Updated: Jan 7, 2022
It seems somewhat surreal that I got the chance to do this interview considering Nick Muir is widely regarded as one of the scenes most well respected creative innovators. With a career spanning an astonishing THREE DECADES, Nick Muir, is probably best known for being one half of the production team at the formidable record label, Bedrock Records, which was founded in 1999 by close friend and A-list DJ John Digweed.
Over that time, Bedrock has become a label synonymous with carefully curated, serious house music that has managed to maintain its integrity with fans the world over. It’s one of those very few labels that you would immediately buy over the counter at any record store [usually without even a listen!] because you just KNEW it was going to be a bomb. Am I right or am I right?? ;)
Nick has been involved with John Digweed and the Bedrock project since its inception and has been responsible for some seminal moments in the scene, countless original tracks and remixes as well as soundtrack work and DJ mixes. This legendary partnership continues to this day.
To say I’m beyond excited to be bringing GDMC this interview today is truly an understatement. It is an absolute honour and something I have dreamt of doing for such a long time… ‘For What You Dream Of’ some might say ;) HA! [sorry!]
So without further to do, one of the stalwarts of the progressive house scene and all round legend of the highest order: Mr. Nick Muir
G’day Nick! This is truly such an honour. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. How are you feeling?
I’m ok, a little bit weirded out by the current situation which has been compounded by the fact that all the gas stations in the UK are closed because of a tanker driver shortage - and I have nought miles in the tank, gotta do the school run! Stressed! But it’s basically fine.
So let’s go back to the very beginning… I know you started playing the piano at an early age and that your mum was a singer. Is that correct? You also have a few older brothers? What music did your family listen to growing up and how do you think these sounds influenced you and your music production over the years?
Well, all that is true, you’re very well informed! My brothers are 10 and 12 years older than me, so by the time I was 5 or 6 they were out buying singles so there was a lot of music at home. My elder brother was (and is) a huge Beatles fan so their music was constantly playing, my other brother was more into soul music, Temptations, Four Tops, Isaac Hayes etc so I was exposed to all that too. Mum listened to classical stuff and being classically trained from a young age myself I was playing a lot of Bach and Mozart so all in all I was very lucky to have a broad range of music playing and being played when i was young.
I think this really helped me as a keyboard player in that I could play pretty convincingly in a range of styles, consequently I had no trouble in picking up work in bands and as a session player. However when I started making dance music, I found I had to ‘unlearn’ a lot of that because it was a whole new way of writing and playing (it was at the time, anyway, late 80s early 90s). I have to say that it was the influence of the soul and funk artists that I found most useful in making tunes that make people want to move.
What was the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself? Who were your favourite bands growing up?
I was pretty obsessed with the early albums of the band Chicago when I was like 11 or 12 - my brother bought them home and I fell in love with the playing and particularly the horn arrangements, I loved all that. Then they started making soft rock and I lost interest. I got into prog rock at around that time as well, people like Yes, also Vangelis’ early records - lots of keyboards you see! I was very impressed with all that when I was about 13.
Speaking of bands…. You played in quite a few of them during the 80’s and 90’s including Take That correct? Can you tell us about your story from playing in bands to how you first came about the dance scene?
I did a tour with Take That - we were their touring band in 1993, just as they were starting to break really big. ’93 was an incredible year for me actually, I was touring as a player but the truth is I was doing that work to fund writing dance music which I was spending every spare minute writing when I wasn’t playing.
I remember a mixing engineer I knew telling me I could get an Atari computer and a sampler then write music that way, that would’ve been around 88 - 89. This was a revelation to me and as soon as I got the equipment and started building tracks myself with drums, bass lines melodies and so on, I could see this completely played into my skill set. I was a keen bass player as well as keys, loved rhythm and being able to construct all this myself suited me down to the ground. At the same time, I started to go to parties and hearing the early
dance and tech stuff in context - I was in a great position to make a contribution to that scene.
Do you remember the moment or series of event that inspired you to create your own music? Who were your greatest influences starting off? Were you self-taught or did you have mentors around to guide you?
Like I say, I had some equipment, I was playing in bands and I knew a lot of people who were heavily involved in music who were interested in what was going on with gigs and parties etc. I remember going to a gig in Salisbury near Stonehenge (the hippies had
been banned from going to Stonehenge itself for the summer solstice, but this was quite near) - it was all going off, absolutely extraordinary. We were basically dancing around on a different planet, what can I say.
The closest I ever came to having a mentor was my friend Pat Collier who was a record producer for bands like The Wonderstuff, Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream and so on. He owned a studio complex, gave me a space there and had a really interesting perspective
on independant music making and the music/art crossover thing. A brilliant man in many ways.
What was your first home set-up as a producer like? How different is your set up nowadays and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you and why? Are you still mostly using analogue equipment as opposed to digital programmes?
For the longest time the absolute mainstay of making dance music in the 90s was an Atari computer and Akai samplers which I got pretty proficient in using. I had several other keyboards, standard stuff like the Juno 106 and the Korg M1 which were used for the ‘musical’ bits. I still have analog gear sitting in the studio which I hardly ever use. I’ve been working pretty much solely ‘in the box’ for maybe 10 - 15 years. I occasionally dust off a keyboard and plug it in which only serves to remind me why I don’t bother doing that any more.
Compared to the vinyl era, you must be well aware of the amount of disposable music out there these days. As a DJ and producer do you think it is even possible to build meaningful long-term relationships with a particular track or album anymore? Do you think there is a correlation between this and [literally] anybody being able to buy Ableton and ‘thinking’ they can produce quality dance music compared to the artists who are actually highly skilled?
The subject of our relationship to music and how that has changed is a huge one and is ongoing. It certainly seems that the massive turnover of music has had a major impact on how it is received. The bare fact is that the availability of the technology has meant that anybody that wants to try making music can have a go and stands a chance of getting a good result sonically. These days it’s all about participation. I can’t see how that is a bad thing but it does have consequences for those of us that rely on music as a career. What’s great is hearing people who have no experience, but do have talent and what they come up with. That way some really fresh and interesting music gets made. The down side is there’s a lot of not so good stuff around, but you don’t have to listen to that.
Ok so let’s talk about Bedrock Records forever (lol). What a record label! You have worked alongside label owner John Digweed since its inception in 1999. Did you ever think the label would be as successful as it is today? In your own words, what do you think makes Bedrock so special for so many people?
Bedrock records is John's baby and my role has always been as John’s studio partner. He will be the first to tell you he’s no musician - he’s a true DJ and knows that job as well as anybody. But for original material and remixes he needs me to do the nitty gritty of getting all that together, but he’s brilliant with concept and direction, how the records should be paced, the mood, atmosphere and all that stuff.
The label does have a loyal fanbase and it’s really down to John’s ability as a DJ and selector, his massive work rate and consistency of quality and concept. I have definitely played a part in this over the years, I have made real his ideas for original pieces and remixes and I think we both realise the bottom line is coming up with tracks that are good to move to, work well in DJ sets and have a degree of imagination and interest that make sense in a club.
Do you actually know how many tracks Bedrock has released over the past 20+ years?
*I tried googling this but my computer blew up [lol]
Forget it. The numbers are now huge - before too long John will be approaching 1000 episodes of the Transitions show without a break. That’s completely ridiculous. He’s a machine.
Speaking of John, how did you guys first meet and become mates?
John and I met through a mutual friend, the sax player Simeon Jones. I was playing in bands with Simeon, he knew John from playing the winter seasons in Austria where John was DJ-ing and they were drinking buddies. Simmy knew I was getting into programming tracks and introduced us.
Your unique music style blurs genre boundaries – how would you say that your sound has evolved over the years? Do you find that the more music you make the greater the differences? I’ve always wondered how you evolve as an artist without making all your tracks sound like ‘you’ if that makes sense?
I try and make music that I like - that’s the incentive. I have to say that I can hear ‘me’ in most of the music I make which is not necessarily what I’m looking for - I just want it to sound like music. When John became heavily associated with the Progressive House tag, for a while we veered away from that making a much harder sound, tracks like 'Aquatonic' and 'Raise' for example. He hates being pigeon holed and goes to quite a lot of trouble to change things up, keep people guessing. I think he feels this is an important part of being a DJ.
Top 3 dance albums of all time?
Leftfield Leftism was a big one for us, huge influence as was Underworld DubNoBass
I think John’s Live in Montreal is one of the best DJ compilations ever mixed.
During the pandemic your live stream ‘Super Tuesday’ was such a huge hit with all your fans. Did you find that it brought you closer to them because of what we were all going through collectively? Will these be continuing in some way, shape or form moving forward?
It’s been brilliant doing the Super Tuesday Livestream, something I really didn’t expect. It really suits me as an endeavour, I have the ideal studio for doing it, it’s sharpened up my mixing skills and I’ve come across some wonderful music in the course of doing them. I want to keep it going for as long as it makes sense to do it. I love the fact that it feels like an online get-together. Really fun.
So in closing up today Nick, can you tell us what plans you have for 2021? Any upcoming collaborations/releases/events we should know about? What are you most excited about?
John and I have several remixes yet to be released, we will write some more original material but the club scene is not firing on all cylinders yet so we’ll hold off on releasing any original material until things are working better on that front.
I’ve been doing online production and coaching sessions for budding producers which are yielding some incredible results. If anyone is interested in participating they can head over to nickmuirmusic.co.uk, click on book a session and get the relevant info there. Advert over!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today Nick :)
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Our next artist interview will be published on Friday the 3rd of December at 7:30pm (AEST)