Nightmares on Wax Never Looked Back, Until Now
“I think if you go in the space of wanting to change something, that means you’ve got regret. “
For George Evelyn, the face, soul, and creative mind behind Nightmares on Wax—the success and longevity of his career is the result of a need to always be moving forward, never dwelling on the past. A full twenty three years after the release of A Word of Science, his debut album on Warp Records, and a monumental twenty five years since he first began his journey as an artist, Evelyn—often known as DJ E.A.S.E, has just released a commemorative box set entitled N.O.W IS THE TIME, a two-disc compilation that acts as an auditory time capsule, guiding listeners through many of the artist’s most beloved cuts, from the meditative “Morse” to the sinister “Aftermath.” A special version of the release even calls in some of Evelyn’s friends and collaborators from throughout his career to lend their hand to some intriguing remixes, from Special Request (the jungle alias of his longtime mate Paul Woodford) to techno kingpin Loco Dice.
“It’s been emotional. There’s been points where I’ve heard songs like I’d never heard them before, which is bizarre, even though I wrote them, because of wherever I was in my head at that point, you know I obviously was somewhere else. You can be so disconnected to what you’re doing even though you’re doing it. “
Many long-standing artists have adjusted their sounds and vision to mesh with current trends, but that’s never been Evelyn’s style, as he strives to create and present music that exemplifies the type of world that the artist yearns to live in, and see happening around him.
“I see my music for the soul, and I don’t think soul is a genre—I think it’s a feeling. And I genuinely believe this when I say this, that the world needs more good, it needs more people to believe in the good, it needs more people to feel the good, because it’s so easy to be the opposite.”
Nightmares on Wax finds himself Warp Records’ longest running artist, which is fitting seeing that both entities are just now celebrating twenty-five years in the music business. “They call me the grandaddy,” stated Evelyn. I discussed with the artist what’s it been like to see the label progress and evolve over the years, with the influx of new producers, sounds, and visions. “It’s like a movie man, and it’s still going.” He went on to discuss how he came to join the label back when it was still a tiny prospect. He remember the times when he and early collaborator Kevin Harper drove around as eighteen year old kids attempting to promote their demos, borrowing money for test pressings, and how he came to meet Steve Beckett (one of Warp’s three founders) who at the time was working the counter at a local record shop, with aspirations of his own to start up an imprint. Three months later, the chance encounter resulted in the second release ever on Warp, with Nightmares on Wax at the helm. “To think that it organically happened in that way is quite amazing now. It’s like a fairytale.”
Left: George Evelyn (DJ E.A.S.E), Right: Kevin Harper
On the rooftop of futuristic hotel and nightclub, Yotel, the setting for Evelyn’s nighttime performance at NYC’s Santos Party House (part of his on-going N.O.W IS THE TIME world tour), I ask the artist if he thinks today’s music holds the same kind of soul and positive energy that makes up his ethos as a producer and DJ. “I hear a lot of frustration in music; when I hear the commercial EDM stuff it sounds forced, like they’re trying to push a feeling and issue on you. Even if they’re singing about loving a girl, it doesn’t sound true and it’s all superficial.” For Nightmares on Wax, many of his most beloved productions succeed in that their messages are open to the interpretation of the listener, being mostly instrumental tunes, what one feels and takes away is totally up to them.
“I believe that if you listen and you feel what I feel—you know it’s true. It’s not about a style, or fashion or trend, it’s about being truthful and being honest. And when you’re coming from the heart, it resonates with people.”
Nightmares on Wax DJing at Boiler Room London
Towards the end of our chat, George and I discussed the changes in how his music is being distributed - from the days he was borrowing money from his mum to do test pressings of his first records, to the current age of Soundcloud, and the endless rivers of file streaming, sharing, stealing and everything else in between. “There is an information war going on and it’s just like, how much can I get your attention and how can I get you to listen to the information that I want to share with you?...but it’s important to accept change, I think the resistance of change is what is gonna get you stressed.” Luckily for Nightmares, he’s been in the game for so long that his decade spanning career gives him the jump on new starters. “I’m fortunate because I’ve got the years behind me, and I’ve built my fan base and its been pretty loyal...there’s people still discovering but they’re doing so on a foundation that I already have.”
Nightmares on Wax performing live on his N.O.W IS THE TIME 25th anniversary tour.
I found myself at Evelyn’s show in the outskirts of chinatown the night after our talk and couldn’t help but notice the nostalgia in the room. Sure, there was a younger contingent of fans like myself, those who may have only been exposed to the artist’s music in recent years, but there was also those who followed NOW’s music from the get go, with their tattered Warp T-shirts, who shout requests for the artist’s more obscure cuts.
According to Evelyn, the process of putting together the commemorative compilation was truly a trip down memory lane, one in which he revisited old memories - some good, some bad - the many obstacles he overcame to succeed as an artist, and the countless influential people he had met.
“I’ve never looked back. So, for the first time ever in twenty-five years, I actually have. It’s been emotional, there’s been lots of healing, lots of phone calls to people, everyone that’s ever been involved. It’s all just been like...wow.”
David is an Associate Editor of THUMP...and is on Twitter. @DLGarber