This affair began with Weston’s role as a DJ back in his teens, almost by default: as any record collector knows, if you’ve got the biggest collection, you are the DJ. It was in 1995 with the monthly jazz/hip-hop event “Phony” at Ormonds in West London that Weston’s professional career gained steam. From there he and partners Mikkel Togsverd and Marlon Celestine, along with guest DJs from Japan, launched “Mukatsuku”, a highly regarded jazz and hip hop night at the Clinic which ran for 18 months. Until May of this year Weston held a weekly residence at “Bite Your Granny” and currently spins monthly at Russ Dewbury’s Brighton Jazz Rooms. Weston has also toured extensively, with gigs in Russia, across Europe, Australia and regular appearances in Japan including a full tour with Victor Davies in September 2001. DJing is hat one—hat two is Weston’s role as a publicist and compiler of underground sounds. Weston’s involvement in this realm includes a five year stint a Island Blue, and for the past 3 years he’s been principle at Mukatsuku PR, as well as being the A&R man for Exceptional Records. Weston’s compilations of music, with a bent towards Japan, includes Jazztronik’s ‘Inner Flight’, ‘Moshi Moshi – Nu sounds from Japan’ and and his latest, “Sakura Aural Bliss” an excursion into jazz, ambient, and deep house from artists like U.F.O., Calm and Takayuki Shiraishi.
A recent project of is the radio program “FORWARDSBACKWARDS” on milkaudio.com, co-hosted with Nigel Prankster.The twice monthly show features a broad spectrum of music from cutting edge nu jazz to brazilian, funk and jazz. We recently caught up with Nik, who took some time to give Mundovibes a peep at what keeps him running…
You wear many hats: DJ, publicist, radio show host, journalist. How do you manage to do all of this?
Well…in a former life i was an octopus! I think the main thing is that is that it’s my first love of music that drives me on, gets me out of bed in the morning and having an actual office rather than working from home and its obvious distractions is a help.There’s a domino effect in this business and so all my jobs in some way are loosely connected.You do one thing and it tends to lead onto something else. I also work long hours which helps me fit it in. I have a very undertstanding girlfriend which also helps.
Music is clearly your inspiration…
i think there’s nothing really like it. Someone I know was talking about his realtionship with his girlfriend; she was saying ‘you love music more than you love me!’ And he was like, girlfriends come and go but I’ll always have Stevie Wonder! Music has a great ability to seep into your pores and set off all kinds of emotions, flashbacks and feelings. Live music as well affects you like no other medium. I went to see Da Lata’s awesome live show at the Jazz Cafe in London a few weeks ago and they did a live version of ‘Pra Manha’. I turned around to my girlfriend and she had tears streaming down her face. I was like you okay? And she said ‘yeah, I’m just so happy !!’ I was buzzing because of the gig but to see music affecting my girlfriend like that brought home that there really is nothing like it and especially a live performance of a great gig. No drugs, no alcohol, just great music.
Is music the most important thing for you?
Well, it’s been my occupation for the last 8 years and all my time is spent in some way related to music. Most of my friends are in the industry and any free time is seeing djs, bands or djing myself. I think it’s important to have other interests as well but I’m the first to admit I’m a tad slack in this area. I do enjoy good food and travelling.Being lucky enough to dj overseas helps me do this—visit other countries, go exploring before the dj gigs albeit for short amounts of time. I hate turning up somewhere, djing and then getting the next flight home. If I can I’ll go early so I can chill out a bit in the local surroundings.
You’ve been DJing for some two decades. How has this evolved over the years in terms of how you choose music, the venues in which you spin and the audiences?
Well I think the audiences before were much more specialised.You had venues just playing one kind of music. But nowadays people get bored (and rightly so) with one style all night. I try and find out a little about the venue—what works, what doesn’t from the resident dj and then pack my box accordingly. I think what we have to remember first and foremost is that we are entertainers—we are paid to entertain. If people aren’t dancing then I’m not going to have a good time and neither are the crowd and the promoter isnt gonna be happy ! We can get all pretentious about it by bragging we’ve got all the latest tunes, but at the end of the day if there’s an empty dancefloor then it’s obviously not gonna work.Primarily I’d say 70% of the music should be entertaining and maybe 30% a gentle education into things that the crowd might not have heard before but still works in this context.
What is your typical DJ set like?
Depends really on many factors, but it would incorporate hip hop, jazz, brazilian and going into newer stuff as the set progresses and maybe into boogie and nu jazz.Throwing a few ‘oo i love this’ classics alongside some electronic nu jazz curve balls.
How do “old-school” DJs differ from today’s young crop?
Personally im not into djs who mix seamlessly but their sets are uninspired because they have to maintain a like for like tempo. I read a piece by Ashley Beadle (x press 2) recently who said he’d rather listen to someone DJ as a selector (playing solid good tunes than someone who was technically
brilliant). I’d like to see myself as a tune selector. A set of mine would comprise many different styles and tempo’s for example.
You host an international radio program, ForwardsBackwards. What is the concept behind it?
Well the feedback so far has been really great—quite overwhelming actually. The idea of the show is to not feel constraints from music styles or time zones.We might play a rare jazz track from early 60’s alongside a broken beat track made that day from an ‘up & coming’ producer, hence the name ‘Forwardsbackwards’. The show is very varied musically. Both myself and Nigel Prankster (co-host)have stupidly large record collections and obviously you can play stuff on a radio show which you wouldnt neccessarily be able to play in a club setting. I also have a section in the show where I play music only traditionally available in Japan. That could be productions from western artists that only came out there to home grown japanese talent.Because of the many reasons Japanese music is often only ever heard within Japan. We try to redress this (if only slightly) imbalance.
You seem to have a strong connection with the Japanese music scene. What is the scene like in Japan and how are you involved with it?
Well, I’ve released 5 compilations for various labels so far,four of which have been exclusively japanese only material with the fifth one having 5 Japanese tracks on it. I got into it in 1995 running club nights with regular Japanese dj guests. I’m involved with the scene nowadays in as much as I do consultancy for japanese labels and promote japanese music in europe. I run the uk office by Osaka based Especial Records (run by Yoshihiro Okino from Kyoto Jazz Massive )and I A&R for Exceptional records, where we’ve released music for the label from Japanese artists such as Ken Ishii, Calm, Force of Nature, United Future Organisation, Takkyu Ishino, and dj Krush.The scene is very difficult in Japan at the moment: hip hop and r & b are very popular, as is progressive house and sales of brazilian music and nu jazz are falling which is not a good thing.
What are your favorite things about Japan?
Food for a starters. I was djing with Gilles Peterson in France last month and he’d just come back from japan. He told me he had had dinner with Tosio Matsuura and they had together the best meal they’d ever had in Japan. Food culture there is very different to any other culture I’ve ever come across.people get very excited there about food.its a national obsession like the weather is with us English ! Other than that I find Japan facinating. I’m going to visit my future inlaws in January and her parents are from a place called Kumamoto in the countryside. Her mum has never met anyone who wasn’t from Japan so that’s gonna be kind of mad.
What is the ideal setting for your DJ sets? Any events in particular that you hold in high regard?
I did a Brazil night tour with Compost artist Victor Davies in Japan three years ago. Every gig was wicked: the crowds very responsive and the sound systems in the clubs was great. There’s a great night called “Wahoo” in Finland which is always great. The firsttime I played there, it was full by 9pm and 90% were girls! Saying that the Jazz Rooms in Brighton is always killer—crowd goes bonkers cheering after every track. I love playing there.
What is your opinion on the current state of music? Where is it all going?
We need to find ways of geting the young kids into music (whatever style—all styles! ) as these kids will be our audience for the next 10 years or so.
Do you have any favorite clubs in London and elsewhere and what makes them special?
PLASTIC PEOPLE: great system, nice size (200) and great music.
What impact has the internet had on promoting music? Is it more global now?
You betcha. The internet has opened up so many doors. I only hope it helps sales rather than kill it.
What is your advice to new labels on how to promote a recording?
Give it 110%. Promote it properly, exhaust all possibilities and all mediums in its promotion oportunities.It’s no good putting out music which is ”just alright”—people aren’t stupid. Only put music out you believe in that you would buy yourself.
You’ve selected the music for number of great compilations, including ‘Music & Movement Vol 1’, ‘Moshi Moshi’, and your latest ‘Sakura Aural Bliss’. How do you go about selecting tracks and is what is the common thread with these compilations?
When I put the compilations together they all tend to start off slow, build, peak and then come down again rather like a dj set from the beginning of a night to ends end, but obviously compressed. I’ve not regretted putting any track on a compilation so far and I’ve been lucky to have worked with great people who have believed in what I was doing and supported me in this and letting me keep certain tracks in which may have not been so well known. All the compilations have had very good reviews and I regularly get e-mails from people who’ve just recently discovered them or gone back to them with positive comments. It’s things like that that make me know that hopefully I’m doing something right. I’m realistic to know that the credit should actually go to the producers. I have a very small part to play—without the producers you wouldn’t have these compilations. Respects to them.
Who are some artists we should be looking out for?
Swell Session from Sweden is doing some awe inspired productions. He’s just finished a mix for me on Fat Jon for exceptional that’s killer! There’s a great project from Neo Groove from Leroy and Marcus Begg which should come out early next year. There’s actually tonnes of great music coming out: check Raw Deal’s new lp on Straight Ahead (Switzerland) next year too.
What is the best thing about what you do?
Hoping that with my involvement that artists and certain types of music gets better exposure which helps us all in the future. I still get extremely excited about music.
What is on the horizon—new projects, places you want to DJ, etc.
I’m back to Japan in January to DJ and do promotion and interviews around the “Sakura Aural Bliss” album with the Japanese distributor. In february I’m playing in France, Sweden and Denmark and then my first proper tour in Australia looks like to happen in the spring.
Ten records everyone should have in their collection?
1.stevie wonder – songs in the key of life
2.dj mitsu the beats -new awakening-planet groove
3.calm -ancient future -lastrum/music conception
4.context – if i had a band -sonny b
5.sleepwalker -sleepwalker -especial
6.various -sakura aural bliss-kriztal
7.fat jon -lightweight heavy -exceptional
8.calm – introducing the shadow of the earth -exceptional
9.various -an intruduction to contempory nordic music -nordic lounge 2 -dnm
10.anything with marvin gaye/curtis mayfield/yukimi nagano/bless/swell session on it.