Copenhagen-based DJ nixxon weighs in on Disco music and an exciting new surge in European club culture.
nixxon, are you excited about playing at Grelle Forelle?
Very much, it’s a big pleasure for me to be invited here. What I really like about travelling as a DJ, is actually this right here. To come to a new place I’ve never been to and to meet new people. There’s just some kind of a connection, even though none of us know each other. The music is the common ground. I feel like I’m living when I’m having all these experiences and new adventures. It’s a huge inspiration for me to travel like this.
When was the point when you realized “Alright, people from other cities and countries want to collaborate with me”?
It was definitely through Camp Cosmic, which is a festival run by Albion from Stockholm. He started it around 5 years ago and it was held in a forest, around 20 kilometers south from Stockholm. It started out really, really small. I knew Albion before that because I booked him to come to Copenhagen. I had a club back then called Disco Vendetta, and that’s why he invited me to join him for the first time. Since then I’ve been a resident at Camp Cosmic every year and the festival has been growing a lot. He invited DJs from all over the world to come and play and through that, I suddenly got quite a big network of amazing people. And then I just started making a lot of mixes, putting them out on my SoundCloud and from there on it just took off - suddenly people were inviting me to their countries to play!
There’s a lot of travelling going on at the moment, it’s super cool - I love it! I’ve been in Germany, Sweden and Italy last year and I’m going to continue travelling in 2016.
Did your ‘Eiskalte Engel’ remix on Mond Musik also have an impact on that?
I don’t know! Actually I haven’t been confronted with that remix until now. marie from Salto Capitale told me he first heard about me through that remix, so I guess it had an impact that I wasn’t really aware of until now. It was fun to make. I’m a good friend with spAceLex who is the creator of Mond Musik - we met through Camp Cosmic as well. He asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a project, so I did. It was actually my first remix but it turned out to be pretty cool!
Leaving the remixes aside, do you produce your own music as well?
Yes, I’ve made music for many years. I started at the end of the 90s with my best friend kruzh’em. We were hanging out all the time, playing around with some machines. We had an electribe and a JP-8OOO synthesizer and just had fun with it. In the beginning we made lots of cassette tapes, which we gave to friends. Then, in 2000, there was this Danish label called Musicsystem, which released our first EP. Back then, we called ourselves The Seducers. From then on, we made a couple of more tracks for some compilations on that label. In 2006 we started our own label called Cytown Records. I think there were about 6 or 7 releases on it, I’ve took part in 5 of them. We were really into electro at that time.
I originally came from Hip Hop, the style I liked was from the 80s - Africa Bambaataa, NEWCLEUS, Twilight 22 - that kind of stuff. We tried to adapt that sound and make our own out of it. It actually didn’t sound like those records at all but it was our inspiration. So yeah, I’ve made my own music for many years. I had a little break when I got more interested in record digging and DJing, but right now I’m actually getting back to making music again. I got inspired to make new stuff and I just made a track with a friend from Copenhagen called konsistent. Our music is going to be released on an EP from Macadam Mambo.
What kind of a sound are you going for in your newer pieces? Can we expect some disco sounds?
To be honest, it’s my biggest dream to make a record where I can get a complete orchestra and just assign the different parts. That would be an amazing experience, but it’s not really possible right now. So I still make electronic music. What I produce now is not so electro though, it’s probably more Jack Beats / Acid House inspired - I like to put the tempo down a bit. What I really love about electronic music is the nakedness. I’m not a fan of music that sounds too produced. It’s the rawness and simplicity of it that really gets me. I’m inspired by the industrial kind of stuff, library sounds, soundtracks and things like that. I’m trying to implement these parts into the music I make today.
Do you feel more like a DJ or a producer?
I love producing, but right now I feel like I’m a DJ more than I’m a musician. That’s just where my real passion lies. I feel freedom with DJing. I can go into different directions. For example, if you’re doing a live set and you’ve prepared the whole show, you can only go in and do exactly that. And if you feel like the audience doesn’t like it, you can’t really do anything about it. You can’t just suddenly change to another direction - you’re stuck. But as a DJ, I have the freedom to change and adjust to the mood.
It’s no secret that I’m a real fanatic record digger. I like to find the weird, obscure and crazy stuff that people haven’t played before. I like to be the first one to find a record. Obviously I’m also super inspired by all my DJ friends, but I still think that I play a niche that not that many other DJs play.
What I want to do while DJing is to push the borders a bit. I’m not that kind of DJ who just plays what the audience wants and puts in a kick on all 4s, so people can dance and be happy. That’s not my style. I try to push peoples’ perceptions on what club music can be. And I try not to be judgemental with music. When I go out record digging, I’m looking for something that could fit into a club. The genre doesn’t matter. When I hear a sound and I feel like it has the right groove and the right vibe for a club - that’s what I like to play.
Is it an important factor for your collection that the music is danceable in one way or another?
Yeah, dance music is the main umbrella to what I do. I’ve also been down to other directions, but I always come back to dance music because that’s what I think club music basically is. You go to a club because you want to dance. Otherwise you could go see a concert or something like that. You don’t go to a club to sit down with your hands under your chin and nod. Not in my world anyway. But there are so many types of dance music. You mentioned Disco. I think a lot of people see me as a Disco DJ. I don’t necessarily see myself as such. At least not in the terms of what people understand Disco. For example I’m not really into the American type - the Studio 54 and all this Diana Ross stuff.
Let me try to explain what I think Disco is. It can be everything transformed into dance music. So when you hear Disco from USA, it’s built on American roots, which is Soul music and funk - that’s the American musical history. When we look at Europe, Disco music is built on some totally different things like Krautrock. The same goes for Eastern European, South American, Asian … they’re all Disco, but they reference their own traditions. So I see it not as a genre but more as an umbrella for dance music - I mean Disco is just the short form for discotheque.
Yeah, the problem is that a lot of people have a specific sound in mind when they think about the term.
Exactly! And I feel like sometimes when people ask me “What do you play?”, and I say “Disco!”, I don’t feel that they get the right picture. I don’t play the Beegees, I don’t play Saturday Night Fever or whatever people are associating with the Disco sound.
How about some Modern Talking?
I like some Modern Talking, definitely a cool band. They’re German right?
We’re sitting here, listening to Kraftwerk and they are a huge inspiration to me. It’s just the original electronic music. What I really like is the mixture between acoustic and electric instruments. In the 70s, the synthesizers really came to the market with the Moog and the big modular synthesizers, which were pretty much all monophonic but had sequencers to build a rhythm - and then adding a real bass, drums or strings to add further layers to the sound.
When you say that, I immediately start thinking about Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’.
Yeah, that’s a good example. And even though Donna Summer is an American Artist, her music is still European - her sound is basically the Giorgio Moroder sound. And Moroder was an Italian guy based in Munich. So it was the German Disco sound that Donna Summer was actually built on … but you’re right, exactly!
Going back to Disco music - do you agree, that it has gained some popularity recently?
I think what is actually becoming big again is not necessarily Disco. Some new DJs in the scene are record diggers that discover old music and play it again in modern clubs. A great example are the guys from Red Light Records based in Amsterdam. It’s a record shop run by some heavy record diggers. I think that it’s getting a lot more popular now. People want to listen to DJs that play a different sound and don’t pay attention to what’s hip at the moment. Just have a look at Germany and the whole Düsseldorf scene, with DJs like Vladimir Ivkovic. He has somehow managed to play sets that feel like a whole genre but actually aren’t. For me, Vladimir is one of the best at the moment. He mixes new records with 80s and 70s stuff, but he goes for a sound. And that’s what I’m doing as well. I try to find a sound and it doesn’t matter where it comes from.
But then again, there’s also the opposite example of DJs playing 8-hour Tech House sets, where everything feels dull and not musical at all.
Oh yeah, I also find that very boring.
I’m always asking myself: what kind of an audience enjoys a club experience like that? Because these are the nights where the clubs are packed.
Exactly. I think there are a lot of people that go clubbing without being interested in music. They like it, but for them it’s more about the whole experience of dancing, taking drugs, getting girls, getting men - whatever. I don’t have anything against that, it can be super fun. But it’s just not my approach - I’m there for the music.
What’s the Copenhagen club scene like? Are there many spaces, where you can listen to some quality music?
I don’t think so. I think that Copenhagen is actually very narrow-minded. The club scene revolves around the same 10 DJs that play the big clubs. But of course there’s also good stuff. There are a couple of people that book really cool DJs for their parties. But in general, I don’t think that Copenhagens’ club scene is that good and I don’t really want to be a part of it. I’ve teamed up with some guys recently that I really like, and we’re trying to create our own scene. We’re having parties in old warehouses or buildings that are not regular clubs, and we invite people who appreciate that. And I think that it’s not only us - there are a lot of likeminded people all over Europe who are somehow creating a new club culture. Heap from NEUBAU, spAceLex from Berlin, Albion and some guys from Stockholm, and Toulouse Low Trax from Düsseldorf are actually a big part of that. There is an upheaval of the »normal« clubbing scene going on right now and it’s really exciting!
Nice! It’s great to hear that you can find alternative spaces in Copenhagen, which is actually a big problem in Vienna at the moment.
We definitely have some free spaces in Copenhagen, but it’s still difficult. The big problem is that every time a scene is created by the people – to sound a little socialist – there’s always one thing missing: money. The money is always at the establishment and the ‘safe stuff’. But I also think this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When you have to create something without the same funds established organizations have, you have to think more creatively. You have to think outside the box. And when you do that, something new and fresh comes out of it.