“The question is who is the house scene these days? Defected, the old guys like Sneak, Todd Terry or guys like Solomun…” – Nick Curly

It is now a decade since Nick Curly announced himself on the international stage, and the Mannheim artist remains very much at the heart of the scene. Still innovating in the studio, subtly evolving his sound and serving up forward-thinking sets around the world, he has continued to establish his 8bit label as one of the most influential out there.

Recent years have also seen Nick branch out with Trust, his own carefully curated event series. Each one finds him play in handpicked locations around the world from Sonus Festival to Watergate, Mint Club in Leeds to The Bow in Buenos Aires via BPM Festival, Fabric and Razzmatazz, and ZT Hotel, Barcelona. Playing with him is a choice selection of his friends and peers and each party allows dancers deep into Nick Curly’s musical world. 

Nick is a man that would rather be judged for his music than his memes and that shows in his professionalism and quality in the studio.

Nick Curly has the same aspirations as he did when he first started playing keyboards aged nine: to make music that connects with people. He might now have a bigger audience than ever before, but he is still driven by sharing feelings and emotions with anyone who will listen. Rather than rushing out tunes to meet a deadline or stay in the headlines, he only puts things out that feel truly special to him. With more planned for some big labels, Nick Curly continues to set his own vital and varied musical agenda.

I grabbed a few moments with Nick Curly to talk about his background in house music, his thoughts on the scene at present, and of course his rather tasty productions. When I spoke to Nick he was at his new house in Turkey where he has also now set up his studio. I asked Nick about how he first got into the sounds of electronic music… When I was 15, we had a lot of clubs in and near our city, Mannheim in Germany. My friends and I went out every weekend to listen to House and Drum & Bass, which were big those days in our city. Later we started going to Sven Vath’s legendary club Omen in Frankfurt to get in touch with proper Techno.” Nick went on to speak about some of his early influences…  “Sven and the DJ’s playing at Omen. Later on, I also started loving the Chicago House, a lot of Sneak and Derrick Carter for example.”

We quickly moved onto to speak about the superb new compilation on Crosstown Rebels entitled ‘Crosstown Rebels present Spirits II’ which features a new track from Nick. “I’m really happy to be part of that Spirits 2 compilation. My track is called Maelstrom and is built on the idea from my Rack and Run track, which I released earlier in my 8Bit Label. I have built a house beat, which later turns into an arpeggio, or is added to it. I really like the track.” I know I certainly like the track and if you have not listened yet I suggest you find a copy once it is released on 23rd November. Whilst talking about music production I asked Nick if he had a particular style in the studio or process he followed…

“First thing in the studio is to build the beat. Never had the theme first. Even when I work with vocals, the beat comes first. Later on, I add the theme, effects and work on the arrangement. Then testing and changing a few times until I´m happy with it, of course.”

I asked Nick about some of his favourite bits of kit in the studio… “I used to work with Reason and Logic before, now I work only in Ableton. My favorite hardware is the TB303.” The 303 is certainly one thing I could speak about with Nick for a long time but I suppose that would probably bore people a little so I had to move on really.

Nick is, of course, one the men behind the superb and ever reliable 8bit which has just released ‘We Start Again’ from Gorge. I asked Nick what could we expect from the label over the coming months… “Gorge and I run the label for over 13 years now. His release just hit the charts and is doing really good. Upcoming acts we have signed are Franky Rizardo and a Supernova release. Both of these EP’s are really special and I’m very happy to have them on the label. Especially Franky, he is doing really well at the moment.” Besides 8bit, Nick was also behind Cecile which has been on hold for some time now. I asked Nick if we could expect to see the label brought back to life…  “My partner Marc and I decided that because the music became too similar on both labels.”

“I’m actually thinking about bringing back Cecille, just trying to find the right sound and the producers for it. I want to come with a bit of a “new sound”, so it’s not easy to find what I have in mind for it.”

As a label owner and the potential rebirth of Cecile Nick is always on the lookout for new artist and sounds. I asked Nick who has been some of his favourite newcomers over recent years… “One of my favorites I have discovered this year was DJ Seinfeld. He just came up with this fresh style in his productions, which you can´t really put in one genre. It´s ranging from cool deep, classic house to proper good melodic Techno tunes.”

Whilst chatting about music and new releases we got onto the subject of the scene as a whole and the quality of production. The market these days is somewhat oversaturated with average and poor quality at times. I asked Nick if he agreed, and what his thoughts were… “Yes, unfortunately, I also think that there is too much bad music at the moment. By that I mean, without prejudice, that one feels that the music is lovelessly produced and partly has nothing to do with the origins of the genre. It will be difficult to change that because today it is too easy to produce a track and in my opinion too cheap, even often downloaded or exchanged otherwise. 
In the old days, a DJ had to spend a lot of time thinking whether or not to buy the vinyl.” I went on to ask Nick about his thoughts on the house scene in general… “The question is who is the house scene these days? Defected, the old guys like Sneak, Todd Terry or guys like Solomun, who also pop up in the house or melodic house genre. Alone this genre would need at least 3 subgenres today to arrange it correctly I think.”

There has been much talk recently about how hard it is for touring artists and the impact on their mental health. I asked Nick how he copes with the rigorous touring and being away from family and friends for long periods… “I always say that travel is our main job, of course touring can be hard with taking 4-5 flights every weekend, some of them very early, even without sleep sometimes, but also touring is lot’s of fun, meeting new people and making new friends. Discovering all these amazing countries with their culture and food. I still love it and I’m thankful that I can do it. When I’m at home, I try to exercise and go swimming every morning to maintain my health.” I went on to ask Nick what does he get up to in his downtime… “As I said before, I have just moved to Turkey. It’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world. We live near the sea and mountains. I’m so in love with the place and it’s pure peace for me. Can’t think of any better place to relax.”

I asked Nick if he had any tips for up and coming artists who are maybe just beginning to break into the scene… “One tip from my side: Keep on working hard, even when you have a good year and many requests. Try to keep the passion for music and also take breaks when you need it.”

Before we parted ways I asked Nick about his upcoming gigs over December and the New Year… “The beginning of the New Year is going to be very special for me this year, as I’m playing New Year’s Eve in one of my favorite countries, Argentina. And then on Jan 1st, we’ll do a Trust party in Chile. Can’t be any better for me to start 2019. I’m also working on a lot of new music at the moment, which will be released by the end of this year, early 2019.

I would like to thank Nick Curly for his time and some great answers, and I hope you enjoy the interview.

Ian French
About the Author

Director and DJ, Ian French (Naif) is passionate about every genre of music from Breakbeat, to Drum & Bass, to Techno and Progressive House. If he was to describe his preferred style of music he would probably describe it simply as electronic music. Besides his love for music and DJing his other passions are fine cuisine, wine, and travel.