Name: Daniel Avery
Occupation: DJ/ Producer
Current Release: DJ Kicks on k7!
Musical Recommendations: Japan has the most exciting techno scene for me right now. DJ Nobu and Wata Igarashi represent everything I love about DJing.
Website: If you enjoyed this interview with Daniel Avery, check out his personal website.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
Guitar music was my first love as a kid; I wanted to be in Kyuss. I started DJing when I was eighteen in my hometown on the south coast of England. We were playing post-punk, krautrock, cold wave. The scene down there was incredibly small but I got the chance to play every week.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own style?
I made a lot of electronic stuff in my bedroom as a teenager but I have no idea where those recordings are. I would like to find them. When I first moved to London other things in my life took over and I lost interest in producing. There were a few experiments along the way but I was never satisfied with what I was making. The turning point came several years later when I had the opportunity to start working out of Andrew Weatherall’s studio. He taught me to take a breath and to forget about how you think you should sound. It changed my entire way of thinking.
What were some of the main challenges when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time?
The only challenge is finding enough time to search for interesting music that truly represents you. All of the other elements pale in comparison.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I didn’t have decks at home for years so I would go to the club early and practise for hours to an empty room. The setup is not important. Arguments about mixers are fucking boring. The records are all the only important things.
How do you see the relationship between the tools you're using and the creative results – in which way do certain tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity? Do you believe in the idea of progress in DJing from a technological perspective?
I fully believe that none of that matters. As a DJ, literally all you need is good music and your own personal take on how to put them together.
Could you take me through the process of preparing for one of your gigs, please? How do you select the tracks you like to play, how do you prepare and how do you decide on the opening phase of your set?
The search for music never stops. I am confused by this modern trend of certain DJs being hailed as “diggers”. To me that is the very definition of every great DJ: someone who spends their life adding to their own musical world. You have to allow yourself to be consumed by music.
What constitutes great mixing from your point of view?
Every single DJ is different and that’s an exciting idea.
How would you describe your approach to building a set? What are some of the characteristics that define who you are as a DJ?
I’ve always been interested in psychedelic music. If I look out and I see people with their eyes closed then I feel I have succeeded.
It has today almost become customary to radically change pieces in the act of mixing and to increase the creative input of the DJ even to the level of the actual composition. What's your take on that and in how much do you make use of these possibilities yourself? Is there such a thing as 'disrespectful mixing'?
No, never. A perfect night for me is when I go out and don’t recognise a single track. The best DJs can play even well-known records in a way that changes your entire opinion of them. That is the ultimate power of DJing.
One of the most important aspects of a DJ set are the transitions from one track to the next. What makes a transition successful from your perspective? What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next - are these purely subjective to you or are there objective things that work or don't work?
You have to be able to draw a line between every record, even if it comes from a wildly different genre. If it makes sense to you then the crowd will immediately be able to feel that energy.
How do you see the balance between giving the crowd what they want and treating them to something new? What's your take on the idea of the DJ as an "educator" and is the relationship with the dancers a collaborative one or, as Derrick May once put it, a “battle”?
Whenever I go to a club, I want to give myself up to music. It’s a communal experience but it has a focus. Witnessing a DJ create an atmosphere in a room from the ground up takes patience and effort from everyone present but when the pivotal moments hit, your watch stops ticking.
It is customary for many DJs to also produce tracks of their own, thereby lifting the former 'division of labor' between the two. How do you feel about this – and in which way can both sides benefit from this? How does your work as a DJ influence your studio productions and vice versa?
They should both come from the same place inside of you but I’ve become less interested in making them work together. If you’re true to yourself in both fields then everything will make sense regardless.
With more and more musicians creating than ever and more and more of these creations being released, what does this mean for you as an artist in terms of originality? What are some of the areas where you currently see the greatest potential for originality and who are some of the artists and communities that you find inspiring in this regard?
I am incredibly happy to be surrounded by so much good music. It’s nothing but inspiring to me.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
Good, true music survives every journalistic fad and phase. Sometimes things get buried for a while but life is too short to worry about that.
It is remarkable, in a way, that DJing has remained relevant for such a long time. Do you nonetheless have a vision of DJing, an idea of what it could be beyond its current form?
The concept of sharing music with like-minded souls still feels pretty beautiful to me. I don’t see it needing to change.