Interview: Billy Nasty

With the Bloc festivities and travel plans officially on their way, we’re excited to interview a DJ and producer who has been a resident at every Bloc Festival since its inception in 2006. To put it simply, Billy Nasty has a lot of experience, whether it’s running labels, record shops and booking agencies or putting on long lasting nights at clubs like the now closed down The End. Billy’s twenty plus years on the DJ circuit have made him a true talent behind the decks and Bloc have been on to this fact for a while. Hosting the Electrix showcase on the Jak stage this year on the Friday, Billy Nasty is bringing a wealth of talent and long time friends which include The Advent, Radioactive Man, Dynarec, Pip Williams, Silicon Scally and Sync 24, promising mainly live performances and modern, cutting edge electro.

Hey Billy! To start off, we wanted to go way back. Could you tell us a bit about the Love 4 Life parties and your personal experience from them, seeing as you played quite a few of them around the early/mid nineties? “I think you’re referring to the early 90’s gigs in Exeter, Bath and Longleat like Love 4 Life & Club UFO? It’s a very long time ago, but I used to play around that area a lot and I remember it as being a fun time and meeting lots of like minded people. I think a lovely guy called Spencer used to run the sound systems at all the venues. He had one of the first 360 surround sound amps that he used to run the decks through if my memory serves me well.”

I’ve not had the pleasure of listening to it myself, but in terms of those Love Of Life cassettes I think you did your first one in ’93, right? Were these just handed out or purchased at next events, how did it work? “Most of the cassettes were just recordings of the sets I played at the clubs and mostly recorded without my knowledge. I never saw any money from their sales but they played a really big part in people finding out who I was and how I sounded so I didn’t mind at all at the time.”

Am I right in thinking a lot of your early London residencies were at a similar time to this? From what I’ve read, venues like the Brain Club and Club UK were pretty seminal to London’s house and techno scene at the time which you seem to have played a fairly big role in. “Yes, my first residency was at The Brain around 1990 with Steve Bicknell (Lost). Not long after that I started playing regularly at clubs like Final Frontier at Club UK, The Drum Club, Strutt and Best of British which would then go on to become Open All hours at The Ministry of Sound. It was the early days of London’s techno scene so it was a very exciting time to be involved with.”

Are there any standout memories you cherish from attending these nights? “I’ll never forget the first time I heard Jeff mills and Hardfloor play live at Club UK. I also remember hearing Derrick May, The Prodigy and Aphex Twin all play at the Ministry on a Wednesday night which I’m pretty sure was the launch for Robert Rodriguez’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ movie.”

Could you tell us a bit about Zoom Records? (For people who may not know, Zoom was a record store located in Camden that also doubled up as a label.) “I loved working at Zoom. I was there from around 89 to 95 and I saw it grow from a tiny shop near Camden Lock to this huge basement that we took over from where Soul2Soul originally was. Looking back, I think the mix cassettes and working at Zoom were the main springboards for launching my career.”

You were working with David Wesson under the alias Shi-Take as well during this time right? Correct me if I’m wrong, but would I be right in thinking your first foray into production was around your early years at Zoom?  “Yes you’re correct, the Shi-Take productions and remixes with Dave were my first trips into the studio. Not long after that we started working with Steve Dubb who was my partner at Vinyl Blair and who was a super clever guy. I learnt a hell of a lot through working with Dubby. We released a few EPs on Hard Hands (Leftfield’s label) as well as doing remixes for The Aloof, Leftfield, Full Moon Scientists, Howie B and the rap act Gravediggaz.”

What sort of other experience did you gain whilst working here? Would you say it helped lay a foundation for when you started Tortured which slightly overlaps with the last record put out on Zoom? “Yes I think there was the Zoom/Hard Hands phase from around ’90 to ’95 and after that I started Tortured Records and the Theremin booking agency around ’96. We were the first agency to represent artists such as Adam Beyer, Cari Lekebusch, Thomas Krome, Joel Mull, Marco Carola, Gaetek, Uroš Umek and Valentino Kanzyani. The two companies worked hand in hand with each other and everything just exploded. It was not long after this that we started the Open Tortured nights at The End which ran for just short of 5 years. Great times and great nights indeed!”

Moving a bit forward in time, your collaborations with Radioactive Man as RadioNasty have all been really great. What is it about this collaboration that you find works so well? “I’ve always been a huge fan of Keith’s productions and electro and we’ve always had such a laugh with each other and got on well. So when Keith suggested we should work together I jumped at the chance. He’s easy to work with and one of the most talented guys I’ve worked on music with; he writes things quite effortlessly. I’m really glad you’re liking our work, we’ve had such a great response to our tracks and podcasts.”

Outside of the techno and electro spectrum was also interesting to see your involvement in the Dead Sexy parties and hosting the likes of Jerry Dammer and Oxman back in 2013. I’m keen to know how these parties came about, as well as your history with Ska in general and these artist themselves. “During my teenage years growing up in South London I would often hear ska and reggae but I really only started to collect the records until I was working at BM Soho a couple of years back. They share the space with Dub Vendor so Don Papa Face and Eddie (The Oxman) reintroduced me to the timeless brilliance of Ska, Rock Steady & Reggae. Jerry Dammers used to pop into BM and he’s so approachable for such a legend. I started chatting to him and he and Ox agreed to play with us and things just went from there. I’ve also been doing a few ska and reggae all dayers at the Monty in Brighton that have gone down well. I’m really looking forward to playing at Bloc with Jerry and giving everyone a taste of my alter ego JahNasty!”

Can you tell us about the space in Brighton you’ve recently been doing up into a record store called ‘The Vinyl Curtain’? “The shop has been up and running for over a year now.  I like to think of it as a boutique record shop for the discerning. It’s really linked to my love of being around vinyl, plus I’ve got 15,000+ records in my collection and I realised I’ve got multiple copies of some classic records and of course the new tracks on my Tortured and Electrix labels so I wanted a way to get those records to a new audience. When I moved back to Brighton last year I thought I’d take the opportunity to actually go through all my collection and that coincided with a friend having a basement space available, and so The Vinyl Curtain was born. It’s the best of the classics plus plenty of good new stuff.”

What else can we expect from you in the coming year? “I’m getting busy in the studio with my RadioNasty mate Keith but I’m also working on another collaboration. More to be revealed soon! The two labels are looking busy this year with exciting new releases in the pipeline from Paul Mac, Ritzi Lee on Tortured and Fleck ESC, The Advent and Pip Williams on Electrix. And of course as always, busy on the DJ front, my natural habitat!”

Lastly, you’ve been on the lineup for every Bloc party thus far. Any personal favourite memories? “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the Bloc Festivals. As well as playing some of my most memorable sets I’ve also had many great nights seeing artists I admire for the first time; people like Flying Lotus, Rhythm and Sound, Aux 88, Aphex Twin and many more. Sometimes though it’s the unexpected late night meetings that makes Bloc so special. There was the time we had the great Juan Atkins partying in our chalet. All my friends were completely star struck. I’m delighted to see the Bloc boys back doing what they do best and I’m sure this one will be just as memorable and with many more to come!”


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