“It wasn't comfortable” – the Tri Angle producer talks working on Yeezus and his twisted year
Dark electronic artist Evian Christ (aka Joshua Leary) first grabbed the internet's attention with his innovative 2012 mixtape Kings and Them for Tri Angle. Unbeknownst to the Ellesmere Port-based producer, amongst those seriously impressed was Kanye West, so when work started on Yeezus, which was released in June, Leary got the call to make beats. He immediately made a raft of new material, and his second track was to become the devastatingly filthy “I’m In It”. Recently, the first cut from Leary's new EP for Tri Angle surfaced. “Salt Carousel" is a serious, adrenalin-spiking, twisted piece of industrial electronica that has got us hooked once again. With a publishing deal with Kanye’s Donda freshly inked, and a debut album on the way, next year is already looking enormous for Leary – he told us what this ridiculous ride felt like from the inside.
"I was about to go to bed one night towards the start of the year when I got the email saying, 'Hey Kanye wants you to come to Paris now. Can you get on the first flight in the morning?' So that whole journey was the most, 'I can’t believe this is happening' moment. Being involved in Yeezus was my first experience of working with super high-level engineers and in-house producers. It was amazing to see the process of upscaling the track I’d initially made to get it ready for a major label record. I want to learn how to do that for myself. It’s actually taken me all year to adjust to the fact that making music full-time is what I do now. Uprooting yourself and launching into something completely different isn’t comfortable. I've enjoyed it, but it’s been weird. It’s also taken me this long to deal with always having an audience. I love it, but that thought looms constantly.
My first EP Waterfall is out soon and hopefully feels a lot more focussed. It’s a lot harder and less ambient than my previous work. That’s come from experiencing acts like Vatican Shadow and The Haxan Cloak live. Feeling how physical and unrestrained their music was made me want to take mine in a more brutal direction. The majority of the EP is less sample-orientated too. I haven’t really invested studio-wise, I’m still using a rip of Cubase from 2002 on my £250 PC, but I did get one synth and I have another speaker now. Before I had to guess when I was doing the panning (working out left and right), so it’s nice to have two. I’d freak out if I had to go a week without working, even to install new software. I was meant to have this one off finally, but I can’t stop myself.
While I was working on Yeezus I was making so much music. I’ve probably got a hundred beats from this year and I’ve been giving them out to people. Next year I want to to put my album out, but also get in the studio with rappers and singers as much as possible. I’ve just signed my publishing to Kanye’s Donda, and I’m moving to New York soon. Robin who runs my label is based there. It’s a fucking expensive place to live, but it might be worth it. When I was teaching I had a super normal lifestyle, going out on weekends with mates who were also working 9-to-5s, whereas now I’m working on New York time and away DJing a lot, which can be pretty isolating. I always had this beautiful idea that I could live here forever and rely on the power of the internet, but you have to get things done in real life too.
Completely objectively, Yeezus is my favourite record of the year. It only really began to sink in that “I’m In It” was mine when I saw Kanye live a couple of weeks ago. Playing at the Barbican to a capacity, seated crowd with huge visuals behind me was pretty sick too. I was nervous about it as I’m used to playing in a club at 2am, but receiving a standing ovation there is unreal. Recently it’s been cool hearing “Salt Carousel”, the first single from Waterfalls on the radio. I've been really happy with the reaction to it. It’s a strange feeling when you’re driving back from football and your song comes on Radio One, you just stop, keys out. I’m sure there were more highlights too, but so much has happened I can’t really remember it all."
Evian Christ’s Waterfall EP will be available on vinyl and digitally worldwide via Tri Angle in early 2014.