Nyra returns to the music scene with new label Canoe
Interview by Rob Chadwick
How are you, how is it to be back on the decks after years spent cycling?
I’m fantastic thanks, so happy to be back doing music again, I loved my cycling career, but now I’m back.
You were a DJ before right? Surely that is quite a stark contrast from being a DJ? Swapping early hour raving for early morning riding?
Haha yes, it was quite the change! I used to be coming in from the club at 8am but then found myself going out at 8am to train on the bike, it took some getting used to but it clicked after a short time.
Tell us about your time in the music industry before that, why did you walk away from it in the first place and what brought you back?
In the late 2000s I did quite a lot of DJ’ing all over the globe, I think I clocked around 50 flights the last year I was playing. I got a little tired of the music and the lifestyle and found cycling was a major release from all the stresses of a touring DJ. Whilst cycling for pleasure, my uncle said I was good on the bike and then got the bug and started to ride more and more. I entered some races, one thing led to another and I got picked up by one team, then another and before I knew it I was at the top level in the UK. I had to make the conscious decision that I was going to leave the music for a while, do the cycling and see how far I got. Music was always a part of me even whilst cycling full time as I used to listen to lots whilst training and even at races when warming up before the race started. I knew I was going to come back to music, just after I had done the cycling. I did my last race in August last year when I raced in the South Yorkshire Championships. I came third so I knew the time was right to come back to music and finish on a high with the cycling.
When you first started DJ’ing, what was your set up – did you choose specifically or use just what was available to you?
I first started DJ’ing around the age of 16. My uncle left me some money behind when he passed and I went and bought some cheap turntables and a mixer package, I think it was Stanton belt drive combo or similar. I came home and set them up in my bedroom on a flimsy table I had put together, and started to teach myself to play. So yes, that’s what was available to me at the time, but when you finally get the chance to play on industry standard equipment later on in life it was such a blessing.
And what is your set up now – what decks, what mixer, what musical formats? Why use the tools you do and what do they offer you that others don’t?
I will always play vinyl, it’s where I started and it’s where I will end. The feel, the smell, the sound; the physical embodiment of playing an object appeals to me much more than a digital file, and the same goes with music I release. I like to keep the legacy going, that’s why I will only release on vinyl. I love to play records but occasionally USB, due to the digital music not being available on vinyl is unavoidable. Also, USB is essential for promos and so on. My preferred set up in the club or at home would be two Technics turntables 1200/1210, two Pioneer 2000 cdj’s, and one Allen & Heath Xone 92, or any of the quality rotary mixers for example the E & S DJR 400, Rane MP2015, Bozak or many of the others out today. I also feel playing with vinyl is such an art and therefore sets the people that can play records all night apart from the rest doing the digital console thing.
Tell us about your new label – will art matter? It’s vinyl only right; will you do albums and EPs, and is it to nurture artists, or more as a platform for yourself?
The label is called ‘Canoe’. It’s vinyl only limited press, hand stamped and numbered 180g records. The art doesn’t matter, we will use the same stamp on every EP, perhaps changing the colour of the ink from time to time but that’s it. The emphasis is more towards the music and not the artwork. At the moment it’s just EPs; we have three online for pre-sale at all good record outlets at the moment, and we are currently considering a possible album in the coming months due to the sheer amount of quality music available to us by one artist in particular. The people that will release on Canoe will vary from new artists to more established ones. As well as being a staple platform for my own productions, and my label partners (Oushe), we will keep putting out music as long as it of timeless quality.
What’s the story behind the big NoFace track you are releasing on EP 2 – how did you sign that, will there be more from him?
The story behind it is that I was listening Denis Sulta in the Bolier Room and he played the track ‘Young Larry’. I loved it and set off trying to find out what it was called but after searching endlessly I had to give up unsuccessful. I then came back to trying to find the track a few months later and stumbled across it on NoFace’s Soundcloud. I asked him if it was signed and he said no so I then sent him a proposal for the track and ended up signing it. I think I was just in the right place at the right time! You will definitely be hearing more from him; he’s currently working on material for his own EP on Canoe.
Your own tracks are very varied – do you know what you will make when you head into the studio? Or does it just happen as you are in there that you go off into rave, or disco, or whatever?
I try to keep an open mindset when in the studio, and make what feels right. Obviously there are some influences floating round in my head but generally, I just go with the flow. My musical taste is quite widespread so who knows what will come out, as long as it makes you dance. That’s the aim!
What gear do you use in the studio? Hardware or software? Does that matter?
I like to use the older type gear, Roland 808 and 909. I love the authentic staple sound but to try and put a modern twist on things. It’s all run though Ableton with a mixture of synths and outboard analogue equipment.
Are you trying to produce a certain style? How does it contrast with the music you made before taking a break from the scene? Are you moving in a different direction to what you did previously? If so…why?
The stuff I’m making now is a combination of the music I have made over the years with lots of new sounds thrown in for good measure. The style could be anything from techno to house, to disco or breakbeat to jazz, to funk to soul and all with an electronic twist.
And finally, what else have you got coming up after these three EPs for the label, and yourself as an artist?
I’m just planning more releases on Canoe at the moment so it may be material from me or Oushe or NoFace or perhaps some of the other music we are going through at the moment. The aim for me as an artist is pick up from where I left off and to keep things fresh and exciting; always keeping the wheel turning.