On the Electronic Dance Music scene since the ’90s, Carl Nicholson is no stranger in the music production world. Owning multiple record labels, the Hardstyle giant boasts over 300 releases through the years and understands the way the business works. While the challenges of promotion and success have not changed, Nicholson’s talent and ingenuity have made his presence relevant. As an artist with a significant legacy, Nicholson is a master at outdoing himself over and over again. Learning the mechanics of the music industry from Tony de Vit and supported by Armin van Buuren and Paul van Dyk, Nicholson’s passion is his uncompromising sound that has become a staple in the UK Trance scene.
Able to keep the folks on the dance floor happy and coming back for more, Nicholson weaves his magic by paying attention to what listeners want and knows that the key to success isn’t always determined by playing big hits all night. Playing major festivals worldwide, garnering himself a residency at Fabric, and taking the time to perfect his work have paid off. With his album “Glorious” hitting #1 on Beatport a few days after it’s release last year and even more recent releases reaching #3, Nicholson’s extended length songs provide listeners with enticing Hard Trance sounds they can’t ignore. I had the pleasure of speaking to Nicholson about his many upcoming releases, how he manages multiple labels, and what he considers his greatest achievement.
Hi, this is RiMo from Fresh Music Freaks and I’m here talking with Nicholson. How are you today?
I’m very well, thank you. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
It’s such a pleasure to speak to an artist of your caliber who has such an influence on the scene and who continues to produce work that is spectacular. Your music catalog is massive and this interview cannot encapsulate all of your accomplishments and your legacy in the genre. I love your work and I still listen to much of your Hard Trance. Can you please tell us how you got started in the music industry and when exactly did you know music was a path you wanted to pursue?
I started 25 years ago now. It was really just a case of the DJ at a club I was working as a glass collector continuously not turning up, so one night I offered to bring a bag of records and they said yes, and it all escalated from there. I had always loved music from a very early age, and to get the chance to play the music I wanted to hear in the order I wanted to hear it, well, it was too much of a temptation.
Some musicians use specific elements of a song or music and often this can become what one would call their signature style. How would you describe your music style(s) and has your style changed through the years?
When I write music, I always get inspiration from tracks of old. These were very different when compared to the template culture we have now, some took years to complete and there was kind of a romance between the artist and the art which is very evident from the outcome. My music used to be a more frantic pace; I think maybe this was because I was more involved as a clubber than I am now. I still make music exactly the same as I did in my Hard Trance days, but just marginally slower which makes it accessible to a much wider audience.
Please tell me what it’s like when you start your music creation process? How do you manage to assemble your tracks to perfection?
Firstly, I look at the kind of track I’m looking to recreate, then I lay down the bare-bones track which is normally an 8-bar loop with everything going. Then, I start to program and basically build the track for myself as if I were the clubber dancing to it. Once that is done, I create ‘Questions & Answers’ in the track to keep it interesting and from there I add little unexpected twists and turns. After that, I add FX and vocals and there we have the guts of the track. From there, it is just tweaking EQ and whatnot until I am 100% happy.
You are always making songs filled with fantasy, that are appealing, inviting, and make you want to get on the dance floor. Can you please tell me the story behind your creation of your single “Bush Babies – ‘Delicious (Nicholson Remix)” and “Dirty Lil B*stard”?
The Bush Babies track was one of my favorites of old and one that I saw the guys (the original writers) were looking to get done so I begged the question and here we are. “Dirty Lil B*stard” was me trying to recreate the old skool Hard Trance vibe, and I was really pleased with the way that it came out.
Artists can take a classic song and remix it giving it new life and vigor. We’ve seen in song standards that artists (vocalists) have done this for years. What is the importance of doing remixes of the classics in Electronic Dance Music and is there a certain message involved (lesson to be learned)?
The secret behind making a good remix is to be sympathetic to the original. There’s a reason the tracks are good, so you should never go too far from the original ethos. All a remix should achieve is to bring what was great about the song into the modern-day.
How do you stay healthy while working and touring?
I don’t have a strict exercise regime, but I do walk everywhere which keeps me fit and healthy.
What type of hardware and/or software do you use or have been using recently and why?
I use Logic Pro X as my digital audio workstation and have a full Roland Boutique suite and an SSL SiX mixer plumbed into it. My monitoring is done by Adam A7X.
You’ve had so many songs rise on the charts and play in venues all over the world. You recently (April 13, 2020) posted an impressive amount of releases on your FB page and honestly, it’s exciting to see this. Please tell me about this reveal of substantial upcoming work and what exciting music we have to look forward to?
Yes, I’ve got tons of new work coming out. Here’s a list: “Nicholson – Inflicted (Perfecto Fluoro), Jam & Spoon – Right In The Night/Nicholson Remix (Black Hole Recordings), Pierre Pienaar & Nicholson – Afterglow (Vandit), Nicholson – Sunrise (Flashover Trance), Nicholson V’s Prime Mover – Black Dogs (Tidy), Nicholson Feat. Emoiryah – Now We Are Free (TBC), Nicholson – Lose Your Mind (TBC), Nicholson – Butterflies, Nicholson – Sunstroke, Nicholson Feat Niki Mak – To The Flame (Charlotte’s Theme)/Nicholson’s Reverent Remix, Nicholson & Paul Skelton – Universal, Nicholson – Industria, Nicholson & Paul Skelton – Serenity, Nicholson – La Musica, Nicholson – Loaded, Nicholson – Chainsaw, Nicholson – Moviegods & Rockstars, Nicholson – Rare Lights, Nicholson – Not Alone, Nicholson – White Star, Nicholson Feat Emoiryah – Whispers of Dawn/Pierre Pienaar Remix, Carl Nicholson – Blueprint/Tara’s Theme (Nicholson’s Reverent Remix), Nicholson Feat Niki Mak – Something Real/Pierre Pienaar Instrumental Remix, Technikal Pres. Carl Nicholson – System Shock/Dan Thompson Remix.” 14 of the tracks are a part of my upcoming album ‘Reverent’, which is set to have its release date announced soon, so I’m sure you will agree there’s enough for people to be getting on with.
Through the years, many of us (fans) have watched sets live (at a venue) and virtual (live stream or recorded). What role is the reality of our social isolation (due to COVID-19) playing in the delivery of your music now?
Since I’m currently in the process of building a studio I’ve unfortunately been unable to do live streams, so it’s really just my release schedule that is keeping me in people’s minds as we stand.
What do you think is an important element in performing as an Electronic Dance musician and/or DJ?
The most important part is to look like you are having fun. I see so many DJs that have next to no interaction with the crowd and it’s sad. These people have given you the opportunity to do what you love as a living. The least you can do is crack a smile and encourage them to enjoy themselves too.
At this point in your career, what would you say are some of your greatest accomplishments?
I’d say getting a first-class honors degree in music practice at the Academy of Contemporary Music is my greatest achievement. For someone who left school with 2 GCSE to his name to go back to school at 43 years of age was scary, to say the least.
Can you please tell me a little bit about your label enterprise and why getting involved with running a label(s) was something you felt the need to do?
The labels were more of an outlet for me to bring my music to the forefront but ended up being a place where new talent could shine. Many of the original producers on my labels have gone on to achieve great things and it’s a fact that I’m very proud of.
2020 has been a most unusual year. Despite the unexpected events, who do you see as a stand out artist right now?
The most stand out right now is Giuseppe Ottaviani. Everything he touches hits gold and he’s been around a very long time, so he thoroughly deserves his limelight.
I have friends who are new to or are just starting out in Trance music production. What advice do you have for new artists?
Prepare yourself to be pretty shit for quite some time. It takes years of practice and learning to make music of substance, but don’t be disheartened because you will get better. It’s only a matter of time and is all about the effort you are willing to put in.
Is there anything that you would like your fans to know?
Just that I have a lot of good stuff coming your way. Be patient with our current situation, stick to the rules, and we will all be back out and dancing to the music that we all love.
Thank you, Nicholson, for taking the time to speak with us.
Check out more songs by Nicholson:
Check out Nicholson’s latest Psytrance release Inflicted
*Featured Image of Nicholson Via Artist FB*