Interview with EDEN
Days before his debut album 'vertigo' is released, we speak to EDEN about recording voice notes, independence and future collaborations.
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Releasing an album can be a stressful experience for the most experienced of artists – but what if you are an artist releasing his debut album? What if almost all of your tracks beforehand had gained millions of streams? What if your whole album has no featured artists? And, what if you produced most of it in your bedroom?
Hunched over a hot chocolate in a dimly lit restaurant in Shoreditch, London is EDEN - the most unsuspecting of streaming superstars.
At the time that we meet, the artist is just days away from releasing his debut album ‘vertigo’ – a record riding on the waves of the millions of streams gained from his previous email ‘i think you think too much of me’ and the lead single from the album ‘gold’ which has 4M streams when we meet.
Just days before I had witnessed him speaking in front of an audience of fans and journalists at an Album Playback Party in Bloomsbury, London (one of many he has been hosting around the world). He spoke confidently then, and even now he seems more nervous about his manager spilling his drink than about the upcoming release.
However, as the conversation begins it becomes ever-clear that his demeanour is of over-confidence, but that he in fact feels liberated that finally his work will be shared for all of his fans.
Just as I go to ask my first question, chocolate cake arrives. Once that has been arranged appropriately, we begin...
Click here to stream 'Vertigo' by EDEN now.
*Interview lightly edited for clarity*
Your debut album ‘vertigo’ is about to be released – how does it feel?
It’s mixed emotions, for sure. It’s a relief to finally have it out, because I finished it last year in the Summer, so it’s been a long time of just sitting on it and nobody else hearing it. I’m also kind of nervous and excited… I’ve made the whole thing thinking that I don’t care what anybody else likes it, I’m just making it for myself, and then suddenly I’m playing it for people and I kind of hope that other people like it now!
The way we consume music has changed so much – now the “value” of music is determined by streams and not by physically purchasing an album. When you see that your tracks have millions of streams, how do you attach “value” to that?
It’s interesting, because you don’t know if someone is listening whilst they’re just cooking and it’s on in the background and they’re not paying attention to it or if they’re actively listening to it.
For me, statistics get very weird because when you start seeing crazy numbers with lots of zero’s behind them, it almost begins to not feel real anymore. If I can post something onto social media and it gets thousands of ‘Likes’, it dehumanises each individual ‘Like’. I think it’s cool that my music has millions of streams, but it doesn’t feel like it’s been played a million times because it’s difficult to visualise that.
But then those numbers do translate because you perform live and everyone knows the words to your songs!
Exactly, so the shows are the complete opposite! There are thousands of people who have paid to be there and are singing along to the songs, its mind blowing.
You have your style of producing music, and on the album there is variety. A track like ‘gold’ is different to a track like ‘start//end’. Did you find that whilst making the album your creative process changed?
Not particularly. Essentially my creative process for the whole album was to just do what felt right. Even if a song went from a verse to a chorus and then something weird and then never the chorus again… if it felt right, then it was fine.
I’m not someone who would be happy with making an album with three different versions of ‘gold’ on it. I’m always looking to make something new and something that excites me – I couldn’t just sit there and make another ‘End Credits’ or ‘sex’ or ‘drugs’.
On that note – if this is a stupid question, let me know, but on ‘i think you think too much of me’, was it planned to have the four songs ‘sex’ ‘drugs’ ‘and’ ‘rock + roll’ like that?
Of course it was! Interestingly though, on that EP it was the opposite creative process to what I did on ‘vertigo’. Before I started the project, I kind of knew already what each song would mean, so the whole ‘sex’ ‘drugs’ ‘and’ ‘rock + roll’ thing was actually in place before I had made the songs. Whilst I was making the EP I was building towards that.
In comparison, with ‘vertigo’ it was the opposite. For some reason I knew it would be called ‘vertigo’ but I didn’t know what that meant for the music and I didn’t know what direction I would go in.
In your Album Playback Party in London, you said that sometimes when you make a track it can take a couple of weeks afterwards for you to work out what the song means. Do you know what ‘vertigo’ means yet?
A little bit. I’ve been reflecting a lot on that recently, because I don’t like to spell out what something means to me because I don’t like discounting other people’s interpretations of it.
My life over the past few years has been really thrust into this new world and right into the deep end, and I guess this album is a disorientated me trying to figure things and land my feet back on the ground.
You’re now apart of a major label ecosystem, but you still come across as someone who is very independently-minded. How have you maintained that balance?
In 2015, after I released ‘End Credits’ I had this weird flurry of industry people (labels, managers, publishers, etc…) email me, and I had never spoken to anyone from the music industry before. After all of it, I told everyone that I didn’t want to work with them.
After a while, as things progressed and time passed, the herd disappeared and there was really two or three people left and I just kept talking to them, they would come to the shows that we were putting on and we did a trial with ‘i think you think too much of me’ with my label Astralwerks. By that stage, they knew how I operated and they knew what they were buying into. Thankfully, they’re a team of people who understand me and have just allowed me to do what I want to do, which is all I can really ask for.
Other than when you worked with gnash on ‘Fumes’ you haven’t collaborated with any other artists on your music. Are collaborations something you’re reconsidering?
For this album I really wanted to make everything by myself. Moving forward, now that I’ve done that it’s an exciting prospect to collaborate with people – and maybe next album every song is a collaboration! I don’t know… Getting it out of my system of having this body of work made by myself now opens the door for me. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to jump at every collaboration, but it is very exciting to think about.
You know what my next question is...
Who are those people? It depends on the project to be honest. But, someone like SZA (I’ve really been loving her stuff). I also really love the new King Krule album. But how popular that person is doesn’t matter to me, any collaborations just have to make sense for the song.
During your songs you have snippets of voice notes from your real life – how do you source them without seeming like a creep?
No, ha! Before, I used to sample movies, but for this album I actually was sampling a lot of ambient noises. In ‘start//end’ you can hear a lot of wind noises, for example.
In the song “float” there is a sample of my Mum talking to me – in that case, we were driving to my Grannies house for dinner with my family and I was stressed out about something and we were stuck in traffic. An ambulance was coming the other way, so I thought it would be cool to record the ambulance, it could be a cool sound to have. I started recording it on my phone, and then half way through my Mum just starts to continue the conversation and she says, “Well there you go Jonathan, that’s another problem solved”. When I went to make the song I was looking for a voice note to expand the meaning of the song, and it just fit together.
At the Album Listening Party you said that your music is more like a trial or thought than a story, but it sounds extremely personal. With your album coming out, and the live shows coming this year, does it make you nervous that you’re opening up this book into your life?
Not really. I think it’s because I’ve been putting my life into songs for a while. It’s kind of weird because I’m almost always writing about myself, and if there’s other people present in the songs – or if I’m singing about a situation – it’s almost always with a view of being a mirror onto myself.
A friend of mine actually asked if one of the songs was about him, although most of the time my family and friends don’t ask. It would be easily to assume that a song would be about you if you were my best mate, but it rarely is. My music is just my looking at my self… I’m untangling things in my head and coming to terms with things, both good and bad. Making music is my way of digesting things that are going on in my life.
Click here to stream 'Vertigo' by EDEN now.