Daniel Avery has brought techno to the masses. For almost a decade, the Bournemouth producer and DJ has won over not only the most dedicated of ravers, but also those who never thought that dance music could be for them.
“The best thing that’s happened to me over the past few years is having people come up at the end of the night asking me to sign a record and saying: ‘I thought I didn’t like dance music before my friend gave me this,’” Avery tells us over lunch in east London. This reaction isn’t really surprising, though, as his excellent take on minimal techno mixes dreamy and ambient melodies with acid house to create a stylish, woozy and introspective play on the genre that doesn’t just appeal to hardcore club-goers.
We speak just after the recent release of ‘Song For Alpha: B-Sides & Remixes’, the companion album to last year’s critically-acclaimed ‘Song for Alpha’. On it, Avery broadens the sonic universe he meticulously created on its sister record (as well as his brilliant 2013 debut ‘Drone Logic’), as he showcases cuts from the writing process that didn’t quite make the album as well as remixes from rising stars (Inga Mauer, Mor Elian) and big name DJs (Four Tet, Jon Hopkins).
“The album [‘Song For Alpha’] took five years to make and from that time I didn’t stop making music. [It came] to the point where once the actual record was out, I felt as if the world of the album was much bigger than just [‘Song For Alpha’] itself,” Avery explains of the decision behind releasing the companion record. “There were so many tracks I was still very fond of and I felt painted a bigger picture of what the last half a decade looked like in my life. It was pretty all-consuming, making that album.”
One of the songs he was most excited to include was ‘Glass’, which was initially meant to be on ‘Songs For Alpha’ until Avery lost the hard drive it was saved on. “It’s one of my favourite tracks from most of the sessions,” he says. “I think it really encapsulates what I was going for on the album.” Thankfully, he found it in a “dusty, digital corner”.
Musically, ‘Glass’ is the flawless example of the pick-and-mix selection of influences Avery regularly incorporates into his work. “It has a club element to it: the drums are kind of taken from a techno world, but at the same time I think it has as much of an influence from my love of ambient music, and more ethereal music.”
After two albums and now this companion record, Avery’s sound is distinctive and fully formed — but a love of the indie rock clubs he started out in remains firm. Growing up listening to the likes of Nirvana and Deftones, he began DJing at the age of 18 at the alternative club night Project Mayhem at the Consortium in Bournemouth. “It’s a night I went to every week, and I just hung around so much that eventually they asked if I wanted to play some music at it,” he recalls.
He still loves harder rock, closing one of his sets at London’s XOYO with Marilyn Manson. “It’s music that you can feel in your chest,” he says of the similarities between rock and techno. “I think that’s what initially drew me to guitar music. If you go to a gig and the kick drum; you can feel the vibrations [of it] through your body. Techno for me has a similar effect. I just like anything that has that feeling of being able to grab you by the hand and take you somewhere else. Good techno does that for me.”
After DJing at Consortium it all started to grow, and the music Avery created gradually changed. A slot DJing at Kill ‘Em All’s club night in London lead to being offered the opening set at Fabric (“They took a chance on me extremely early in my career when no one knew who I was,” Avery says. “I don’t think I’d be here without Fabric”) and, in 2013, he released his debut LP ‘Drone Logic’.
In the past six years Avery’s reputation has flourished as he’s become well-regarded for his legendary club nights and festival slots. But, concurrently, the club scene has also changed. Research published back in February by analysts IBIS World estimated that approximately one-third of nightclubs in the UK have closed in the past decade, although Avery thinks the scene still seems “really alive”.
“It does feel that in the past 10 years, more respect has been given buying the tickets,” he says. “When I started 15 years ago, you would sometimes turn up at a gig and it just felt like an extension of a bar. Even if it was a club. it felt like: ‘This place sells alcohol and happens to have a DJ.’”
He’s noticed more of an emphasis from clubs on the overall experience for clubbers, with venues like Printworks and Motion focusing on ensuring excellent sound and light shows, and making sure the whole experience matters. “They book underground names, but do it on this huge scale with huge respect to the people who go there.”
And there are also the smaller promoters who do what they do for a pure love of the scene. “What I found really exciting recently is that there are these smaller promoters and smaller clubs coming up and doing things just for love and passion of it… right now, it feels exciting. It’s good to play a small part in.”
Another trend that’s cropping up at clubs is banning of phones from the dancefloor, or even having attendees lock away their phones away before they enter the venue. “I really don’t mind it,” Avery says. “If you’ve gone to an event and it feels like something you wanna remember, then let people record a bit of it, you don’t want people filming the whole thing or whatever, but I see no problem with it personally.
“That’s kind of a nice idea to lock phones away, but at the same time I don’t want a bouncer shining a torch in people’s faces telling them to put their phones away. That feels a bit authoritarian.”
Instead, Avery believes that a club should be an escape; an ethos that comes across in his mixes. He lets the room lead his live sets, with each performance being different and feeding off the energy of the crowd. He also likes it to become a “communal experience” and to ensure that even the more hesitant of ravers enjoy it. “Growing up when I first started going clubbing, I was always such a shy person that I would find myself in the back corner of the room, and I liked finding the space. As a DJ, I want to play as much to those people as [I do to] those people down the front going crazy.”
Looking to the future, Avery has got a busy festival season planned starting with a trio of sets at Glastonbury. As a punter, the festival was “one of the best weekends of his life”, and he’s excited to bring a “few surprises” to Worthy Farm this weekend. “It just feels like a city come to life,” he says. “Which, in many ways, sounds like heaven, right?”
He’s not wrong. And if you ask around, Daniel Avery’s daily shows are some of the most highly anticipated of the weekend. We’ll see you raving at the back, then.
Daniel Avery plays Glastonbury this weekend. He’ll play WOW on Friday at 21:00, Arcadia’s Pangea on Saturday at 23:00, and The Beat Hotel closing party on Sunday at 00:30.