Having been lucky enough to have caught the first wave of Chicago House imports (Virgo, Fingers…) in 1988, Nick Hodgkins’ first house music venture involved producing lo-tech acid-styled tracks on a Yamaha YS200 FM synth and RX21 drum machine. While living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the early nineties, he continued to produce while also starting DJing. He formed the underground house outfit Lucid Dream, with two other members on vocals, and played several gigs at the Riverside – then home to Shindig – including the 1992 ‘Not the Rave Festival’ – a protest gig against the growing (Prodigy-driven) commercialism of underground dance music.
In 1995 Nick moved permanently to Moscow, Russia, setting up a credible home studio and continuing to produce -mainly experimental techno. A while later he began playing Moscow clubs and became the Sunday night resident at Moscow-Berlin – now in his eighth year there.
His somewhat eclectic mix of tough yet melodic House/Tech/Electro – given an edge due to his tendency to trawl through as many records as possible to select only the cream for his sets – soon attracted attention from the Russian provinces. To date he has played in nearly all Russian cities, and now flies non-stop around this biggest country of the world doing what he likes doing best – making people dance.
In 1998 he beta-tested Steinberg-Rocket Net Production Software with Matt Black of Coldcut and other Ninja Tune producers, producing several jammed-out tunes in real time via the Internet with guys from every continent of the world. In 1999, Delfin, Tuta Larsen, Eduard Limonov and Detsky Panadol – all prominent Russian figures – gathered in Nick’s studio to record The Exile alternative newspaper’s ‘Send Them Crack’ track, which Nick produced. A little later he toured the country with Russian chart-toppers Chuguni Skorohod and Da Boogie Crew, while at the same time becoming a resident DJ of the Moscow Progressive label Energy Sound. In 2002-2003 he was twice runner-up in Muzik Magazine’s Bedroom Bedlam DJ-Mix Comp (whence came Yousef). In 2003 he joined the STR8UP Community, producing tough Progressive and also DJing with the other members of the crew. In 2005, Nick opened his site, which I’m not allowed to put a link here to.
Nick’s sets could be described as tuff/dark Electro-House and Tech-House with a solid groove, no mediocre boring tracks, danceable, with select pure (vocal, energetic) House tracks thrown in (but no trashy/pumping House or disco-cut-ups!) If ever his sets take a turn for the more mellow, such turns are always the more hypnotic excursions to maintain dancefloor momentum. When required to play hits for kids, he begrudgingly obliges, so long as the whisky rider is plentiful.
He is known to play the odd techno set for Moscow’s thriving harder underground scene, but does prefer to concentrate on his main style. The chameleon approach to DJing employed by some of his local fellow-DJs (can play anything, for any crowd) is one he prefers not to follow. He believes a DJ must define his overall (but not too narrow) style and be known by it. Otherwise clubbers don’t know what to expect if they’re planning a night out, and clubbers are very fixed in their likes and dislikes regarding dance music; it’s just not right ruining the night of a deep-Tech purist by playing House all night, so being known never to play deep-Tech means such unnecessary disappointments are avoided. Experiment by all means, Nick believes, but have an underlying theme/connection. Deep Dish, for example, have this down to a T, but Kleinenberg, Cattaneo & Digweed’s forays into deep Tech-House should be labelled accordingly. Then the choice can consciously be made by the consumer. Otherwise there’s bound to be frustration over ‘brand-abuse’, and understandably so.
Although as yet unreleased, Nick is in no hurry to become so. The commercialism of a signing doesn’t appeal greatly, nor would the extra hassle be welcome. Good House music is good House music, released or not. The greater recognition you get from having releases of course would be good, but recognition on a small ‘floor in Krasnoyarsk is also good. Moreover, being unreleased means it could still happen – again – good. Much better that – and for an eventual release to be based on quality – than a flash in the pan Nathan Fake, an over-the-hill Danny Rampling, or an impossibly-lucky-yet-eternally-mediocre Marshall Jefferson! Nick’s DJing takes a similarly underground approach too – not being too hungry ‘for success’, keeping the music real, genuinely appreciating the music, and not pushing the non-DJing marketing he despises (present website excepted!).
Update for 2019:
New production project: Sainted Rhythms. New studio tools, a mature, evolved perspective on modern underground electronic/club music, plus an inspirational production collaboration with Egor Biryukov, aka Hi Tech Chaos, have all contributed to Nick’s new mission: to get some quality bangers out there. Watch this space for upcoming releases…