The Standard: You're celebrating the 15th anniversary of Turntables on the Hudson, but you've been a DJ now for over 20 years. You started back when Giant Step was ruling New York nightlife. How did you get hooked up with them?
Nickodemus: Yes, I was the baby boy in many a 90s party. I remember going to the Muse to see Kid Capri in 1992, which was located almost under where The Standard sits now. I grew up on a heavy dose of Hip Hop Reggae and house music. I painted the drink specials and the walls with fluorescent colors, flowers and crazy trippy shit at the Red Zone for David Morales nights and remembering seeing my childhood crush Lady Miss Kier dancing through the place. So this was all that set me up for fitting into the Giant Step DJ and live mix repping all genres in one night. I'll never forget seeing the whole Groove Academy rocking Washington Park live with DJ's Smash, Chillfreeze and Jazzy Nice, Nappy G on percussion, Baby Power on the mic. I slid a mix tape to Marc Labelle at that party and soon after they called me in to spin at The Bank...
Then, you created the Turntables on the Hudson parties. Do you have a very specific story that could highlight the early days of TOTH?
Wow, so many memories it's insane! I can remember a floating Pier and boat with four sound systems running full tilt with about 1500 people spread out. Before my set, I would just make my rounds making sure everyone had drink tickets, the turntables were working, and the DJ was doing his/her thing. On the outside Pier, Mariano would be playing some heavy Dub House Breakbeat UK record with Nappy G greeting the crowd on the mic and ripping the Timbales. In the Captain's Lounge, Sujinho and Lego would be rocking dancehall and 90s hip hop. In the small room by the bathrooms, FSR (Funky Soul Rebels) would be in some deep Street Corner Symphony house track. On the roof, DJ Busquelo and Johnny Sender would be flipping funk and salsa 45's. In the Hull of the boat. Antibalas might be playing followed by Derek Sessions or someone in town like Peter Kruder. It's a real trip thinking back! I have a pretty good memory for these moments that were before 2am! (laughs)
The Hudson River from Le Bain's rooftop.
How did survive the late-90s Giuliani crack down?
Oh wow... Giuliani's Task Force had shut down so many venues for minor infractions as well as enforcing archaic 'Cabaret Laws'. They came and closed the Frying Pan so many times that we had to find a new spot, which was located behind the Ice Skating rink in the Chelsea Piers. The nightlife task force would wait for a Friday night and close the place down seconds before the doors opened for the entire weekend. Sometimes over a sharp corner on the bar, or cigarette butts on the ground, or claims of the tent not being fire retardant. So anyway, being protected behind the huge development of the Chelsea Piers allowed us some time to really cultivate what I think might have been the first weekly outdoor party in NYC. But more than being the 'first' anything, I'm happy that we stood the course and found our lane in a city that simply wasn't very tolerant to nightlife. I can't even imagine how much money the city as a whole lost during this era of closures. It was a very surreal time in NYC. Between that and an economic boom (especially for Wall Street), bottle service and velvet ropes started finding their way into so many of our favorite spots. People say NYC hasn't fully recovered, but New York's diverse nightlife community would not allow that to spoil the fun and we've been on a pretty amazing comeback.
You have been traveling the world with TOTH and also as a DJ. Which city do you think is the most innovative and interesting today in 2013?
Yes there was a time when London's drum & bass scene was the hottest. Then Vienna was the most exciting in the electronic music dance scene. My focus would switch from time to time and a certain amount of producers, labels, clubs, festivals and music-loving public would really give highlight to a certain city at certain times. Today it's sort of happening in so many places around the world it's hard to put a finger on it ... It's Croatia in the Summer, Australia in the Summer (our Winter), LA for its great diverse scene and radio support ... NYC is amazing these days for events. There's day parties, new late-night clubs, outdoor spaces, park jams ... Even places like Lincoln Center and Museums are getting into it! This summer will be another huge step in the right direction for NYC music, dance, food and overall social scene.
Mr Scruff, one of the great inspiration of TOTH
As a real Brooklynite, what do you think of Brooklyn becoming a brand for cool. Do you think Brooklyn stays as creative as ever?
Well, I've lived in Queens, Long Island, Manhattan and Brooklyn all my life. The L.E.S. during the 1990s kind of spoiled me. It was a very mixed and affordable. Electronic Music was really on the come up with one of the best era's in Hip Hop, Drum & Bass, underground house... There was always a sense of discovery as we didn't have a million blogs, online mags, experts with photos and opinions on absolutely everything the minute it's happening. Things would be bubbling under the surface for years before they were 'discovered'.
Today the info's moving so fast and people are quick to judge as we're discovering things more online and through other people's eyes rather than by ourselves and in the physical. It's kind of a tangent, but I do miss the good-old-days of finding out about parties by word of mouth or an info line posting the location the day of the event. That being said, Brooklyn is still my favorite borough and has an overflow of creativity at every turn!
15 years is pretty old for a party. Do you have any other party in mind that is as old and that you admire for keep it 'real'?
Sure, just off the top of my head (pardon me if I miss something obvious), but Dubmission in San Francisco, Body & Soul and Timmy's Shelter, Giant Step's The Rub and The Freedom party in New York. WOW! They've moved millions on the dance floor! Wicked Jazz in Amsterdam, Afrofunke and Marcus Wyatt's DEEP in LA, Deep Space is as real as it gets! Mr Scruff's 'Keep it Unreal' is a true inspiration as well.
Origin's Music Man, a Nickodemus' NY Classic
What would be the next step for TOTH in a perfect world?
To find a beautiful outdoor venue on the Hudson or any good outdoor venue and do it all again until we're old and deaf. I can't tell you how many people have connected at our parties. I meet people from all over the world who been to the party, where they met their partners, started families... It's truly the best part of it all! I plan to keep that going in many ways and in many cities. Right now we're doing Turntables on the Nile in Cairo and Turntables on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Keeping on.
"Keepin' it real" is an urban cliché, but represents an idea. How do you "Keep it Real?"
I don't know. I guess it means stick to your passion? Stay true to something? I guess there's a million songs I grew up with in Hip Hop that remind me to 'keep it real'. Biz Markie's Vapors De La Soul's En Focus Nas' Memory Lane Gang Starr's Mass Appeal Eric B & Rakim's Ghetto, Music Man by Origin featuring Shaka... I could go on for days on the lessons I've learned from music.
What is your own definition of a 'New York' minute?
I would say when things happen quickly with precision. It's the speed of a city. I think NYC is at about 126 BPM's most the time.
This Sunday June 16, Nouveau York presents Turntables On The hudson at Le Bain featuring Nickodemus, Nappy G, Sid Vaga, Chris Annibel and Eddy Plenty. Doors 2pm. Party starts at 5pm and goes until 3am.