Daniel Avery recently went on tour with Jon Hopkins and we caught up with him for his stop in Toronto at Danforth Music Hall. Between the bourbons and beats we got to talk a bit about his studio, his upcoming shows as the opening artist for Nine Inch Nails, and his curation of Manchester's Warehouse Project.
The second stop of the tour, following a blissful Chicago opening was Toronto, playing the beautiful Danforth Music Hall on an unseasonably warm September Friday night. We got off work early and met up with Dan in the lobby before his soundcheck. Like many event productions, the final few minutes were spent scrambling to assemble stage elements and as it turns out, the projection screen they ordered was 1/3 the size it had to be. With 30 minutes left before he started his set. the stage crew was still hurriedly lifting a new screen in place.
As we're standing off to the side, we patiently admire Daniel's calmness through a hurried soundcheck. He even gets on the mic and asks if the crew might need help with the setup or if we should all lend a hand. His tour manager Eric quickly pointed out we don't have insurance to cover those sorts of activities. Fair point. Daniel surveys the situation and everything seems to be going as planned, and he retreats to the green room again for a final prep before his 2.5-hour set.
He and Jon Hopkins thought of a way to incorporate Daniel's experience as an experienced DJ and keep the concert flowing from start to finish, and it worked perfectly. Concert goers arrived for the first track and enjoyed the half hour of ambient music that Avery started each set on the tour with. Moving into his usual acid-laden techno, he picked up the pace as the crowd began to assemble, no doubt arriving early to catch the full effect of a lengthy Daniel Avery set.
With a simple and effective distorted black and white visual on loop behind him, he played via CDJs as he would on any given night at a club like Fabric where he holds his residency. The show was primarily a night of Daniel Avery music, although listed solely as a Jon Hopkins show. Jon only played for the final hour while Dan got a solid 2.5 hour set time, something we certainly appreciated.
He spoke briefly about how different the set type is at venues such as Thalia Hall in Chicago and Danforth, both vast, historic theatre spaces, versus a typical club night or festival setting. Pushing even further out of his norm would be the opening artist for Nine Inch Nails later this month. "I haven't decided what I'll play yet," Avery shares as we debated the pros and cons to playing a particular sound prior to NIN, as the fans coming may not know what to do if he plays his usual club-oriented music. "Noise, maybe," he subtly jokes, though it would seem like a good fit – loud, raw, and hard enough for the audience.
The story of how Daniel Avery, one of underground electronic music's most unique sounding figures, is opening for Nine Inch Nails is interesting, and he recounts it with such enthusiasm and excitement knowing that the band is a fan of his. According to Avery, "While NIN were playing recently, they had blasted "Drone Logic" (Daniel's 2013 breakthrough album), prior to the band coming on stage, and a few of my friends were quick to tell me about it."
As the stage production and gear were continuing to be set up, the audience quickly filled up the room, the lights went low and they were quickly introduced to Avery's sound—an album that captured a moment in electronic music, and a personal all-time favourite of this writer.
It's easy to see why synth player Alessandro Cortini was drawn to it, and their relationship and mutual attraction to each other's sounds explains the supporting act role that Daniel will find himself in later this month across the U.S. – three dates in the NY area, Boston, New Orleans, and two shows in Texas. The two, Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini, collaborated on a wonderfully composed EP not long ago as well, something he was no doubt proud of.
Between the Nine Inch Nails tour dates, there isn't much room for a break, as Daniel Avery's schedule only heightens. When speaking about being chosen to curate a lineup at Manchester's Warehouse Project, he said, "I selected some names that you might not expect or maybe haven't heard about but should, including Toronto's own Peach." Also on the bill is Daphni, Anastasia Kristensen, HAAi, Blawan, Avalon Emerson, Dr. Rubinstein, Ida, Re:Ni, John Loveless, Means & 3rd, Call Super, Skee Mask, and Marcel Dettman. His selections display his tastes perfectly and make for one sonic journey of a day. That all takes place October 20th, and Avery shared, "Despite playing in Boston the night before with Nine Inch Nails, the opportunity to curate and play at the Warehouse Project was too great to pass up." Tickets are nearly sold out.
Our time in the green room was brief but the producer in me was curious about Daniel's studio setup and hoped he might just reveal a few secrets to his incredible sound. Instead, we were drawn into an experience in imagining the entire vibe that his studio revolves around. Set up in a shipping container along the River Thames in a discreet creative hub, the studio space itself and location is his focus, and he details how ideal the spot is for music making process. "The tranquility of the setting offers a perfect home to focus on my music" – and he's been there for 5 years now. His production setup itself consists of classic favourites like the 909, TB-303, etc. and he's not opposed to blending digital and analog workflows – in fact he embraces the mutual balance and says he works often on his computer, making use of today's advanced VST plugins.
While we didn't have a formal interview, we got to know Daniel and his music extensively over the night. His hospitality and genuine kindness were striking and told volumes about his character as an artist beyond the music. Check out his website to view the tour schedule here.