Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Too Much Fun Interview: Nick Nack

I was worried that doing an amount of coverage commensurate to the value of three days' admission to Fun Fun Fun Fest would be a bad thing for the blog. After all, my mission statement here is to support Austin musicians, to listen to records and go to shows that other writers ignore entirely. If I'm spending the bulk of an entire month just talking about one big festival, am I abandoning what made BWF distinctive in the first place? I worry about these things. Other than taking way too much time to wrap up FFF and move on, I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out. The fest generated four really different stories about four extremely diverse -- and worthwhile -- local acts. And the increased attention I got from covering something on the beaten path for a change led to several more local musicians contacting me to pass the word about their bands. Success.

I owe him an apology for taking such a long time to write this, but Nick Nack was one of the most invigorating personalities I met in three days at Waterloo Park. He also worked harder than just about any other musician in attendance -- between his own set and backing up the League of Extraordinary Gz, Nick and his turntables were in action for two solid hours Saturday afternoon.

Nick Nack is a fixture when it comes to Austin hip-hop -- he's been spinning, producing, and community-building since the mid-90's. He founded GigaCrate.com, a wildly successful DJ-centric music download site. His Crowd Control records has offered releases by himself and others for fifteen years. More than anything, he's an amazing resource for musicians in Texas and worldwide -- he's like a one-man hub connecting talented people with the latest technology and the freshest beats.

While we're chatting in the artist tent he calls over his friend, turntablist and inventor JohnBeez, so he can explain more fully to me the brand new "fretless fader." A mixer that allows the DJ to crossfade and pitch with the same hand (I'm simplifying here), leaving the other free to scratch, the fretless fader is a good example of the constant evolution in technology that makes electronic/dance music so fascinating. Since the way the music is being made is constantly evolving, leading in the genre requires a lot of communication. The best DJ's and producers are always learning from other musicians, finding out what tools they use and what new ways of utilizing them they've created. It's quite a contrast from the world of guitar bands.

Although he's been active as a DJ and producer for nearly twenty years now, playing original compositions live is another new challenge for Nick Nack. The local electronic composer showcase Exploded Drawing, a few weeks before Fun Fun Fun, was his first original set. A phenomenon that's almost universal for rock bands kicked here as well -- Nick practiced his set many times and got it to what he felt was the perfect length, but when the energy of the real live performance kicked in, he flew through it too fast! "That's the roughest thing." For Exploded Drawing, "I did too many songs. I pared it down and did four today." He'd planned to divide his hour set evenly between originals and DJ stuff, but his four songs ended up taking barely 15 minutes! Figuring out how to do his original stuff live is another new challenge for a guy who seems to welcome them.

Nick recommends the forums on the Crowd Control website as a good place for Austin fans who are  new to the scene to begin forming connections, learning about events, and trading tips with other creative types. His list of recommended Austin bands has the wide breadth you would expect from a DJ: Ghostland Observatory, White White Lights, Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, Akote Soul, DJ Odeon, White Denim, Crew 54, L.A.X., Ocote Soul, DJ Mel, Peligrosa, Chick n' George, DJ Wise.

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