GET TO KNOW: Grant Nelson
What age did you start DJing?
Professionally, getting paid to do it, from the age of 15 but probably did my first dabbling around the age of 7 or 8. I used to set up my little plastic record player next to my parents hi-fi system and attempt to make mix tapes by playing records on both turntables (using my finger to slow down or speed up the tracks - no pitch control LOL) and then blend the tracks with the volume controls on each bit of kit. I'd then be recording the output from both sets of speakers, set up side by side, into the built in condenser mic on my portable cassette recorder.
What was the first record you bought?
Meco - Star Wars & Other Galactic Funk (1977) - Music from the Star Wars movie if wore flares and had an afro!
What inspired you to get into this business and how did you achieve it?
I remember when I was very young I was inspired & fascinated by people like Arthur Baker & Shep Pettibone & the whole concept of the 12" extended version. I used to try & recreate the 12" mixes from the radio edits using the old record / pause method on my cassette deck, even those mad stuttering tape splices that Arthur Baker used to do a lot. It wasn't always possible to get it perfect as these guys had access to the multi-tracks of the original recordings and sections with bare drums, for example, were often missing from the radio / instrumental versions. I guess if you had asked me at the time I would have told you that I wanted to be a remixer like those guys when I grew up. Being a music fan was such a massive part of my life that it had never really occurred to me that I could make a living out of it, it was just something that just kinda happened. One day my girlfriend (who is now my wife) suggested that I send off a demo tape that I had put together with my very minimal set up consisting of a 4 track tape machine, a Korg Mono/Poly synthesiser, a Casio SK5 sampler (Google it for a giggle), a Mattel Electronic's Synsonics drum machine & a stack of Simon Harris' Breaks, Beats & Scratches LP's. The first label I sent the tape to was Kickin' Records. A few days later I got a phone call, had a meeting, was offered a deal and the rest is history.
How did you learn to produce?
I cut my studio teeth at Kickin' Records. I was given the studio keys by the late, great Peter Harris and basically told "this is your new home, learn everything you can about it!". When I got signed my knowledge of music production consisted entirely of playing everything live to tape, one instrument at a time, and then overdubbing the other parts until it was finished. The first day I walked into the studio I had no idea what a sequencer was. Well, I understood the concept as I had programmed my drum machine at home, but I'd never imagined that an entire studio full of equipment could be controlled from a single computer! That was pretty overwhelming so I opted to learn about sequencing on a Korg M1. I managed to nail that pretty quickly and within a few months had moved on to Cubase on the Atari. That was a pretty steep learning curve and I can still remember to this day that daunting feeling I first felt while somebody was trying to explain to me what was going on as I stared at the screen thinking "I'm NEVER going to understand what's going on here!"
What was your breakthrough moment?
I guess there have been a few. From being signed by an extremely prolific London based label right at the very start of my career to the UK Music press calling me "The Ozzy Osbourne of House". From playing at some massive rave's like the legendary "Raindance" to remixing the godfather of House himself, Frankie Knuckles. I guess the latter is the one that turned the page for me as I got a lot of remix & DJ work after that one came out.
Which DJs have influenced your style of producing?
Can't really say that any DJs have influenced my style of producing really. I guess it was a little bit different back when I was starting out. It was more about the music and not really about the people playing it. Producer wise, I wouldn't be here without people like Maurice White, Tom Moulton, Paul Hardcastle, Marshall Jefferson, Steve 'Silk" Hurley, Juan Atkins, Derrick May & Masters At Work, etc.
Which 5 DJs do you listen currently to the most?
I don't get much time to check out other people, but when I do, at the top of the list right now is Hannah Wants. She consistently delivers fresh exciting music.
Who would you most like to play b2b with?
Oooh tough question... That would depend on the venue and the style.
Which 10 artists would you choose to perform at a Grant Nelson electronic festival?
In no particular order
Disclosure (DJ Set)
Norris 'Da Boss' Windross
Dimitri From Paris
What's your favourite song of all time?
If you really forced me to name one it would probably be "In The Stone" by Earth, Wind & Fire.
What has been your proudest live moment so far in your career?
There have been a few that have been special to me, but as it was most recent I think I'm gonna say playing for Block 9 at Glastonbury this summer. I got to play a bunch of my old records along with some of my new, and some proper classics. It went off!
Grant you have so many timeless tracks, which one has been your personal favourite?
This changes as I learn to live with my records. Usually by the time I finish a project in the studio I've heard it too much already and need a break from it. It normally takes me at least a year or two after being released to fully appreciate my own music. So that said, at the moment it's probably "Brave New World". -
'Wishdokta' to 'Livin' Large', you have had so many different aliases over the years. Why is that? Which one have you most enjoyed?
Well in the beginning Wishdokta was just a cooky thing, a bit of a laugh, but by the time I'd started the Nice 'n' Ripe label in 1993 I realised that I couldn't release Jungle / D'n'B & Happy Hardcore as Wishdokta while realising House stuff at the same time. I needed to make up some alter ego's. It was just a nice tidy way of keeping everything separate, a way of not confusing people. For example, as Grant Nelson I've hardly ever DJ'd any UK Garage even though I produced a shit load of it for about 6 years under my Bump & Flex guise. Which ones have I enjoyed? Well all of them I guess. Wishdokta was exciting as I got to dress up and do silly stuff. 24 Hour Experience was fun, as myself and Simon Firmin just used to smash EP's out like there was no tomorrow. Bump & Flex was a great way to let off some pent up bassline energy.
Can we expect another new alias name in the future?
Always.. Also watch out for the imminent return of one of my old ones ;)
Grant you have performed all over the world. Has there been a stand out memorable country you performed in for any reason and why?
I've seen some incredible things at parties in Brazil, that's a mad country! People wise Japan & South Korea will always have a massive place in my heart. So much energy and a real passion for it!
We love the latest 'Freeze Dried' release by Low Steppa. What does the future hold for your record label 'Freeze Dried'?
Thanks guys. I'm very proud of what Freeze Dried has managed to accomplish in such a short space of time purely based on the music, and we seem to have built up a solid fan base very quickly. We've had a bunch of #1's on Traxsource, with virtually every release going at least Top 10. Low Steppa's single is currently in the Top 30 on Beatport's House chart so I'm really happy with that. It's a very closely knit family at the label. The music signed is largely from producers that I've known and respected for quite some time, but there is also a lot of fresh new talent thrown into the mix too. There are a lot of labels that just release tons of tracks - that's cool, but that's not what Freeze Dried is about. The producers put a lot of blood, sweat & tears into their music I want to respect that by making sure that every release gets the exposure that it deserves. I said right from the start that Freeze Dried is going to be my new "Nice 'n' Ripe" and I think it's well on the way to being that and then some ;)
Tell us a bit about your radio show 'Housecall FM' and what your focus is on it?
Housecall is a 2 hour bi-weekly radio show that is syndicated to a bunch of FM, Digital & Satellite stations around the World. Along with Shane D (my co-host), who steps in for me when I can't do the show, we serve up what we feel is some of the best new music around right now. It's not genre specific, although I guess in the past there was much more of a lean towards the soulful house sound. We play everything from deep to bassline to vocal to tech and maybe a little big room every now and again. The show has a massive following that continues to amaze me. I receive tons of email from all age groups, from all walks of life, from all around the planet, and it's quite humbling. Each show features a special guest mix, and I've been lucky enough to have some amazing friends come and play on the show. People like DJ Sneak, MK, Steve 'Silk' Hurley, Joey Negro, Mousse T, Roberto Rodriguez, Miguel Migs and Lovebirds have all rocked the Housecall turntables along with countless other amazing DJs. The show has just celebrated it's 4th Birthday and regularly reaches more than 3 million people! (http://www.housecallfm.com)
You are one of the pioneering figures in UK Garage. Can you tell us how you came to make and merge the garage sounds?
To be honest I was just a guy pretty much living in the studio making tracks day in, day out! I couldn't even tell you how many tracks I've made in my career, probably well over a thousand, and a lot of them were done during this period in the mid 90's. Strangely though, I really had no idea that my music was as popular as it was until after I split with my Nice 'n' Ripe partner over accounting issues. I mean, I knew it was getting played as I'd hear it every time I switched on the pirate radio stations. I just didn't know how big it was because he used to lie to me about the sales so he didn't have to pay me. To this date I've still not been paid for any of these records. So I could sit here and bullshit you about how I worked hard to define my sound and push sonic boundaries, while challenging the very existence of life on Earth, but the truth is, I was just making music that I thought was good!
When did the 2 step chapter come into your life and how?
Back in 1996 I had remixed a track for Azuli Records. About a year later I was messing about in the studio and had a chunky little track rolling on the MPC3000. I wanted to hear how a song would sit over it, and the DAT tape from the Azuli remix just happened to be lying around. I played it over the top and it sounded wicked. I sampled the vocal up, messed around with it a bit and printed the track. A couple of months later I happened to play it to Norris 'Da Boss' Windross as we were working on our N'n'G project at the time. Norris flipped out, said he had to cut a dub plate and off he went. Next thing Norris is telling me how the track smashed the dance. Soon everybody started flipping out and the phone went mad. It was then picked up by the label and became a hit record. That records was the Bump & Flex remix of Indo's "R U Sleeping"
What's your opinion on Jacking House and where do you see it going?
By jacking I'm guessing you mean the more bass driven stuff and not the 30's swing sampling stuff? If so, then yeah I love it. It's basically speed garage coming back around again. As long as it doesn't get too dark and militant, I'm on board 100%.
What have you noticed about the rise of dance music's popularity with younger generations?
There's a great energy with the younger generation. When they get into something they really go in hard, and that is very inspiring from a producer point of view. At the same time there is a massive media / pr manipulation of dance music going on, and I feel that this is way too influential to result in anything good long term. Personally I would like to think that if I was 18 years old right now, I'd be seeing right through the bullshit and trusting my ears.. There's plenty of amazing music out there, it's just rarely the stuff you are "told" is amazing!
Taking into account the rapid rise in popularity of house music over the course of this year, what do you think about the house scene currently?
I think it's more exciting now than it has been since the 90's. Of course the increased popularity of "proper house music" brings both positives and negatives with it. On the whole, anything that stops the torrent of Euro-Pop-Cheese passing itself off as house in the clubs and charts can only be a good thing.
What advice would you give up and coming producers?
If you're gonna do it, do it properly! No half measures. None of this "I've got my day job and I just make music at the weekends for fun". If this is what you want then you'd better be prepared to work your arse off for it. It might take some time, and you will most certainly will be skint for a while, but work hard and hone your craft and you will eventually smash it. Most importantly though, when you do make it, don't be a prick! There have been plenty before you, and there will be plenty after you. Just make sure that you treat everybody in the same way that you wish to be treated. Lastly, don't forget to bloody enjoy yourself, it beats working for a living ;)
Are there any up and coming producers you tip to make it big time?
On the bass tip, although he's not exactly a new comer, Low Steppa is gonna be stellar huge next year. On the more soulful tip you need to watch L Phonix & Yllavation - these fellas ain't messing around!
How do you rate 90s house music with todays?
The production sound is way better these days, but the vibes are all 90's baby ;) If you want to see what I mean just check out the music documentary "Rewind 4Ever" - (www.rewind4ever.co.uk)
What track would you play to rescue a dance floor?
At the moment probably "The Renegade" by Friend Within. It appeals to those that remember the original and those that love a filthy bassline.
Where do you dream of being in 5 years time?
You're mad! Haha. I can't even tell you what I've got planned for next week!
What next for you?
Aside from the DJ gigs, as we speak I have 3 remixes and a new EP for Freeze Dried to get done before I leave for America in December. As soon as I get back, I've got more remixes and a couple of guest mixes to do for other radio shows, as well as my own.
16.11 - 2.Akt, Zurich, Switzerland
05.12 - Chromatic @ Mango's, Falmouth, UK
07.12 - Infinity @ Hidden, London, UK
14.12 - Grasshopper, Detroit, USA
18.12 - Bardot, Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA
21.12 - Mighty, San Francisco, USA
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