15 Apr 2024 ///

The Purveyor of Sonic Perfection – Our chat with George Evelyn of Nightmares on Wax

Sitting across from George Evelyn aka DJ Ease – the discerning master behind Nightmares On Wax – in the cosy confines of an intimate studio in Observatory, I want to say that it’s easy to forget you’re in the presence of a musical pioneer because of his laid back, mesmerising demeanour; but even with his warm reception to me and the team, at no point did I forget that I was sitting across from a purveyor of sonic perfection. It’s embodied in the way he talks, moves and meanders around the space looking at equipment and telling us about his studio back home. 

My first question to George is about how it all started, which seems cliche but is easily one of the most important questions I’ve ever asked an artist; he takes me through a space in time of being a young kid, growing up in Leeds – who at a very early age, developed an unrelenting appetite for music, influenced by the impact of early Reggae soundsystem culture that emanated through his neighbourhood.  

“My friends brother had Reggae soundsystem called Messiah” which George explains was stored in the basement of his school; being 8 years old and not being able to attend the parties hosted by local legends, he and his friends would listen from outside clubs, hearing the windows rattle; absorbing the audio waves and describing the scene as being “close but far”.

Nightmares on Wax for CEC by Keegan Foreman

“The heroes of our neighbourhood were these characters that were either MC’s of the soundsystem or selectors of the soundsystem” George emphasises how this culture was the doorway into his world of music; along with having a strong presence of music in his home being introduced to artists like Quincy Jones by his Dad,“My dad had two gramophones at home, this all formed part of the bedrock and foundation of my musical upbringing” 

George goes on; “Then, in 1982, hip hop happened – it entered into my life and the common thread was there already. I was a rude boy, a mod, I was really into ska and  fashion. My sister was a disco dancer and she would win competitions, a 12 inch or a cassette of the DJ’s playing, but the real thing that swept me was hip hop. I was seeing this thing that was so far away, hearing this music that sounded like it came from another planet but I didn’t know what it was, it was like being drip fed, getting little glimpses on TV, little news flashes of what was happening in New York”

The biggest and most defining moment at that time for George, he explains, was the record ‘Buffalo gals’ by Malcolm McLaren, because within that, not just the song, the music video that came out – there were the 5 elements of hip hop in there and that was it, that changed the game for me”. 

Through the years that followed, George continued on his melomaniac endeavours in spite of personal tribulations and reflects that “I had hip hop, I had my crew” and upon a chance visit to Bradford, he met Kevin Harper who later ended up being his partner in Nightmares On Wax “Kevin was the first person I had ever seen scratch on his Mom’s hi-fi and I was like ‘you’ve got to show me how to do that’. 

Following this intro, George became part of a breakdancing crew called ‘Soul of City Rockers’ – safe to say that school was out of the picture at this time. With the bravado of hip hop encouraging the young prodigy to believe that anything is possible, this resulted in his formidable experimentation of sampling, making mega mixes on cassettes at 14 years old.

On the early era of hip hop “It’s definitely a lot of ego, but in a beautiful way”
– Nightmares on Wax for CEC by Keegan Foreman

Nightmares on Wax & Candice Erasmus for CEC by Keegan Foreman

Serendipitously, George was then introduced to John Halnon – the only guy he knew that had twin turntables as well as a vast record collection ranging from Gothic to a variety of film scores, new wave, hip hop etc. My question that follows after being taken into a beautiful, intricate worm-hole of sacred memories is: 

“How did the name Nightmares on Wax come about?”

George reflects on the year 1986, at age 16 mixing with John; “We started doing these mega mixes together and we made a mix one day that had Humphrey Bogart, Laurel and Hardy and all this mad film score stuff on there – and John said to me ‘This sounds like a fucking nightmare’ and I said ‘yeah, on wax’ and we were like, we could call ourselves that. John said it could maybe sound a bit negative but I figured it could be the notion of turning out your wildest dreams, on vinyl” 

Following John’s parting from the duo a short while after, George and his earlier music comrade, Kevin Harper, became NOW and landed a residency at a local club, promoting their student nights. The music that they played, samples and original tracks, was so well received it caused pandemonium amongst their local scene of party go-ers and so began a very special era. The duo used all their wages to buy records and immerse themselves in the knowledge of hip hop composition and after unsuccessfully trying to land record deals, in between a trip to New York, George realised they would have to put their record out themselves. Borrowing £400, as well as  a friend’s drivers licence – they pressed out and delivered 2000 records to local stores across the country and sold out in two weeks. 

This all happened during the Summer of 89’, which was referred to in the UK as ‘the summer of love’ due to the explosion of ecstasy usage and rave culture among the youth – what a time to make a big break on the music scene – when football hooligans and ravers collided. Although never (really) partaking in the anarchy, George reflects on this time as being one of the most important summers ever – going from “a crew in the hood” to playing for crowds of more than 10 000 people. NOW was the second release on Warp Records, in 1989. Their first full length album, ‘A World of Science’ (also released on Warp) debuted in 1991. Following this, is an incredible discography of genre bending sonic delight. 

The evolution, production and distribution of music has changed rapidly since the early years of NOW’s and George’s inception, so I am curious to ask:
“When you look at that era of music, where you started, records and vinyl, cassettes, music being discovered in the club, maybe some radio airplay versus now where we have streaming, Spotify, accessibility, YouTube etc. – which era do you think serves the artist better?” 

To which George responds, “The internet is amazing and has served many people, including me personally, in such a magnificent way. The issues that have come from that are accessibility; that collecting music and records, discovering samples, has become devalued. I look at my record collection and I know the journey I took to get that record. At the same time, the accessibility of people being able to hear your music all across the globe, in the most remote places is a beautiful thing and has definitely kept my music alive”.

Nightmares on Wax for CEC by Keegan Foreman

This (the topic of accessibility) served as an ironic anecdote to my next question which is around the track “You Wish” – my favourite from NOW; where I ask Geroge about creating the track and using the sample of Judy Clay’s ‘Private Number’; he explains that it happened pretty easily, that “I chopped up in under two hours”-  after initially producing the track for someone else, which was accidentally named “Fuzz” – the reworked track and sample, along with Robin Taylor-Firth on keys, was added as a last lick to ‘In a Space Outta Sound’.

George explains that “the album came out in 2006 and a year later, it was used by Gorillaz in a mix of Pandora – by the end of 2008 the track was number 1 on Beatport for close on 2 years and I think it went back to number 1 in 2011,” recounting its success appears to be incredibly surprising to George, which again reiterates the humble nature of his creative essence. 

We chat further about the letter George wrote to Quincy Jones to clear the “Summer in The City” – sample which is used as an inspirational evolution from “Night’s Interlude” into its later version of “Les Nuits”, the iconic dreamy soundscape that transcends the soul, recorded with a 52 piece orchestra. For your listening pleasure, here. 

As we move to a close of our interview, I ask a few questions from two fellow artists. First up, Valentin Barbier AKA Boogie Vice asks George “What is your relationship with sampling – do you use it more as a starter for grooves and melodies or to add texture to tracks that you’ve created with synths and drums?” to which George says, “For me, it’s what catches my ear and then curiosity of why it catches my ear and then what I think I can hear. I’m always looking for the ghost in the sample, not necessarily what’s prominent. The ghost is where I start picking out melodies where I work re-creating or creating melodies that aren’t actually there. It’s more about pulling exploration out – sometimes I build a song and then remove a sample. All musicians are inspired by other musicians”

Then, Richard Marshall asks,For me, your music has always been tinged with Balearic sounds; coming from Leeds, what inspired your sunset style of music production? Was it from travel, listening to other music?” with George reflecting that, “I’d say my upbringing and the music that I’ve collected, some people have coined my music as ‘bottled sunshine’ which I find quite funny because the music they were referencing was from Carboot Soul and Smokers Delight – which when I look back on where I was in my life, when I made that music – there were actually some really dark times. It’s interesting how the soul responds to these things.  When I was making Smokers Delight, the flat I lived in was upstairs, no heating, I was sitting with two jackets on trying to keep warm. there was obviously a yearning for something warmer and lighter” we laugh at George’s sentiments on how being too blissed out, in an idyllic setting, can also ironically hinder music making.

I could carry on writing an essay about the time we spent together, but more than a subjective viewpoint of someone who I deeply admire, it needs to be noted as a fact that George Evelyn undoubtedly revolutionised music and a sound that defies any genre. Now that we’ve chatted, I know why it’s so hard to categorise his music; because it’s full of life, experience, beauty, craftsmanship, soul and intention and perhaps this is the reason why it has spanned across a musical evolution of over 30 years. 

It’s easy, when you’re a fan, to name anyone a master of their craft – but in this circumstance, it’s not an opinion. It’s written on wax.

My last question to George is, “What is your biggest vice?” To which he answers,



Our full video interview with George Evelyn will be released soon. 

Follow: Nightmares on Wax 

Nightmares on Wax for CEC by Keegan Foreman

Written by: Candice Erasmus

For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

You May Also Like

A Sartorial Genesis with Chloe Andrea Welgemoed

A Sartorial Genesis with Chloe Andrea Welgemoed

When reality seems to present a flat surface of 2-dimensional, replicated ideas: Chloe Andrea Welgemoed is a stylist and art director whose maximalist spirited work stands in direct resistance to any and all oblique tediousness.