Perugia, Italy-based producer and DJ Nicholas (soundcloud) has somewhat quietly made a name for himself over the past 10 years. Known for his sample-laden sound, he’s released music on labels such as Home Taping is Killing Music and Quintessentials. More recently he’s had a mini-LP out on Church and an EP on Shall Not Fade. Never straying too far from what he’s become known for, he’s a master of putting out quality material that stays relevant no matter the year with his infectious use of jazzy samples.
We had a chat with the Italian beatsmith, focusing on some of his influences both past and present as well as the direction of his music recently and in the future. Find out more about Nicholas in the full interview below.
Hey Nicholas, thanks for catching up with us. It seems you’ve always been a lover of jazz music, sampling it in many productions throughout the years. Are there any particular influences throughout your life that pushed you towards jazz?
I discovered jazz, disco, soul, African music through house. A lot of the house music I was buying when starting out was sampling a lot of jazz and disco, think like Nick Holder and his label DNH which had a whole period between late 90’s and early 00’s where a lot of the stuff had massive jazz samples, also a lot of the early Joe Claussell “Spiritual Life Music” records. That’s the stuff that pushed me towards jazz and world music, although I must say I’m not a jazz music expert at all. Sometimes the line between house music and jazz is a very very fine line, just an example that comes to mind could be Vinnie Colaiuta Feat Herbie Hancock- Momoska, an original jazz fusion record from the 90’s that to me, when I heard it the first time, was simply a house track.
With your latest mini-LP on Church and EP on Shall Not Fade, it seems you’ve shifted a little bit to sampling more melodic forms of jazz and perhaps incorporating more natural sounding percussion. Would you say there’s a specific reason for this shift or is it more of the mindset that you’ve been in lately?
I like to switch things around a bit to keep it interesting for me and this is the sound I was feeling about a year ago when I made the tracks. The idea of incorporating organic sounds and live instruments with electronic dance music is something I’ve always liked, I got into house when some of the biggest labels of the time like Spiritual Life, Ibadan, Yoruba were pushing an exciting house sound that incorporated world music, ethnic sounds, real instruments and so on. That’s the music I was exposed to when I first started listening to house. So now it was a good time to draw all of those influences in my music, especially now that I see people more and more open towards this kind of vibe.
There are definitely a lot of producers from Italy making a name for themselves but would you say there is a healthy, thriving house music scene within Italy itself at the moment?
I think the scene is good in Italy at the moment, there are many great DJs and producers just in my hometown Perugia. I don’t see one big scene in Italy but more a series of local scenes each with it’s own distinctive sound and background. One I really like at the moment is what the guys in Naples are doing with Early Sounds records, Periodica records, Nu Guinea, Mystic Jungle and all that. Really inspiring, one of the best things at the moment for me.
The mix you’ve put together for us features a certain theme. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
I decided I wanted to make a mix with a specific theme. I like mixes that focus on one specific label or artist. In this case I focused on the Italian house sound of the early 90’s . Throughout the years I accumulated a lot of these records which were easy to find here in Italy and for cheap. Music from labels like MBG, Antima, Calypso, Irma, DFC, Creative Label etc..
Would you say this style of Italian house from the 90’s has had a big influence on you as a producer and DJ throughout your career? Who are some other producers who you’ve really looked up to?
As a producer and deejay it was a huge influence. I built a big part of my knowledge listening to mix tapes of live recordings of Italian DJs in the 90’s. In my hometown, Perugia, there was the legendary Red Zone Club where this music was also played. I remember one specific track MBG – The Chance (Remix), that’s the first Italian house record I ever heard and it was on one of those mix tapes from Red Zone club, still my favourite Italian house track, dreamy but really hits hard at one point when the stabs kick in. MBG is definitely one of the producers from that scene that I really looked up to together with other people like Gemolotto, Mr. Marvin and so on.
We know you were generally playing live a lot more in your earlier days but you’re an avid record collector as well. Have you shifted more towards playing traditional DJ sets recently as opposed to live sets?
Yes it’s true I was playing live my own tracks. At one point I guess I got a bit tired of just playing my own music, sometimes it was also stressful from the technical side of things, it kind of felt limiting at one point. That’s why I decided to do less and less live sets and give more room to deejaying and sharing all the good music I’ve collected throughout the years. I’ve actually been buying records before even starting to produce, so collecting music really came first before the whole producer/live thing.
What kind of gear are you working with in the studio at the moment? Is your live set-up completely different?
My studio set up is really simple, I don’t really use hardware, everything I need is in my computer and in my record collection to sample. That’s all I need. I’ve been in studios with tons of gear and it was always hard, losing hours just to make things work or get a decent sound out of a machine, and at the end of the day we had almost nothing. I prefer to work quick and in the box, especially because I don’t only work in music but have a “regular” job, so the studio time I have has to be used in a smart way and not wasting time with technical difficulties.
It’s tough for a lot of producers to juggle their everyday lives with their house music alter ego. How are you managing your “normal” job vs your production career?
It’s difficult, I won’t lie. But at the same time I don’t see myself just doing music all day everyday, it would make it feel like work. I had some short moments where I was just doing music but strange enough it turned out to be less productive than when I have multiple things going on at once. I need something else outside of music to keep me busy and then go to the studio when I’m really inspired.
As a 10 year veteran of the scene, would you have any advice or words of wisdom for new producers trying to make a name for themselves?
All I can say is that I think it’s important to be patient and not rush things in the beginning when starting out, before properly releasing music it’s important to have some experience, make a lot of tracks and develop your sound and not put out the first thing you make. In the beginning all you want is to get your record out, but what is more important is that the music is right and that it wont turn out to be something you’re not proud of when looking back years after.
Finally, you’ve had a big start to 2018. Can we expect to see some more original material in the same vein?
Yes for sure you can expect more original work, I have some stuff I’m finishing but it’s not necessarily in the same vein, I like to try out different things and I don’t want to make another record that’s the same as my LP on Church or the new Shall Not Fade EP which were both produced in the same period about a year ago, that’s why they share the same vibe. This winter for instance I enjoyed making some tracks in the vein of the music I played in my podcast.
Interview by Igor