Grant Nelson's House Call (Q&A)
So let’s get straight to it, you’ve just launched your newest label imprint called “Freeze Dried”. Please spread some light about the possible new directions you’re taking with this label vs. what we hear on “Swing City”
To be quite honest this is the most excited I’ve been about house music for years. All of a sudden everything sounds fresh again to me. I’m spending every available moment in the studio and I’m loving it. I haven’t done these full on, no break 20 hour recording sessions for years and I wanted to launch a new label to direct all of this energy into. I guess you could say that Freeze Dried is aimed primarily at the Deep House & Nu Disco genre’s but I’m not putting any strict limits on the musical direction. Swing City will always be the spot for more soulful / funky releases and with Freeze Dried I hope to create a home for more eclectic and underground material.
Any new releases or upcoming artists from Freeze Dried that need a mention?
We’ve got some sick material coming soon from Timmy Vegas, Piers Kirwan & Animistics as well as myself.
Tell us about your radio show and how it came to be.
It was really a flippant comment on Facebook that started it. There was a discussion about the lack of exposure around the world for the more soulful stuff and somebody from SSRadio
said to me “You should do a radio show”… so I did! LOL. I’m not a radio presenter, just someone that is passionate about great music so I never expected anything to come of it really. I thought that if I was lucky maybe a couple of thousand heads would eventually tune in and that would be that. After the first show I got quite a bit of feedback from people, way more than I expected, which encouraged me to do the next one. By the time it had got to maybe the 4th or 5th show my inbox was getting smashed to bits with messages from people all over the world. People loved the format, which is something that I’m very proud of. I try to keep the show moving fast with quick mixing using edited versions of 12” mixes and there are a lot of regular features to keep it interesting. Also, I didn’t want to do just another mix show as there were hundreds of those out there already so I opted to do a fully presented show and broadcast it live via www.ssradio.com. The audience interaction is a great feature and some of the funniest & most surreal conversations that you’ll ever see crawl across the screen of the Housecall chat room during the live shows with regular visits from some of the scene’s biggest producers and DJ’s. A while back I was touring so much that I wasn’t able to do the show one week so asked Shane D if he could stand in for me. He did such an amazing job that I asked him to do it again and he quickly became an integral part of Housecall. He presents the show whenever I can’t do it and I can trust that he’s gonna rock the life out of it! Two and a half years on and I’ve had to upgrade my web hosting & podcasting distribution plans 4 times to handle the amount of podcasts being served and the show gets over 3 million listeners via multiple FM/SAT/DAB & Web based radio station syndications around the world. But the thing that’s surprised me the most is the audience itself. From a 9 year old in the UK to an 81 year old retired psychologist in Italy and just about every age and occupation you can think of in between continue to amaze me with their outpourings of passion for the music. As a producer in particular that is incredibly inspiring.
How’d you first get into radio?
Haha ok. I’ll tell you something that I’ve not talked about before. When I was about 16 I used to be quite into CB Radio. So once a week I used to wrap sticky tape around the button of the handset, lay it in front of my speakers and broadcast my own little radio show. I would play everything from early house, soul, funk & disco to maybe 7 people within the 10 mile radius of my mum’s house! LOL. For the most part it was quite professional but occasionally listeners would hear “Do you want a cup of tea?” “Mum get out I’m on the radio!”
Tell us about some of your favorite guest artists you’ve featured this year?
Well the beauty of doing your own radio show is that you get to choose what you want to play. I don’t push records because I’m asked and I do get asked all the time! Anything that gets played is because I like it and want to play it and the same goes for the guests, each one is hand picked because I’m already a fan of their work. I’ve been honoured to have some of my favourite DJ’s and Producers come and play on the show so picking a favourite is hard but there have been a couple of guest mixes that really opened my eyes recently. DJ Sneak’s mix was pure dirt, I played that over and over in the car, Bryan Jones tore it up big time and Miguel Migs inspired me to start producing some more downtempo tracks that eventually led to the birth of Freeze Dried.
What’s different about your show versus the way you play out live in the clubs?
Well for starters I don’t go within a mile of a live microphone in the clubs haha! Musically though I guess I play a bit more radio friendly on the show. The music I tend to play in my mini-mixes is pretty much what I play out but a lot of the featured tracks tend to be more soulful which is harder to program into my live gigs at the moment.
Tell us about your insanely popular Grant Nelson sample packs.
I’d wanted to produce a sample library for years so eventually when I got around to doing the first one “Studio Essentials” I went to town on it. I didn’t want to put something out there that was just an amalgamation of other sample libraries like so many are, so I took my time and produced a series of libraries that would hopefully stand out and be useful for people for years to come. There is a huge amount of work that goes into them and typically they each take between 4-5 months to produce. Chordworx was slightly different. I actually started producing this for myself years ago so I had a quick way to build complex chord progressions while flying and building tracks on my laptop without access to a keyboard. It was really just going to be for my own personal use but things got busy in the studio and I forgot all about it. A few years later I found the original files on an old floppy disk and thought that it would probably be something that other producers would find useful. So I set about recreating it all from scratch and got quite deep into it. I know that a lot of guys that can’t play the keyboard struggle with chords especially but this is also a great tool for people that can play and just want to take a different approach to building chord progressions. Anybody that plays keys has their own style and will instinctively reach for the shapes and moves that they are most familiar with. Chordworx offers a way to try out different patterns & voicings that you may not have naturally played. As with the Studio Essentials libraries I use Chordworx myself and that for me was the real test of how good these libraries were. If I wouldn’t use them why would anybody else?
Any new productions from Grant Nelson coming up your excited about?
Oh man where do I start… In a word ‘Yes!’ I’ve got tracks with vocalists Kaysee and Ann Mimoun on the way as well as a few other collaborations that I won’t give away just yet and by the time you are reading this my 2012 remix of “Babylon” by Nu Rhythmix should be live on Traxsource. There’s new material for Freeze Dried ready to pop and a bunch of remixes. I’ve taken a big chunk of the summer off from DJing to concentrate on getting stuck in to my ridiculously busy studio schedule so you can expect a lot of new GN heat over the coming months ;)
How do you feel about the current state of House music?
Well at a time when “EDM” (would somebody please ban that stupid acronym from the
English language) is doing it’s utmost to rinse every last ounce of cash and credibility out of house music it’s, not coincidentally, an incredible time for real house music right now. Lots of amazing new talent out there like Disclosure & Rudimental and producers are once again pushing sonic boundaries, something that has been seriously lacking over the past 10 years especially. To sum it up in a phrase “I haven’t felt this excited about house music since 1989!”
Where does Traxsource fit into your musical agenda?
Traxsource is my home from home. There isn’t a better outlet for soulful & deep house music anywhere period! With regard to Housecall I produce a special end of year show which features my “Traxsource Best of the year chart” and have recently started offering listeners Traxsource links to the music they hear on the show via the Housecall Facebook page after each broadcast. It’s all about supporting the artists and the scene however much we can and Traxsource is an integral part of that!