LSR/CITY by Gareth Emery
We got some sound advice, wit and wisdom from some of the world’s top DJs. Today’s question:
When did you realize you had ‘made it’?
I still don’t think I have made it; I’m a few more steps down the line—but far from my overall goal. I have a lot of music left in me to explore and discover. Anyway, who wants to actually achieve their dreams—then what you gonna do? I dream as big as I possibly can, and it keeps me driven and on my feet. I wanna write the national anthem for Mars, but I gotta do some work before they’ll let me.
I still don’t think I have. I’m an impossible perfectionist who is never satisfied with anything, which can be difficult for the people I work with; but it also means I’m constantly pushing myself to do better, and that leads to good results. If you told me 10 years ago that today I’d be playing all these amazing festivals, and would produce huge tracks heard by millions, I would have said, “Great, that means I’ve made it.” But now I’m here—I’m instead thinking about what’s next in my career. I guess I’m always destined to be a work in progress, but that’s not a bad thing. Thinking you’ve made it is probably a little dangerous.
Things go so fast that it’s often hard to stop and look back on things. I guess if I were to pick something, it would be when I played my first big show at Innercity in 1999. It was unbelievably emotional for me to do what I love before such a large crowd.
The first personal satisfaction came after I’d proven I was able to make a living as a DJ. My mum and I made a pact when I was 17 years old and decided to become a world-known DJ: She let me take a year off school, and I promised I’d go back if I didn’t break it to the level that I was able to cover my expenses and add my share to our household. I haven’t been to school since—at least not as a student. After that, my career started to grow slowly, without big jumps or falls.
I felt really good and bad at the same time when I first had to go to a gig abroad by plane. Imagine: “Somebody paid for my plane tickets so people will be able to hear me play my set!” That felt amazing, especially as I struggled for a while—even after I got a dozen well accepted releases on top international techno labels—to get bookings out of my domestic region. But at the same time I was, and still am to a point, afraid of flying—so much that I didn’t fly out of Europe for seven or eight years. So, there was an awkward moment before my first trip by plane, when everybody had already boarded, and I just stood in front of it, thinking should I stay or should I go. I’m glad I decided to go.
My first performance at the legendary German rave Mayday was also a very special moment in my career. When I was there for the first time as a raver, I promised myself I’d be standing in that DJ booth one day, giving pace to the party. But in between, I started playing and producing a much darker sound and once I finally got there, it didn’t feel right. I thought that event was too commercial for my taste. But then I gathered my thoughts and realize one of my dreams came true. I inhaled the atmosphere, relaxed and decided to enjoy every minute of that set. It was great, and that’s still one of the most downloaded and listened-to set of my entire career.
I haven’t yet! I still have a long way to go. It’s not where I want to be, I’m far from it… I’m just warming up. I don’t think anyone will think, “This is it, I’ve done it.” Ambitious people will never settle, and I’m part of that camp.
That moment—when for the first time, you’ve done nothing but making and playing music all month, and you can actually pay all your bills—is magical. Every artist knows or is working to get to know that feeling. Living off what you love. Loving your life.
I still wouldn’t say I’ve made it quite yet, but when I found out some of the bigger DJs like Hardwell, Zedd, Avicii, and Knife Party were supporting my music, that meant a lot!!
One really important day for us was when the first person got our logo tattooed on them. I wouldn’t say that was the day we thought we’d “made it,” but it was a very eye-opening moment for us. It meant that someone out there in the world was taking our music so seriously that they wanted it on their body permanently. There have been quite a few since; each time we see a new one, we are reminded about how powerful music is. Music has the power to unite, to lift people up, and to carry a message. Seeing people put the art on their body, and hearing their stories about getting them, is a huge part of what inspires us and drives us.
Cassettes Won’t Listen
First hearing my music randomly on the radio was a pretty big deal. I felt like I was in La Bamba.