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Nick Wilson interview


After three particularly eye-catching releases centred around Rob Alcock’s Continual label, young producer Nick Wilson has established himself as a talent in minimal techno to look out for the future. His approach is inflected by a refusal to submit to trends, a endearing tradition of fellow West Londoners Oliver Ho and Max Duley.

What were your early musical influences?

In a wide sense there were catalysts like the Velvet Underground, Hardcore (bands like Downcast, Heroin and Fugazi), Sonic Youth, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Stereolab. My Dad was into a strange selection of stuff, but he played me a lot of The Cure, Talking Heads, Blondie, in the car. I always liked the idea of getting involved, and I was in a few punk ish bands, which got gradually more experimental as our tastes broadened. In terms of electronic music, hearing Force + Form by Surgeon was pretty seminal, as was the influx of records picked up riding that wave of inspiration; Blueprint and Axis, as well as stuff by Diskordia, Steve Rachmad and Joey Beltram. I’d also been going to these Squat type parties in London, which were a real assault on the senses, and that fed into my tastes and musical ambitions too.

What attracted you about squat parties?

It was something I fell into without much idea of the history or stigma attached. At that time I wasn’t aware of dance music in the way I am now, we just went out to party. After going a few times there were obviously good and bad points, but I was drawn to it as this kind of spectacle, standing in these cavernous filthy places listening to fucked up music, there was something to be perversely enjoyed there. I never got into the ideas behind the parties or made any friends or felt part of the “scene”, but in a way the parties seemed to have the impact that I felt hard electronic music should have, even if the music itself wasn’t quite right yet.

What effect should techno have on people? Do you think it’s impact has lessened with time?

I feel that a lot of times harder techno DJs are playing too much tried and tested stuff. It can be enjoyable, but I want to think - “what the fuck is this!?” - rather than recognising tracks I have at home. I like the idea of a sensory assault. The first time I went to Tresor in 1998 or 1999 seems like a benchmark, just a huge soundsystem in a packed underground sweat box, totally black except for two strobes on all the time - it was hugely intense.

I think maybe the impact lessens with the individual. I’m sure younger people are still getting blown away, its just that loads of them are getting blown away by mediocrity and drugs, rather than amazing music.

name.gifTo me, your music seems to imply uncertainty, confusion and perhaps even fear. Is that something you want convey, or is it more abstract than that?

I try to stay away from the kind of horror movie themes that are prevalent in a lot of techno tracks at the moment, I prefer to be a bit less heavy handed. The music I’ve released to date has been quite moody, and I think that was something I needed to get out of my system. I find it very difficult to conciously think about what I want to put across with a track, mainly because the process is quite meditative for me and I tend to be thinking about life in general. I like dark music, but not exclusively, although I do like techno to have an uneasy feel, an urgency.

Is there anything in particular from a personal perspective that you feel you have successfully brought to your recorded material?

I’ve not achieved what I want to achieve yet, musically. I’m trying to find the best ways to infuse my music with the things that I’ve drawn influence from outside techno. Techno is like the framework, and within that there are endless avenues to be explored. I’m happy with my output to date, but I want to keep pushing myself and learning. I feel like I’m still laying the the foundations.

Give us a bit of background on the material you’ve recorded so far. What were you trying to achieve with these releases?

“Ligeia” was a mixture of different stuff, out of a couple of CDs of material I sent to Rich Polson. They liked the variation between the tracks, and that shows on the EP. It kind of represents a 6 month phase where all I did was sit around and make music. The Continual releases are more cohesive, “Parallel” (which also contains two tracks by Rob Alcock) is very stripped down and fairly functional, and “Skin-Vein-Muscle” is a bit more extrovert. Across the releases its just an exploration of this sort of sound, trying different approaches and techniques to find what works best. It spans a pretty experimental period too, as I was still learning my way around my equipment . Actually, “Skin…” is the one I had thought about the longest. I wanted to put out my most involved tracks, lots of progressions and changes and edits. Three of the four on there were made within the same couple of weeks. Before and since that phase my approach has been much more minimal. I’m constantly rewiring my gear to try different things, so things don’t get stale.

Techno has to keep developing…In terms of making music, I can see myself branching out from the dancefloor framework more in the future. I don’t really feel its to do with age either. Techno doesn’t sound like “young person’s music” to me.


Do you immerse yourself in the studio for long periods? And if so, do you think this “entrenchment” for a better word, helps you with making music? How “in tune” and comfortable do you feel you are with the equipment you’re using?

I think that making electronic music can be a long-winded process, so being immersed is necessary. Its actually a great form of escapism. I was unemployed for the best part of a year, and everyday I just got up, drank tea and made music, becoming ridiculously prolific at one point. I find I need a few days of fiddling about to hit some form. Its great to get into it that deeply, but its important to remember that there is stuff going on elsewhere. Solitude helps, but sometimes human interaction can provide the same stimulus. I used to hole up in the studio all the time, but now I live with someone and its much more difficult. My “studio” if you could call it that, is in the corner of the living room, so I can’t just get into it whenever I get the urge.

As for the equipment - some bits I know more than others, but then some I’ve had longer. I’m not really down with all the jargon, but I can get things working and sounding how I like. I’m not daunted by it like I was when I started. I feel confident and comfortable with what I use, but I’m not really too attached to any of it.

I’m trying to learn how to use Max/MSP at the moment, which is pretty confusing, but I think will be worthwile in the long term. Its more mathematical than I’d like, but the possibilities it can open up extend infinitely.

Who, amongst your contemporaries do you think is doing techno justice?

I think that James Ruskin’s latest releases have been amongst the best music he’s made, Oliver Ho’s release as Veil on Light and Dark is pretty Forward thinking, if not exactly techno. There are a lot of new producers around, I like some of Sebastian Kramer’s stuff, even though some of it is not really my thing. Ho’s Inceptive release I like a lot, and Phase’s new record (Passenger) is good. Obviously I’m into Rob Alcocks’ sound, he has pursued his techno ideas without pandering to the scene, and Mike Parker’s work on Geophone is consistently excellent. To be honest though, I only tend to like isolated tracks from people’s catalogues, there isn’t really anyone coming out with stuff that I’d buy without hearing.

You’ve performed ambient sound live sets in the past, most notably at our 86 festival last year. Is this an aspect that you will continue to build, or are you mainly concerned with 4/4 material at this time?

Its definitely something I want to build on. I’m interested in music far beyond techno, so its only natural that I try different things. Its refreshing to make abstract music, although often a soundscape will end up feeding into a techno track. I’d like to do live sound sets again, its a lot of work, but good fun.

Do you see yourself growing out of techno? Even at such a comparatively young age?

Techno has to keep developing. If techno remains as it is now and doesn’t change, then the answer is “yes”. If it keeps moving and new ideas keep coming through, then probably not. In terms of making music, I can see myself branching out from the dancefloor framework more in the future. I don’t really feel its to do with age either. Techno doesn’t sound like “young person’s music” to me.
Many thanks to Nick for his time.

Interview by Toby Frith
Design Plant43

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