Nick Dow – Music is my preferred method of communication

Some of you may have heard this man’s productions and some of you may not but trust me when I say this is one guy you should be watching. The person I am referring to is a man who grew up in Scotland, Nick Dow. He is quoted as saying “I want to make meaningful music, music that has a story and takes the listener on a journey. Finding the line between club and listening music has always been one of my goals. If I can make people dance and think at the same time then I know I’m doing something right”.

Nick spent his childhood surrounded by weird and wonderful sounds. With a wide appreciation for many different genres, Nick’s first foray into music creation began with a guitar. After an introduction to music production and computer programming, it was a natural progression for Nick to move into electronic music.

After releasing ‘Ancient Sequence’ on Herzblut Records in August last year, Nick has gone on to release three very impressive EP’s (The Insect Parade, Armour Plated and Pocket Harmony) as well as two remixes on the label, Traum Schallplatten in 2014.

Nick has now settled for the time being in Berlin where he continues with his journey into electronic music. We caught up with Nick to talk about his music, his new home and what he has planned for the remainder of 2014.

Hi Nick, many thanks for taking out the time to speak to us today. What have you been up to with your day so far?

Hi, yeah no problem. Its 10am so the day is just beginning for me.

You were born and raised in Scotland. Can you tell us a little about your upbringing in Scotland, and your hometown?

I grew up in the Scottish Borders with my mum, dad, and two sisters. We lived out in the country where my mum ran a plant business and a, sort of, retreat centre for spiritual types. We had lots of animals and were surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It was a really quiet place and I didn’t have that many friends around so you can imagine that my imagination ran pretty wild. We moved to a small town close by when I was 11 and that was where I spent the rest of my teenage years. I will never forget my little box room studio! It’s a bathroom now I think.

You hail your dad as one of your biggest influences over the years. Can you tell us why he has been such an important influence on you musically?

The great John Fitzsimmons has influenced many people over his 60 years of being a musician. For starters, He’s just one of the coolest, calmest, old cats on the planet so obviously I want to follow close to his footsteps! He played us a huge variety of different music when we were growing up but never forced us to listen or play any instruments. He just let us find the attraction ourselves and when we did, he was more than happy to be involved. He taught us about rhythm and the importance of a steady beat. That less is more, and feeling is everything.

He’s a bit of a legend in some circles too so living around that was always very fun and exciting. Seeing him playing in bands was what sparked the most inspiration. He was usually the front man and projected so much confidence and character on stage. For me it was the same as watching some iconic rock star like Mick Jagger. (He’s going to hate that reference)

Both my parents are amazing, inspirational people… I got very lucky.

Scotland is well known for its techno music, especially over in Glasgow where you have some superb clubs such as the Arches and Sub Club, as well as artists such as SLAM and Funk D’Void. Did you ever attend such nights in Glasgow, and if so, were they an influence on you musically?

I would go through to Glasgow occasionally but I spent more time in the Edinburgh clubbing scene. My friends ran a night called Animal Hospital which I played at a lot when I was staring out. I was probably more influenced by my friends music taste than anything else at that time.

I believe you were a latecomer to the electronic music scene. When did you first find a love for the sound, and what did you listen to before electronic music?

Yeah, I didn’t start listening to electronic music properly until I was around 18. I had been listening to a lot of dub but I was never really into techno or any dance music growing up. I first got into making electronic music when I was in college studying sound engineering. I was introduced to computer recording, it blew my mind and I have never looked back. Before that I was listening to a lot of guitar and singer/songwriter stuff as well as some Reggae, African, Latin and traditional music.

You now live in Berlin. What made you decide to move to Berlin, and has it been a positive experience for you since moving?

I moved here for the obvious reasons. It’s cheap, full of creative people and has an incredible music scene. It just seemed like a logical thing to do as there wasn’t much opportunity for me to grow musically in Edinburgh at the time. It was the best decision I’ve ever made, I love this city and its people. I’m not saying I wouldn’t want to go somewhere else eventually but for the time being I’m very happy here.

Your first release was with Swat Squat on Pulsewith Records, entitled ‘Ride The Snake’. How has your sound evolved from that first release?

I think my ideas are still very similar but I’ve learnt to make them sound a little better. I have learnt a few more little tricks as well I guess. I’ve been bit more synthesiser than sampler orientated recently but If there’s any big change, I reckon I’m just paying a lot more attention to detail.

The release that brought you some big attention was the ‘Ancient Sequence’ EP, which was released on Stephan Bodzin’s label. How did the release come about and what were your thoughts when you found out that Stephan wanted it for his label?

I had sent twos tracks I think, ‘Valva’ and ‘Living Shadow’ to the Herzblut website email address. Stephan liked them and offered to release an ep if I could give another track. Me and my friends have always been big fans of Stephan so I was cartwheeling round the house when the news came through.

So I finished ‘Forbidden Currency’ and the EP was set. However, just at the last minute I managed to bang out ‘Tangled Up In String’. It was the fastest track that I’ve ever written and I was worried that it sounded too rough and disjointed but it became the focal point of the ep. Still one of my favourite releases for sure, it opened up so many doors. Big love to the Herzblut family.

Your latest EP ‘Pocket Harmony’ was released earlier this month and comes with some very tasty remixes by the likes of Microtrauma and Soulspace. What did you aim to deliver to the listener with the EP, and how did so many remixes come about?

I don’t really aim to deliver anything in particular, I just make music I like and hope others enjoy it too. I usually just end up making a bunch of tracks that unintentionally fit well together. Then mostly but not always try to conceptualise it after.

I was going through a bit of a hard time whilst making this EP so it’s a little more sombre than usual but the main difference is that its way more analogue than anything I’ve done previously.

The remixes were organised by head honcho Riley at Traum. He had some good ideas of what to do so we just went with it. The end result was great! The remixes are all very different and special in their own ways. It’s the first time I’ve had my stuff remixed so it’s been a great experience.

You have stated that you had always wanted to release music on Traum Schallplatten since you are a techno artist. What was your reaction when ‘The Insect Parade’ EP was signed to the label?

After the Herzblut release Traum contacted me asking if I had any music to show them. I had been sending them stuff for a while and never had any success so it was a really nice feeling to have them approach me. The Insect Parade was actually a very difficult release. I took me a long time and multiple versions of the tracks to get them sounding right. Thrilled with the end result though and i learnt a great deal about production during the whole process. The release got some amazing support to.

How has your relationship been with the label since your first release?

Great, we get on well. They are always trying to keep me involved in some way, giving me help, advice, projects to work on and stuff. It’s nice to work with people who are trying to push and motivate you.

You only started making music a couple of years ago. Can you talk us through some of the current artists today that you look up to and why?

I have been recording music for 8 or 9 years but only releasing tracks from around 3. Stimming is someone I’ve always really admired. His music is so deep and personal and he has a sound that is totally his own. I really like Apparat, Nathan Fake, James Holden, Modeselektor, Stephan Bodzin, Dominik Eulberg, Jon Hopkins etc. They are all floating within a similar cloud and I love what they are doing. I have also been listening to the Atoms For Peace album on repeat for the past 2 months.

Let’s talk about your studio for a bit. I believe you are a big advocate of software and currently have a small home studio. Can you tell us about your setup and some of your favourite software and tools?

I have a very basic setup…

I use Ableton on a Macbook Pro, Yamaha HS8 monitors, Apogee Duet interface, UC33 midi controller, and the occasional random synth I borrow from friends.

I mainly just work with the sampler and effects within Ableton. I have a nice Sennheiser MKH 40 condenser mic and a huge back catalogue of home recordings so I have more than enough sounds to work with. I use the free TAL Bassline and U62 soft synths all the time… They are unbelievable! I should stop using them so much though. I also have a couple of OHM fx pluggins that I use a lot but that’s about it.

It’s nice to not have so much gear, I have to really make an effort to do something I’ve not done before which keeps me on my toes. However saying that, I am going to make myself a proper studio in Berlin before the end of the year and fill it full of loads of cool shit. Let’s see if it makes any difference.

I heard that you see music as your therapy. Can you tell us a little about what you mean and how you draw inspiration to produce original works?

It’s just my preferred method of communication… the easiest way for me express myself. I can say anything I want and I don’t have to over complicate it with words. It gets rid of my bad moods, it boosts my good feelings, and it’s the one thing in my life that is always there to lean on.

Inspiration for me just comes from everyday life, friends, and family, good and bad experiences. Every track is attached to someone or something, a feeling, a memory, a story.

Your fabulous productions have led you to a considerable amount of travel of the past year to play live sets. What are amongst your favourite places to visit and play to in terms of crowds?

It’s not just the music that has led me to travel but it has always been a part of it in some way.

New York was an exciting and vibrant place where I would definitely like to spend some more time. I still dream of the pizza! Recently I played in Cologne and it was nice to see another side to Germany. People where really friendly and a bit less intense than in Berlin. I would like play in Barcelona again, it’s my next favourite city in Europe and the Spanish crowds are really fun. I have to say though; Scotland is still my favourite place to play. We are a crazy bunch and know how to have a good time.

I want travel and play more so please everyone put in a good word for me with your friendly local promoter.

Being a live act and producer can take up a considerable amount of your time. What do you do to kick back and relax?

I like to skateboard and cook (not at the same time)

You mentioned in your recent interview with Traum that you have had some “not so great experiences” when playing live in Berlin. Can you tell us what made the experiences not so memorable?

I couldn’t even begin to go into the explicit details of my first gig in Berlin but let’s just say I had a very tough act to follow. The other not so great experiences weren’t that bad, just some lack of promotion, unfriendly staff etc.

On the same interview you mentioned that besides being a musician you wanted to be a spaceman or a ninja when younger. Would you leave music behind to become either?

Maybe I could be a ninja making music in space? Has that been done? Let me know.

Finally, many thanks for your time, and what can we expect form you for the remainder of 2014?

Thanks, I was happy to take part.

Right now I’m working on a new remix for a very cool artist so if he and the label like it then it should be out before the end of the year. Other than that, start on my studio, keep working on my live and hopefully play some more shows.

About the Author

Director and DJ, Ian French (Naif) is passionate about every genre of music from Breakbeat, to Drum & Bass, to Techno and House. A man that lives in a world of beats and bass, and total confusion about life!