With quite the back catalog history as well as his revered Frequenza label, Nihil Young’s new release ‘Breath’ with Wolf Story has led us to interview this interesting artist.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I started mixing tapes when I was a little boy, my dad used to do our holiday mixtapes and stuff like that and I was fascinated by mixing. I literally wanted to mix lyrics with cassettes back then. lol. Then I discovered hip hop when I was relatively young, I was about 9 or 10, I couldn’t spend a day without listening to old school stuff like sugar hill gang, grandmaster flash, run dmc, kurtis blow, boogie down productions and so on. Later (I was 13 or 14) I started saving money to buy my first set of turntables and a mixer, I was madly in love with scratching / turntablism and I wanted to emulate it so badly. This lead me to become a DJ, where I played some local parties in my hometown. I was playing every style of music that I used to love, from hip hop to house to drum’n’bass. Then I did my first ITF competition in Italy where I scored a decent result, given that I was the only one who performed freestyle. I received compliments from my favorite DJ at the time, D-Styles from the invisibl skratch piklz (with Q-bert), I was so humbled. Then I took off for personal reasons and stayed away from the scene, which I didn’t love much because it was all about competition and flaming each other.
At the time I was also starting to use the first DAWs that I knew of. I started with Reason, Fruity Loops and then Cubase, which was my favorite and I used it for well over 2 years. I was doing some hip-hop beats and learning everything about the daws, I would eat that stuff up. When I finished high school, I went to study at the University in Bologna where I met some people who introduced me to techno and tech house. I instantly feel in love with those sounds, what I recall referring to as a genre of limitless possibilities, and I started looking at sound design. What really caught my attention at the time was Stephan Bodzin, Martin Buttrich and Moonbootica’s mixtapes. I wasn’t really an expert of the genre or anything, I didn’t know the history of techno, tech house and about how it all developed since the early breaks and electro from Detroit. It still shows to this day. Needless to say I was shocked when I got to work with actual legends like John Acquaviva, Kevin Saunderson and even Moonbootica, who actually introduced me to this career path, thanks to their CDs.
After a year or so I met a local house DJ Gary Caos from Bologna. We made friends quickly and we founded our enterprise, with 2 labels at the time, Frequenza and Casa Rossa. We’ve always been independent since day 1. Things weren’t always easy obviously, but we’re still here and I must say I’m very proud of both labels.
How did you end up linking with Wolf Story for the EP?
I first met my friends Rico and Steve via social media, it all began when I was developing a side project called 7th Star. Rico found my project somewhere, maybe it was KMS or Gem or Toolroom, and reached out because he wanted to sign an EP. We became close friends and allies and we met a bunch of times to develop new diverse collabs and remixes for each other. They even released a stunning EP on my label Frequenza which included an excellent remix from Ben Sterling. Our previous collab ‘Align’ is getting its first 1million streams on Spotify. Our other collab Voice Of Reason, signed to Yoshitoshi, just got played by another excellent act, Kollektiv Trumstrasse, at Tomorrowland. We do have new ones lined up.
Tell us a little bit about how and why you started Frequenza!
Frequenza was a way to release whatever I wanted, knowing that I would never stick to a single genre or trend and that would have been problematic for me in the long run. I have some vinyl releases on Frequenza which I am proud of. Since the inception, though, I wanted to give a platform to local and international artists, without getting too much caught in a close-minded spectrum of genres; something that would give other artists the same chance that I have, to just be out there with music they liked to produce without having to be standardized techno or tech house or whatever. If you look at my label catalogue, you won’t find so many of my own releases for this very reason. I simply felt like giving space to whoever had something good to propose, all it took was that it had to sound good.
What was something you wish you knew that took you years to learn in the music industry?
I was getting a lot of attention at the time. I had a decent number of international gigs, things were going well. I struggled for years with bipolar disorder, and I wish I had known back then that if you stop, even for a little while, you risk of having to start from scratch, literally. There’s too much good stuff and talent out there, it’s easy to get lost and forgotten. I wish I had a decent agent back in the days. I wish I knew that good and constant promotion is key, both for an artist and a label. I wish I didn’t start so many side projects, because the result was only dispersion, even if I got to do what I loved. A little tip, you don’t need to ghost produce to get places, and if you focus on yourself a little bit more instead of wasting time on people who won’t value you and your work, eventually it’s going to be all right. If you think you are worth it, you should get paid always, for anything you do. You need to be respected and valued for what you do. Above all I wish I knew that music publishing and music management is of fundamental importance. I don’t know how much time and opportunities I lost, but there were people preying on me due to my mental and spiritual imbalances – which I rather not recount. I had to struggle to get back on my feet multiple times. I also wish I knew that order and balance is everything, especially as an artist. Drugs (the bad ones) and alcohol are not worth your life or your brain cells.
What is your favorite piece of kit in the studio and why?
I love Ableton Live and Logic x. Together or individually they provide me with everything I need, really. I love a good set of monitors (focal twins and sm9 are my favorite yet) and a well-treated room. I do absolutely love UAD and their plug-ins. I’m not an analogue freak tbh, but I get it.