Techno star Avalon Emerson gives us a look at her camera roll
STILL FROM EMERSON’S VIDEO FOR “ONE MORE FLOURESCENT RUSH,” DIRECTED BY HAYDEN MARTIN
DJ and producer Avalon Emerson is one of the leaders of techno’s new school, turning heads over the last few years with a series of rapturous records full of detail and melody. There’s a level of fine-grained personality that shines through her music, setting her apart from the rest of the greyscale techno herd. “Try as we might,” she said in a 2016 interview with CRACK, “we can’t escape where we came from. You hold a fondness for the place you started out in, even if you wanted nothing more when you were 16 than to leave that fucking place.” Emerson’s songs don’t just bang in the club, they give you a vivid window into her life, the places she’s been, and where she wants to go.
As one of underground techno’s most in-demand artists, Emerson plays raves and festivals around the world nearly every weekend. She sent over a series of pictures from her phone’s recent camera roll that capture the ups and downs of life on the road.
EMERSON: That was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago for ADE, it’s a musical festival. That was that I guess, I was probably tired! [laughs] I had a few shows, I think it was the day after I played this charity soccer match, so I was tired but also proud of myself for playing a sports game for the first time in 15 years. It was a big charity event, a bunch of DJs and big charity people got together to play soccer. I played with a lot of Dutch people and they’re all really good. There was Interstellar Funk, who is this Dutch guy, and he was showing absolutely no mercy and was taking it so seriously and just rocketing the balls across the court and it was kind of scary. [laughs]
EMERSON: This is at FYF Festival and the artist had little trailers with treats in them. Me and my friends and U.S booking agent were back there enjoying some of my favorites. There was this soft drink, this bubbly water called Talking Rain, that was amazing. So we were all enjoying some Talking Rain. I’m really considering making it a part of my rider!
EMERSON: That’s one of my oldest friends, Drew, and his boyfriend Alex, in LA. We met when we were in junior high, we were thirteen or something. We both were just computer nerds and we bonded over Kazaa and we’ve been friends ever since. Do you know what Kazaa is, do you know what I’m talking about?
MARCUS: I do, I was on Limewire mainly. What I most remember about those sites was getting really good at differentiating between viruses and real songs.
EMERSON: Right, or like the movie that you wanted or porn. [both laugh]
EMERSON: That is also FYF and that’s Perfume Genius. I love them. I think the new album is great. I can’t pick a favorite off the top of my head, maybe “Dirge.” I discovered their stuff kind of recently but it just really spoke to me and I’ve become a super fan. [laughs]
MARCUS: Looks like you guys are having a really intense eye contact moment here.
EMERSON: No way, no way! He definitely didn’t even know I was there, but I was going to play later and I was like, “I’m going to go see Perfume Genius and I’m going to use my artist wristband to get backstage and watch him as he’s playing!” I’ve never met him, but I think he’s amazing.
EMERSON: That was in LA at one of the thrift stores that I was rummaging through. I love thrift shopping in LA.
MARCUS: Did you get any of these towels?
EMERSON: No I didn’t, but I thought it was funny that it was like, “This is the American Flag section, come get them here!”
EMERSON: The Poodle’s named Charlie, she’s a girl, and then the other one is Cesar.
EMERSON: This was in Vegas, clearly.
EMERSON: That is me and my friend, Elissa, I surprised her at her radio talk show and decided to come be a part of the show. We met a while ago when I was first starting out with music and she ran some music blogs back in the blog days—RIP blog days—then we became friends and both ended up moving out Berlin within a few months of each other and basically became best friends out here.
MARCUS: Cool! What would you say are the old-school music blogs you miss the most?
EMERSON: Maybe 20jazzfunkgreats, it was wonderful. Keytarsandviolins was good, Nofearofpop, those were good.
EMERSON: That is my studio, and that was my new Nintendo Switch, and that is the new Sonic game that I was really enjoying playing.
MARCUS: Are you a big Sonic fan?
EMERSON: Not really, it’s kind of a crackhead game, [laughs] but it’s fun to listen to music and just zone out in a video game world for a moment.
EMERSON: This is a screenshot my friend sent me, I just thought it was really funny how there are a bazillion dumb things named Avalon in this world. There’s the very luxurious Toyota Sedan, there’s a cheesy club in Hollywood, there are all sorts of varying degrees of gnarly streets in Hollywood and California, but I’m sure there’s more out there and people like to send them my way.
MARCUS: It’s a bit of a Camelot vibe, I guess?
EMERSON: Yeah exactly, it sounds mystical.
EMERSON: That’s my friend Inga Mauer, and she is opening up some Prosecco and we’re having a hard time with it. This was in my booking agent’s company’s office, the company’s name is Odd Fantastic, so this is in the Odd Fantastic kitchen.
EMERSON: That is Luc, and he’s the programmer for De School in Amsterdam, which is one of my favorite places on Earth to play. This is in the back alleys of the school; it used to be a technical school in the ’60s and stuff, and then there was nothing happening to it, and it was going in default to squatters laws, I think. So the city gave a license to these people to turn it into a nightclub for five years, basically. There’s a bunch of music stages and they do really beautiful art installations in multiple rooms, and they have a theater, so they do a lot of different stuff there. It’s just a wonderful vibe. The people who run it feel like a family. They also have an amazing restaurant, like world class, when they first opened it up a couple of years ago, some really famous Amsterdam restaurant reviewers went there and gave it a great review and so basically the restaurant was almost more popular than the club! But yeah, it’s all around very much a treat to play.
MARCUS: What’s your favorite night you’ve played there?
EMERSON: They’re all kind of different, I’ve played there so often too, so each time’s just a little bit different. The last time I played there—this was also where I played in the soccer match, because they have a gymnasium since it used to be a school—I played an ambient chill set with one of my good friends Aurora Halal. Then I closed downstairs for like six and a half hours, so maybe that was my favorite, it was intense.
EMERSON: That was a present that I got Lisa, my booking agent for Europe ,from when I was in Vegas. I thought they were cute dice, so I got them for her, and we were playing Settlers of Catan with them.
EMERSON: This is at my friend’s house, Melissa and Lindsey, and that is their dog Winslow.
EMERSON: This is my friend Aurora, she’s showing me some songs, I can’t remember which, we were at the airport in Amsterdam. We met a few years ago through music stuff and really hit it off. We’ve played together a few times. Lisa is both of our agents so we’re on the same lineup quite a lot.
EMERSON: On a plane somewhere, sick of everything. I can’t even remember where I was going.
MARCUS: Do you pretty much play every weekend at this point?
EMERSON: Every single weekend yeah, I have to schedule weekends off otherwise I can play forever.
EMERSON: In Amsterdam with Lisa!
EMERSON: This was in Berlin right after a photo-shoot that I did. It’s just Berlin looking gnarly, so I thought it was a good one to add.
EMERSON: This is Felix and he was working with me on set shooting my music video that just came out at the Kew Gardens.
EMERSON: That’s also in Kew Gardens, in the Botanic Gardens.
MARCUS: There’s a lot of arboreal themes in your work, the cacti and stuff.
EMERSON: Yeah, I like the natural world.
EMERSON: Yeah this was in Glasgow and that’s Bleaker.
EMERSON: Yes this is at my friends, who is holding up the other record, Massimiliano Pagliara, is his name and this is at his home. I’m holding a CockTail D’Amore record, one of the new ones.
MARCUS: This one looks like some sort of chicken omelet. What is it?
EMERSON: That’s a schnitzel, that is what a schnitzel looks like, it’s basically a chicken fried steak. And that’s one of my friends, Keivon, who had just moved to Berlin. We knew each other from each being in bands in high school and whatnot, but we became friends when we both worked at Circuit City together when we were like thirteen. No it would’ve been seventeen or something. [laughs] It was very funny, I was selling computers basically, that was my thing. It was fun actually.
EMERSON: That was at my birthday party and that’s my friend Silvia in a wig. She was DJing at my party at my house!
MARCUS: What would you say was your best birthday ever?
EMERSON: That last one was fun, all my friends were here and I ended up surprise DJing the closing of Panorama bar with Andy Baumecker and Roi Perez because the other DJ got food poisoning and they asked if I was in town, which I was because I took it off for my Birthday. I had such a wonderful time. Panorama Bar is probably is my favorite place to play ever. The crowd and the vibe of Panorama Bar is such a special thing, and people more eloquent than me have waxed on about it forever, so it’s really great to be a part of it and DJ there.