Q&A: Ember

Ministry of Sound HQ has been set alight with the celebration of our 200th release, The Annual 2015 and a brand spanking new website (Yep, feel good, don’t it?). The Annual series has been a tastemaker for electronic music for over a decade. This year sees it flipped, mixed and stitched up by two of Australia’s hardest working DJs, Ember and Kronic. Combined, the dudes have toured on pretty much every major dance festival circuit in Australia as well as pumping out 2014 releases on Hussle Recordings and Downright Music all whilst holding down residencies at Australia’s biggest clubs.

While we're hanging out for the festival season, we caught up with two legends laying down tracks and throwing back drinks on their firing rampage of Australia and New Zealand. Smashing dance floors state-by-state we caught up with Ember and Kronic whilst on The Annual 2015 tour.

Ember has been at the forefront of Australian electronic music for years, having played at Stereosonic, Big Day Out and Future Music Festival, as well as warming up the stage for headliners like Justice, Calvin Harris and Avicii. With years of experience under his belt, Ember certainly knows what it takes when given the difficult task of track selecting and mixing seamlessly for one of the countries biggest CD compilations.

We sat down with Ember for a chat about The Annual, Blur and all things vodka and Berocca.

Yo dude! How did you feel when you were asked to mix The Annual 2015?

Lost for words!

What was the track selection process like? Do you think you captured the best songs for your mix?

The track selection was daunting. The Annual is such a well respected release and songs are picked so far in advance, amongst a market that's changing so quickly. When it came to choosing songs, we worked with the A&R team at Ministry for direction as closely as possible and in the end it wasn't about putting together a release that suited what we played every week ourselves, or finding the most underground content, but instead putting together something that a wider Australian market could get in to over summer. There are a lot of hurdles throughout the process but I think the final mix came together great. Tracks from guys like Porter Robinson, Peking Duk, Duke Dumont or Sam Smith for example will hold their ground over time, and I think with a mix like the Annual that's what we were really after.

In celebration of the CD, you guys are about to embark on a massive national tour as well as a hop over to NZ. What mischief do you think you and Kronic will get up to on the road?

Kronic parties harder than pretty much anyone else I know in Australia. So I think there will be a fair bit to say the least.

You're currently a top resident at Pacha Sydney, what's it like to play at one of Australia’s biggest club nights?

Unreal, definitely one of my favourite spots to play at in Australia, but being based in Sydney I could be a bit biased. The production and DJs that play in there every week just sets it apart in such a big way, the club and team behind the brand are amazing.

You’ve recently released your debut single Blur on Downright Music. tell us about some of your influences while writing it.

Blur was a bit of everything. It actually came together over a year or two back after touring on the Electro House Sessions tour with Chardy. I was really into the Skrillex, Boys Noize, Brodinski and Gesaffelstein sounds at the time, anything out of the OWSLA or Fools Gold camps was really doing it for me. The Dog Blood mix of A$AP Rocky Wild For The Night had a huge play in it, I loved the grit and how much jack it had at the same time. I took a lot of influence from producers throwing around different sounds at the time whose music I was playing a lot of on the tour. It took a while to come together mainly because of all the influences and influencers that I was torn between while making it.

Having been producing for a while, how did you decide on Blur as your big debut?

I actually wasn't going to release it at first. I was so paranoid about putting my name to a sound for so long that it was exclusive to my live sets for over a year as an instrumental. When I added in the vocals I asked some friends if they would be interested remixing it. Go Freek, Spenda C, Combo and Jay Karama were actually making originals that I played in my own sets religiously. When their mixes turned out the way they did I felt that the package as a whole was well rounded enough, and gave the release a kind of diversity that I played in my own sets. It was nerve racking putting out my first official release to say the least.

Blur also hit #1 on the ARIA Club Chart , how did that achievement feel? Where were you when you found out it had gone #1?

Surreal! I was in my car when the ARIA crew filled me in, it was at #2 for so long that I really didn't expect it to jump up at all, but was blown away when it did.

You seem to have built a strong reputation in Australia, are there any plans to tour overseas?

There's a few things in the works, but things in Australia have been keeping me super busy and I'm loving it. I think it'll take a few more releases to kick off a good run overseas, but that's all in the pipeline - so fingers crossed.

We've seen you play at almost every major festival and international support slot in the past few years. What do you think is so important about building your fan base at home?

To be honest I just love playing and it always feels better when people that you know are in the crowd. I've never looked at it in terms of building a fan base here or overseas, but I think you gradually build one naturally if you love what you do. In Australia, festivals bring everyone together and you get to play to friends that you'd usually have to jump between 10 to 100 different venues here to see. Home's home though, and one thing I think I enjoy the most is playing to an Australian face when you do leave the country, so it's definitely important to me.

What does the future hold for Ember, new releases, tours, collabs?

New releases for sure. I'm dying to spend a bit more time in the studio on original gear and remix work at the moment, so I think there will be a lot of knuckling down over the rest of 2014 in amongst the tour.

Favourite track on the Annual 2015?

Peking Duk feat. Safia - Take Me Over

Is there a favourite Ministry of Sound compilation that you still dig years on?

The Mashed compilations from Bang Gang DJs a few years back, hands down :)

Anything ridiculous you've put on your tour rider?

I think my rider just makes sure I have vodka and everything's pretty set.

Is there anything you absolutely cannot go on tour without?

My laptop and headphones, 100%. Those and Berocca are a pretty close first.

Catch Ember and Kronic smashing dance floors as they tour nationally into the New Year for The Annual 2015 - available to download now on iTunes & Google Play.