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Nightmares on Wax presents CARBOOT SOUL LIVE

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“I feel like I've been set free of something and I am now becoming who I really am,” says George Evelyn. As Nightmares on Wax Evelyn has - for the last 30 years, as Warp’s longest serving signing - been consistently at the forefront of contemporary music, creating a unique blend of electronica, jazz, hip-hop, techno, dub, funk, soul and techno.

Although 9 albums in, he may have only just truly stepped into his own groove. Lockdown forced a change of pace and offered some time for meaningful reflection and introspection. “I've been gigging non-stop for 10 years,” he says. “And that experience has been beautiful but it also drained me emotionally.”

He began to reassess some things. “As a creative you're always questioning everything,” he says. “So having the time and the space has meant that I could do a proper deep dive into this stuff. So it was all about this journey of going back to myself, and realising being at home with my wife and my daughter that I’ve not really been here properly. It’s like I've just woken back up to what I actually have - and it's already here.”

Evelyn already had the wheels in motion for making a collaborative album with a variety of guests but now he took this personal element and asked them to run with it. “The world had stopped and I'd slowed down but time speeded up,” he reflects. “So there was a lot of static going on in the world at that time. So my conversation with people was more like, ‘what's going on inside? What's the inner voice saying?’ As a result, he formed creative bonds with new and upcoming talent that slotted in nicely with both the history and evolution of N.O.W. The likes of Shabaka Hutchings, Haile Supreme, Mara TK, Sabrina Mahfouz. Greentea Peng, OSHUN and Pip Millett all feature.

However, despite the array of guests, all adding something unique and dynamic to a record that seamlessly glides between slick electronica, smooth jazz, deft hip-hop, and that distinct middle ground that epitomes the essence of N.O.W, this is Evelyn’s most personal album to date. “This record is probably the deepest record I've written,” he says.

It came during a period of profound change in his life. He adopted a healthier lifestyle which resulted in a clarity that had been fogged by life on the road for so long but also he had a cancer scare. “I remember going into writing this album and having a conversation saying that I need to go into this album as if this was the last album I was ever going to write,” he remembers. “I asked myself: What would I do? How deep would I go? It was kind of ironic that I did end up experiencing that feeling for a time. Especially in the two week period where I didn't know what the results were going to be.”

This scare, combined with the changes to his life, and the enforced lockdown, all contributed to a feeling of coming to life. Besides, Evelyn knew that his story didn’t feature dying of cancer in it. “I was like, no, that doesn't fit,” he says. “That's not my movie. It's not my story. I’ve still got stuff to do. I’ve still got light to shine. So there's an underlying element of Shout Out! To Freedom that is very, very personal for me.” It also made Evelyn approach the work with a newfound sense of drive and purpose. “I go to my studio every day and I’m thankful for where I am,” he says. “It’s given me this thirst and hunger just to write and produce and do so much stuff.”

This feeling of freedom that Evelyn has felt is what he asked his guest contributors to explore too. “I wanted to ask: what is freedom?” he says. “Everybody's got a different idea of it, everybody's got a different concept of it. I realised that internally, we all want to be free of our shit and it doesn't matter what it is. Everybody wants to be free of

something. So there are shout outs to freedom in each song. They're all different cries and different calls but there's a coherent feeling through it.”

Apr 17, 2024