(La versione italiana dell’intervista è ascoltabile dal player di Soundcloud)
Emanuele: Hi there, Radio Bombay guys! Here I am to deliver another interview with another great EDM dj and producer! He’s one of the latest most surprising underground young talents. He’s from Bari, but Berlin adopted him (you can clearly hear the German capital music influence in his records). He defines himself as a “a puzzle, the result of a youth written by experiences and extremes hardly recognizable in common places. Behind his deep expression he hides at one side the charm of a party animal and on the other side the perfect accuracy of the pure musician.” His productions allowed him to work with labels like 8bit, One Records, Sonido, and, last but not least, Josh Wink’s historical label Ovum, and Poker Flat, under which his latest EP, My Side, was released. So far he remixed artists such as Alessio Mereu, Andrade, Markus Fix and Ahmet Sisman. Well, seems our fellow Nico Lahs is collecting more and more hits! And he’s connected with us right now. Hi Nico, and welcome on Radio Bombay!
Nico: Hi guys! It’s a real pleasure to be here with you!
Emanuele: Ok then, let’s start off talking about your music genre: you’re the first artist we interview working with this so successful kind of house music, a mix of deep and tech sounds with a touch of vintage. Almost everybody is playing this kind of house music in the underground scene, and since 2008 this genre grew and grew and then blew out. How would you explain this incredible success? Do you think that the internet might have helped this genre to gain so much fame, since everybody now can search and listen to old and vintage 90s house and techno sounds?
Nico: In my opinion, internet really helped this kind of music, this kind of underground culture, which is getting more and more positive feedbacks from young people as it goes by and develops. It surely has its roots in old records, in the 90s sounds, that now everybody can reach by searching on the web, and so they had their way back to the clubs. Internet is a great help for producers: you can share your ideas, you can listen to a set made by another dj, you can get insipiration from other records, you can make a lot of things. So I think the web is really helping the electronic music expansion.
Emanuele: According to your biography, you started practicing music by playing the piano, then you switched to the battery. Why did you prefer the battery over the piano? What can you tell us about your time as a drummer in a young Bari rock band?
Nico: I’ll be short about this, otherwise I’d take hours to remember those times and describe them! My father had been a musician for years, he’s got a recording studio here in Bari, so he always helped me since I was a child. He made me attend some private piano lessons. I must be honest: those lessons are and always will be useful, because notes is where melodies come from, and I learned how to use them thanks to those piano lessons. As for the difference between piano and battery, the battery is a percussion instrument and it’s something that’s really me, because it allowed me to vent out my energy on the instrument itself; piano is something that requires more “mind-skills”, battery is something more physical instead, you can clearly feel the strength of the hits you’re striking. My time as a drummer in a Bari rock band was a good period of my life, I used to listen to different kinds of music back then, ranging from rock music to metal. Yeah, I had so much fun, those were good times, but anyway I never felt completely satisfied, because I was part of a bigger situation. It was all about the band, not me, I was part of a team. And I always liked the idea of showing off my musical side. In a rock group, you always need to adjust yourself according to what the other members do. When the group start to fade away (when you schedule some rehearsals and the other members won’t come, when some member spends more time for something different than the band…), there’s nothing you can do, because you can’t express yourself freely.
Emanuele: One day you discovered sound synthesis and you got cracking with it by using a drumpad and a keyboard. How your musical life changed that day?
Nico: It changed a lot, because electronic synthesis improved the way I could express myself. It gives you different emotions than when you play the piano or the battery, you’re free to work with and shape the sound the way you want it, you can really do anything you want! Electronic music is very important to me, I would reccomend everybody to try it at least once.
Emanuele: Well, I hope people will get your invite! Also because there’s a lot of bias concerning electronic music production, like all the things they say about electronic sounds to be cold…
Nico: Actually they are, if we follow traditional music standard. But in my opinion they also allow artists to get more variety: they can get out of schemes and rules, and they can do whatever they want to do.
Emanuele: Now i’m going to quote something you wrote in your biography: “music is rhythm”. Is that still true for you? Is this the philosophy behind your music?
Nico: You see, I think not only music is rhythm, but life itself is rhythm. Every day we do the things we do because we follow something that’s inside of us. In music rhythm is fundamental, there’s rhythm in every kind of music, even waltz has rhythm…every track is based on tempo or groove , that’s where artists start from in order to deliver their message. If there wasn’t rhythm, there wouldn’t be any music. As a matter of fact, my ideas are generated by a groove sequence, that I might get from something or somebody. Rhythm is the basic element in music, no matter what’s your opinion about it.
Emanuele: As a dj and producer, you started working in Germany. That’s where you got your fame and your first hits. How did you find yourself in the German underground world? Any clubs in Berlin you used to go often to?
Nico: My story is a little peculiar. I’ve been living in Bari for about one year so far, but musically speaking everything started in Germany. I went there to explore a new world, not just to follow electronic music. I visited many clubs like Panorama Bar and Watergate. When you enter in one of these venues, you experience something completely different than the Italian scene, but also different people, different music, different artistic views…you get totally overwhelmed by this world, and you feel like being part of it. Even though this is so hard today, because almost every day thousands of boys wake up and claim to be dj’s or producers, mostly because they’re influenced by the internet. I lived inside that world instead, and it’s something completely different than how it might appear on the web. When you spend a night out in one of these clubs, your mind is full of ideas, you want to make music so bad, you’d like to try something in order to make your way through these special venues leaving special emotions inside of you. It’s something different from how things are going in Italy. In Italy there are some many problems involving the clubs and the music culture itself (actually, we don’t have any in Italy). I’m sorry to say this about my country, but it’s the current state.
Emanuele: Your debut on the music scene dates back to 2009, when you released Keep That Groove, a record that was released under the German label Resopal Schallware. What can you tell us about your beginning as a professional producer?
Nico: During that time Myspace was very popular, because it could easily offer a space to advertise yourself and your music, no matter if you’re a dj, a singer or a producer. Many guys like me facing production for the first time, once they finished working on something, uploaded their song on Myspace, where people from all over the world could listen to it. At first my EP was supposed to be released for another label (a big and famous one , won’t tell you the name!), but after months of negotiations (they weren’t negotiations actually, they were totally making fun of me, and this shit happens so many times with labels!) it wasn’t released under that label anymore and so I uploaded it on Myspace, hoping someone would listen to it. I got many request from labels interested in my tracks, asking me if they had been already published, and that’s because there were videos on Yotube with guys like Luciano already playing them! You see, some time ago I sent few emails to labels like Cadenza and Desolat, which were peak-labels in those months. So I got this request from this label called Resopal Schallware, asking me to release a 3 songs EP for them. It had a pretty good success. It was the record that my made name, since it stayed in Luciano and Loco Dice charts for a long time. It was my first taste of fame!
Emanuele: I guess that Luciano and Loco Dice playing your record is a very good kind of advertising!
Nico: Of course. I didn’t expect it at all. They were my very first track as Nico Lahs, I had already started producing in 2008 under a different moniker. I used it to make another type of music. My new intention was to make something between techno and deep house, something peculiar. My record got very positive feedbacks and I was so happy, so I decided I should have kept on making this kind of music. You’ll surely notice the records I released right after Keep That Groove are kinda similar. But then, you know, as time goes by, music changes and so a producer’s mind and skills do , and his music as well…I think you never stop learning in this work.
Emanuele: So you think you’ve changed so much since those times?
Nico: Surely I did. I don’t think I’ve changed my ideas about music. I’ve changed my technique, and the kind of ideas I put in a project. I used to make easier music in the past, you know, that kind of music for un-clubbers (that’s how I call them)…those people that would only listen to catchy tunes. Now I’m trying to work on more refined and enhanced things capable to have an appeal on club-goers.
Emanuele: You’ve been making music for three years, more or less, and it’s surprising to see you already have a long discography of remixes, EPs and singles. Which record mostly helped you getting famous on the scene? Is there any record you like to remember, because it reminds you some precious memories?
Nico: I did lots of stuff in the past three years because I worked very hard. And I love making music! I love spending time with my machines, with software and hardware stuff, I really do. Speaking about the record that made me famous, actually I can mention two records: the one I did for Nick Curly’s 8bit, which was charted for a long time in many digital portals, and the one I did for Josh Wink’s Ovum, which signed a partial change in my music, halfway between that tribal-flavoured old school house music I used to make in the beginning of my career and the more dubby and deeper stuff I’m making now. That Ovum record was the first record of mine to be liked by those people really being into club culture. The name was Clouded Visions. And Late Night (one of the songs included) deeply signed this change in my music path. As for the 8bit EP, which is the record that allowed me to get access to the biggest clubs, it’s mostly bound to the 90s sound and it still has something to do with my Resopal Schallware time. It was based on a kind of music which was easier to sell, so it made me even more famous.
Emanuele: You mentioned it and so we’re going to talk about it: you’re also famous because of your artistic partnership with Ovum, under which Clouded Visions and Sunday 65, a record we heard a lot about in the past weeks, were released. What did working with a legend like Josh Wink mean to you? What can you tell us about the work behind these two records?
Nico: Well, I can tell you this: of course, Josh is a legend, he deserves respect, but basically he’s very humble, the humblest person I’ve ever met in this world. He’s special, I’ve a got a special relationship with him, he sees me like a son! I’m 25 years old after all, and he’s been working in the industry for almost 25 years. He’s so humble and you can see it by the way he relates with other people (like Matt, the label general manager, a fantastic guy!). They trusted me as soon as they knew me: they just met this 23 old boy and they said “well, ok, let’s let him make this record.” Late Night, included in the Clouded Vision EP, marked a change in my music, as I told you. Working with them was both an honor and a pleasure, since I’m always fine with them, no matter if we meet somewhere in the world during a gig or if we have to arrange something with some other artist from the label…labels are like families sometimes: you strike up friendship with other producers, you can talk to them on Skype, you exchange promos with them. Josh is a wonderful mate, and I hope to work again with him in the next years. That also happened with Steve Bug’s Poker Flat. I see Steve as another legend of electronic music. We immediately had a very close relationship, and I didn’t notice at all our age difference, our artistic skills gap (Steve Bug is one of the greatest artists in the techno and electronic scene, you know). Even though I worked for Poker Flat for a very short, I didn’t feel much these distinctions. We often met during our gigs, he first knew me as a person. Anyway, here’s something I want to highlight: I hear so many guys complaining because they send demos to labels and they don’t get any answer. I guess it’s because producers must first understand who you are in person, so that they can understand how you work with music. A relationship between two common guys comes before the rest, I think.
Emanuele: I partially agree with you: there are so many young producers wanting to prove their talent but being unable to meet these music personalities, mostly because they live far away from the labels Headquarters.
Nico: You’re right. I remember the times when I started making music: I sent demos and nobody would answer me. But you see, Ovum sent me an answer after three months since I sent them my demo tracks, asking me if they were still available. So I thought to myself: “Well, I guess what they say about labels not paying attention at all to demos is not true.” They really listen to them, maybe two or three months later, but they do it.
Emanuele: Talking about Poker Flat, that’s the label under which you released your latest EP My Side. A very strong, crepuscular, hypnotic record, which seems it’s going to be another underground hit. As a matter of fact djs like Phonique, Andre Lodemann and KiNK are already supporting it. What can you tell us about this EP? Did the Poker Flat guys contact you or did you contact them?
Nico: That’s a good question. This is a record I’m very bound to, I love it. It’s not exactly related to the music I’m making now, since I made it one year ago, but it’s very next to my new sounds. It’s very hypnotic and dark, as you said, and it represents me. As for Poker Flat, I met Steve Bug one year ago. He came to play in a Bari club. I was already working with Ovum at the time and Steve is a very close friend of Josh, so I just introduced myself and gave him my Ovum next promo release. He said: “Josh made me hear it already, but thank you anyway.” And he took it. I met him again one year later, during the Sonar festival. I had sent him some old material two weeks ago . I asked him if he had time to hear my tracks. He said: “I didn’t have time so far, but I’ll listen to them when I’ll be back home, I promise.” When he got back from Sonar, I sent him another email asking him if he had listened to those tracks. He told me about a various artists compilation he was producing for Poker Flat and he asked me if I wanted to join in. I immediately accepted. As you get into this family-like labels, then you meet the general manager, all the staff working on records promotion…as I got in touch with the general manager, I sent him few other tracks and so I did to Steve. He liked them very much, and “My Side” and “Symptoms” were two of them. About four-five months ago he asked me to make a record. This year I met him again at Sonar, but now our relationship was much more strengthened, since I had already worked for his label. That’s why publishing this EP was easier. It’s already getting success, as you said, and I’m so satisfied about this, because I’m very attached to these tracks.
E: We’re happy too, of course! We didn’t see you working in a duo very often. The only collaborations you accomplished so far are the ones with the German guy Sercan Rittel, which are U Know and Back To The Past. What about these tracks you did with him? Any chance to see you making another collaboration in future, maybe with a famous name?
Nico: Working in a couple is always good. Two minds working together is a cool thing, even if sometimes you don’t agree with your mate’s ideas, because he doesn’t like some of your sounds and you don’t like some of his sounds. What you gotta do is accepting his other sounds and ideas, and find a compromise. I had this collaboration with Sercan two years ago and we immediately got along together. He’s like me, an easy and nice guy. We didn’t really want to publish what we had done together, we did everything just for fun. But he then sent those records to some friend of his. He knows many people in the industry because he lives next to Frankfurt. Labels loved them, and they built a notable hype around them, and lots of dj’s played them, so they worked fine. As for now, I did a remix with Ahmet Sisman, which is going to be released soon under Francys’ label. He’s a friend of mine, he’s from Apulia too and we worked together to about five tracks. Currently we’re giving them the finishing touches, so we’ll send them soon to some label, even though we already have some requests and we must see if Francys is really going to release them under his own label. Speaking about collaborations I’d like to do, I’ve got so many friends and colleagues I’d love to work with, and some of them would like the work with me as well. But that’s not easy unfortunately, because you always have to find time, as you deliver finished tracks for other labels, go gigging somewhere, get in touch with a label wanting you to make a remix…so it’s pretty hard. Electronic music, like any kind of art, requires time. Your mind must be free, you must feel relaxed, you must find your time, you can’t do everything on a rush. When I’ll have more free time with music production, I might think about making some collaboration, maybe with some famous name, that would be cool. Never say never, as they say!
E: We can’t look forward to hearing new informations about this project with Ahmet Sisman.
Nico: You see, we did these tracks following the style of “My Side”, maybe a little darker. Ahmet has a sound which is very similar to mine (a little dark, a little techno…), so we really had fun together. They’ll be released soon, you might already find something in vinyl shops in the next few weeks. We’re still getting many requests from various labels, so we’re still thinking about our next move.
E: Let’s talk about your music signature: your sound is kinda diversified, you don’t usually stop at just one kind of house music. Sometimes your music id very “minimal” and very groovy, making you similar to a techno artists, and some other times there’s a richer music structure and a clear inclination towards deep house. Anyway, your music appears to be inspired from the German electronic music. How did you manage to build your own musical signature? Which records or artists were influential to you?
Nico: Sure, as you said there’s German blood in the veins of my music. It’s normal to get inspiration by listening to what the other dj’s play in their sets, so that you understand what those dj’s like and if you could make something that dj might like and play. Musically speaking, I was born as a dj, since I’ve been buying records for so many years. I was very fascinated by Ritchie Hawtin’s music in his early time. His music was so enhanced and odd. I might not like some of his tracks, but his concept of making music, his sounds (his very own sounds, sounds you couldn’t hear from anyone else)…so I was fascinated by dj’s like him. I can also mention Dj Koze, a German dj and producer who often makes spectacular music, he uses very personal, fantastic sounds. I followed many dj’s during my days in Berlin. I especially like German dj’s because they havethis kind of music…not exactly a dark music, but clearly underground-oriented. I tend to associate everything underground-related to Germany. You might see this as gibberish, but German climate too is something “underground”: the sky is always grey and this is reflected in the music of many German artists and producers.
Emanuele: It’s not gibberish at all! I think this is totally reasonable.
Nico: You see, when I made this track for the Sunday 65 EP called Positive Visual, I was in Berlin, where sun never shined during my stay . This was something that inspired me a lot and I created this kinda melancholic track, a very melodic one, but it represents that time of my life. I usually associate climate to the ideas I put in my music, because I think it’s a fundamental part of our life.
Emanuele: You know, what you said about Ritchie Hawtin makes me think about the ambiguous feelings I have for Jeff Mills music: he’s a damn genius, his style is weird, but I can’t like some of his songs at all.
Nico: It happens. There are times in which an artist has a lot of inspiration or is in a place that allows him to unleash his best ideas…and there’s also the climate, the temperature, the feelings he has in his soul, the places and venues he had been…sometimes he might feel inspired, some other times he feels empty, but the work itself requires him to make few tracks in a short time (just think about all the labels constantly asking you for remixes, EPs, but of course, you can choose). The result will be a technically excellent record, but artistically poor. I respect Jeff Mills very much, I think he’s one of the world’s best dj’s, he skills are terrific… he made incredible tracks that nobody but him would be able to make, but there are other tracks which sound a little dull. This happens sometimes: when you’re always touring from club to club, you’re always gigging and you’re always working with music…you don’t have time, and so you would make tracks that you won’t be satisfied about in the end.
Emanuele: So far we’ve interviewed artists mostly into production rather than djing and turntablism. So you’re the first literal DJ we talk to. We noticed your dj sets are making you travel all over Europe. How do you interact with your audience as you play your music? Is there any venue or event you mostly remember because of something special? Will we ever see you playing in a non-European club?
Nico: I already played in a non-European club: I played in Mexico, in Chicago, and few other places two years ago. I had a lot of fun! The event I mostly like to think about is the Be Cool party in Barcelona. Many legends had played at Be Cool in the past, so when you go there and you see a massive crowd, a gorgeous equipment, and you really have the chance to play whatever you want to play…it was something unforgettable! Sankeys in Manchester was marvelous too. It was my very first gig I did as a guest. I found myself in a club full of people staring at me with defiant eyes as if they were saying: “Well then, little boy, let’s see if you can make us dance!”. And it’s always great when, after one hour since the beginning of your dj-set, the whole venue is partying hard! I might mention so many other parties, but every event is special for me. Speaking about how I interact with my audience, that depends from the situation: every situation is different, and so every set is different. It mostly depends from the way I feel, I never think about the people on the dancefloor. I try to play my stuff, the things I feel like playing in that moment. There are venues in which people understand my music, and there are places in which my music is a little misunderstood, especially in Italy…I’m not someone who likes to be told what to play. If there are people asking me to change music, even just by staring at me, I play my stuff anyway. When I was a boy and I used to go clubbing, I payed to hear my favourite artists and their music. If I pay to watch Carl Craig playing, Carl Craig’s music is what I expect. I couldn’t pay for something that wasn’t Carl Craig’s music! So I always play my music, the music I like, the music that is me. Of course, in some venues people like you, in some others they don’t, because they were expecting something else.
Emanuele: There are many photos of you djing on the internet, and we saw you often using vinyls, the expert dj’s music support par-excellence. What do you think about the other formats used by professional dj’s, which are CDs and USB external drives? What do you think about laptop programs like Traktor? Seems like many people hate them because they automate most of the mixing process, and this somehow diminishes the dj figure.
Nico: You know, I usually wriggle off this kind of debates, because I see so many guys hating Traktor, USB pens, CDs, mp3s and digital formats, but then they’d download music from pirate sites, get a fake copy of Traktor, push play and totally suck! I don’t really get all these haters: if you love vinyl so much, then you’d go buying vinyls and play with vinyls, but you wouldn’t mind about what other dj’s do. I think there’s an excessive hate towards people djing with Traktor, mp3s and sync systems. Dj’s must express themselves the way they want. Personally I’m a vinyl lover and I buy lots of them, but sometimes I use Traktor vinyl interface, especially when I go djing in foreign countries. You can’t fly with three or four bags full of vinyls!
Emanuele: The plane might not fly because of the excessive weight!
Nico: (laughs) Acutally it’s like that! The flight company would embark them on another flight, and this is a risk. You luggage might have a delay, or never arrive! So I played many times with timecode vinyls in clubs. I think the main problem here is the venue equipment maintenance. Sometimes I find myself dealing with a damaged pair of Technics, and you really have to get crazy! That’s why sometimes dj’s play with Traktor, MP3s and USB pens: they don’t have this kind of problems. You don’t have to fix technical problems while playing, you don’t have to muck about with cables and mixers, and you don’t have to risk to unintentionally unplug something, making the music stop and the crowd mad. I never judge who should deserve to play in a club and how, according to his equipment. Personally I love vinyls, I wish I could take them all with me. I might decide to pick just 10 records, the ones I love the most. Sometimes it’s sad when you can’t bring all your vinyls with you. But it’s a matter of convenience. If I went playing in my city or somewhere in the nearby, I’d surely take them all. And this would allow me to make a peculiar set. You see, when you go on Beatport or another music webshop, the first things you’d check out are charts, top 10s, top 100…so in the end you buy only that stuff and you find yourself playing songs every dj is playing at the moment. This doesn’t happen with vinyls: maybe you have an ’86 vinyl, you play it, people enjoy it and then you get lots of questions about that record.
Emanuele: It’s always cool. It’s like a magician performing an unexpected trick.
Nico: Yes, It’s like some sort of surprise effect! Lots of djs play almost the same stuff today. Just think about Maceo Plex and all that jazz: they’re good producers, their music is wonderful…but if you’re a real dj, and real dj’s usually search for and show off their own personal sound, you can try to present something different, especially if you have vinyls. The crowd will be amazed for sure.
Emanuele: Yeah, I think this is the best thing about playing with vinyls. Are you personally a fan of digital or analogical stuff, both in production and djing?
Nico: As for production, I love both analogical and software tools. I’ve got many analogical synths with me: I have a Korg M1, a Moog, few compressors, an Akai Sampler, various Roland synths and an analogical mixer. I also have some hybrid stuff, which are crossbreeds between midi controllers and software (Arturia, some drummachine, few VST synths). You must be free in expressing yourself, and I’m not saying you have to do everything with analogical stuff to do so. Of course, analogical sound is better: warmer, stronger, and they perform better on clubs equipment. I love analogical, but I don’t despise digital technology at all. That’s the for djing: I love vinyl sound, but Traktor is more comfortable in many situations, since it allows me to make a vast music library in a small computer, and so I don’t need to carry hundreds of vinyl bags around.
Emanuele: You’re from Bari but, musically speaking, you owe everything to Germany. Many people initially thought you were German and discovering you’re Italian was a real shock! You surely are another example of how things are going in Italy: in order to have some fame, you first need to become a famous name in foreign countries, and then come back. Don’t you think this means, once again, there’s a total lack of merit in the music field in Italy?
Nico: We might talk about this topic for days! It’s something everybody’s talking about. In my opinion, clubs are affected by some kind of cancer in Italy. If commercial clubs are so fashionable in the Italian underground it’s because of people organizing events. There’s a lot of ignorance about music in our country. Club owners often prefer paying an unknown German guy over seeking for an Italian talent. I can’t see the reason why. They might be jealous, I suppose: that might be the reason why they pay 2000 bucks to a foreigner dj instead of paying 1000 euro to an Italian dj. This money waste is absolutely nonsense to me.
Emanuele: You know, I think I know why things are like this. Italian talents have no space because staffs in Italy work by splitting the territory and sharing it between friends and partners. They often committ some sort of mobbing in my opinion, and sometimes they resemble Mafia. I’m especially talking about my town, but I saw there’s something like this in Rome too. Sure, it’s a big city and there surely is an underground scene there. But anyway this is a common situation in many parts of Italy.
Nico: This happens often in southern Italy. In Bari there might be two or three cool events, and the rest is just rubbish. Recently I got lots of invitations on Facebook from staffs asking me to come to their events. I didn’t accept. How can I accept if they just keep on inviting the same artists over and over again in a year row? Tonight they invite Ralf, and then they invite him the next week, and then another week too. Are you fucking kidding me? Where’s some new music? Why don’t you organize events with new artists? Why don’t you make me listen to some different music? Many Italian guys try to approach the underground culture every day. What should they talk about if you let the same dj’s (mostly bad djs) always play? What should they say if you’re always depending on the PR guys, and so everything you do is just to sell some ticket? The PR guys are the real cancer of Italian clubs! They don’t give a fuck, they don’t even know who’ll be playing during the shows. They just work for money: they’d just sell tickets to a bunch of jerks that usually end up wrecking the venue. No wonder why the party sucks in the end. There are many goods artists and dj’s in Italy, people who can really play good music and have brilliant ideas. So why are we still listening to the same music since 10 years ? There are so many good dj’s who would even play for free but they can’t do anything. The only dj’s allowed to play are those guys who just bring lots of people in the club. They are terrible djs, they often break the equipment…really, I’m speechless. Also, you can’t let play a PR guy, because he’s not a dj. A dj is not somebody who sells tickets for a club. A dj spends his time going in music shops and buying new records, the hen plays in a club, drops a bomb and everybody’s dancing. PR guys just spend their weeks calling people to ask or force them to come to the party, and they get paid few bucks just for playing some music. That’s how things work in Italy. If you go to a foreign country, like Germany, PR guys sometimes don’t even exist! They mostly count on artists. Let’s suppose Tim Xavier will be playing in a German venue. You wanna come? Pay and see him. You don’t wanna come? Just stay home or go doing something else. They don’t use shit like “free wine for everybody” and other things like that to attract people. Italy has turned into a Toyland now. It’s the only country in which clubs call foreign artists paying them four times more than their usual wage. Sometimes they are not even popular in their homelands, yet they’re invited and paid three times more.
Emanuele: What do you think about the incredible change EDM scene went through in the past 10 years? On one side we have DJ Mag Top 100 and very popoular dj’s like David Guetta and Bob Sinclar, on the other one we have an underground scene centered on tech, techno and indie electronic music and consequentially artists like the ones from Coccon and Crosstown Rebels. Do you think EDM changed for the better or for the worse? Don’t you think this completely being split in two might be harmful for the whole Electronic Dance Music?
Nico: I think it’s a good thing. Djs like Bob Sinclar and David Guetta aren’t real djs, they’re popstars. They get paid a lot for just one gig, use CDs with pre-recorded mixes, push play and pretend to dance behind the decks. So I wouldn’t call them djs. On the other side we have djs like Sven Vath and Ricardo Villalobos…I wouldn’t mention important brands with a huge hype around them like Crosstown Rebels and Hot Creations. They’re just brands, they come and go like every fashionable things. I’d rather talk about club personalities like Sven Vath, having a more than 30 years and still running career, using vinyls and making people party really hard. They play for real, they do convey something to the crowd, they don’t just push play on a machine. And sometimes they’re even paid half than big names. There are these boys like Avicii who gets paid 200.000 euro just for pressing play! Villalobos would surely get paid much less, but he’s far superior, on a musical and technical plan.
Emanuele: Can you tell us the names of any fellow dj’s you’re following and appreciating lately?
Nico: I can mention Axel Boman, one of the best producers at the moment, and he’s a really good dj too. I can also mention Dj Koze, who has a label of his own called Pampa Records. His releases are always high-class. I can also mention labels like Vacant records, a label based in Berlin, which production is based on a very peculiar underground sound. I also like Phonique and Andre Lodemann (they don’t make my same kind of music, but I like what they make anyway). There are so many colleagues I can tell you about. Personally I like listening to many styles of music, even though I have my own view about it. However, I have so many artists that I like.
Emanuele: Ok, now please tell us few names of emerging artists to keep an eye on in the next months!
Nico: Well, I can name this guy from Milan called Avatism. He made records both for Vakant and Dumb Unit. He’s a great friend of mine, he makes really good stuff. He’s not exactly a newcomer, since he’s been producing for three years so far. His tracks are very professional, probably you’ll hear about him soon. Also his live sets are great, they’re so enthralling. I can also tell you about Francys, who lives in my same city. His sound is very personal too, and includes deep, vocal and experimental elements. He made some really cool stuff, and recently he remixed a song by Ahmet Sisman. I can also suggest Peter JD, who did a record for Safari Electronique. His music is very next to the Detroit and Chicago sounds, tastes like vintage. Andrew Soul is another Apulian chap, as well as Frank Nut. Their music is great and innovative! They never copy, they always try to make something personal. There are also many other artists I respect, even though they’re not emergent anymore, such as Cesare vs Disorder. He lives and works in Berlin where he leads his own label, Serialism, producing awesome stuff. He also played all around the world, from Brazil to Japan. I respect him very much.
Emanuele. Thanks for your piece of advice! I see your point about Hot Creations and Crosstown Rebels, now they’re the latest fashion in the underground scene.
Nico: Yeah, that also happened with Cadenza one year ago. Luciano was so popular and almost every day a Vagabundos party was organized somewhere! It was a very successful brand at the time, now it kinda fell off. I remember Damian Lazarus, the Crosstown Rebels boss, when he came to play in my city one year ago. He was famous in the underground world but Crosstown wasn’t fashionable as it is now. It didn’t have this massive hype it has now. As soon as they started selling lots of copies, they bet everything on artists with the same sound, like Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler and so on (they’re great djs, anyway). Crosstown has been making good records for years, but there’s nothing new in their music. But hype is like fashion, it comes and goes. Jamie Jones is very popular this year, maybe there will be another popular dj the next year. It’s the same old story.
Emanuele: As you said, labels like Crosstown and Hot Creations have a great hype, they sometimes make easy records, and there’s this mass of boys who wants to emulate Jamie Jones and Sven Vath, who are like real superstars. Magazines, web ones and paper ones, are almost exclusively concerned on this kind of music. Don’t you think this might bring the underground scene to a dangerous level of saturation? Don’t you think the experimentation we had so far might stop to leave room just for sounds appealing to wide audiences?
Nico: It’s something that has always happened for years. Labels, in times like these, tend to make easy records because they’re famous and fashionable, and so they get lots of visibility. They try to increase their audience by making easily appealing records. Personally I’m 25 years and I love making music. I don’t care much about making money, what I care for is having fun and making something that makes me feel good. I always make things I like, whether I play music or make a record. As time goes by, I might eventually start to think more about money. Who knows? I never experienced this so I can’t tell you exactly. There might be a moment when you say to yourself: “I didn’t succeed in making underground music, maybe if I move to this genre everything will be easier.” And so you start selling lots of copies and making lots of money. As for young people, it’s the same old story as well: a young guy starts listening to this music, and he eventually might start searching for his own music. As you start looking for your own sounds, you’re not “young” anymore, you really know what you want. There surely might be a saturation: everyday there’s a new dj who buys a PC program to make music…but I’m trustful. Expert people can tell talented guys from somebody who just puts few loops together. It’s a difference you can clearly hear.
Emanuele: We really enjoyed this chat with you. Just one last question before leaving you: you see, Radio Bombay is part of this wider environment of webradios. So far, we interviewed artists of the likes of Caparezza, A Toys Orchestra and Il Teatro degli Orrori. We got in touch with very important artists and we’re trying to promote the best of the independent music scene and recently we also opened to Electronic Dance Music thanks to Blurry Nights. What do you think about these webradios trying to do something alternative than big networks?
Nico: I deeply respect guys into this, because they try to advertise something that’s not very visible, so they teach to young listeners what’s good underground music and what’s not. It’s surely a positive enterprise. That’s also why I accepted to take part to this interview: I support this good cause. I respect people talking about and advertising it, so congratulations to you guys and to all the people promoting niche music.
Emanuele: Weare very happy to hear this. Thanks very much to Nico Lahs, and see you soon guys to another interview. Bye!