Nicholas Talks


Ahead of his appearance at Saints Don’t Sleep at Brixton Jamm this Friday, R$N tracked down one of Italy’s most talented electronic music exports, Nicholas, for a rare chat to discuss everything from the golden era of house music, sampling ethics and why edits are so 2011…

Hi Nicholas! What was it like growing up in Perugia? Did you have a lot of exposure ?to non-commercial music and how did you start producing?
Living in Perugia has played an important role in my musical education, especially in terms of underground dance music. Although it's a small city, the house music culture is really wide and you can basically listen to it anywhere. Not only in clubs but what often happens is I go into a store and some house classic is playing in the shop background.
This is mainly due to a very popular club in Perugia called Red Zone, which has been running since 1989 and has always played the best house and techno. Everyone who wants to go out and party goes there, whether they are into house music or not, so this has helped to spread the popularity of the genre in such a small town in the middle of Italy. So the Red Zone is where I took my lessons in house and learned about the classics.
I first started producing during high school, but it was really just for fun and I wasn't taking it too seriously – I never had the goal to release music or anything like that; it was simply messing around with some pieces of software. 
While doing this I met people that knew more than me about making music and believed I had some sort of potential, so I got a taught a little bit more and finally I bought some decent equipment for a studio. But it was just fun with no master plan or anything like that. 
Right now I see a lot of people out of the blue starting to produce music and thinking straight away they're going to release it on some big name label and start playing in clubs, that's not how I was thinking.
The Red Zone Club in Perugia sounds like an important part of your?musical development then. What do you think about the wider Italian scene?and do you feel Italian producers get the recognition they deserve?
I've spoken about this topic a few times before and for this I’ve probably drawn some hostility, but the fact is that the whole Italian scene is not in great form I think. A lot of good Italian producers don't get the same recognition and support they have in other countries.  
A lot of producers and DJ’s like me don't have the opportunity to regularly play in their own country or even in their own city. In fact I usually don't get to play much in Perugia, even though there are some good house music venues were my sound wouldn't be out of place. 
This doesn’t bother me really, I can definitely live with it, but it's weird in my opinion. Actually, I rarely heard house DJ's in Perugia play my records, which is strange.
You lived in New York for a bit. When was this and did this move have an influence on your? sound at all?
Honestly, nothing at all. When I lived there I was really young at the time, in elementary and middle school, so I didn't do any clubbing, record shopping or stuff like that. I was just starting to learn about dance music, but all I was able to find was R&R and Hip Hop, I had no friends listening to house, so it was difficult. 
But now I love to go back to New York and buy records as there are some great stores – for me it's still one of the best places for digging. 
You list the seminal Prescription label as one of your most important ?musical influences. What do you think it was about this era of house?music that was so special?
Prescription is just one of my favorite labels, in the same way for a lot of other people. I've been chasing all their original pressings for many years and I'm proud to say I have most of them now. 
What I appreciate about that era of house music is the depth of the music, the warmth, the use of vocals, the soul, all elements that were missing for a while in house music but things are much better today in my opinion. I'm not one of those people who will always complain, saying that old music is good and new music is bad, I really like a lot of the music coming out nowadays.
There’s certainly been a resurgence in classic house? sounds of late; any thought’s on why that is or is it just a case that? scenes always revert back to their roots?
Yes it’s true, music trends tend to go in circles, two years ago it was disco, today it's classic house and really soon it's going to be something else, especially if everyone and their dog are jumping on the 90's house bandwagon, making music that all sounds the same with that identical organ stab!
Do you think there will ever be another era of electronic music as ?strong and as influential as this period?
I don't know, I can't predict what's going to happen, maybe it will but who knows. Either way, it's going to be hard to top those Masters At Work chef-d'oeuvre’s.
These days with some much more accessibility to computers and ?software, many more people are producing music. With regards to? sampling etiquette – do you feel you have to earn the right to sample certain ?tracks or is any track fair game?
I don't think there should be too many rules in house music, everyone should be able to express himself or herself in whatever way they want. 
Regarding sampling in particular I think it's one of dance music’s oldest techniques and it's totally cool in my prospective if it’s done with some creativity. 
Some of house music’s greatest records are based on a four bar sample, and that's it, but that doesn’t make these them a rip off… take all those JohNick records on Henry Street for example. I would never say that “Play The World” sucks because it's just based on a “First Choice” Salsoul sample laid on top of a normal house shuffle. 
Are there certain tracks you yourself just wouldn’t sample and if so why?
I have to admit that I've sometimes sampled songs in the past that today I possibly wouldn't sample, or I would use differently at least.
I'm still growing as a producer and trying to develop and learn more, so my prospective is ever changing. My earliest records were relying a lot on sampling, especially for vocals, but right now for example I'm starting to work with vocalists so that's something new.
Many of your releases use well-known samples. With regards to the? current edit culture, one criticism that is often leveled is that? edits are unoriginal and often they simply plagiarize original records ?– how would you respond to this?
Some edits are simply the copy of the original song and are useless, while others bring something completely new to the table. So it depends on how it's done, it's impossible to generalize. Anyways it's not a problem anymore because who is doing edits still? That's so 2011.
You do not seem to collaborate often – is there a reason for this and is ?there anyone you would love to collaborate with?
I would like to collaborate more but unfortunately residing here in Perugia makes it very difficult. I wouldn't be able to do it via Internet like some people do, I would need to be in the same studio with someone for quite some time and that hasn't happened yet. 
I've actually been doing a bit of collaboration recently, like my new track ‘Things Of the Past’ with Stee Downes on vocals, but nothing with actual music producers yet. But I would love to.
You were a producer first but what is most fulfilling: making music or? playing live to a crowd?
Making a record that you think is great is unquestionably one of the best feelings ever; nothing beats the happiness of that moment. 
On the other hand playing out to a crowd is another fulfilling experience, especially if the party is good. So it's hard to say. I think that both these things are two faces of the same coin, especially for me as I play my own material live.
As an artist you have produced a lot of material and had many releases. ? Therefore why do you choose to play live when this generally restricts ?you to only an hours performance whereas DJ sets can last a number of ?hours?
I'm naturally a producer not a deejay, so when I started to put out records it didn't feel right to go out there and start pretending I was a deejay. Therefore I chose to take a more coherent and logical route, which was to build a live set. 
On the other hand I'm an avid record collector and I spend a lot of money on vinyl, and therefore I'm training my DJ skills, so who knows what will happen in the future. Sometimes after my live set I enjoy playing a few house classics to the crowd, so you could say it's already slowly happening.
Talk us through your live set up and are all your live shows generally ?improvised?
Right now my live set is made of Novation SL MkII, Korg Nano Pad, M-audio Keystation and computer. I'm also in the process of getting another few things too like The Korg Kaoss Pad. 
The live show involves improvisation of course, especially on the way the songs are presented and built, according to the type of crowd and their reactions. Although a live show is based also on prerecorded samples, I do also play some keyboard during the show but I can't relay on that too much, as I only have two hands!
As a live artist, you normally play a 60-minute live set. As this your set on Friday is 90 minutes will you? approach this differently to normal?
Lately I've been playing longer than 60 minutes if the party makes it possible, it all depends on the night and the crowd. 
The live set changes from party to party, so sometimes it's an hour and sometimes 90 minutes or more, it's not something that is too rigid. 
Usually when I play for more than an hour I do drop some music from other people at the end, especially some fun classics, if the vibe is right.
Finally what plans have you got for 2013?
First thing I'm trying to pass the Bar exam which lawyers have to sit. I’ve done part one and the second part will be in September. While studying for that I'm playing in clubs during the weekends and I have some very exciting parties ahead. I also have some cool records coming out like the new EP on 4lux with Stee Downes on vocals. 
Nicholas’ Top 3 disco tracks

Donna McGhee – It Ain't No Big Thing

Ronnie Dyson – All over your face

African Suite – Pigmy

Nicholas’ Top 3 house / techno tracks of the moment.
Linea Alba – Space Travel:
Revelation – First Power
Romanthony – The Wanderer

Nicholas plays Saints Don't Sleep at Brixton Jamm this Friday for a paltry fiver!  Full details here.

Interview by Mr Oli Wood