Meet Evian Christ, The 24-Year-Old Producer From Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’
Kanye West’s album credits always seem to generate quite a grand response. It’s almost like a spectacle of sorts, considering that these extensive liners usually feature a who’s who of producers and songwriters that range from production veterans to bubbling upstarts. Yeezus is the most recent that fits this bill, and young producer Evian Christ was one of the few upstarts involved in the creation of Kanye West’s latest entry in his impressive canon. At only 24, the UK native, born Joshua Leary, is responsible for producing the track “I’m In It” off Yeezy’s LP. It's also worth mentioning that this is Leary’s first major production credit—a hell of an achievement with such a high-profile release.
Speaking on the process behind crafting the record, as well as his journey in linking with Mr. West, Evian Christ chops it up with XXL one time.—Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)
You’re just 24 years old. How did you get into producing?
My dad was always, like, really into music, and he had...in the '80s he used to play keyboards and shit. Like, he wasn’t really a producer, but he was just really into wiring keyboards and all that kind of shit, he was super musical. So as technology progressed and I kind of reached an age, maybe like 15, 16, where I could make sense of what he was doing, it kind of just was a natural thing for me to be interested [in]. And I’ve always been really into music, too, and really interested in how it’s made. For as long as I can remember, it’s been something that’s interested me, even if it’s something I didn’t know how to do, you know?
Was it music as a whole, or was it a specific genre?
Well the first thing I ever got was an MPC, trying to make rap beats. I was probably like 19. And I had this MPC and I had this shitty computer software. I was really into Dilla and stuff like that, and I was just trying to chop up soul samples—that style of production. Then I kind of faded out, got interested in other things, like, “Maybe this ain’t for me”...then picked it back up again, like, a year and a half ago now. Just over a year and a half ago I picked it back up. I was training to be a teacher...I had two weeks off for Christmas, from university. So I was just like, “Fuck, I’m just gonna make some music for two weeks, just for something to do.” So I made like eight tracks and ended up putting it on a mixtape, and that was the thing that Kanye heard, and that’s like what prompted him to hit me up.
The mixtape is an eight track instrumental-type thing called Kings and Them, which I put out in January 2012. But yeah, I guess they were listening to that. They were listening to that in Hawaii, while they were working on Cruel Summer, I think...unbeknownst to me. If you haven’t heard it, it’s just really dark, minimal rap beats really, with chopped and screwed imprints. And I guess when Kanye decided that the record was gonna be really electronic-y, dark, industrial…I guess from having heard that, they just hit me up. So it’s cool.
How did Kanye reach out to you? Did he call? Email?
The label I released the tape on is called TriAngle, and they just emailed the dude. The dude who runs TriAngle [is] called Robin, and they were kinda cryptic, not giving too much away, and they were like, “Hey, it’s G.O.O.D. Music. Is there any way we could get in touch with Evian Christ, we’ve got some stuff we wanna talk about. We don’t want to talk about everything now, let’s have a meeting, let’s talk about it.” It was gradually revealed to us that they were trying to hook up with some producers for the Kanye record, so they just hit us up like that—an email and then a meeting.