Premiere & In Conversation: DJ Nervous
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
Our next premiere comes from Cardiff based producer and selector DJ Nervous, who also put together a popping mix for us earlier this year. 'Think About You' is a nostalgic creation, merging together delicate and jingling chimes, floaty synths and crispy high hats with snippets of nature to produce an emotive track, mirroring the story behind the release. Taken from DJ Nervous' debut album, 'Choosing To Try' which was inspired by the diagosing of cancer in both his father and mother, with the sad passing of his mother in October last year. The album is both a celebration of his mothers life and an expression of the grief and emotions he has, and is still experiencing.
We also got the opportunity to chat more about his release. A very interesting chat that delves more into the influence of the release, the Black Lives Matter movement and more. 'Choosing To Try' drops on the 19th June, you can already check out a few of the tunes on his SoundCloud.
Hey DJ Nervous! For those reading who may not have heard of you before, tell us a bit about yourself?
Much to your surprise, my name isn’t actually DJ Nervous it is Dom… I am 22, studying in Cardiff and from Surrey originally. I did the standard thing at Uni, discovered that going out is fun but at the start it was just cheesey stuff at Cardiff’s student union and deep/tech house which was still pretty amazing to me at the time. I would sit down for 3 hours straight basically every night out and DJ on my little Numark controller for the pres, blending requests as well as the stuff that I liked. Friends cottoned on and started to introduce me to the ‘scene’ … a few friends liked drum and bass, some rap, some house. A good friend of me starting running the club night Haws with friends in Cardiff too and I kinda went in that direction with my taste but always pretended to like house and techno more than I really did because I thought it was cool to fit in! After some searching I started to find my own interests and love for new artists. I remember seeing Chaos In The CBD in Cardiff after being absolutely obsessed with their track Midnight In Peckham, I remember being entranced by the slickness and coolness of the whole event, I was always confused that these artists wouldn’t play out their own tracks that often… You go to a festival when you’re young and everyone waits for THAT song and I remember when I began understanding that being a DJ and producer is more than just playing songs people know, or the ones that people are there to see. It really opened my eyes to the fact DJing is kind of like playing an instrument in many ways.
I started self-teaching myself how to produce shortly after, some god-awful stuff along with some stuff which, on reflection, was not actually not half-bad. Alongside that I kept trying to get some gigs and DJed for a few smaller events and also supported at some of the Good Life events, they gave me my first break. I was shitting bricks before the event, but when one of the CDJs is shutting off halfway through and people are still there to listen to the next track I knew I was at-least choosing the songs right.
Nowadays I do much of the same, dodgy DJ sets with stupid tracks, but I also started up Global Sounds with a friend and we have taken small pockets of Cardiff around the world exploring famous dance musical cultures and artists, people seemed to really like what we are doing. The Good Life crew have always been very supportive to me and I am grateful to them for giving me a shot, I’ve also had the pleasure of playing a few gigs elsewhere too but I don’t really have any residencies as such, just Global Sounds. I take intermittent turns from mixing and producing depending on my mood and what’s next, if you ask anyone who knows me, they’ll always say I’m listening to or making something!
Choosing to Try is your debut album. How was the process of putting it together different from putting together your previous releases?
In honesty, I didn’t really have any previous releases. I made some really awful produced tracks that were kind of in a similar style but I rushed them, I wanted to get on Spotify so bad I thought it was the coolest thing ever. With this album I have kind of done things retrospectively. I knew I had some cool songs I was producing, but I set my bar quite high. I kept batting off the idea of actually trying to get them released, I’ll be honest in saying I struggle with the notion of spending hours/days/months on an idea and then releasing it to get 6 likes and 3 reposts after a couple of weeks, it doesn’t feel right. I think most people who care about their songs want to be appreciated which is human nature so I just kept putting it off thinking this isn’t good enough to turn heads. I tweaked tracks right up until the deadline, learning so much about production and sampling etc along the way. Mostly it was educated guess work along with some kind feedback from friends and other artists which helped me morph this thing which I am now very proud of. But yeh, the main difference is that I hung onto the tracks, not getting over excited about them for a while and then when my mum passes away I kind of look backed and realised maybe I had been missing the bigger picture of the songs I had made.
You mentioned that Choosing to Try was produced whilst going through a difficult time, could you elaborate on this?
Unfortunately, in Autumn of 2018 my Mum was diagnosed with late-stage Lung Cancer in her late 50s, as a non-smoker it was extremely confusing and even more tragic. To make it even worse my Dad was then diagnosed with cancer (lymphoma) a month later, although his had a much better outcome as it was treatable. The journey from their respective diagnosis to my mum’s passing about a year later was a complete rollercoaster of emotions - shock, anger, grief, confusion to everything else in between. I managed to continue my life as normally as I could away from home, but it was quite harrowing going to see patients as a medical student, including some with frightfully similar stories to my family’s and it definitely was not easy. I am grateful that I have a big family who all did their bit and that my mum wanted us all to keep going even though she didn’t have long left. And, whilst that was all going on I was making these tracks.
After my mum’s death in October 2019 I was reflecting a lot on everything in life and more recently, I was still functioning well, but It changed my opinions on a lot of things. I went back to trying to make music and realised the songs I had been making kind of reflected my emotions at the time of their making. They fit together. It hadn’t been my plan, but I had a load of songs that meant something really special and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I narrowed them down and made some more over the coming months during the stages of grief, some atmospheric and in my mum’s memory and others to celebrate my future and what I could do next. It all kinda congealed together to make a 40 minute journey which, from the feedback I have had so far, is as touching as it is engaging. The emotion for me is the biggest thing. Listening to it now the production is not squeaky clean and there are some mistakes which I would change but the emotion it carries is undeniable and really the underlying music is the bit I am proud of rather than the (lack of) crisp snares haha.
Do you have any useful tips and tricks you use when producing, that you wish you had discovered sooner?
I am not sure I do really, I am probably very unorthodox in the way I go about it all but that’s just because I am self-taught, can’t play any instruments and have a very eclectic taste. I will so often sit down to make simple 4x4 house and come out with something completely different. I just get carried away with the process.
My main tip and trick is to enjoy it and like the music you make, feel good about what you’re doing and get lost in the process because all the technical tweaking and production secrets can be really difficult and boring if you’re not a pro. Often trying to sound like something or someone makes your tracks dry and boring, be inspired for sure but don’t copy.
I know a whole lot more now than I used to and appreciate good production but really if its good its good don’t worry about the technicalities too much. I see it a bit like DJs playing a squeaky-clean set, like fair play but it’s the content that counts and the rawness adds an edge to proceedings. My production is certainly pretty raw. Also don’t expect too much of yourself – pressure is dangerous for personal creation.
What have you been up to during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Finishing off this album and preparing plans for it’s release, making new music, writing my dissertation… but mostly working in an A+E department as a medical student/support staff role. Also trying to keep in contact with my close ones via za interweb, I’ll be moving back to home soon and I can’t wait to see everyone (2metres apart of course).
I’m sure you, like most of us, are missing events and raves massively. Do you have a favourite nostalgic moment when thinking back to an event?
I’m not very good as a member of the crowd, so rarely do I get lost in the music as such like I know some of my pals do. But probably at the most recent global sounds UK garage event when I played a ridiculous remix of phil collins’ In the air tonight by KW. It’s so barmy but I remember all the faces at our little event realising the sample and just being so confused and delighted at the same time, it’s what I enjoy most about running our small events!
How have the Black Lives Matter protests shaped and changed your views?
I’ve been a bit quiet on all of the BLM movement. The death of George Floyd has kickstarted (yet another) series of protests but this time I really believe that there is change on the horizon, I do believe our generation is very accepting of their own faults and that we will make a positive change. The physical protests is just a piece of a puzzle, a physical demonstration that enough is enough, but I think the media presence of it all will ripple through the world and make people reflect and change which is for me the biggest part in all of this.
The problem of racism is engrained in our society so deeply that many of us including me needed to admit once again how big a problem it still is. I reflected a lot on my own conduct, attitudes, and thought processes. For me the most powerful and important thing to do is make the difference in my life where I can most. In my daily conduct as a professional or with friends/family I want to help ensure that obtuse, subtle or systemic racism (or discrimination) against anyone or anything is no longer happening. I think blackout Tuesday carried a very strong message but making the permanent difference in our own minds and actions will really carry the future of this thing.
A musically related thing to this is the Dissect podcast of Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp A Butterfly. I was obsessed in the summer listening to this, wizardry in interpretation, original music and overall message. That whole podcast and album is simply mind-blowing. I learnt so much from it last summer and have carried it with me. All this has happened so many times before just at a different scale. I think the road to permanent change and equality is still very long. I am in such a privileged position in my life with all this I can’t really comment anything of value to everything… I just hope those who this does effect feel optimistic about things going forward and I am so grateful for people sharing their experiences to help us all learn and improve.
In terms of my music, it would be crazy to even try and begin to explain why it is so important in the music industry and in the things that inspire me in terms of listening and production. Black lives created the music culture that I am in love with so I can’t be any more grateful than by keeping involving myself and sharing the legacy that was created for people to enjoy. Simply, Thank you.
A few quick-fire questions... What’s your guilty pleasure tune for when no one is around?
Vitas – The 7th Element
3 DJs you think deserve more attention?
Loure (I absolutely love jazz and this guy is stupidly good and his stuff is so fresh)
Breaka (serious talent who is surely gonna be huge?!)
Sondrio (Balances the perfect line between listenability, crowd pleasing and underground, any of his tracks work in any set)
Favourite podcast/book/TV show you’re into recently?
Little Fires Everywhere is currently doing the job very nicely! Extremely relevant to things in the world at the moment and some unreal acting.
Thanks for having me guys! <3