10 minutes with Nic Fanciulli

The Saved Records boss on why he really, really likes playing in Tokyo

10 minutes with Nic Fanciulli

It only takes a quick glance at the average superstar DJ's itinerary to realise that Japan no longer enjoys the status it once had as Asia's prime clubbing destination. Take Nic Fanciulli, whose upcoming Tokyo date is sandwiched between gigs in eight other cities around the continent, including Shanghai, Jakarta and Singapore – but, as he tells Time Out, the Japanese capital still enjoys a special place in his heart. The Grammy-nominated DJ and producer's current trip will provide a taster for his Balance 021 compilation, a 2CD mix released next month that gives Fanciulli a chance to showcase his own Saved Records label.

You seem to be covering most of Asia on your current tour. Do you feel like the club scene here has developed a lot over the last few years?
‘I think Tokyo's always been the benchmark for what people do in Asia – if you look at a lot of the clubs, club promoters and owners, they take a lot of their club design and influences from Japan, especially Tokyo. Also, I think the internet has helped a lot for Asia – especially China. 20 years ago, no one was going to China, and now a lot of people go to five or six different places there to play.’

The audiences in Japan have a reputation for really knowing their stuff. Have you found that in other Asian countries?
‘I think everywhere is different, you know? When I play in Singapore, the crowd is more reserved, but they stay with you. The problem with Tokyo is that you're so spoilt. You ask any DJ his favourite place to play in the world, and I'm pretty sure nine out of ten would say Tokyo. And then you have different places like China, where they don't really know the music; they're a lot more reserved there. I just think it's going to take time to develop certain places: for example, I go to Kuala Lumpur and I get a great response there, but I speak to other DJs who play different styles of music, and they don't.’

If you're playing to a crowd who seem like they're quite green, does that affect what you're spinning?
‘I think it makes you a little more cautious about what you're playing, and you tend to go through your music a lot quicker than you normally would, because you're trying to work out what they're like. But at the same time, I've just got experience with what places react in different ways, and I just stick to my sound. They're there to see you play, so you should play what you're doing. That just comes with experience and age, I think – you can't have amazing atmospheres in every club.’

The press material for your Balance 021 compilation talks a lot about ‘permanence’ and the ‘timeless quality’ of the mix. How do you actually achieve that when you're putting a mix together?
‘It's something that's organic, that doesn't really follow the trend. I wanted it to really appeal at any moment – an after party, in a car... a barbecue, for instance. (Laughs) I didn't want to follow the trend – that was the most important thing. I wanted to be able to hear it in ten years' time and say, you know, it still sounds good now. The second CD is a Saved CD, so it's a showcase of the label, and it's a bit more club-orientated, a bit more how you would see me. I try to get a four, five-hour set condensed to about 80 minutes. It was difficult, but I spent six months on the project, so hopefully–’

Six months?
‘Yeah, I know. I was speaking to my friend, who's another DJ, and he spent two weeks on his compilation. (Laughs) Honestly, I think by the end of it my wife and my brother – who works in the studio with me – didn't want to speak to me again, because I was so fussy. If you listen to the first CD, everything is in key – a lot of people aren't going to notice it, but I felt that I had to deliver something that was perfect enough to justify people paying for it.’

Were you doing the mix in realtime?
‘I did: I tried to do all the mixes in realtime, and then I transported it to the computer. I'm not going to lie about that. I think, to get the level of editing nowadays, you have to do that. It's not cheating or anything: you don't have to prove that you can mix or anything like that, because I'm doing it week in, week out. But to get something that perfect, sounding that crafted, I felt that I had to go into the computer and edit it. The one thing with the compilation that I found harder is that there's a lot of legalities with iTunes now... and if one record got pulled out of the mix then I'd have to move four or five records around it, because I wanted to get to that specific point, that feeling, in the mix. It was tough: I won't be doing another one for another few years. (Laughs)’

When you get pegged as a house or tech house DJ, it must restrict your choices a little. Are there any tracks that you've absolutely loved, but never been able to drop into a set?
‘Tokyo is the only place I can get away with it. The first New Year's Eve I did there, I got to play ambient, I got to play dubstep, I played drum 'n' bass for half an hour, I played disco – and that's what I love. I wish I could be more creative around the world, doing that. Sometimes I feel that you can't get away with it, only in certain places, and Womb in Tokyo is one of the only places that I can get really, really creative. I can't wait to get there next Saturday, because I'm going to get to play everything.’

Is there any particular track or artist that people might be surprised to find you like?
‘Joy Orbison is one of my favourite producers – and James Blake, as well. My background in music is very much the early indie stuff, like Oasis and Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, and I was also a massive fan of Portishead and Tricky and things like that.’

So was there a moment as a teenager when you'd listen to dance music and think, ‘Oh, this is just a load of shit’?
‘I think I just grew into it – I just didn't really know what dance music was until I got into bands like Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, and then the transition went from that to DJs like Laurent Garnier, Lee Burridge. So I never thought it was shit, I just wasn't into it at the time.’

Just one more question: do you ever wake up in a hotel room wondering where the hell you are?
‘Yeah, I do. And the funniest part of all that is when I land back at Heathrow or Gatwick and they ask me where I've been, I go blank half the time. I don't know – they're like, "Where have you come from?" and I'm like, "I really don't know," and they're like, "Well, you just got off the plane," and I'm like, "Yeah, but I don't know…" That happens pretty regularly.’

Saved Records with Arpa Showcase, April 28, Womb. Balance 021: Nic Fanciulli is released on May 22

By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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