It doesn’t matter how many people to consumer or how big the audience’s every time as long as I can keep doing this, that’s all that matters to me.”
Talk turns to jungle, as it’s a key element on the new record. Did you have an epiphany in your teens to D&B? “Well, I didn’t, and I’m keen to stress that I’m no historian or expert whatsoever when it comes to jungle and drum and bass! I know that I’ve always loved the sound of it. I first got introduced to it by acts like Aphex Twin and Autechre who warp it into their own their own style and that’s how I first heard those sounds but I’ve always loved the energy surrounding it and I just want to present my own version my own take of what jungle music and drum and bass could be. It’s quite a naive take on it but does sounds like my version of it. So I’m proud of what’s come out I think the resurgence of it right now is very telling of, of the times again, everyone been locked down for so long, the energy that’s going to come bursting out the other side is going to be fast pace and powerful and kind of restless. I can see why it’s happening right now. And it is exciting. Everything Tim Reaper reaches touches turns to gold at the moment. He’s an incredible artist and DJ.”
Finally, instead of talking at length about Andrew Weatherall, we wanted to talk about Erol Alkan instead: it’s too much of a cliché to talk about Andrew endlessly, we decide. Or as Avery puts it: “he didn’t want to be seen. He was an incredible guy and amazing but he didn’t care about being in the spotlight at all times. He just wanted to just keep doing what he was doing. He definitely didn’t want to be seen as a mentor or as a teacher, that’s for sure. So anyway, yeah, we don’t have to talk about him!” Talk turns to Erol instead. “Because of his club night Trash and how he looked and held himself behind the decks,” he explains of Erol’s first impressions. “He looks like a rock star up there. Everything about what he was offering was just so exciting and alluring to me as a teenager. And I was a huge Erol Alkan fan before I’d ever met him.”
We close out with a short tribute to the label that first signed Drone Logic, still classic all these years later. “The reason I knew I wanted to be on Phantasy is that it wasn’t your straight-up electronic or club label, it was releasing bands and had a psychedelic edge to it, which comes directly from Erol. And in the same way, I knew that I didn’t just want to make a techno album or a club record, I knew that I came at it all from more of an outsider’s perspective, but more of a less filled left field angle. And it just felt like the perfect place for me. Everything clicked very easily.” The new Avery album Ultra Truth is also just a click away.
Daniel Avery’s new album Ultra Truth is out now via Phantasy and MUTE (NA).
Buy it on Beatport (North America)
Buy it on Beatport (EU x Everywhere)