INTERVIEW – Daniel Avery talks about his next album, France, and his love of rock

On the occasion of his visit to Marseille for a date at Le Baou, Daniel Avery gave us some time to answer some questions. Discussions about his new album « Ultra Truth » (November 4th), his love for France, the influence of rock on his music… The Englishman accepted to answer all our questions with great kindness.

Sound of Brit : First of all, welcome to Marseille! 

Daniel Avery : Merci, thank you!

SOB : You’ve been here before, especially for Le Bon Air festival ; do you have any special memories of the city?

DA : Yes le Bon Air. I have eaten some amazing food here, and great wines. But, I had great memories all over France. France was probably the first country to really accept me. Probably even soon than the UK. So France is always like a second home to me. And that’s been over ten years. So, I always love being in all over France. It’s always a pleasure to come here.

SOB : You started this new tour with a date in France, at Nuits Sonores. Could you explain us why this choice and why this festival is so important for you?

DA : Lyon for sure. I have a great history with Lyon, especially the Nuits Sonores. They were among the first to book me in France, before Drone Logic, before anyone knew me. They gave me a chance so this is always special. Since, I have played every edition of Nuits Sonores, ten times! It’s so crazy, it’s a special place. This year I decided to start the new live show here, something I’ve been working on for a long time. I wanted to do this for a long time. And I thought this would be the perfect place for it, and it was. It was a perfect night.

SOB : I was at Nuits Sonores and it was a real blow. What struck me was that as soon as you left the stage, many fans rushed to the gates to try to approach you. You came straight to them, asking the security guard to open the gate for you to talk to all these people. Do you feel a real need of this contact with your audience?

DA : Thank you. I wouldn’t be here without them. What’s really cool, especially in cities like Lyon, is that there are people who tell me that they saw me 10 years ago, that they’ve seen me lots of times and still come to see me. I like my audience: it’s a mix of people who see me for the first time, for the tenth time… I can’t imagine anything better, it’s perfect, I love them.

SOB : We have the impression that your sound has evolved over the years, in the studio of course but also on stage. What were your choices for this new show? Whether it’s the setlist, the scenography, the equipment used…

DA : I had the idea of a live show for many years. But it wasn’t clear enough in my head. I wanted something different from DJing. As a kid, as a teenager, I always dreamed of being in a band. You know, I love rock music, it’s very important to me. I wanted in some ways to inject energy of a rock gig but into electronic. That’s how I conceived the live show. I wanted a very intense, big, noisy show. And this show will continue to evolve over and over like a rock show. That’s the basic idea. About the equipment, it’s very simple. This is a mix of a 10 year career into one show. The tracklist consists of songs from all the albums, including the new one. With DJ sets, I like playing for many hours, bringing psychedelic touches, floating music even if I’m playing fast. I want people to close their eyes, to lose themselves in my music. But the live show is the opposite, it’s a fuckin intense hour.

SOB : Do you think that one day you could have for example a drummer with you on stage?

DA : Yeah I do. I’ve been thinking about how I could do it. I would love to try something. This is just the very beginning of this version of the live show. Let see what happens.

SOB : This return to the stage is the occasion to present your new album, scheduled for the beginning of November: Ultra Truth. For this new project, you said it was « looking directly into the darkness », which goes against your first albums. Could you explain us why this choice and how it is articulated?

DA : In the past, I’ve always been very interested in the idea of club music and electronic music. What I do is like an escape from the real world. In recent times, my life has changed drastically. I have gone through several major personal changes in my life. I realised from all the euphoria with these endless tours, when the lockdowns happen I realised that I was a bit tired. I was having a very exciting time, but I felt I needed to change something in my life. And that included some kind of questioning. Many things were not positive. But I had to put my feets back on the ground to stop flying away all the time and just look into this darkness. These last years were difficult for me, but the place where I found some kind of comfort was for me to go back and look at the influences that meant a lot to me in my young years. David Lynch films, videogames like Silent Hill, things that have a dark aspect. Also rock bands I like: Deftones, Queens of The Stone Age, The Cure. Going to rock gigs allows you to connect with other people, there’s a family connected to that darkness. That’s what I wanted to inject in my new record. It’s still a hopeful record but there’s that darkness aspect. It’s very noisy, loud and distorted. It’s still me but it’s heavier dark and in many ways I think it’s the most honest record I’ve done. Hmm no… everything I did was honest, it feels like this is everything I did in one record. Every element of the past, over ten years on the road.

SOB : Before talking about the content of the album itself, the cover gives already some clues about what the listener can expect. How did you proceed for this artwork? 

DA : I went back to my original notes for Drone Logic. Because at that time I was looking a lot at my old influences as a kid. The cover of Drone Logic is inspired by New Wave films, actresses like Anna Karina or Brigitte Bardot, characters who have this beauty but also a dark side. I also think of David Lynch, David Fincher who show female characters with this dark side. I feel a connection with me, and for the new album I asked myself how to do that again. I wanted a futuristic idea, to do a rock cover from the future. That’s the whole idea. The artwork is an artifical intelligence, an interpretation of a character not necessarily female or male but just what a human might look like.

SOB : You’ve called on many featurings to support you: Kelly Lee Owens, HAAi, James Massiah… Why did you choose to call on so many guests for this new production?

DA : This is something I have never done before. This time I just wanted more human elements, an album like a story, with interludes that are like poems, bits of conversations. Finally, in some ways it’s like a film, with a narrative story. I think it’s certainly an electronic record, but it’s the best interpretation of me, so there must have been some human elements. Many of these people are my friends since a long time : Kelly with Drone Logic, Haai is one of my best friends… Peoples like James Messiah or Sherelle are new friends I made on the way. They all have unique voices.

SOB : I was lucky enough to receive your superb new album in advance. When I hear the impact of the rhythms, I wondered if you ever use a real drum kit when you record. I think there’s a rhythm that’s unique to you that we find album after album.

DA : Sometimes I use a real drum kit. I like it when the music is a kind of mix between real stuff and electronic stuff. I like to use old machines and new technologies. I wouldn’t call myself a purist, I like everything.

SOB : You chose « Chaos Energy » as the first single of this new era. My first question is why this choice, and my second one is, aren’t you afraid to split your work into pieces by proposing singles? 

DA : I think that this album is a whole album, you have to listen to it if possible from the beginning to the end. I think that about all my albums, but especially this one. So it’s scary to choose a single but you have to do it. For this choice of Chaos Energy, it seems to me to be the right way to go. I think it’s my favourite and it’s recognisable as a Daniel Avery track but in a new version. I love that HAAi sings on it and Kelly does the intro. And it’s a full circle from Drone Logic to Chaos Energy, ten years. Now Kelly has become a superstar, I like that connection.

SOB : I have to tell you that I had a big crush on the track « Wall of Sleep« . Another track caught my attention a lot: « Lone Swordsman« . But if we look closely, this track was already released in 2020! Why did you choose to add it in your new album ?

DA : I did Lone Swordsman when I was in the studio the day Andrew Weatherall passed away. My friend Richard Fearless from Death in Vegas came, it was an overwhelming moment. Andrew was a very important person to me, more than an inspiration he was a hero, a friend, someone in the early days really helped me. He was the first person to have the title Drone Logic. Andrew was very important in my career and in my life. So, that day, Lone Swordsman was released, it’s a tribute to Andrew. It’s a very important record for me, and it had good feedback so it deserved to be on an album, and this new album seemed to be the right one.

SOB : In addition to this album, you have a very busy schedule: you remixed Rone’s Ghosts, proposed the single « Your Future Looks Different In The Light », another remix of goldpanda is coming up, you preparing the promotion of the album and you’re on a summer tour. Isn’t the pace too intense? 

DA : In the past, before the lockdowns, the pace was very intense for me. I was living a stressful lifestyle, everything was going too fast, it was too much. The lockdowns taught me to calm down, but those two years without touring made me realise that what would make me happiest was making music. Touring is fun, the live show is great, but the thing that makes me happy is making and releasing music. As long as I can give myself enough time, with enough space mentally and physically to continue to make music…

SOB : We know your passion for vinyl. Can you put into words the dimension that your work takes on vinyl? 

DA : It’s just the idea of listening to something as a whole, as one thing. I like the idea of putting down a vinyl, sitting back and letting the record take you into its world. That has always made sense to me. And the other point is obviously that a record will always be there. In this DJ world where everything is too fast… Personally, I’m convinced that there are still people, even young people, who want to take the time to listen. What I like when I make music and especially with vinyl is that a trace will be left even after me, the music will find its way into different places.

SOB : My brother hates techno. He’s only 19 years old, he’s just discovering clubs after all those lockdowns, and he keeps telling me that it’s just repetitive « boom boom ». So I decided to bring him with me to the Baou tonight, because I know that your music can give him access to this musical style. How do you explain that for many people you are a gateway to this side of electronic music? 

DA : It’s interesting because I get that a lot. I don’t have the exact answer, but I guess it’s because I didn’t grow up with dance music. I always liked electronic music: The Prodigy, Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Björk, Massive Attack, Aphex Twin… but I didn’t go to the clubs until later. At the beginning, rock was my first love, my great passion, and it is still the case. There are so many bands I love: Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Deftones, Nine Inch Nails, TV On The Radio… My father’s collection was also an influence: Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Rolling Stones… I think that when I started to play electronic music, I kept this passion for rock. That’s really my only answer, I don’t have another explanation.

(as expected, my brother loved it!)

SOB : But with your life as an artist, do you have time to see the artists you like on stage? At festivals maybe?

DA : I try to make time for that as much as possible.

SOB : I would like to talk about someone called James Greenwood. Could you tell us about his importance to you? 

DA : He’s a hugely important person to me. I met James a long time ago, 2008 or 2009 maybe. I was working in a record store at the time, called Pure Groove. I was starting to try to make my own music, and someone introduced us. He had just graduated from music college, he was 18 or 19 years old. He wanted to make music as an engineer, so the idea was to work together. James is a studio wizard, I was trying some stuff. Very quickly, we managed to create together and it was like magic. It was like the meeting of a lifetime. Then he became so much more than a music engineer. Most of what I did, he was involved. I saw that he was able to do everything. Especially on Drone Logic, it was all me and him. He has his Ghost Culture project, just fantastic. I wouldn’t be here without him. We work a little bit less together now, but he’s still a very important person for me and my music.

Ultra Truth by Daniel Avery available on 4 November. Pre-order available on the official website.

French version

Daniel Avery – Le Baou – DJ Set

Daniel Avery – Nuits Sonores – Show

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