While the mainstream media is focusing on the big and crunchy EDM acts like Skrillex, Swedish House Mafia and Deadmau5 there is a strong local scene of DJs and producers in New York City that are responsible for filling the lounges and clubs with a dance floor friendly modern take on early Disco music, better known as Nu Disco. One of these new comers David Bohl, aka Map Of The World At Night, has begun collaborating with vocalist Nathan Lacy, and the results are nothing short of inspiring. I was fortunate enough to sit down with them to discuss their work, and their recent signing to Nurvous Records for the track “Sometimes Always Never”.
Where did you guys first meet, and how did you start making music together in the first place?
D.B.: A mutual friend introduced us who suggested that Nathan put some vocals down on this track that I had been working on. The track was called Sometimes Always Never, produced under my alias Map Of The World At Night.
What was your process for making the track together?
D.B.: The original track was an instrumental mix that I had originally created using analog equipment. I didn’t have the pieces anymore, so I had to basically create a skeleton of the track with just the midi and some basic samples from the original track so that I could have something that I could use for a new version. I sent Nathan the track, and he laid down vocals. I later mixed it on the computer, and that was it.
Nathan, you were working in a funk band before. Had you done vocals before, and what was your experience on this track?
N.L.: I felt the vocals came really easy for me as soon as I heard it. I knew what I wanted to do for it, and put vocals down on a bad recording immediately and sent it to David. It was a pretty painless process that went quickly. Lyrically, I was influenced by the original track. I was reminded of a city scape at night, very whimsical, so I went with that.
Have either of you seen its effect on the dance floor?
D.B.: I have been DJing more lately, and it’s gone over great so far.
Your release has remixes by Nick Monaco, Climbers and Clinton Houlker. How were they conceived? Is it something you talked about?
D.B.: Andrew at Nervous had people in mind. I provided the stems to the track, and they just went to town. We like how they turned out.
I hear a lot of different sounds in this track. What are the influences in your work?
D.B.: I come from a rock and experimental ambient electronic background, and I am always concerned with atmosphere. My main influences lately have been Post Disco; basically anything that came after Disco, but before Techno and House took over. Italo, boogie and synth pop.
N.L.: I grew up listening to gospel music, blues and soul.
You Don’t say? (Laughs)
N.L.: Can you tell? I eventually graduated to the pop elements of Michael Jackson and Prince whom I love. I also love the great 70’s bands…The Stones, Zepplin & Bowie.
Are you and Nathan planning on doing another track together?
D.B.: Actually we just finished another track together called “Thrills”. At the moment it is unsigned, but we are shopping it around. We also have a rough sketch of a third track that Nathan brought to the table.
N.L.: It was a track I had conceived early on, but was never really happy with it. I wanted to see what David could do with it. It is in its’ early stages right now.
What equipment are you working with these days.
D.B.: Sequencer wise, it’s Logic. My main synth is the Juno 60, I love love the Juno 60 above all else. My number two synth is the MKS-80, and I throw in the Access Virus sometimes. I am starting to get into soft synths for the convenience. For drums it’s samples of old drum machines played on an MPC-2500, mixed with single hit samples from old disco tracks.
David, are you trained as a musician?
D.B.: I am basically self taught. I took a couple of classes, but most of my experience is from playing guitar in rock bands and learning from friends. I have been slowly transitioning to electronic music over the past few years.
Nathan, did you start singing in your shower and had an epiphany or?
N.L.: I am trained in Shakespearian theatre and some film in LA. I got tired of that lifestyle, and moved to NYC. Within a week of being here I was in a rock band, and I have been singing ever since.
Right now David you are DJing more often, but have you two considered playing your stuff as a live performance?
D.B.: I think that is a possibility in the future, but live bands require a lot of resources (time, practices, moving gear around etc.). I would do a live show if there was enough of a demand for it, but DJing is the most efficient way right now for me to get the sound out there.
N.L.: For this project I think it’s great in a DJ setting, it’s music geared to dancing.
David, how has DJing changed your production? Or has it?
D.B.: DJing has had a huge impact on my production. The Bottom line is, music sounds different in a club. I started to realize just how important the bass was. Bass is the heartbeat of a party, so if the bass stops people are just holding their breath waiting around for it to come back and there is this awkward feeling in the room. I now understand so much better how different styles of music function in public, and how to make things more DJ friendly. I have also learned how to not focus too much on the details, since people don’t hear that, and keep the big picture in mind.
We are in the middle of yet another EDM wave right now. What do you think of this new resurgence? Or is it just another fad?
D.B.: I don’t think it’s going to go away. I think a lot of people who have been into indie rock music for the past five years are really crossing over into electronic music. People are realizing that EDM can be a lot of different things. It can be raw, it can be spontaneous etc.
N.L.: I think people are looking for a new experience. They want to be around people with their same taste, and be a part of the moment.
The music you two are making is considered Nu Disco, what do you think about the sound that is coming out right now?
D.B.: I really like the new stuff being produced. The Nu Disco sound references the old stuff that I love, but still sounds contemporary.
N.L.: I agree, it’s like an homage to 70’s music, but it is new and cutting edge.
Vocals were big in Disco and Gospel House, but there is a lot of EDM that either rely on samples or frown up on vocals in a track since that is more a pop idea. Do you have anything to say about that?
N.L.: With the songs we’ve been working on together, it is electronic dance music, but there is a large vulnerability; it’s very emotional. This music lends itself to a poetic sense, and to lyrics in general. I think it works with what we are doing. Nu Disco is a different genre altogether.
What do you think about the state of NY nightlife? (Laughs)
N.L.: I am used to Williamsburg nightlife, which I feel is better than Manhattan. It’s more about creativity than what’s trendy.
D.B.: I am not a native New Yorker, and I often hear people talking about what nightlife once was in the 70’s and 80’s, but I think the nightlife here is amazing. There is so much going on, and there is something for everybody. Almost every night you will miss something, just so much out there.
Is there a music phenomenon that you wish would catch on, or a something that you think should come back?
N.L.: I am a huge sucker for Studio 54. The party itself and the bohemian atmosphere of it all. People need to let loose, and be able to let loose. This city has a firm grasp on what you can and cannot do, but it would be great to have another big party with some leniency.
D.B.: I think more underground parties warehouse parties that go all night like in Berlin, and more Italo Disco!
To close out, do you have any advice for young DJs or producers?
D.B.: Listen to different kinds of music, and be opinionated. Decide what you like and don’t like. Take that sound, and learn to DJ it for other people. As far as producer advice, consider yourself lucky. You can really make amazing music for not much money right now with the technology that is available.
Chris Alker, aka The Dance Machine/DJ By Night, is a New York based DJ, designer, party planner and writer.
Originally from Houston he moved to New York City in the winter of 2004 to work full time in the field of architecture. With a passion for dance music, art, architecture and fashion, he has tapped into the city’s creative pulse in an effort to share his ideas, his writings and cherished damaged-disco record collection.
He is is responsible for countless dance parties around town, is a contributing writer for Rockthedisco, Discosalt & Out Of Order Magazine, is an ambassador for the independent record label Subtrak, and has lectured on the art of the DJ at Yale University.[/box]