Nightmares on Wax
Interview with George Evelyn AKA DJ E.A.S.E.
Interview and introduction by Ray Stevens II
Photography by Patricia Fung
“I use music as that channel to raise the vibration and that vibration is to remember who we really are.” – DJ E.A.S.E. – Nightmares on Wax
George Eveyln aka DJ E.A.S.E. aka Nightmares on Wax founder has released his newest and quite possibly best release on the WARP label. He has been producing his musical art for them for 23 years now. Feelin Good is the title and “the sonic soundscape into feeling good.” The album has ambient moments in the meditative ‘Om Sweet H(Om)e’, the rubber funk of ‘Eye (Can’t See)’ and the super uplifting ‘Be. I Do’ (The Planty Herbs remix of this tune is also worth seeking out.) As good as the music is deep, George is deeper. Reflecting on all kinds of topics in over thirty minutes, our conversation was one of the highlights of my year. George talked about the right to feeling good, “It’s simple in a complicated world, and recognizing ourselves through musical vibrations. I use music as that channel to raise the vibration and that vibration is to remember who we really are.”
This new record is so good, and it’s always positive. You have a cool message that most artists don’t have. I look forward to your new releases like, “What’s George going to say now? How is he looking at things?”
I’m just trying to remind people, in the world that we live in, it’s easy to forget about ourselves, and worry about the outside too much, when it is the insides that need the attention. That’s really what this whole Feelin Good thing is about. It’s only a thought away. It’s just if we choose to have that thought or not. We all have tests in our lives. We all have challenges, but we still have a right to feel good, no matter what’s going on. That’s the real thing that’s been opened up to me, which I want to share with everybody else. You have a right to feel good. It’s really simple in a really complicated world.
You live in Spain now. Has that shaped the way you look at things now compared to where you’re originally from?
Your environment definitely affects you. You’re a product of your environment, aren’t you? Your reality and surroundings are a reflection of you as well and affect your thinking. Moving to Ibiza has changed my life. The George Evelyn that left Leeds, I don’t know where he is now. The George Evelyn that sits here right now, I don’t know who he is ever, but I am going to enjoy finding out. I don’t think the importance is in knowing. The importance is in discovering yourself. That’s why I say that. I think we spend our adolescence trying to build up to be something, or trying to be that, then we find out later that that’s not it at all! That’s not what we really believe or that’s not what we really think. We all grab little bits. “Oh yeah, I will have a bit of that and a bit of that.” Later on, it doesn’t fit in to anything.
We just keep evolving.
The only thing that’s constant is change. Change can be frightening. I am not gonna say that it’s not, and that’s what most people are afraid of, even when they are in their secure state of living, but they are not happy. They’re afraid of change, because they think their security is what is looking after them.
They get used to their comfort?
Yeah, but they are not comfortable! This is the bizarre thing! They are not happy where they live. They are not happy with what they are doing! Is that really secure? It’s just a really, really funny, twisted way of looking at things. It’s like securing the future, invested in fear. But no, this journey is just about reminding that there is a lot of healing going on in this tour. I don’t think it’s just what we are putting out there. It’s happening within ourselves as well. As much as you want to go, “I wanna shine the light! I wanna raise the vibration!” And then you find out, “I need this to check myself. It’s an all around thing. It’s not a one-way thing.” It’s about raising the vibration. To me, it’s important to believe in the good! People can go, “You can’t be positive all of the time.” Well, that’s your choice! If anything, we have a choice. You can say we don’t have a choice, but then you have chosen to not have a choice! It’s still a choice! You know what I mean? I believe in this planet that we live in. I believe in this world that we live in. I also believe it is up to individuals to change it. I don’t believe it’s anything to do with government. I don’t believe it’s anything to do with authority. It’s none of that! If you’re looking out there for somebody to sort it out, it’s not going to happen. It’s up to us individually. I chose music as the channel to raise the vibration, and that vibration is to remember who we really are, right, good. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here. I mean, this planet provides for us. We are here. We are meant to be here. We can celebrate that and enjoy that. Then that can only create more of the goodness. The more we sit and complain about it, like, “This is bad, this is wrong!” We are just feeding all of our energy and attention into the negative realm. And that negative realm will exist as long as we invest our attention in it. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to have compassion or that we don’t have to recognize suffering, but our recognition of it doesn’t mean that we need to sponsor it. What’s our perception? What’s our next step in this reality? What’s yours today, when you get up? Is it going to be one of good? How are you going to see things and let things affect you? I don’t believe any thing is not meant to happen. If that were so, it would not have happened. I just think that we easily get into this victim role, which the media feeds to us. We see all the problems in the world and think the government has got to sort it out. We have bought into the habit of doing that. Then the government does tell us what we need, and that we don’t know how to look after ourselves, but they are trying to protect you and make you secure. While they do that, they are going to take every little piece of you away.
Yeah, there is some strange stuff going on.
Do you know what I’m saying? What’s freedom? What’s liberty? It’s all inside us. It’s not out there. As long as we keep thinking that all of these policies and all these things, are the things that are going to sort us out, I just think we are being lazy really. You think it’s up to somebody else, or it’s somebody else’s fault. Either way, you’re still giving all of your power away. That’s why I don’t believe in leaders. I don’t believe there should be any leaders. It’s up to us. It really, really is up to us. It’s not about people following us. It’s not about us following people. It’s a collective movement in that sense. That’s why we say, “If you come to a show and feel what you’re feeling, take it out on to the streets and spread it around!”
That last show that you played in S.F. in 2009, I was buzzed for weeks. All of my friends were that were there. And I told more people about you than ever before.
I would tell them about anything that you were putting out new, like re-mixes and everything. It’s for real. And you had a great message last time that I talked to you. I can feel it every time you put your tunes out. It’s super dope ambient stuff and then the funkiest shit out there with Bootsy and stuff. You’ve got all kinds of styles.
It’s about making music with freedom. It’s all about freedom. When I said there has been healing going on, it was therapy for me, doing this album. I was asking myself, “What is this relationship to music? What is my connection to it?” I wasn’t asking myself in a way that I expected a logical reaction to be there. I’m asking myself on a deeper level. What is my relationship to music? On top of that, what have I got to say for myself? It’s not like, I want to say this or do that. As that process was going on, it was being revealed to me. It’s like a therapy thing. Through doing that, I started to reminisce about certain memories I’ve made or certain scenarios that have been in my mind, whether it’s live shows or Djing or partying with friends, whatever they were. Whenever I started reminiscing, I slipped into this state of feeling good. I started thinking about that and I was like, “That just shifted where I was from into that. The moment I shifted into that memory of feeling good, I was in a state of feeling good.” I started to think about feeling good. It’s like everyone deserves the right to feel good. It’s everyone’s sovereign right to feel good. It doesn’t matter who you are. Then I started going into this whole thing, of thinking that’s not even that far away. Surely, we’ve all had a moment in our lives where we felt good. It doesn’t matter how long. It could just be that moment, when you laughed at something or whatever. So, therefore, if you think about that moment, immediately you shift your whole being. Our body is a conscious thing. It doesn’t know about past, present and future. Whatever it experiences, it experiences right there and then, so that’s what we feel. If you can shift yourself into that zone of feeling good, then you’re already there. When I think about these magic moments in music, I remember feeling good at those moments. That’s when I realized that this is what I have to say for myself. I want to make my sonic soundscape to feeling good because that’s where I am. I believe that anything you make with a pen or making music is a reflection of where you are. I wasn’t going to call the album Feeling Good at the time, until this revelation started happening. Then I was like, “This whole idea of feeling good, imagine taking that to the stage.” Then you can get people feeling good. Then I imagined doing interviews like now, and I started to talk about where we are right now. Are we in the state of feeling good right now? We are. I’m like this is a snowball. This is it. This is the shit. This is what is meant to be happening. It’s not like I have a master plan. Whatever the inspiration, and what I’m channeling now, I just have to go with it. This is what is going to be it. It’s actually trusting.
People are going to try to shoot down the idea of feeling good. Do you have people that are critics like that?
Even that’s been really good. Some of the interviews I did in Germany, people were like, “Don’t you think that the idea of feeling good sounds a little bit cheesy and cliché?” I’m like, “Well, that’s up to you. It’s not up to me to decide what it might seem like to someone else.” If I thought like that, I wouldn’t be able to make music. If I were making music wondering what people were going to think, that’s not the way to make music. That’s what I’ve learned. You have to make it for yourself 100% and then you share it. It’s not a preconceived thing. It was good being in interviews where I was being cross-examined about what I was saying, because, as I’m talking to you now, I’m talking to myself and I’m learning about the way that I interact with them in that situation. What are my responses? Is my ego going to step up or do I even need to react? Do I need to protect what I’m saying? Nobody has to believe this. The importance is not in that at all. It’s more about what you feel now than anything. The words of me getting this across are on such a basic level that when you experience the show, it will be beyond the words that I’m trying to put out there in this interview because it’s what we’re going to feel.
“Be. I Do” might be one of my favorite tunes on the record. I’m not totally sure of all the lyrics, but I dig it. I feel it, that beat. It’s killer. That “Planty Herbs” remix is killer. I don’t know what else you have going on with that tune, but can you talk about that?
It’s interesting that you picked that tune, because I was in the process of writing songs, and I met Wolfgang Haffner, the jazz drummer from Germany. The way we met was random. He was playing in Ireland and he came over to jam with me at Wax Da Beach, and then we got in the studio, and did about five tunes, but that was the first tune that we did. Then I sat on the tune for about two years. Then I was coming back from travels with my family and I was in the Madrid airport and I was listening to the loop on that track and then the lyrics came to me. What happened was that I was thinking of different people to get to do it and then I was like, “You’ve got to do this yourself.” When I came to deliver all the demos for the album, I held that track back, because, I’ll be honest, I was nervous delivering the album, and I’ve never been nervous in my life. I was like, “Wow. This is amazing. After 23 years of being at Warp, I’m nervous about delivering an album. But it felt good.
Were you nervous they would say no or they wouldn’t like it?
Whatever that is, that fear that was brought up inside me was good to me, because I wasn’t taking it for granted. It felt like my first album.
So I delivered the album and the label was going crazy about the album. Then I sent “Be. I Do” and the reason I didn’t send “Be I Do” was because of my vocals. Now the irony of this is that I am writing a song about being myself. [Laughs] Here I am being nervous about giving them the track about me singing about myself. I delivered the track, and they went ballistic over that track and they were saying that it was the best thing that I’ve done.
I just went from there to there. Like I said, it’s like a healing thing. It was a self-realization of the old me and how I would be in process of making an album or how I’d been in the past about my music, and just how much I’ve changed. I’ve always been super protective. I’ve always been a control freak, and all of that started to disappear. Whether that was working with the composer and trumpet player, Sebastian Sadavinski, I never go in the studio with anybody that I don’t know. That came out of a conversation with Wolfgang Haffner. Wolfgang needed to get him over to co-produce his Heart of the Matter album. I said, “You know what? I want to get some orchestration on this album.” He said, “I know an amazing keyboard player and an amazing trumpet player. Maybe we can both get him over here.” I said, “Okay, then.” I went into the studio with someone I didn’t know, which I’ve never done before, do you know what I mean?
We just clicked. It just happened. That was a new release for me. It was cool. Ashley Beadle mixed “Now Is the Time” because I couldn’t get the mix. I always mix all my own shit, and I couldn’t get the mix right. I was like, “I should be able to mix this.” But he did it exactly how I wanted it. That was another thing that just dropped way. That goes back to what I was saying earlier, about trying to control stuff. It’s less controlling. There’s more control in no control. It’s true. The opposites are around us. There are loads of things like that in doing this album. The “Be I Do” thing was kind of a revelation for me really. I’m speaking my truth, but I still have my ego trying to step in the way and saying, “Are you sure you want to deliver that?” It was really good to recognize that.
Was it just your vocals or your lyrics that you were most nervous about?
There’s no hiding place when you’re on vocals. It’s as simple as that. I can make beats and hide behind my beats all day long. I think that’s the truth of it. You’re on the line. When you put your heart and soul into something and then it’s being questioned, not by anybody else, but by yourself, it’s very scary. The week before I delivered the finished album, I booked the delivery date to go to Warp and I’m not even finished. I booked the delivery date because I needed to put this shit to bed. I remember I finished mixing one track, and the first few seconds, I was like, “Is this any good?” The moment I thought that, I wanted to shit myself, because I was like, “Oh, God, I can’t believe I just thought that.” So I had to wait for the answer. But to confront yourself with that after all this time, was like, “Wow. This is another new experience.” I’m used to going, “Here’s the box. It’s done.” Now I’m going, “Is this any good?” There were lots of grand revelations.
There For You”, I love that tune. Home Sweet Home” is great. It’s all there. It’s a great album.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
I’m stoked you’re here in the city. I hope you get to come back soon again.
Yeah. I’m sure. We have a lot of unfinished business here I believe. This tour is showing us lots of things. He’s always up to something new. Unless you’re here, you don’t really know. Then you’re here. It’s been four years since we came here.
Do you favor DJ or live band?
I don’t favor. If you would have asked me a few years ago, I probably would have a different answer, but now this is everything about making this album. As I was making this album, I was testing tracks out at the club, and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s how I started in 1988, when I was running clubs. When I first started out in the clubs. Then you sign a record deal and start touring and you’re DJ-ing all over the world, but no residency. No base. I never even thought about it. Next thing you know, I’m the Best Club DJ for the last three seasons in a row. I’m making this album and I’m testing this shit out and I’m playing with the drummer in clubs and doing loops and then going back in the studio. That was influencing what I was doing in the studio. Then I was like, “Oh, how can I forget this bit?” I had my studio and all my records in one room. I’ve never had that in 20 years, so my life is around me. I’m touring and Djing more than I have done in a long time, and I love DJ-ing. With the album project and the live project, the last time we did the sound system with the live show. With the album, my goal has been to make the perfect marriage between analog and digital. They need to appreciate each other, and that was my mission with this album, sonically. With the live show, I’m a DJ, so I come from a sound system background. I’ve done the live bands and the little string sections and all that kind of stuff. Now I have to find the marriage between the sound system and the band. That’s what the mission is there. That’s what this show encompasses. There’s even further that I want to go, and hopefully, when I come back, I will be there. Now I’m looking at the marriage between all the things I do instead of saying, “I do this.” Or “I do that.” It’s like where’s the marriage? Once you start going into that, you discover even more and you’re like, “Oh, shit.” I’m not even thinking of this, but now it’s being revealed to me because these are all the things I grew up doing. Now it’s time to bring it all together. I don’t really segregate it out that much. It was interesting. I went to DJ in Denver when I was in the middle of a tour, and took a step out of the band to go and DJ and it was such a great gig.
You loved it just as much.
Yeah. It was amazing. And getting the fans that came for that show was just mind-blowing to me. You just don’t know. I have no idea about the anticipation. Then we’re here and the shows are selling out. I’m like, “Shit, man.” I’m really glad I don’t know because it’s really beautiful to experience it and be oblivious to it because you can really appreciate it more. There’s something happening here.
America loves you.
It’s not just that. I see it in the movement as well. Everyone can talk about the EDM thing, and it’s always been in music. There’s always a hype going on. Over here, there is some amazing shit going down always. It doesn’t matter how bad the charts say. It doesn’t really matter. As long as you have something amazing going on underneath, always, generally, with people, I feel like there is a conscious shift going on. It’s like a calling. People want something more. They want to feel something. That’s when you have everyone standing up and saying, “It needs to be this.” There’s a collective consciousness that has shifted that way and it’s good to come here and experience that.
Yeah. Thanks for your time. Have a great time tonight. I know we’re looking forward to it.