Sitting from his soon-to-be-opened EQ Recording Studio in Wokingham, England, 45-year-old veteran Trance producer, Carl Nicholson was cautiously optimistic in regards to his studio.
With the current world situation, Carl admits the project has set him back a couple of months but stresses, “I didn’t intend on opening until July anyway,” he said. “I need everything to be perfect with the best equipment possible, which will be one of the selling points, so if I have to wait until August or September, it’ll allow me to continue with some bits and pieces to make everything just right.”
Until then, Carl is fortunate to do production work for companies and co-own eight Hard Dance recording labels. The music from which has secured itself on to several playlists that pay a respectable dividend. Owner of Presence Recordings and its sub-labels, and co-owning ART Recordings with his partner, Costa Pantazis, Carl is able to provide for his family that includes his wife, Charlotte, and their newborn daughter, Melody.
Along with several other producers, Carl admits to being a bit nervous with music that is scheduled to come out during this world event. “I’ve got quite a big list that’s due to come out, but you really can’t do anything about it,” he confesses. “They’re some of the best tunes I’ve made, and I hope they don’t fall into digital puddles where it’s released and just sinks.”
Scheduled for a June release on Tidy Two, Carl has an album that took two years to create and plans on postponing that date for obvious reasons. “I can’t afford for it just to go, ‘here ya go!’ and have the record sink.” he exclaimed. “I’ll wait until people are back to work, so there’s a better soundtrack to the world instead of this uncertain shit we’re all going through.” And, he speaks from experience. With over 300 releases to practically every major label in the world, Carl has been a part of the Trance (originally called Uplifting House) music scene for well over 25 years. In essence, he’s seen and done it all and has a strong opinion that is hard to argue.
When things return to normal, Carl sees a dramatic continuation in the way a particular brand presents itself. By that, he means that the current A-list artists will push even harder by investing in themselves to maintain the sheep-herding mentality of the social media and Beatport streaming public. “Back in the summer of love era of Dance Music from 1989-1995, people latched on it, and they don’t like change,” he adamantly said. “It stops them from exploring an absolute universe of music because they won’t get off their laurels if it doesn’t have (enter artist here) name on it.” He continued, “There’s a good number of producers who are way better than some of the A-listers, but they won’t get a look because they don’t know the right people, they can’t afford the PR, and they’ve got bills to pay. So, what are they living on, a dream? In this business, it’s not what you know, but who you know, it’s sad.”
And, with the vast majority of people having their music produced by outside engineers, it’s a wonder that the particular brands that artists have created for themselves still exist outside of the fact that most of them can DJ. “This is nothing new,” Carl said. “This goes back to Elvis. Do you think he wrote his own songs? No. There’s a tremendous market for songwriters and engineers because they’ve been doing it for so long. They have already seen and done it all. They don’t want the limelight, they don’t want to be up until 6 a.m. playing in a sweaty club. They’re doing it because they can do it during the day, go home to their families and watch television like a normal person at night. In the end, everyone has a cut-off for the business, and for some, they choose to continue their talents in this manner.”
According to Carl, there’s a tremendous bright spot to the current world situation in that creative people will keep themselves busy. With that, there will be an exorbitant amount of quality released music soon by people that do create their own sounds. The question is, will anyone hear it? “We don’t know,” admitted Carl. “It’s so easy to self-release these days, but if the person has no profile, it doesn’t get featured, and it’s gone.” With a lot of today’s music having a shelf life of a week, it’s hard to again argue with this point. Another topic brought up was the art of DJing.
There’s an old saying in the dance music scene that a good DJ doesn’t know anything about producing and vice versa. In today’s scene, it’s once again hard to argue that save a few people. “A good DJ takes years of doing warm-ups,” Carl said. “The first three years, I learned how to capture someone’s attention and work out what it was that brought them there and keep that idea going throughout the set.” Carl makes it a practice to focus his attention on four people in the crowd, one on the far right, one on the far left, and two in the middle. “I’ll play to them the entire night,” Carl revealed. “If I can keep that space moving, nine times out of ten, the people will stay.” He also admits to only focusing on women. “If you keep the women there, the blokes will stay.”
He also had some valuable advice for warm-up DJs. “Rule number one is to avoid any big tunes,” he said. “The headliner has earned the right to play those, not you.” Carl went on to say that the warm-up DJ has the most important slot on the evening’s bill. “It’s your job to set the tone, and you’ve got to pitch it down. You can’t go into it thinking, ‘oh, this is my moment, and they’re all going to love me, and I’m going to be massive next week!’ If you do that, you’re selfish, and you’ve already failed.”
The important thing, he summarized, is to enjoy yourself and realize that even though the music business is a game, and rules have to be followed, be comfortable with what you have allowed yourself to put your name on. “Sure, there are labels that have a particular sound, and there are guidelines that have to be met, but I would never send a demo that I wasn’t completely happy with.”
With that said, Perfecto Fluoro, Paul Oakenfold‘s Psybrid imprint, has signed an original of Carl’s that is due out on April 24, 2020. Already showcased five times on Planet Perfecto‘s radio program, Inflicted has everything you would expect from the Fluoro label, but with a big dose of Nicholson. Expect PsyTrance influenced twists and turns coupled with massive, searing arpeggios and sweeps, and you wouldn’t be far off from the description of the track. It’s not Carl’s go-to, but it showcases the quality that one would expect after 25 years.
May 22, 2020, sees Carl’s remix of Jam & Spoon‘s Right In The Night/Fall In Love With Music courtesy of Black Hole Recordings. “It was the track that made me fall in love with Trance all those years ago,” he said. “So, to get the opportunity to remix, it was a dream come true, especially on what could be argued as one of the very biggest and most prolific labels in the business. I have never been more proud of the production and spent months getting it just right, and when you hear, I’m sure you will agree it was time well spent!”
And finally, with a release date yet to be determined, Carl has teamed up with his good friend, Pierre Pienaar, for a track courtesy of VANDIT Records.
The future indeed looks bright for Carl Nicholson, and after a quarter-century in the business, he’s just getting started.