First Light: The Return Of Daniel Avery

"I truly believe that the role of the club is now more important than ever..."

After five years spent travelling the world touring his debut album, ‘Drone Logic’, Daniel Avery has seen his fair share of clubs and witnessed the spectrum of hedonism that lies therein: from transcendence to debauchery.

Some might take the influence of the club and translate it into pure reaction, crafting songs designed only for the dancefloor to give their audiences the cathartic release they demand. Yet, Avery is no typical DJ. He took his DJing experience and patiently crafted a new record as informed by the moments of silence that lie within and between the cacophony as by the cacophony itself. ‘Song for Alpha’ is an album made as much for the oneiric, sunrise journey home as it is for the dark of the night.

In the middle of another album tour and busy festival season – playing sets that often span the four or even eight-hour mark – we spoke to Avery about the club as an escapist community, creating machine music with a human soul, and the introspection of maturity.

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How did you go about writing ‘Song for Alpha’?

The making of this record has left me with the conclusion that ultimately music finds you. You can set everything up a certain way but you have to allow music its own space and not become obsessed with it sounding a certain way. The only thing you can do is attempt to make an honest statement. It renders the idea of an ‘unproductive’ day irrelevant as everything you try contributes to the final piece

. ‘Song for Alpha’ seems a more introspective record; do you feel it’s a reflection on your maturity?

I dislike the maturity description as a record is only ever a document of an artist at a particular moment in time. ‘Drone Logic’ was made over five years ago so I would be concerned if ‘Song For Alpha’ sounded the same but I agree that its tone is a more introspective one. It’s less urgent and far more concerned with ideas of light and dark.

I interviewed Kelly Lee Owens last year and she spoke about recording in your studio by the Thames having a calming, meditative effect on her record – was there a similar effect for you?

Absolutely. You can see the financial district across the water so don’t feel entirely isolated from the city but the immediate surroundings are very quiet. It’s a space where I’m able to take a breath away from the kinetic restlessness of the weekends. I would go as far as saying the studio itself was the most important instrument during the making of the record.

How much does your surrounding environment – either the bustle of cities on tour, or the serenity of the studio – inform your writing?

Everything has an effect but I’m only ever able to make music in the studio. I fill countless notebooks with ideas when I’m travelling but the actual music only ever starts to form when there is a certain level of stillness. Finding a balance between these two worlds has become increasingly important in my life and I believe that search can be heard at the heart of the new album.

What’s the appeal of the album format to you? Do you like the idea of the album being a holistic listening experience, one which the listener should encounter from start to finish?

That’s exactly it. An album requires patience from the listener and that’s a precious thing in today’s quick-fire culture. If you give a record the time it deserves then it might just connect with you in a way that changes your life. The best albums become a part of you and you carry them with you forever.

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How did you approach using vocals on ‘Song for Alpha’?

The only goal I set for myself on this album was to create machine music with a human soul, a human pulse. Some people have commented on the lack of vocals on this record but they are there, hidden in the overall wash of the mix. They might not be as prominent as on ‘Drone Logic’ but they are every bit as important this time around.

Do you see the dancefloor and clubs as a form of antidote to the political ills of the world?

I’m not interested in making any overt political statements but most of us can agree that there is a swarm of negative energy flying around at the moment. Clubs offer an escape. Good clubs are international, inclusive and founded on love. The population inside, of which the DJ is only one member, is searching for a higher energy than themselves, celebrating the impermanence of life. I truly believe that the role of the club is now more important than ever.

How do you approach playing an all-night set?

To me DJing is about being able to draw a line between tracks, wherever they may come from. I’m a fan of psychedelic music: records that can grab you by the hand and take you somewhere else. That could mean an arresting ambient piece, a wall of feedback from a guitar band or a hypnotic techno record – they all occupy the same space in my head – so I love being able to explore it all together in a night.

It’s a trip to see people come in early and lie on the floor to drone music only to be losing their minds in the middle of an acid rave a few hours later. Playing this way is my favourite thing to do as it creates a certain atmosphere in the room. It feels as if everyone is travelling somewhere together. There’s a real sense of community to it.

How important is keeping up a strong work ethic to you?

The only part that ever feels like work is the travelling, the rest is addictive. I was making music in my bedroom a long time before I even considered the idea of being paid for it so I’m content as long as I’m allowed to keep going.

What shows or venues are you looking forward to playing in the coming months?

I’ll be visiting Argentina for the first time soon and I’m excited to be curating a day at my favourite festival Nuits Sonores in Lyon, but everything is a rush right now. I feel inspired and ready.

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'Song For Alpha' is out now.

Words: Ammar Kalia

For tickets to the latest Daniel Avery shows click HERE.

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