by / June 22nd, 2011 /

Interview: Desy Balmer of Nice & Nasty Records

Layo & Bushwacka are used to playing to packed crowds in superclubs from Miami to Ibiza. This makes their forthcoming set in Dublin’s Turk’s Head a must for Irish tech-house fans who want to experience one of the Londoners’ legendary sets up close. The event has been organised by Nice & Nasty; a Belfast-based independent label which has been pumping out house and techno records since 1993. State recently spoke to label boss Desy Balmer about the DJ duo’s impact on club culture at home and abroad.

Do you believe in the capability of a nightout to change a person’s life? Has a night out ever had a profound effect on you?

Yes I do. A night out for someone could easily be a physical or situational epiphany. It probably won’t be some romantic ‘one night that changed everything’, but one night that led to two, three, four and more nights that take you on a journey. For me personally – growing up in Belfast during the troubles – nights out, raves, and acid house parties were an escape from the division and hate. It really was the third way, so to speak, and has definitely played apart in me being me right now.

What’s the best night out you’ve ever had, and why?

I have been raving or clubbing since I was 14, man. There are simply too many to mention and, to be fair, some of the things that made the night extra special may not be fit for print!

What sort of material can those attending Layo & Bushwacka’s gig expect on the night?

Techno. Repetitive beats. Melody, soul, funk, but basically mind-expanding sounds and body-shaking rhyhmns, otherwise called techno.

Layo & Bushwacka play Amnesia in Ibiza next month. How does Ibiza now differ from the Ibiza of the late ’80s house boom?

Would you believe I have never been to ‘Ibeefa’, mate? At a guess I’d say today the criminals look less like English soccer casuals from some duff Danny Dyer film. Bushwacka has been at the centre of it all – from his Rat Pack days to Ministry of Sound residency, from the End to working with Layo – the man is a true legend of this era.

What is the best dance venue in the world at the moment?

Turk’s Head! Honestly, the same one it has always been. Your head, your mind or, for that matter, the one you happen to be in. For me deciding what’s the best venue is to do with how you feel and behave in it. Ones with great sound and décor and hot chicks can very often have wanker doormen, high prices and can feel crap. House music, techno, etc. worked best and still work well in dark basements, warehouses and so on. One of the best places ever was Columbia Mills in Dublin, home of Francois’ legendary UFO parties and Deep Fried Funk; Sugar Sweet or Choice at the Art College, Belfast; Shine Belfast, Switch, or even the glamorous Pod – which really isn’t more than a black box with big bass bins and plenty of party people just having it. You don’t need much more.

Among the exponents of tech house you know, is there anyone who stands out for you at the moment?

Terry Francis, Evil Eddie Richards, Jay Riordan, Tony Craig and Rainey. Irish people should take notice of Rainey, though.

Annie Nightingale has been a great champion of Layo & Bushwacka over the years, and she has recently been recognised for her work in broadcasting. How important has she- or her Radio 1 show – been in terms of promoting L&B’s work, and in promoting dance music generally?

Personally,the late John Peel and the obvious Pete Tong are the real people who made alternative music and dance music BBC-radio-friendly but the Beeb and UK media are much more ‘of the moment’ and trend-following than Ireland. We tend to like something and someone and stick with it until it hurts to let it go.

Who is the ludicrous person who has ever approached you for a remix?

Even as a small label we get some of the maddest requests from 15-year-olds wanting work experience or teenage singer-songwriters who have simply not read our profile. No doubt I am passing up on the next Britney or something, but c’est la vie. About 20 years ago there was a studio in Belfast wanting to make slamming dance remixes of loyalist marching bands. It would probably have worked and sold well but it was just something I didn’t fancy getting involved in.

Are there any influences on your work which might surprise people?

Newsreels like Reeling In The Years. I love that shit and think it’s cool for samples. I am also trying to use comedians and their performances in tunes as I think it would be cool to be dancing and having a right old laugh too. Techno got a bit serious for a while there.

How do you cope with the challenges involved in operating an independent record label during a period of financial instability?

The stability of world economics hasn’t had that much of an impact. It was, and remains, expensive to print vinyl. People share or steal MP3s rather than buy them. Once the artist did gigs to sell records, now they release music to try and get gigs. Gigs are maybe a bit fewer and farther between these days, and some pay a bit less but, other than that, running a record label is a labour of love. Make sure you have a good job and an understanding wife or partner, otherwise you’ll face real instability and that’ll knock you sideways.

Does dance culture become more vibrant and active when people are up against it (i.e. facing cuts, witnessing the closure of clubs etc)?

Music of all kinds, like most art, likes to starve or rebel, that’s why our gig is about revolution and anarchy. We are not Hed Kandi. [What we do] is brilliant DJs, cool tunes, nice venue and no hassle or bullshit. Clubs and pubs that close may have closed for reasons other than the recession, such as bad management, lack of investment; not necessarily money, but in the right DJs or good bouncers. These things matter in times when people want value.

Revolution + Anarchy: Nice & Nasty Present Layo & Bushwacka is at the Turk’s Head, Parliament Street, Dublin 2 on June 25th.

  • Cheers Ciaran.
    People can buy tickets @ or pay at the door. The turks head is a much more compact venue for L&B and we also have the impressive Solab live so this will be a seriously cool gig, one people will say they were at . . . roll on saturday.