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a young persons guide to electronic music

nice & nasty featuring interviews from desy balmer, chymera and derek carr

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Nice & Nasty is Ireland’s leading underground music label, representing some of Ireland’s finest DJs and electronic producers, such as Desy Balmer, Derek Carr, Ron’s Mobile Disco, and Dave Ingham. Club promoters, agents to international DJs, media consultants, graphic designers and journalists. A highly creative force of young Irish talent. Nice and informative history of Irish club culture from 90s onwards – even if a little biased.

Interview with Desy Balmer (Nice & Nasty) by Kazuumi Ishii

How would you rate the health of the Ireland scene at the moment ?

I don’t know if there is a scene. There are people making music. Lots of clubs with the worlds finest DJs playing. One or two labels forging their own identity, but I find that the Irish scene is far too outward looking and dominated by local cliques.

There are more people making music, setting up online/digital labels, playing live in clubs now than ever before, but I don’t know if that means the music is better now than before or if the scene is healthy. It’s good, its fun, there is a lot of things going on but there is very little in the way of a electronic community.

Don’t misunderstand me, but there is a political party here who recently ran an election campaign with the slogan "a lot done, more to do" and well that is about right. The Irish scene’s report card would state "some flashes of genius, must work harder". In my opinion it has always been that way, north or south.

There are some absolute gems in Ireland – Producers such as Donnahca Costello, Phil Kiernan, Derek Carr and Sourcecode; DJs such as Arveene, Barry Resdetta, and Timmy Stewart; and of course there are the pioneers, the old boys like David Holmes, Johnny Moy, Alan Simms and Greg & Shane all rockin’ da house, but that’s only from the genres and clubs that I like. Ireland also has some serious players in the hard dance and trance scene – Agnelli & Nelson, Fergie and Mark Kavanagh for example, so I guess the scene is quite healthy, but unlike Sheffield, Detroit, Chicago or Manchester we have never been able to develop our own distinct sound.

The Dublin and Belfast scenes in particular are doing well and a few people from here are being noticed abroad which is great, but I have a pet peeve that we in Ireland tend to, sometimes, look outward rather than inward for inspiration – even with football, more people support the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool, Celtic than their local teams. We tend to hype visiting DJs at the expense of our own. I am sure it’s the same everywhere, but at this stage there are few so called big name DJs I haven’t heard live or even played with before and apart from the very, very best I would argue Ireland has a few lads to give them a run for their money. Billy Scurry, Sunil Sharpe, Rian Ryan, Jamie Behan, Al Keegan and Arveene are just a few names that people should look our for when the visit Ireland.

In Ireland, has the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland influenced the sound coming out of Ireland ? And if so, how ?

Yes, most definitely. I am from Belfast, born and bred and got into dance music around 1990 and remember the time when you had to enter the city centre via army controlled gates that made this awful clink-clink-clunk sound as you passed through. I also remember Sinn Fein protesting outside Belfast’s Art College because they thought raves were bad for youths as they were linked to drugs. The obvious threat of violence and the connection between paramilitarism and drug trafficking escaping the protestors sense of irony.

The relationship between the people and the nature of the whole troubles etc. has definitely forged a spirit between people who go clubbing and many people developed friendships and business links on a cross community and cross border basis before the politicians decided to. I remember that for the first time in my life time and probably since the punk rock era that people from both sides of the Northern Irish community actually socialised together which kids today almost take for granted. Until then it would be rare for Protestants and Catholics to frequent the same place whether it be Sport, School or Entertainment. For example I befriended a Catholic person for the first time when I was 17 years old – coincidentally the same time I first went to a rave.

I find that in the north the sound that predominates is house whilst in the south its techno or maybe what I mean to say is that northern sounds tend to be more commercial than that south were there is still a strong DIY and underground ethic. Also once you go outside of Belfast and Dublin it seems the sounds get bigger, dare I say it, cheesier. I find it fascinating and compelling to say that Northern Ireland has produced far more global successes than the south. David Holmes, Phil Kieran, Fergie, Agnelli & Nelson etc. or maybe its just misplaced pride.

Is Ireland going through a particularly creative period right now ?

Yes and no ! Technology is so cheap and rampant that everyone is "being creative" but are they ? Being able to use Ableton to mix beats and cut up loops doesn’t necessarily make you creative, just as using a microwave doesn’t make you a cordon bleu chef. Some of its good but a lot of it is awful. Ireland is a very creative place. From writers to poets to singers and songwriters to painters, Ireland is probably per head of capita one if not the most creative island in the world. GB Shaw, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Van Morrison Bono, WB Yeats are just a drop in the ocean of Irish creativity. Its hard to judge if now is better than any time previous, only history will provide that answer but its good at the moment. Despite some dubious mixes and cheap, Gameboy sounding trax people are giving it a go, so I cant fault the effort, just finding quality is difficult.

Why do you think Ireland has never developed a mainstream club scene like the UK or Germany ?

We have a mainstream club scene it’s just like our soccer leagues, hidden behind the hyped up English premier league. We are too small to have a media to compete with our Anglo counterparts. Instead we usually develop Irish versions of British brands or regurgitate American products Our TV, News/Print media and shopping is dominated by English brand leaders so things like our club scene gets assimilated or swallowed up plus like I said earlier we are very outward looking and this could be as a result of years of media manipulation by Britain and America over our airwaves. Mind you if you apply a little genealogy to many of the top dogs in UK you usually find an Irish heritage – as Morrisey said "Irish Blood, English heart" and many of the northern Irish artists get tagged as UK artists all the time.

In saying that Hot Press magazine have did a great job promoting Irish and world Music, in particular rock, but with a population of under 6 million across the 32 counties (6 of which are controlled by UK) its hard to stand out or even get the credit for what we do but we try.

So how would you describe the Nice & Nasty sound, I mean what is the criteria for releasing on it ?

The simple criteria is that I must like it. I enjoy Detroit techno, Chicago house, Old School Hip Hop, some 50s and 60s funk, the odd bit of Northern Soul, and Indie rock. If I liked the music and thought I could release it and do it justice then I will. So far its been all dance music – techno, tech-house, minimal, acid house – but never say never to any genre. To me music is either nice or nasty, it’s a matter of taste and sometimes context therefore all music is nice & nasty.

iTunes is spreading everywhere and we have big downloading sites, and I read somewhere that the CD has got five years left. Your take on the current downloading scene ?

We embraced the digital sales this year. If I am honest I don’t get it. I like photos not jpegs. I prefer records to CDs, CDs to MP3s. I collect records and record sleeves and hope to be able to do that forever – wife permitting of course – I see the benefits of CDs and MP3s. CDs are easier to transport than vinyl, especially if your flying a lot. MP3s are great and cost effective to use for promotion and via the web we can share music instantly but there remains a certain magic to a record for me. I so love pushing vinyl with my finger as it spins on the turntable, I adore that hollow, phase like sound when you get the beats together, I love the stress of frantically looking in my box for the next tune. It’s a pleasure to spend a day in a second hand shop finding an old gem for next to nothing. I can not see either vinyl or CDs disappearing in 5 years. Too many people like physical products, but I can see them becoming the stuff of fairs and nerds.

I was at Fabric in London last year. Slam, Richie Hawtin, Fred Gianelli and more played. Only the hip hop lads in the back room had vinyl. All the others used CDs or Lap Tops. Recently I have noticed pub DJs using Lap Tops so I suppose the future is upon us and MP3s are here to stay. MP3s may even become the most popular music format but for some of us certain traditions will remain. They said the CD would replace vinyl and it didn’t.

What we can expect in the future from Nice & Nasty ?

On Aug 27th we released Even Numbers EP by Sourcecode and My Love remixes by Chymera with a limited edition vinyl of remixes in September 24th by the Celtec Twinz, Octogen and Tomas Jirku.

We are also working with Sweden’s Kenny Black (Finest Blend), Detroit’s Terence Dixon, Germany’s Arne Weinberg and Scotland’s Percy X and Marco Bernardi plus the crème de la crème of Irish musicians, such as T-Polar, Teknaphonik, Produse, Americhord, and a few things from myself.

Also Nice & Nasty have just set up DXR (Dublin Xpress Recodings). DXR is an online only label via Groovesource.com. Otherwise we are focussing on the debut album by Derek Carr "Science & Soul" that’s out now and the 3 by Three project featuring Derek Carr, Chymera and Produse.

The 7 Questions featuring Nice & Nasty Records

Desy Balmer

Hardware or software based production ?
Both. MIDI controllers are great invention but I really do like to get my hands on the fliters and oscillators and tweak stuff to distraction.
Detroit techno or Chicago house ?
Both. We really don’t need to pigeon-hole ourselves. Add some New York disco and Dutch hardcore and we got a party. Just bring the beer.
Do you like to play out as a Live act or as a DJ ?
DJ – with records.
Performing live outdoor on green fields or indoor in a darkened arena ?
Small dark rooms please, low lit, a strobe light and a stomach churning sound system.
Do you see the creative process as having some kind of magic ?
Yes – use the force Luke. I think that because certain technology is removing certain art and skills from the whole mixing process people must be more creative or they simply sound bland.
What’s your love and what’s your hate ?
(LOVE) My family (April, Adam and Ruby), Man Utd (’till I die) and Red Wine (HATE) things not doing what they say on the tin, people who don’t see the funny side of things and Guinness.

Chymera

How would you describe the style of your sound ?
Techno with a Detroit influence
Hardware or software based production ?
Both. I use software to sequence, record, effect and manipulate hardware sources. Not a huge fan of VSTS yet but I do use samples a lot.
Detroit techno or Chicago house ?
Detroit techno, although Chicago not far behind.
Do you like to play out as a Live act or as a DJ ?
I’m developing my live act more than my DJ set but when either one goes off then I enjoy both equally. Live sets require a lot more effort throughout the set on my part and can’t be tailored as much to the gig. You have to play generally at the intensity of your liveset, there’s very little softening or toughening. And my liveset is usually very energetic and tougher than the recorded tracks. Whereas when I DJ I have a wider variety of stuff to choose from – deeper to harder. The problem with DJ-ing is constantly staying on top of new tracks and finding the right tunes for you in the sea of mediocrity.
Performing live outdoor on green fields or indoor in a darkened arena ?
I have to say I’m a creature of the day more than a creature of the night. If I’m sitting down anytime after 11 PM I tend to fall asleep at the drop of a hat ! So I’d go for live outdoors if its sunny ! But I love playing dark clubs too. Just as long as the crowd and atmosphere are cracking then I’m happy.
Do you see the creative process as having some kind of magic ?
Yes absolutely. The magic of playing around with some notes and then one note falls into place and lifts the entire melody and you know you’re onto something big. That’s magic.
What’s your love and what’s your hate ?
I love people, places and good vibes. Life’s too short to hate.

Derek Carr

How would you describe the style of your sound ?
Techno / House / Ambient
Hardware or software based production ?
I like to mix the two, some software, some hardware, it gives the sound a nice blend.
Detroit techno or Chicago house ?
Chictroit… no ….Decago
Do you like to play out as a Live act or as a DJ ?
I like to sit in the studio and make music, the rest is just a distraction…
Performing live outdoor on green fields or indoor in a darkened arena ?
…Never played in a field….
Do you see the creative process as having some kind of magic ?
If there was no magic it wouldn’t be worth doing.
What’s your love and what’s your hate ?
Love Music… Hate the phoneys that infest the music business

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Written by Kazuumi

September 11th, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Features

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