The transition from idolising your influences to hanging out with them backstage before they play your records is a strange and rewarding experience for any artist.
For Daniel Avery, the time-lapse was especially acute: one minute he was a boy from Bournemouth finding his feet in the heady, seductive sounds of electroclash, the next he was a regular fabric resident, basking in the patronage of Andrew Weatherall, and had signed to Erol Alkan’s Phantasy label.
To cap it all, Avery’s debut album Drone Logic has been met with a deluge of positive press, praising his textured, looping, acid-flecked techno. And when Crack catches up with him, his head is aching from a weekend spent surfing the wave of hype that the record has generated.
“I’ve been really happy with how the album’s been received,” Avery explains. “For me what’s been most exciting is that a load of different DJs have been playing it, some of my heroes like DJ Harvey or Richie Hawtin, but also new people like Maya Jane Coles and Scuba, people who I would never have expected to even look at it. I didn’t make it with those people in mind, but it’s really cool how it’s filtered in.”
From the rubber-band bass and acid hypnotism of Water Jump, to the intricate, almost gloomy nostalgia of Simulrec, Drone Logic weaves in many different directions at once. So perhaps it’s no surprise that its timeless sounds have resonated with varied dancefloors. Avery routinely describes himself as DJ first and a producer second, and his commitment to the good old fashioned craft of playing records paid dividends when producing the album.
“I wasn’t really nervous before the album came out, because almost every single track had been road-tested DJing over the previous months” he said. “I took demos out on the road and played them in front of crowds for their immediate reaction, then I’d go back to them the next week and edit them. In that respect, I already had a lot of feedback.”
Scan the press on Avery’s backstory and the thing that jumps out at you is the level of interest surrounding the fact he wasn’t born spinning a pair of Technics. Shockingly, he listened to guitar music during his formative years. Perhaps this says more about the insecurities of dance music journalism than anything else – the need to identify, in order to accept, an ‘out-of-towner’. But there does seem to be something different about Daniel Avery.
“Yeah, I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider in terms of dance music” ￼￼Avery mused, “that’s not me trying to be obtuse, but I genuinely don’t feel part of a scene. The reason I got into dance music was because I latched on to people who I saw as having similar reference points to me, and they were outsiders themselves. Erol Alkan, Andrew Weatherall, Ivan Smagghe, even people like Michael Mayer or Optimo – they were all kind of like lone ranger characters, they all had their own thing going on, and even looks-wise they all bore more resemblance to the bands I was into rather than superstar DJs.”
To be clear: Drone Logic is not rock meets rave. Despite some sniffy comments about the ‘indie DJ’ making an album of dance music, the record has more common ground with Kompakt than Klaxons. The ‘guitar’ influence comes through in the odd psychedelic flourish or the occasional shoegaze-esque aesthetic. But fundamentally, this is leftfield dance music – something which forms the backbone of Avery’s show on Rinse FM.
“I’m really enjoying being on Rinse,” he explained. “The walls of genres seem to be disappearing, and it’s not a case of ‘mashing’ things together, it’s more that genres seem to be informing each other in interesting ways. People like Pev & Kowton are making trippy techno tracks that have obviously been informed by a different kind of dancefloor and I’ve always admired their records but never been able to play them. Now I am, and that suggests there are some really interesting things happening. Somewhere like Rinse has come to stand for good quality dance music, whatever it is.”
Growing up in a provincial town, though, the ‘good quality dance music’ initially proved elusive. “I knew very early on that I wanted to move to London at some point” said Avery. “Growing up where I did, I’d go to clubs with people I didn’t like and listen to music I didn’t like. I was uninformed about good dance music – I probably wouldn’t have even said I liked dance music when I was at home. It was only when I discovered people like Weatherall who just had a sideways look at things; you could hear the post-punk influences. It was an amazing revelation, I just wanted to immerse myself in it as much as I could. The first time you experience music in that way, you can’t ever really repeat it.”
And if Bournemouth lacked a certain creative depth, Avery had a font of musical knowledge much closer to home. “Growing up, the house was never silent. My Dad was, and still is, a massive music fan. I always had music in my head. I remember listening to Mary Anne Hobbs’ Breezeblock show one night and the Chemical Brothers talking about Temptation by New Order. My Dad said ‘here’s every New Order album ever, help yourself’. I just had this library at my fingertips, I owe a lot to his record collection.”
And now – via the nuanced, sleek and disarmingly thunderous techno of Drone Logic – so do we.