"I don't need to attach to any scene, trend or place–I'm about making 100% what is true to me," says 34-year-old George Evelyn, better known as Nightmares on Wax. One of the first artists on the pioneering Warp label, Evelyn helped bring touches of old reggae and soul into techno before unwittingly spearheading the trip-hop movement with 1995's luscious Smoker's Delight.
The latest effort from this Leeds, UK-based producer, In A Space Outta Sound, contains 12 thoughtfully constructed slow burners, fusing elements of black British soul, dub, and classic hip-hop with straight-up good vibes to soundtrack the perfect stoned summer day in the park. Evelyn's got his hands full with developing up-and-coming young artists for his Wax On label, but we asked him to take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about his most important musical moments.
"The first record I ever bought was Third World's 'Cool Meditation' in 1997; I was seven years old. At the time, Bob Marley was exploding all over the world, but Steel Pulse and Third World were kind of like the underground reggae. When I got to nine or 10 years old, I really started buying records. When I was nine years old, my best friend at school had a brother who owned a reggae soundsystem called Messiah. We used to go after school to their lockup, where they kept their sound. All I was learning at this time was: bigger speaker boxes equal bigger sound and bigger bass. And the bigger the bass, the better the track. Along with this were dub albums by The Scientist; they used to use them to test the sound. Besides the bass, it was the cartoon artwork that attracted me to them. One that sticks in my head is Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires; the cover was all ghouls, zombies, and Draculas and it fascinated me."
"The biggest record to me in my life is Malcolm McLaren's 'Buffalo Gals.' This was 1982 or '83. It was the first video footage of breakdancing and graffiti and people body-popping with white gloves on, these guys with turntables making these weird noises. It was mind-blowing. It debuted on Top of the Pops on Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. Go to school the next morning and everybody on the playground was breakdancing. Before you had people you hung out with; then breaking came out, and you had your crew. You started venturing out of your neighborhood to battle other people and your horizons spread. You might only be going half a mile from where you lived, but that's farther than you used to go before. You cannot deny the fact that McLaren educated us. 'Buffalo Gals' probably wasn't a landmark record if you came from the Bronx but it was a landmark record if you came from anywhere else in the world."
"In 1982, I was 12 years old and I went to a 12 Tribes dance–[named] after the 12 tribes of the Rastafarian culture–in Manchester. It was a coach trip with me and my close friend and her mother, who was part of the 12 Tribes. We didn't know at the time who was in concert at this gig but it was Bob Marley. We were running around and he was standing out in the crowd like normal; the next thing you know he was on stage. I wasn't in awe–I was too young to be star-struck. It wasn't until I got home and told me brothers and sisters and they were like, 'You saw what?!' that I realized."
"I proposed to my wife in Koh Samui, Thailand; it was at the big Buddhist temple on a Thursday at sunset. On Friday, we sorted the location out; Saturday I had a suit made; Sunday we went to meet the monks at the Buddhist temple, and we got married on Monday at half past nine. There was nobody DJing–all the music we had was an old '80s mix CD that I had lying around. Our wedding dance was to a record that we actually hate, 'Secret Lovers' by Atlantic Starr. We decided to dance to it because we hate it so much. That record, and Ashford & Simpson's 'Solid.'"
"In the last four years I've been listening to a lot of old Greensleeves reggae records. I wanted to go back to the essence so I thought, 'I'm going to listen to the shit I used to buy when I started collecting,' like Eek-A-Mouse, Yellowman, Beres Hammond. This was music just for dances, for skanking. It was music that had sunshine in it. I've always tried to represent that feeling of sunshine or optimism in my music."