Gareth Emery is an English trance DJ/producer with more than 15 years of experience in the dance music industry, including a No. 2 album on Billboard’s Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart last year. Originally from Southampton, Emery remembers his six-year tenure in Manchester as the catalyst that kicked off his music career.
I’ve got a long history with Manchester; it’s kind of my adopted home in the U.K. I wasn’t born there, but I moved there when I was in my 20s, in 2008, and spent the next six years there. It’s where my career took off; I was completely adopted by the city. We were throwing [record label] Garuda parties at Sankey’s, which is a legendary Manchester club. I’ve still got a place there, my wife is from there, it’s my place in the U.K.
My wife was actually at that exact venue two days previously. She flew back to England for the weekend. We’re expecting a new baby in a month and she wanted to get a couple last gigs in before we do the whole child thing. So she went to a Sasha show Saturday, and on the Sunday she went to see Take That, a British band at the Manchester Arena. It’s really f—ing close for me.
I ended up living there because my wife is from there and where I’m from, Southampton, is not a music city in the same way. Obviously, I knew about the “Madchester” years — New Order, Hacienda, stuff like that. For me, probably a bigger attraction was the Brit Pop years and Oasis, the greatest band of my lifetime. That, to me, is what defines the city.
When I was just leaving school and getting into college, Oasis were far and away the greatest band on the planet, the biggest band in the U.K. So that’s where the real Manchester connection came for me. I think in terms of a music city, Manchester is basically the capital of the U.K. The two best bands are Oasis and The Stone Roses; the Hacienda scene was a little before my time. The musical legacies left by those two are absolutely massive.
Because Manchester is a smaller city than London, people do tend to be a little bit more supportive than you would get in a big city, because a lot more people have grown up there, as opposed to London where almost everyone has come from somewhere else.
The weather is total sh-t. It rains, I, think about 150 days a year in Manchester, and when it’s not raining it’s gray and overcast so you don’t really have a choice to live much of an outdoor lifestyle. And even if you plan on doing something outdoors, like walk in the country or have a BBQ, it’s probably not going to happen. That’s the worst thing about the place, the weather, but that’s what’s made it such a culturally important city. What else are you going to do when the weather’s sh-t? You sit in the studio and you make tunes.
I think Manchester will be incredibly resilient. One thing that’s only being reported lower down in articles is that there have been bombings in Manchester before. There was a massive IRA bombing with the Irish terrorist groups in the 1990s, which decimated a large part of the city. But it was rebuilt bigger and stronger. And that’s kind of a unique characteristic to the U.K. We kind of grew up with Irish terrorism because of the IRA, and bombing and terrorism was something we were always conscious of, especially when going into London and taking trains. We always knew it was something.
Anyone who grew up in the U.K. would have been in a train station at some point when there’s been a bomb scare and it’s been evacuated. Going right back to when we were kids, it’s always been something that you thought about. Having these new terrorist threats, I’m not sure it’s as much of a shock to the people in Britain as it is in some other parts of Europe. And definitely not as much as the U.S.; it’s something we grew up with.
I texted everyone in the city I thought might have had any chance of being there. Nobody [I knew was] involved, nobody knew anyone who was there, so we were extremely fortunate. The response is just absolutely horrendous, but life goes on and I think if people decide not to go out and not to attend large-scale events, that’s kind of giving the people who perpetrated these atrocities the exact response they want. It’s hard to know to respond, but to continue to live life as normally as possible is the only response.
As told to Matt Medved