It is no exaggeration to say that Nightmares on Wax’s work is synonymous with a place in time. It is a place individual to those who have savoured his popular brand of sun-drenched dubbed out soul, where fragments of hazy memories, halcyon days and past snapshots encapsulate a generation’s sofa sojourning.
For George Eveyln, the man behind Nightmares on Wax, did indeed create some defining moments in the 90’s. Firstly there was his involvement in writing two of the U.K.’s early rave classics Dexterous and Aftermath (with then writing partner Kevin Harper from the Nightmares A Word of Science album). George then went alone and in ’95 bought us Smoker’s Delight, a downbeat opus and the archetype 90’s stoner album (not surprisingly, he was a one time high judge of the Cannibus Cup in Amsterdam). The effect of Smokers Delight was palpable as it is considered one of the main catalysts in the explosion of the chill out / down tempo genre today.
Following Smokers, in 1999, Carboot Soul was delivered. A sublime languid success, it solidified George’s reputation as the patriarch of this very popular genre. Regardless of the connotations now associated with chill out / ambient / down tempo, both Smokers and Carboot remain untainted zeitgeists, still viewed as soundscapes of good times past, music that a cross section of people enjoyed, often whilst languishing post clubbing. Zeitgeists of an era, these albums have sold over 150,000 copies and continue to, ten years and six years respectively after release.
However, the Nightmares success story doesn’t end there. Having been away for nearly four years (like a fine wine, the maturation of his work is crucial to its production process!), George honed a more polished production technique, and in doing so, in 2002 presented the addictive brew of pop, dancehall and old-soul that was Mind Elevation. Conquering the unknown, two hits on the album Know my Name and 70’s/80’s were embraced by the radio fraternity, infecting our airwaves that following summer with their sweet vocals, lush melodies and lolloping hip hop beats.
Spring 2006 sees the drop of another one of George’s musical gems, in the form of In A Space Outta Sound. It is a contemporary and varied album of many textures, tempos and tones, with harmonic inflections from cultures beyond these shores. Whilst this is an album deconstructing George’s musical make up, by inviting you down a personal retrospective journey, In A Space… also unwittingly reflects the urban multi-cultural landscape we live in today. This mish-mash of geographically distinct sounds are heard whilst treading the streets of London, or Leeds where George is from, or any other big city in Britain. The society we live in is a racially heterogeneous one and this album is as diverse in its influences. Tellingly, this pastiche of styles has for many years also been reflected in his DJ-ing output (under his DJ name EASE).
It is a sonic palette taken from each continent; each track presents a facet whether it be the infectious repetitive African percussion sounds of African Pirates, the recurring Caribbean reggae riddims as heard in Sweetest and Flip Ya Lid, the seduction of the Persian snake charmer’s harpsichord entwined around Damn!, or Mo-town’s soul-laid-bare in I Am You. Sometimes it is a blend of all of the above.
Once again, Nightmare’s trademark stamp is evident; rhythms infectious in their simplicity, blues infused time signatures overlaid by Quincy Jones-esque synth lines and the inherent fusion of relaxed dub, hallucinogenic hip hop and Balearic melodies. And there is another factor in George’s formula, the intangible touch of glowing warmth that infects his music. As the Times newspaper once commented, “George Evelyn is one of those people who can bottle sunshine”. This blissful quality is perhaps the x-factor in his success as a musician and it is one that George consciously and liberally mixes in. He takes from the essence of soul where emotion is its driving force. However, it is apparent that his emotions veer on the lighter side. As he says “I want to share my positivity in life, in music.”
Like many fortunate music enthusiasts, his love of music was passed down from his parents. The Evelyn household was one often enveloped in the indignant funk of Curtis Mayfield and the smooth melody lines of Quincy Jones (where George’s devotion began). The sweet, cloying lullabies of Sarah Vaughn were as often heard coming out of Mr. Evelyn’s precious mahogany 78 players as Duke Ellington’s lively compositions. Having come over from the West Indies as a young man, George’s father also passed on to his children musical legacies of his birthplace, frequently playing staple classics of Soca, or Calypso as it’s now called, found too at the local dancehall he frequented.
However, like many, George’s musical epiphany was most keenly felt through self-discovery. When only a pre-teen, he joined a local break dance crew, having immersed himself in the first wave of hip hop filtering through to Britain in the form of Rappers Delight and Buffalo Gals. It was here that he also found an early allegiance to soul where the sampled voices of the OJ’s, Isley Brothers and James Brown were used over and over again as scratches on such records.
However pre-dating his initiation into hip-hop came the pivotal moment when he discovered bass. It was inevitable that he would stumble upon local sound systems that mates’ older brothers were involved in, but the effect the heavy, reverberating dub breaks that each collective tried to out do the other with, would be long lasting. In George’s young mind, the louder those bass lines were, the bigger the impact it had on him hence his lifelong love for those heavy, rolling beats, integral to his sound. In fact, on his next tour, promoting In A Space… he will be performing as part of a sound system from a local Leeds collective.
Naturally, it was also a great privilege to meet and collaborate with personal heroes like Scientist and De La Soul but his interests certainly don’t end here, also citing rare groove, ska and 80’s electro. A compliment to his taste, he has had not one, but two established music compilers (!K7 and Another Late Night) approach him for a personal selection of favourite songs for release, and within 3 years of each other. An endorsement of his popularity if ever there was one.
George’s success is enduring, and he has often been praised for his polished production work. Indeed with a state of the art studio, no one can fault the craft he has been honing for fifteen years. The subtle complexities and layers to his music is also what makes it so accessible. However this is certainly not the sole result of one man and a mixing desk. He works with a varied group of local musicians; a range of percussionists, classically trained keyboardists, guitarists etc., and evidence of this was found on his last tour to promote Mind Elevation, doing a string of dates with a thirteen piece band. Live musicianship is also quite apparent on In A Space…. where much of the ideas came from impromptu studio ‘jams’.
Producing the genuine article and constantly evolving and progressing is the prime motivation behind Nightmares’ music. It is about taking the sounds of soul and reggae and hip-hop and more to a new plateaux. “Today’s music is inspired by what’s gone on before and that is what fascinates me. Following on in that tradition I am inspired by the old and want to evolve it into something new. I see it as a never ending cycle and that is where I want to be.”