Billy Nasty: Bloc08 set
An acid house original, a techno trooper, a humble legend… Billy Nasty is a cut to the old days. Reared on all-night warehouse parties, schooled on 12″ imports and home-pressed white labels in the acid house university that was the local record shop and trained to perfection on two Technics 1210s and a mixer, Billy Nasty has been there, done it, shaped it, smashed it and then some.
He entered the Guinness Books Of Records for recording the first commercially available DJ Mix (1991′s aptly titled ‘Journeys By DJ’ CD), went on to champion the sound of european techno through both his legendary Open To Torture promotion at Mr C and Layo’s The End club (RIP) and his Tortured record label and long established himself as one of the UK’s most respected techno ambassadors.
A subject of genuine and deep respect from us here at Bloc HQ and a Bloc veteran himself (he has played for the past four years without fail), Billy continues to champion forward-thinking beats and shows no sign of losing his magic after over two decades on rave’s frontline.
As we release his classic acid house set from Bloc 2008 for your aural delight, we caught up with techno’s nastily named Mr Nice Guy to chat about his career from its beginnings to its present
You were DJing in London back when acid house and techno first broke. What was your own introduction to the sound? How did you first get caught up in it?
I first bought turntables when in 1986 and was really into funk & hip-hop. I used to follow Jonathan Moore from Coldcut around in the early warehouse parties around London, so that was my first clubbing experience. I guess the first introduction to acid house and techno was two years later when I started working at Zoom Records in Camden in 1988.
How would you describe those formative acid house/early techno days to people that weren’t there to experience it first hand? What clubs were most influential for you personally… ?
It was an amazing time working at Zoom there was such a buzz in the shop seven days a week. It was a different age. Vinyl was king back then and there were always loads of great UK white labels. Great imports from USA and Europe were arriving every day, it was an exciting time for me. The leading clubs at that time were The Drum Club, Strutt, Sabresonic, Open All Hours at Ministry, the legendary Final Frontier at Club UK – run by the promoters behind the original Tribal Gatherings – The Orbit in Leeds, Voodoo in Liverpool, Slam, Atomic Jam in Birmingham and earlier on in my career clubs such as Venus, Back to Basics and Full Circle were also a big influence on me.
Your Open To Torture at The End was one of London’s longest running techno nights. What is the most enduring memory of its reign for you?
I have loads of great memories of Open To Torture. I remember the The Advent and Green Velvet absolutely smashing it on the live tip and the buzz of the opening night which had Adam Beyer, Marco Carola playing with me and Jim Masters. The night ran for four and a half years and it was the first UK gig for a lot of the DJs that we looked after at Theremin Management, who have now gone on to be global techno stars.
What have been your best gigs this year?
I really enjoyed playing the Awakenings Festival in Holland. A really great festival with over 40,000 people attending. There were 4000 people alone in the tent I played in and there was an amazing atmosphere.
And, of course, the Bloc festival which has been the highlight of my year for the last four years – me and my friends really enjoy it. It;s easily the most forward thinking festival in the country right now and I’m proud to be a part of it.
You did a helluva lot for techno in the 90s – promoting, producing and breaking new music. What are your proudest achievements?
I’m really proud of the tunes we released on Tortured and Electrix records. I’m also proud of the part we played in promoting the european techno sound, introducing new DJs through my agency Theremin Management. At the Open To Torture nights at The End we first introduced now established international acts like Adam Beyer, Carl Lekebusch, Marco Carola, Joel Mull and Umek to a bang up for it crowd. I’d also like to think I’ve not done too bad as a DJ. It’s now my 21st year professional spinning and I never want it to stop.
Are you still producing with Gregor Tresher? Or are there any other Billy Nasty productions in the pipeline?
I have a few releases lined up with Keith Tenniswood, aka Radioactive Man, under the name of Radio-Nasty, I’ve also been recently working with Jon Carter on a few track and i’m planning to reunite with Gregor to do more work early next year. I’m weird in the way that as a DJ I prefer playing other peoples records as opposed to making them. For me DJing is working in real time and completely live. In comparison, productions seem to take so long to release. I prefer being in amongst it in a club and getting a buzz of the crowd instantly.
You describe yourself as ‘an analogue guy trying to live in a digital world’. Do you miss the days of hardware, vinyl and record shops?
I really miss those days. When the record shop was not only where you got tunes, flyers and tickets for clubs but they were a really strong part of the scene and community. It seemed like everyone was getting involved in one way or another and really enjoyed doing so. There was a real buzz around it and a feeling that you were part of something special.
You’ve always been a DJ in the classic sense of the word. Do you feel the true art of DJing is a less understood art these days?
Obviously technology has changed the traditional idea of what a DJ is as very few are now using vinyl records any longer. I think what artists like Surgeon do with the computer is brilliant. He uses the technology to take it to the next level, but personally I prefer a more old school set up of two technics and a mixer. No cds, no computer files, just records. A Classic… like hamburger and fries.
What kinds of music do you listen to at home these days?
I love listening to things like Flying Lotus, Lorn and most things on Warp. Plaid are probably my favourite act on Warp. I also like listening to old classics every now n then from De La Soul and Led Zep to Beck. I’m currently loving Jamie Lidell’s ‘Compass’ and the Broken Bells LP.
Which upcoming producers have been catching your ear?
I’m really loving stuff from Skudge, Sandwell District, Scuba, Joy Orbison, Ramadaman, Roska, Maetrik, Peter van Hoesen and L-Vis 1990.
What’s coming up for the rest of the year?
Hopefully the release of the first Radio-Nasty EP and a few remixes being lined up too.
- Billy Nasty was mending fences with Allan McGrath