Shout Out! To Freedom...
George Evelyn, aka Nightmares on Wax, is concerned with notions of freedom. “What was unique in making this album,” he tells Apple Music, “is that for the first time in forever, I didn’t have a flight booked and all that space, time, and freedom really refreshed my connection with music. It felt like I was just making it for fun again.” While many of the tracks on Evelyn’s ninth Nightmares on Wax album already existed in embryonic form, 2020’s global pandemic allowed him to focus on the project with a newfound creative freedom. And then George Floyd was murdered. “When we were in the midst of that situation, and I was collaborating with a lot of artists remotely, it opened up these deep conversations between us all,” he says. “I was saying, ‘Right, what’s going on inside?’” The result is an album that is at once luscious, unhurried, and reflective—one tackling deep subject matter while maintaining an optimistic tone. “The whole album is about these different facets of freedom—which ones we have and which ones we don’t have,” he says. “Hopefully, it can help open some really healthy conversations.” Here, Evelyn talks us through the album’s tracks.
“Shout Out! (Intro)” [feat. Beautiful People] “I thought it would be amazing to get people shouting, ‘Freedom!’ in loads of different languages. So, I put a call out to my fanbase on Instagram, and people sent me voice notes of them saying, ‘Freedom’ in their native tongue. I put that together and it was originally 35 minutes long, so I spent three days cutting and pasting it and then used some digital oscillators on it and brought in a string arranger.”
“Imagineering” “I was record shopping in Asia in 2019 and picking some amazing stuff up in places like Thailand. I love the way they use strings there, and this song’s really influenced by that. I brought my keyboard player Robin Taylor-Firth to play on the Rhodes and my string arranger Stephen to help out. It was a really slow process and took ages to get just right.”
“Creator SOS” (feat. Haile Supreme & Wolfgang Haffner) “I did a writing session with Haile Supreme, who appears throughout the album, and this is a track we actually kind of forgot we recorded. Then I was doing a session with my drummer Wolfgang Haffner, and we ended up finding this sketch of a song.”
“3D Warrior” (feat. Shabaka Hutchings, Haile Supreme & Wolfgang Haffner) “This started in 2019 on a loop session with Wolfgang, and the original was 10 minutes long. Then I brought in my keyboardist JD73 to work on it and eventually Haile too. Then, in 2020, I handed it to Shabaka Hutchings, with the structure of the song already built, and he worked his magic on it. I’m a huge fan of Shabaka and think we’re witnessing a legend in the making. His music elicits so much curiosity in me.”
“Miami 80” “This is another that came out of a session with Wolfgang and is more of a DJ tool, really. It’s got that real synthy, Miami feel. It reminds me of Scarface!”
“Wikid Satellites” [Nightmares on Wax & Greentea Peng] “Greentea Peng has an amazing voice and a really unique delivery. She’s young and fresh and has maturity beyond her years. She really gravitated towards this beat, and she can really trigger you to think with her writing.”
“Breathe In” (feat. OSHUN) “OSHUN are the first artists I recorded remotely on this album, and it was in the midst of the George Floyd situation, so we were having some deep and important conversations. I took quite a straight-ahead hip-hop approach with it.”
“Wonder” (feat. Haile Supreme & Shabaka Hutchings) “This came from a conversation between myself and Haile. We haven’t actually known each other that long, but it feels like we’ve known each other forever. So, this track’s all about the people who come in and out of your life, maybe for a year or two, maybe just for a night at a party, but you just click and then, at some point, they’re just gone. I wanted it to have a dreamy quality and bringing in Shabaka helped with that. He brought in the clarinet, which just took it to another deeper and more soulful level.”
“Own Me” (feat. Haile Supreme) “This track’s like having a conversation with your ego in the mirror. It’s basically saying, ‘You can never own me.’”
“Widyabad” “I’ve collaborated with loads of different musicians on this album, but on this track, the bass player is actually my neighbor’s son. He’s called Marlon Lopez and lives just down the hill from me in Ibiza. It started from a really hypnotic loop.”
“Isolated” (feat. Pip Millett and Sabrina Mahfouz) “I sent this track to Pip, and we had a bit of back and forth with it. I wasn’t in the studio with her because of the pandemic and I was nervous, as she’s young and starting out, and I think the producer’s job is to be there guiding things. But she came back with this wonderful and really deep song. Then Sabrina came in and did the amazing spoken-word part at the end.”
“Trillion” (feat. Mara TK) “I worked on this in Leeds with JD73 initially. Then, when I was in New Zealand, I had a session lined up with Mara and he picked out this track. His work on it was amazing. Then, when I was back home, adding cellos and other things to it, I had the beat muted and thought, ‘This sounds amazing without a beat.’ It’s a hard thing to do—put out a track without the beat—but Mara really carries it.”
“Up to Us” (feat. Haile Supreme) “This track’s about going deeper within yourself and building yourself back better. The track’s got quite a classic feel and once I’d got the strings and French horn in there, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is going to be so epic!’ I’m really proud of it. It’s like the last little bit of cream on top of the cake.”