Example reflects on his new album and the state of dance music
As far as dance music vocalists go, Example may be the most recognizable name around. Aside from churning out his own unmistakable originals like “Changed the Way You Kissed Me” and “Midnight Run,” the West London artist has collaborated on some of the biggest dance tracks of the last few years, including “Natural Disaster” with Laidback Luke, “We’ll Be Coming Back” with Calvin Harris, and “Daydreamer” with Flux Pavilion. Now, nearly ten years into a monumental career bridging the pop, dance, and rap worlds, Example has released his fifth studio album, Live Life Living. From 90’s house inspired tracks to darker, moodier cuts, his new LP explores old school influences and newer territories alike. We caught up with Elliot for a bit of insight into his new album as well as his thoughts on the current state of dance music.
How are things going in the wake of the release of your new album?
Good I suppose. It’s not gone crazy but it hasn’t done badly. It’s my fifth album so I’m just glad to have something out there for the fans. I feel like it’s the most pure dance record I’ve ever made. The last albums were quite experimental. This has a much more direct approach aimed at clubs and festivals. I also realise that for a lot of people around the world this will be the first time they’ve had the chance to buy my album as the last 4 had limited releases.
Where does it fit in the timeline of your previous albums?
Album one was hip hop. I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was just kind of a hobby. Album two I started singing and experimenting with different electronic producers. Album 3 was a lot of big room stuff and dubstep and better songwriting. Album 4 was an electronic guitar album. This fifth one feels the most complete as a project. It flows the best.
You’ve always had a strong presence in the dance music world while bringing your own singing and rapping into the picture – what draws you to dance music in particular?
As a teenager I loved grunge and rap. I listened to jungle a lot too. In terms of electronic acts I was only really aware of The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers plus whatever mainstream house was in the charts. A lot of what has influenced this album has come from me going back and rediscovering a lot of 90’s electronics. I just love all music. I think if I had learned guitar maybe I’d be in a band now. I went to a school which was dominated by black music culture so I started to rap at age 11. When I met electronic producers I started making all kinds of dance music.
There’s a lot of negativity surrounding this whole “EDM” explosion. What are your thoughts on the current state of dance music?
EDM is a dirty word for so many people in the UK. I don’t see why. For me it is almost like a rebranding of dance music to the masses in America that has gone global. I think on the negative side, sometimes it feels like more of a marketing exercise than a genre. There is a lot of rubbish being made. But there’s also some amazing talents out there – Calvin Harris, Hardwell, Knife Party, Zedd, Diplo – all amazing producers, musicians, DJs, songwriters. Then there’s a lot of guys who aren’t great mixers and have other people produce for them but they’re great showmen and clever businessmen. I don’t think it matters what you do really as long as the crowd are having fun. I don’t see myself as fitting in with EDM because even though I produce a bit I’m not a DJ. I’m a singer and songwriter first and foremost and I perform with a live band. Though, I do owe part of my success to some of the world class producers I’ve been lucky enough to work with.
What’s your opinion on all the SoundCloud drama and copyright infringement claims going down? Do you care when artists make bootleg remixes of your songs?
Bootlegs have been around forever. I have no problem with it at all. 90% of bootlegs are rubbish but the 10% that are great can help promote you and your music all across the globe. I come from a rap background where I used to make mixtapes and steal samples. I can’t really complain if people wanna stick my vocal over another track.
You co-produced nearly every song on your new album. Tell me about your journey as a producer and how your knowledge of the craft has evolved over the years.
I’m not really a hands on “button pusher” kinda guy. I know about all the different plugins and effects and software and hardware. There’s engineers and producers I work with who are far quicker than me at using this stuff so I tend to just tell people what I want. Or hum a few chords. Or play them a track and be like “I want that sound there.” It’s very much my vision but I couldn’t produce anything by myself. I’d imagine this is similar to how Dr Dre or Eminem might produce? Someone who guides the process.
What’s your creative process in the studio like? Do you generate lyrics and make a melody to suit it or vice versa?
I always start with a song title. Then either a guitar or synth or piano riff. Then I work the song title into like a tagline or sung sentence before the drop. Then I work out what the song title means to me and work backwards. Chorus first. Then verses. Then any adlibs or chants.
You’ve incorporated plenty of 90s vibes into your songs, from garage, to big beat, to acid – are we experiencing a revival of that sound?
We are but that’s just natural. Music styles and tastes just keep going round in a carousel. Dubstep may be back in 10 years. Who knows? 90’s inspired house is very much en vogue at the moment. On my album I wanted to explore more of yeh big beat and acid sounds from the 90’s as well as the house.
This is your first album with a major label. How do you see your music evolving from here?
It may be my last album for a while. I’ve noticed that my fans and electronic fans in general seem to be more into singles and streaming and creating playlists. I’m looking to do more collabs with electro, DnB and house producers and after this album campaign is done I will stick to singles for a while – some for club, some for radio.