Aesthetic: Evian Christ
Turning up to a photoshoot on one hour’s sleep is a pretty bold move, but it’s also emblematic of Evian Christ’s calm, no-fucks-given attitude to most things.
During a five hour DJ set at the Crack Magazine-hosted LFWM afterparty for the new FILA x Liam Hodges collection, for example, he tossed out tracks by Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. and a trance version of Cha Cha Slide while – under his request – the fashion crowd was flashed by an intensely powerful strobe light. On set today, he moves between pieces from the collection and items from his own wardrobe – most notably the ‘Trance v Progressive scarf’ he designed with David Rudnick and, unexpectedly, a screen-printed t-shirt with a goat on it.
“I don’t really like art, but there’s this one painting in the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight called The Scapegoat,” he explains over black coffee and pizza. “I go to see it every few weeks, I just like to sit and look at it. It’s really depressing but hyper-colourful, and it’s in this huge decadent gold frame with loads of inscriptions on. So I got a t-shirt of it! I don’t know why that t-shirt exists. I can’t imagine there’s a market for it beyond me. Maybe I’m the first customer.”
An item of clothing inspired by an 1856 painting about the Day of Atonement isn’t something you’d necessarily expect the leftfield electronic producer to own, but then there’s much about Evian Christ – real name Joshua Leary – that’s unexpected. Although he worked with Kanye West in the early stages of his career and he announced an album with Warp at the beginning of this year, Leary still lives in his hometown of Ellesmere Port, an industrial town just outside of Liverpool. Do his surroundings impact his style? “I buy or get given these expensive clothes. I wake up every day and look at them and think ‘maybe I’ll wear this’ and then I just put a football shirt and some trackies on. I’m not gonna walk around Ellesmere Port dressed in some mad designer shit.”
If Leary’s attitude towards his clothes is casual, his approach to his Trance Party events is anything but. You’d be hard-pressed to find a clubnight that pays more attention to detail: both in terms of experience for the DJs and the crowd. The nights have gained a reputation for being not only unashamedly fun (featuring Cascada, strobe lights and confetti) but a chance to see some of the most progressive-sounding artists in contemporary music, including Laurel Halo, Total Freedom, Lorenzo Senni and Travis Scott to name a few.
“You have to think about the experience you’re giving people beyond the music,” Leary says of the parties. “I’ve seen so many great artists play shows in bad venues with the wrong production and the wrong sound. I always try and push for more, and it means setting aside a budget for making things good: for confetti, for carrying around a TV and having Ezra [Miller] do stupid live videos. It sounds silly but the music deserves it. The DJs that I book are the best in the world. I want to give these people a better context for their music.”
Another thing that Leary feels strongly about is the dearth of alternative club culture and radical art events in some parts of the North of England. With bulk of the UK’s culture funding focused on London, Leary believes it’s important to encourage parts of the country that are often neglected by the UK’s London-centric media and creative industries. He also points out that trance music has always had a stronger fanbase up North than in the South of England. Whereas London’s history of West Indian immigration created musical styles such as grime and garage, Leary argues that up North “we were mainly looking to Europe and listening to all these different iterations of that style of dance music that came after happy hardcore or whatever, so the trance thing reads much more literally.”
After initially emerging onto the music scene with experimental, hip-hop orientated beats he’d made whilst listening to producers like Clams Casino, Leary has recently gone back to his roots. “At some point I just got a bit exhausted by all that and got more into listening back to old trance and finding stuff I’d never heard before and joining the dots between that and eurodance and hardstyle or whatever,” he muses.
“I got back into the stuff I used to listen to as a teenager, like donk, bounce… thinking some of this is nuts. I got into more like regional stuff and that’s been the direction I’ve been going in.” Even though he’s just about to host his first international Trance Party in New York, it’s strangely assuring to know that Evian Christ is most comfortable in his home turf, wearing a football shirt and staring at a Pre-Raphaelite painting of a goat.
Photography: Ellis Scott
Stylist: Holly McDonald
The FILA x Liam Hodges collaboration will be available at selected retailers globally