Steve Elvidge talks with George Evelyn (Nightmares On Wax) prior to the December 12th show at the Faversham
"All my career has been about a journey"
Let me start with an old joke:
My granddad walks 4 miles a day,
Wow he must be fit, how is he?
Dunno, not seen him for 20 years.
I know, sorry, but I'd be getting out the welcome mat and blowing up the balloons because 4 miles a day around the world for 20 years would bring you all the way back home anytime N.O.W.
Next year sees a remarkable 2 decades since George Evelyn - E.A.S.E. - Nightmares on Wax - began his journey from his beginnings in Hyde Park, Leeds and he's coming home on the 12th December when his N.O.W. Soundsystem will be rocking the foundations of The Faversham.
I spoke to George about his beginnings, where he is now and what we can expect when he brings it on home next week.
"Music reflects where you are and where you come from"
I first met George (along with then collaborator Kevin Harper) when he accosted me down in the long lost 'La Phonographic' about getting some support slots to his fledgling outfit with my band 'Age of Chance'. We did and saw the first glimpses of the genre busting fusion of electro, hip-hop, house music, jazz-funk, reggae and even drum'n'bass that led Warp to make Nightmares on Wax their 2nd ever signing. The release of the Dextrous EP in 1989 and debut LP 'A Word of Science' in 1991 saw a promising, well received mix of bleeps, sped-up samples, house and Hip-Hop beats and even, a rarity now, George rapping.
"Even when doing 'science' I was working on other tracks that were taking me somewhere else"
There were hints in this first LP of a whole new genre that was to become big business from the mid-90s to the present day. 'Mo'Wax' reported heavily influenced by the sounds they were hearing coming from Leeds and Sheffield, emerged with the likes DJ Shadow and Krush from Japan essentially playing slowed down Hip-Hop instrumentals that were, for better or worse, destined to be known as 'Trip-Hop'. Nightmares On Wax, along with contemporaries Massive Attack & Portishead, defined this genre for many with seminal releases in '95 and '99 of 'Smokers Delight' and 'Carboot Soul'. There was a period in the late 90's when compilers of chill out albums were legally obliged to include a track from either of these. As the genre settled in the Chill-out and Downbeat racks in you local superstore, I wondered if the success of the music he'd pioneered ultimately slowed George down on his journey.
"When you're making music and not reflecting on it too much, that's when it's in its purest form, after Carboot I realise now that I was in a bit of a comfort zone, doing compilation Lps, remixes, Djing, maybe I lost a little focus. I was living a confused life and if your life's not balanced then your music won't be"
One of the downsides to finding your voice is finding things to say. With 'Mind Elevation' released in '02' George was, by his own admission, not moving forward with the style he'd developed. The problem with the genre is that it's all to easy to let it wash over you, to let what should be uplifting soulful expression become dinner party music. To counter this George took stock, the next album 'Inna Space Outta Sound' was a much more rootsy affair, to my ears, music much more grounded and comfortable with its influences in Reggae and Soul.
"Although it's always nice to come home, you realise it's just bricks, artists aren't so influenced by what's out there but what's within"
The last album 'Thought So....' released late summer this year is a progression in George's sound. Its origins lie in his relocation from Leeds to Ibiza a couple of years ago when he loaded up his studio in a van and drove towards the sun. Written along the way 'Thought So..' was intended to capture the experiences and emotions of the move and, while it's arguable that it paints the picture that vividly, you can hear how the development of the Balearic sound has infused the music with warmth.
George has further developed his connections with both Leeds and Europe with his own 'WAX ON' label, with local acts like Negghead and Ella May (vocalist on 'sweetest' of space outta sound) sharing release space with artists from more exotic locations. We'll be featuring these local guys in upcoming reviews but this brings us nicely full circle to the show on the 12th where the Nightmares Soundsystem will be featuring homegrown artists along with longer standing acts like Ricky Ranking and China Brown.
"You must never forget where you come from"
It should be a homecoming to remember.