OUTPOST1 Preview: A chat with Joe Nice

It has naturally developed as standard procedure for us OUTPOST1 party plannin’ folks to provide for you some background info on our headlining guests, usually in the form of an exclusive mix tape and a Q+A profile, as distributed for both pre-game and educational purposes. Perhaps, this time next year, you can look forward to holographic OUTPOST1 trading cards based off of the DJ profiles I curate — that’d be dope, right? — But for this month’s, it was more fitting (and fun) to have an informational and laid-back conversation instead of compiling “fun facts” and the like, so I phoned in with the man himself, Joe Nice.

Friday, both WCDB and the Fuze Box respectably, will play host to Joe Nice, alongside Dwell and residents Deep Children and Party With Tina. As Andrew intro’d in earlier in the week, Joe Nice is universally credited for being North America’s ambassador to dubstep. Joe Nice’s trading card would share with you the following information: he has been in the game since before there was even a label for the dubstep genre, he founded DubWar, which was the first dubstep party in America back in ’05, (and went 5 years strong), is a founding DJ on Baltimore’s GourmetBeats radio, was the first American DJ to play on RINSEFM, first American to play DMZ and the first American to play FWD. Joe Nice currently is behind the new series RECONSTRVCT down in Brooklyn, which carries the tagline “low frequency with decency”, alongside fellow DubWar resident Dave Q and Truenature, and also was the US debut for Deep Medi producer V.I.V.E.K, this past July.

I spoke with Joe Nice yesterday for almost an hour on the phone and our conversation began with us both joking that I had no idea what to ask him. Bassfaced did an interview with Joe that was absolutely on par and covered all grounds that I’d want to cover. Do yourself a favor and read it. Anyway, Joe wasn’t all talked out following that interview and I felt like our conversation flew by in a bass-driven heartbeat.

“With the Big Up interview, I drew a line in the sand with where I stand musically,” said Nice. “I said what I had to say and that was that. It was like ‘so who wants’ to interview me next,'” (laughs). “You could tell that Ben {Bassfaced} really spent a lot of time preparing. All good!”

Our conversation then carried over into discussing elements of technology and production. I asked him something along the lines of how he combats any pressure to produce, (or if he ever experiences any), since Nice is primarily known for his DJ techniques and playing from exclusive dubplates and vinyl.

“Frankly, I’m asked this on a slightly regular basis,” Nice said. “I mean, I hear it enough that it’s on my mind. I’m one of the very select few who has gotten recognition within dubstep, and within electronic dance music, that has been able to travel and play shows. Also I’m known for my selection and my mixing. That takes the focus away from people asking me if I’ve been in the studio producing. My focus is what I’m playing and how I’m playing.”

“Without doing original productions, and deciding to focus on DJing, you really gotta pull your socks up,” Nice said. “Nowadays, If you are going to be a DJ and not produce, you better be one hell of a DJ.” I then brought up my nostalgia for catching Ben UFO and Oneman play out at June’s Turrbotax and Nice agreed that was a solid example. He also brought up Plastician, NType, Hatcha and Youngsta. “To be known as ‘just a DJ,’ especially amongst those names, it means I’m doing something right.”

“With digital music, it’s all binary code; easy replication. No individuality; everything sounds the same,” Nice said. “That’s why vinyl will always sound better. A dubplate might have a certain crackle in it that is unlike any other copy. There’s a warmth behind vinyl that you don’t get with digital music.”

“My biggest thing was taking the #3 bus to downtown Baltimore to go to the record stores there,” Nice reflected. “Record shopping is very much like fishing. Those are the only two activities I can think of where you spend several hours at a location, sometimes come home empty-handed and still feel like you’ve accomplished something. 6 hours go by and you might not return home with anything but you had a great time. You’d spend an hour digging, then another and then go get lunch and come back. You’d learn how to hide the records you wanted, like hiding a record in the Jazz section or behind something where no one would look for it, so you can save it for the next time you’re at the store. You’d get sucked in. It’s a joy to have a physical place to experience music. The record stores that I used to go to aren’t around anymore. The concept of a record store is gone. Nearly a decade ago, the way we as listeners consumed music was different. There’s no longer the need to have record stores; it’s not necessary to the larger realm. Record companies don’t care about community anymore; it’s all about ‘is this selling or is it not,” Nice said.

“It’s about injecting technology to the label, the music, artists and seeing how it can best be used. It is helpful to embrace today’s technology; especially in thinking about the way that music is consumed in today’s world. It’s easy to share ideas, thoughts and concepts with the means that are available. The convenience of music in a digital format, I appreciate. It’s not the same as loading up your record bag with 80 dubs, being like, ‘this is it,’ ‘this is what I have to play,’ but it does open up how many tunes are at your disposal.”

Joe Nice then talked about using CDs as an example and how DJing with digital technology is a different skill than it is with dubplates and vinyl.

“In any field, such as carpentry, dentistry, or plumbing – there has to be a specialist. A sommelier,” Nice said. He asked me if I knew what a sommelier was, and although I was unfamiliar at the time, he explained how it’s a fancy word for an expert of beers and wines. He used the metaphor comparing knowing about different DJ techniques as someone who can tell the difference between a year of a wine, the vineyard in which it came from and other details like that and those who can tell the difference, whereas someone like me would have no idea. We went on to discuss how people think that it’s more effective to be good at doing a lot of different things, rather than excellent at doing one given thing. This translated into those who DJ and those who produce. I remember laughing when Joe exclaimed, “lots of cats out there can mix!”

Our conversation at times was interrupted by his (very cute sounding) 8-month old daughter, who Joe was caring for and feeding during our chat. He joked that DJs were real people too, who change diapers, buy groceries and does yard work when there’s time. The background of his daughter contributing to this interview made for a nice human touch, and I can already tell Joe is a very down to earth kind of guy, but also one who knows how to turn on the party.

I asked him if he remembered the first time he played out live somewhere and Joe said, “It was probably at Sonar in Baltimore. I wanna say, in ’01 or ’02. When I first started playing dubstep, I remember there were 10 people in the room. Two were bartenders; one was the MC and his girlfriend, myself and five other people. There wasn’t a whole lot going on, but that doesn’t mean that you give up.”

“I never really used to pay attention to the quality of the sound system when I was starting out, I was just happy to be playing and didn’t care,” Nice said. “Now, it’s not just the fact that I’m being heard that matters, it’s how I’m being heard. There’s a focus on quality. Things like the quality of the venue, whether it’s state of the art or just a barebones, no frill place with a bar in the back. Those things matter. What doesn’t matter is if you’re playing for 100, 1000 or 10000 people. Regardless of the crowd size, you must come correct. You can’t half ass it. You have to do it right, all the time. If you don’t, it’s offensive to those doing it right, and it’s offensive to the people you are influenced by. In your bedroom, or with friends, you learn how to perform. It’s now like, I can perform, so what’s the next step.”

Next we spoke about the obvious: Joe Nice is coming to play in Albany, to the Fuze Box and to WCDB, to tear it up live! Outpost1!

Finally, I asked what JoeNice likes to do when he goes to a city (especially for the first time).

“There’s a show on the Food Network called Diners Drive-Ins and Drives. Guy Fieri (the host) locates really interesting places to eat, and usually show profile 3 restaurants (in 3 different cities) in an episode. One episode featured restaurants in Austin, Minneapolis and Albuquerque. The show was on and I found myself saying, ‘Oh, I’ve been there,’ ‘and there too!’ Small world. I don’t have time to go to the DDD site, but if I’m leaving town, I’ll remember a place on TV….mental note.”

“In the hotel, it’s usually ESPN for a bit, but most of the time it’s the Weather Channel. It’s important to know where you are in relation to other places. Another reason why I like the Weather Channel, the music. The first few minutes, yeah, you’re watching for the weather….but after a few minutes, they’ll go to the local radar and the music is usually on point. At this point, you’re no longer watching for the weather….you’re waiting for the background music. It’s hypnotic. Always in HD (if possible)!”

Round-up: OUTPOST1. Friday, August 18. WCDB 6-10pm. Fuze Box 10pm-4am. Tune into WCDB for a special guest set from Joe Nice, as well as Dwell, Party With Tina and Deep Children. Call into WCDB at 518-442-4242 for your chance to win a stenciled poster made by Dwell himself in promotion of this month’s OUTPOST1 and to catch Joe Nice play live at the station.

Bonus: Joe Nice enjoys soft tacos with chicken instead of beef.

See you soon, party people.

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