Nihil Young aka Less Hate, is a polyhedric artist, producer, remixer and DJ, considered a trendsetter by many and a prominent name in the international underground electronic music scene. He is the founder and curator of acclaimed Italian record labels Frequenza and Frequenza Black (Est 2009), featuring releases from artists such as Kostas Maskalides, Christian Schwarz, Louie Fernandez, Kellerkind, Teenage Mutants, David Herrero, Talal and more, alongside his own productions. With his new ‘Ascension EP’ currently blowing up, gracing playlists of Tiesto and more, DMCworld grabbed a chat with the maestro…
A huge welcome to DMCWORLD Nihil Young where on planet earth are you today?
It’s great to be here with you, today i’m sitting in my studio in Italy in the Treviso area. I feel super humbled as I still have the DMC slip-mats and DMC actually had a huge impact in my life.
For those of our readers that might not know you, please can you introduce yourself.
My name is Mattia Marotta and to most I’m known as Nihil Young and Less Hate, to some others I’m known as the owner and curator of Frequenza Records.
What is the best piece of new music you have heard recently?
It’s hard to pick one really, there’s a lot of fresh music out from very talented producers. Just found out about Trooper by Joseph Ashworth on Life And Death and it sounds sweet!
Which came first for you, Djing or producing and what was your first breakthrough release?
First came DJing, I was fascinated by turntablism, scratching and scratch music, basically it’s DMC’s fault, lol. All jokes aside, it was Jam Master Jay, Terminator X, Grandmaster Flash and so on. Then I found out about DMC and I fell madly in love with Q-Bert and D-styles. I decided I had to buy a set of 1200s and started practicing. A few years later I started producing. I should say my very first release had fairly decent results, but surely my collabs with the legendary John Acquaviva were the most played and charted. I also did a remix for Matador that did very well at the time on Sleaze Records and a remix for Spektre on their Respekt Recordings that hit the 1st spot on the techno charts.
You’ve just released your brand new Ascension EP, please tell us a bit about it and what we can expect to hear?
‘Ascension’ is my latest work on my label Frequenza, I wanted to define the sound of Nihil Young as lately I haven’t had much time to produce and develop the style further, so I decided to sit in the studio for a couple of days and lay the foundations for ‘Ascension’ and ‘She’. The tracks are a collection of all the styles I explored as Nihil Young, Less Hate and my other moniker 7th Star throughout the years, where melody is predominant, my brass-sounding / fx / pitch-bending signature sounds are back and a good kick and groove do their job. There’s no statement to it, just trying to express my feelings and excitement about being back in the studio. However, ‘Ascension’ tells a bit about my personal transcendental experience, while ‘She’ is a love message to my significant other and to the feminine element. I would also love to dedicate ‘She’ to the beautiful female wolf who partnered with me on my most recent photo shooting.
So 10 years have passed since you first set up Frequenza and more recently your Frequenza Black label. What have been your highlight releases on the labels so far?
I have had a lot of great artists and releases on the label, Maetrik aka Maceo Plex, Dustin Zahn, Brian Sanhaji, Pig & Dan, Simina Grigoriu, Teenage Mutants, Kellerkind, Lutzenkirchen to name a few. The highlights were probably my own ‘Bye Bye My Brai’n which included a massive Ramon Tapia Remix and it was the 3rd vinyl release; Simina Grigoriu’s ‘Project Boondocks EP’; and another one of my own called ‘Doomed’, which included an excellent Gary Beck Remix.
And who else have you signed recently that we should be on the look out for soon?
Andrew Meller and Teenage Mutants with two excellent remixes and an incredible artist and songwriter called Tyger Tyger.
What have been your biggest obstacles in running the label and how do you see things moving musically for the labels in the future?
When you are both label owner, curator, dj and producer it can get challenging. It was hard for me to find the time to focus on my own career and music as I was always prioritising the running of the label. There’s a messy tale when I changed digital distribution a while back and I lost all my catalogues due to none of the distributors telling me that the catalogues would disappear from many stores, including iTunes and Spotify. It was hell, because I had recently lost a backup hard drive with the whole back-catalogue in it and another one had been stolen from me. I was able to recover everything thanks to the lovely Traxsource team who unlocked all my back-catalogue for me to download. Crazy, but something like this can happen to anyone in this digital era. Musically speaking there will be no major shift as the label was never a Techno label or a House label, I’m not a purist and I respect and love all genres. I started with Progressive, Minimal and Techno, moving to Deep House, Electro and vocal House and I’m always excited to explore and reinvent myself.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most, writing and producing or Djing and why?
Writing / producing and djing are very different and I really can’t pick a favourite. I’d say I love them equally. I am an empath and I love being alone in the studio working on music and even writing some lyrics every now and then. But I do love to test the crowd’s reactions and watch happy people enjoying themselves. Needless to say I love to spin in various ways, testing new effects and do crazy things with the knobs and transitions. Sometimes even scratching can work at the right time over a good techno or house beat.
What’s your studio set up like and what piece of kit can’t you live without?
I have been using Apple computers since 2009 and I surely couldn’t live without my Mac, Logic, Ableton Live and a good set of plug-ins. I am currently using Logic X; Ableton 10; a Universal Audio Apollo; a few excellent UAD VSTs – one I regularly use is Lennar Digital’s Sylenth; an AKAI APC40 mkII and I recently got a Moog Sub37. Oh and I definitely couldn’t be without without my magnificent Focal SM–9 monitors.
How do you generally go about putting a new track together and what inspires you?
Generally I get inspired by dreams, sounds and nature. It can take a single sound that I hear anywhere on the street or in the woods to make hundreds of combinations burst in my head. I record the best of them on my phone. Sometimes something just comes in my head and it’s all right there. Or I can sit in the studio and play around with samples, drums or a few notes with the right sound on any synthesizer and suddenly something comes to me. But I prefer when it comes from above as I never like to push anything that I didn’t feel like doing because it just wouldn’t feel right to me.
When in the studio I usually start by layering the foundation, just a kick, some texture (fx or field recordings) and designing the right sounds, so I can quickly lay down the melody. Then I really need to find the good sound for any of the elements otherwise, if go into the arrangement too quickly, it easily gets messy and I get discomforted with the project to the point that I trash everything and start all over. What really gets me going and inspires me in the process of arranging the track are arpeggios, good basslines and a good dose of percussion here and there. When I’m all set, I start with the arrangement and put the pieces together. Most of the time new elements come to mind whist I’m arranging so I make sure I add the good ones and remove the bad ones, as I always tend to make over-crowded tracks. When I am happy with the result I start fine tuning. Sometimes the process is live with me playing the synths and tweaking the knobs right then and there, some other times I’m the old and boring mouse guy and others I write first and then I tweak the knobs.
We come to raid your record collection, which embarrassing record do you chuck out the window before we arrive?
I’m very very very self-critical. If you came with a short notice, I would throw 90% of it out the window. lol.
What record makes you say ‘damn, I wish I made that’?
Röyksopp & Robyn – Monument.
What are your 3 current top tunes?
The Chemical Brothers – Got To Keep On
LSD – Thunderclouds
Post Malone, Swae Lee – Sunflower
Any tips or advice for aspiring DJs and producers looking to break through on the scene?
Sure: if you are an empath and if you have trouble with social interactions, you’re gonna have to be very, very, very patient. If you are not, just go out, have fun, be true, be kind and be humble. Still be patient, but you’re gonna have more ways to fail and understand how to succeed because you will be able to confront yourselves with others, exchange ideas, go clubbing and meeting lots of people from the industry and who knows, maybe even superstar djs. Refine your sound and get a good second or third ear from someone you trust before you put it out. Aim at the top but stay humble. Find a good promoter. Don’t sign a stupid deal with someone who wants to trick you into doing something you would regret, I met so many artists that had to change their names and start from scratch because of that. The best advice I can give is: try to better yourself everyday, practice both as dj and as producer as much as you can, aim at good labels and most importantly aim at one genre / artist / label you really like before you think you can make a gazillion different sounds and genres.
Finally, what else in the pipeline for you remix and release wise?
There’s a lot going on! I was just asked by Kittball to deliver a remix for their wonderful charity project ‘It Began In Africa,’ I will be super happy to be a part of it and I’m hoping to deliver a good remix as I’m a long time fan of the label and Tube and Berger’s. There will be a remix EP for ‘Ascension’, with reworks from Teenage Mutants and Johnny Kaos. My remix for Mike Mago x Dog Collective on Spinnin’ Records just came out and another remix on KMS Records! The one I’m most excited about is a remix for my London-based friend Talal with his excellent song called ‘Eighties’. There will also be a remix release for my collaborative EP with my friends Wolf Story on Audiophile Recordings with an excellent remix from Timid Boy and another single on Toolroom Records. Finally, I will start putting my next album together along with a few new EP’s and more collaborations.
‘Ascension EP’ is out now on Frequenza Records