Master beatsmith George Evelyn, aka DJ EASE, is a modern day production whiz. Like a latter day Quincy Jones, he's seen more musical movements come and go than most of us have had hot dinners, and had the skills and imagination to offer his own individual take on them all with his languid production project Nightmares on Wax.
From the acid house/old skool electro hybrid of debut 'Aftermath' to the reggae lilt and smoky soul of last record 'In a Space Without Sound', he's always flummoxed and delighted us at every turn.
New album 'Thought So…', dropping at the end of August on Warp, sees him return to the elements of third album 'Carboot Soul' – namely lip smacking laidback funk and hip hop-derived grooves, delivered with a live organic edge imparted by a crack team of musicians. Recorded while on a road trip from Leeds to Ibiza, transporting his studio to a new home in the sun in the process, the record is soaked in sunrays and Balearic bliss. We phoned up Evelyn to get a little more info…
The lion's share of 'Thought So' was recorded while moving home on a road trip across Spain to Ibiza – what prompted you to take this step?
"The whole concept came out of me moving to Ibiza. It was an inspired idea, I was getting interested in the power of thought. I realised, going into this spiral of thought about how I was going to get my studio to Ibiza, I couldn't just get it on a removal truck, and I realised I was gonna have to take it myself. Through having this conversation with a friend, I thought if I'm gonna take the studio myself, all the gear, I thought it would be worth recording something, and that led to the idea of setting up all the equipment in the camper van, going through that whole process. I realised that that had all manifested from that single thought. The album is based around that one thought, that became a million experiences and creations, that became all the tracks, the experience of what happened on the road trip, the whole thing. That's basically it, so it made sense to me calling the album 'Thought So…' as a result. Also the definition of whatever you put out there, whatever you're thinking about becomes your reality, whether that's creating music, whether that's how you look at somebody, that's all based on what you think."
To what extent did the experience on the road trip inform how the tracks ended up sounding?
"Even though I'd got the concept and idea of going to do this road trip, I'd already made the decision that I wasn't gonna plan any of the music, just see how it all pans out. It changed from day to day, we'd do two tracks in a day, and then have a day off from making music. Sometimes one of us would be on the camper, and we'd have to say look outside, because you'd forget, you'd be in this bubble making tunes, and you'd be in the Pyrenees Mountains. All the tracks have got different backgrounds to them, different moments happening. It's been a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, because there was no way you could use the first track we recorded as the first track on the album, that ended up as being the track 'Pretty Dark'. We shot a lot of DVD footage on the trip as well. All the tracks have got different stories behind them. The vibe of the journey is picked up on the album."
The album has a more live feel this time around – did you want to give the music a more organic focus?
"Yeah, I think if anything it's a bit more like 'Carboot Soul' and 'Smoker's Delight' because they incorporated that live element. The only thing I decided was that I was gonna try to do this album with a more basic approach. It was purely bouncing off people's tunes, the different inspirations. It's way more organic in that way so therefore it feels more live than the previous two albums. I think it does have more of a band feel."
How has Ibiza been treating you and how has it effected the N.O.W. sound?
"Two years ago was when I moved and at the time I was exhausted, I wasn't interested in piecing together the album straight away. I thought I should do it the next summer, and at the time I was doing these beach parties over here, and having lots of my crew over, people from my label over. It became almost impossible to make any music, you see everyone else lounging by the pool and you're in the studio. It doesn't work, I realised that the winter is the time to go really deep on it. Last winter is when I did that. It goes from being two million people in the summer to 20,000 people. I can't say it's completely dead, it's more alive if anything, it's just different. I found myself going in and making these tracks and realising that I wasn't pooling on the resources that I would with my previous albums, which would be going to hang around in my local neighbourhood, hanging around at friends' houses. Now we're living in paradise in the middle of the country. It's just different. You realise that your environment is also internal, when you go there you realise there's another world in there. There's a bit of two-ing and fro-ing with me, because I started to get a bit self-conscious about the fact that the road trip has gone and happened now. I thought maybe I should have finished it straight away. When I dropped that issue, and I got on with it, remembering the road trip, I was like wow! It's come back round. The Ibiza influence is definitely there because in the winter you've got so much clarity. When it comes to tapping into things musically, it's different. It's been better for me on a creative level. In the city, I did things and slept on 'em, did things and slept on 'em, but I wouldn't say that either one is better than the other."
What's happening with your Wax On label?
"We just dropped a Wax On compilation album which I put together, and the Gelka album is dropping just before my one, I've got them coming out to play the N.O.W. launch party at the Ibiza Rocks hotel on the 20th August. The label is taking massive steps, to be honest with you, I think that doing the label, with this new generation of kids coming through has really inspired me. On a doing level it's helped me get my album done."
What's the story with your Wax On parties?
"We've been doing Wax Da Beach since last year at Kumharas, but with all the law changes, they've been coming down heavy on a lot of people, the people who are more laidback and have more of a hippy nature. Kumharas is closed until 9th September, but when it opens we're gonna throw a load of big parties there throughout the month. There's a possibility that we might be doing something in Formentera as well. But the main focus for me is working on the label and getting the next load of acts coming through. We've got a Negghead album coming, too."
How about the house side of things, you been feeling that?
"The only club I've been to recently is when I went to Manumission at Amnesia, I did a bit of sound design, for a performance that they have there. And I actually went there to get check out the performance, I hadn't been to Amnesia for 15 years, it was quite an experience - I really, really enjoyed it! The venue is fantastic. I've not been dipping my head into the club scene this summer, but I will be venturing out as the months pass. My favourite months here are August and September."
"I'm gonna focus on the Wax On label, and the next thing for me really is that we've got a tour, in November, which is gonna hit America, and there's talk of coming over to the UK."