Thursday, April 30, 2009
Nick Craddock Interview
Here's the promised chat with Nick Craddock. Incidentally, there won't be a show this weekend as I'm on family business and haven't been able to find the time to prerecord. This means that the last show will be repeated and, therefore, Nick's mix will be rebroadcast.
Many thanks to Nick for giving such full and interesting answers.
What are you up to at the moment?
On the DJing front, things are a bit quiet if I’m honest, but these things do tend to ebb and flow so I’m just sitting it out at the moment. I haven’t actually played at the last few Sud parties, where I’ve held a residency for several years. They’re not that regular anyway, so it does feel like ages when I’ve missed one. I had some problems with my back last year, which kept me out of action for a bit, and through just trying to have a bit of a less hectic lifestyle, it seems to have put me out of touch with a few of the semi-regular haunts I have played at in the past. Some promoter called me up recently and asked if I was still living in London (I am), so I seem to have gone to ground quite effectively! I think, in London anyway, you need to be going out a lot and living within the scene to stay on the radar of promoters, and I’ve never been very pushy in that respect. I would say, though, it’s been quite nice to have a bit of a break. It’s nice to get back to your roots a bit, musically and listen to stuff because it appeals to you and not necessarily have to consider whether it will work in a DJ set. It would be nice to get a few more gigs now because I feel quite replenished from the time off.
Your website's an intriguing one. What's the idea behind the pictures linked to the mixes?
Originally, they were all photos taken around Huddersfield, where I’m from. A lot of them I took myself. It’s a pretty rural place, as you can see. It might have been the case, actually that I built the site when I was up there visiting. A lot of people comment on the photos. I didn’t really set out to make a big statement with them, really – it’s just what I had to hand, but I like that it makes the site quite personal. Also, I think techno/house imagery can be a bit clichéd, whether it’s the rundown urban cityscape, borrowed black imagery, or hackneyed futuristic stuff. I’d rather have something that represents my own background, I guess.
When you put a mix together for your site, or for download generally, do you have a specific methodology in mind, and does your style differ much from when you play out?
Yeah, when I’m recording a mix at home I’m mostly led by a mood or an atmosphere or a theme of that sort. I guess my methodology has changed quite a bit since I started using Serato, but the majority of the mixes on my site are with vinyl. I’m probably a bit more considered these days as Serato makes it easier to playlist and arrange your tracks, but I’m glad to say that most of the mixes have been happy flukes, in a way. There isn’t much planning and in more than one instance the tracks in the mixes were very new to me when I recorded it. I think a lot of DJs would tell you that they sometimes get best results when they’re on their toes with new music, though. My style when I play out is quite different. I think I have more of a ‘live’ sound, with more energy. I like to chop it up a bit and the EQing will be more pronounced. Lots of stop button kills and old tricks that the DJs I grew up listening to would use. Not that I’d put myself in the same bracket as Derrick May or whatever, haha.
How would you describe your sound?
I don’t know, really. I probably wouldn’t! I’m not sure if there’s one distinct sound that I’m more tied to. It might be easier to see a thread with the mixes on my site, because I think they’re quite moody, and textured, and those are certainly qualities that I like, but it depends what mood I’m in really. I tend to only record when I’m in a certain frame of mind, so you wouldn’t catch any scrappy hard techno throwdowns or whatever. I wish I could capture that kind of energy in a mix sometimes, but it seems to only work for me when I’m in a different kind of mental space.
Ever thought about making any forays into production? (Why/Why not?)
I have thought about it, but not very seriously. I’ve had bits of software around for years – I remember when Rebirth came out, and Fruity Loops was first being picked up by a few people. They were both things that I had access to and would mess around with, but then I’d have friends who would spend hours getting really competent and experimenting in ways my patience wouldn’t really lead me to. In terms of music, I’ve always preferred the quick fix outlet of having a mix. The older I’ve become, my inexperience with music production technology has seemed an even greater hill to climb. I’m not bothered, though, to be honest. I don’t believe that people should necessarily make tunes if they’re not inspired to do so. There are enough mediocre tracks out there from people just knocking out tunes to get gigs or whatever.
What are you listening to at the moment and how has your taste in music evolved?
I listen to loads of music, all the time! Lots of different stuff. I spend a lot of time listening to guitar-based music – certainly as much as electronic stuff. Some weeks it’ll be the majority of the music I listen to. It’s nice to have that as a counterpoint to dance music. I don’t really feel that it’s that far removed. I’m quite comfortable jumping between the two, depending on what mood I’m in. As an evolution thing, it feels like it’s come full circle, as I used to be a lot more indie/rock focused as a teenager. When it comes to electronic music, it’s also pretty broad – I do like a lot of the ‘nu-ambient’ type stuff which seems popular at the moment, but there’s a lot to soft through as it’s getting a bit overkill. I check out a lot of the current crop of dubstep producers as there are some really fresh things going on there. Still listen to a lot of house music (deep or otherwise). I’m also into harder techno. It’s nice to bang it out from time to time – it would be nice to have an opportunity to play a bit harder / faster for a change. I do make a point of listening to new music, but I often find playing older stuff from whatever genre more satisfying, as I seem to have an aversion for whatever’s in fashion. I can’t really relate to what the ‘minimal’ scene became, having been an advocate of some of the earlier music that was around ten years ago or whatever. Similarly, I’m wary of the current deep house obsession as there’s a lot of watered down stuff around, so I think to some extent my taste evolves in opposition to what’s big in shoreditch (hmmmm, another reason the gigs have gone quiet? hehe)
If you had to choose a favourite period from the last twenty years or so of electronic music, which would it be?
I’d have to say the mid 90s. Obviously, that’s a few years after the real conception period in places like Detroit and Chicago, but if you look at what was happening in around 1994, for instance, it was such a fertile and diverse time. Amazing things were happening in Chicago with labels like Relief and Dance Mania – but something which is often overlooked is the importance of what was going on in this country at that time. UK techno was fantastic then – the GPR stuff, early Luke Slater, Black Dog, Ifach – I could go on. It was also a really good time for seeing Techno DJs – Jeff Mills was absolutely killing it, Dave Clarke was in his prime. Admittedly, this is the time when I got into the music, but I think the great points of this period are evident, bias aside.
Who are your favourite DJs, past and present?
In past terms: Derrick May, Claude Young, Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin, Dave Clarke. I’d put Surgeon in this list, too, but he’s still one of my favourite DJs – probably the only one who I’d still count as such. Later on, I’d include Dan Bell, Theo Parrish… erm. DJ Pete? I dunno. I actually don’t have as many ‘favourites’ these days. Theo can be a bit self-indulgent. I’d always check out Surgeon and Dan Bell, I think. Michael Mayer was a big favourite for a while, but I think he fell right off. That’s how it goes, I guess. Derrick’s still impressively, technically, but I get the feeling he’s doing it for the cash. He used to be just electrifying, though. Mills – fairly explanatory. Claude Young had a wicked energy and would just throw down – loads of deck tricks. Dave Clarke used to be a stunning DJ and I’ll always be grateful to him for introducing me to Chicago, Relief etc. I still cherish some of his old mixes. I used to be such a Plastikman fanboy. Quite embarrassing, really. I’d travel the length of the country to see him play. He used to blow my mind. I can’t work out whether it was just me being young and under the influence or whether he’s just lost his way. I’m not gonna pass any further comment on that.
Where's the best place you've played and why?
Probably Room 2 at Fabric, just because it’s so solid and you can hear everything perfectly, the equipment’s shit-hot, the sound guys are very professional and you get a nice view when the lasers go off. I played ‘Plasticity’ by Plastikman in there, which felt like a bit of a gamble at the time, and it was nice to spot the people that knew it when a few whoops went out. I’ve had previous bedrooms that I’ve enjoyed playing in very much, too, but my current flat isn’t very comfortable for DJing in, unfortunately. Need to move.
How did you first get into DJing? Have you always bought music and gone through a few trends, or was it a business decision?
I got the techno bug, heard Jeff Mills ‘Live at The Liquid Room’ and I guess I wanted to emulate that. I think at first my only goal was to own all the records on that mix, haha. A mate in Huddersfield had a pair of decks so we’d mess around on those, and then a couple of mates at university, but I didn’t get any of my own until about 1998, I think. It was annoying as I’d mastered the belt drive decks I’d been messing about on, then got Technics and had to start from scratch. I’ve always bought music, but prior to DJing it had mainly been alternative rock CDs, of which I used to have hundreds. There’s never been a financial motivation, which is just as well as I’ve made sod all money out of DJing!!