Most of the seminal acts from the '90s rave era are now but relics of the past. Few remain active on the scene today, and even fewer have continued to cultivate their sound to parallel electronic music's evolution in the new millennium.
Nightmares on Wax, the pioneering project from UK producer George Evelyn, is a formidable exception. With 25 years under his belt, Evelyn shows no signs of slowing down. And N.O.W.'s quarter-century-and-counting musical journey continues to be one of prolific reinvention -- spanning acid house, trip-hop, dub, and beyond.
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"We were bedroom-mix DJs that did crazy mega-mixes to cassette using soundtracks and old-school hip-hop, funk, and soul," Evelyn tells Crossfade about the project's early days.
"When I pressed our first release, I was distributing our 12-inch to all the independent record stores in the UK by hand," he remembers. "I went into a store called FON Records, and the guy working behind the counter was Steve Beckett. He mentioned they were thinking about setting up a record label, which became Warp later that year. He asked if we'd like to remix 'Dextrous' from the EP that I had been distributing. I agreed, and we released it three months later in November 1989. The rest is history."
Warp Records, of course, is not only N.O.W.'s longstanding home label, but one of the most iconic and groundbreaking imprints in electronic music history -- Aphex Twin, Autechre, and Boards of Canada being just a few of the luminaries who've contributed to its catalog.
The label is also responsible for Nightmare on Wax's new 25-year retrospective collection, N.O.W. Is the Time, comprising the greatest hits and a special-edition box set, which includes Deep Down: Remixes & Rarities and a book of memorabilia.
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On selecting the decades' worth of material for this collection, Evelyn says: "After a lot of going back and forth, I decided the right approach would be to put this together without thinking of the listener knowing the story of Nightmares on Wax. Just to have a body of music that worked in its own right. That way, the music would speak for itself and the story would come after.
"[For Deep Down: Remixes & Rarities], there's a selection of outtakes that never surfaced for whatever reason," he explains. "The remixes are from my peers: people who I'm a fan of, musically, as well as friends. All the people I asked to do a remix for me said yes straight away, and told me how they would be honored -- that really touched me."
Though best-of collections are often a sign than an artist's recording career is winding down, this hardly seems to be the case for Evelyn and N.O.W. After all, 2013 saw the release of his seventh studio album, Feelin' Good. And at the pace he keeps, it wouldn't be a surprise if the ever-prolific Evelyn keeps on keeping on for another 25 years.
"For me, the most important thing in my sound has been the adventure of discovery," he says, reflecting on the past, present, and future of Nightmares on Wax. "Always feeling that I'm on the verge of something, but not knowing what that is. The unknown is an important place for me, because there is no attachment, scene, or trend to live up to; it's more of a space of honesty, coming from the heart. So that is what really inspires me: coming with new ideas, while being curious as to where these ideas come from, which sends me off on another mission."
"I'll just keep on making music," the dance veteran promises. "As long as I have the excitement of imagination on my side, then that is where I'll be traveling. My true goal is to work more in orchestration, recording with the real thing -- my Quincy moment, you know. Soon to come!"
Help George Evelyn celebrate 25 years of Nightmares on Wax when he performs with his ensemble of tour musicians at Grand Central on July 21. He promises you won't regret it.
"All my fans should expect to go home with an upgrade in their soul and spirit, which feels so good they will be smiling for days, simply because we will collectively remember through the power of music that it is our right to feel good!
"We bring that extra something, doing the songs live. People tend to think of Nightmares on Wax as being just laid-back and smoked-out. But not after they have been to a live show."
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Nightmares on Wax. As part of the N.O.W. Is the Time in-store DJ tour. Monday, July 21. Sweat Records, 5505 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. and admission is free. All ages. Call 786-693-9309 or visit sweatrecordsmiami.com.
Nightmares on Wax. Presented by Poplife. Monday, July 21. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $15 to $25 plus fees via ticketfly.com. All ages. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
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