Photo by Craig Parker, styled by Joe Spencer.
Fired some questions at enigmatic music producer DJ and performer The Niallist on the release of his excellent new album "AKA"...
Q: Niall, I love you, you smell of roller skates.
A: Why thank you. Is that leather and rubber?
Q: Must be it! Also, I'm a little bit gay for your accent, which sexy part of Ireland is that from? (Just to be sure)
A: It's from the south east coast near Cork city but it's lost a lot of it's flavour since I moved from the old country (though apparently it rears up again when I am on the phone home).
Q: I first met you at Hope Street Studios, what was your first impression of Glasgow?
A: I was shitting myself about moving to Glasgow to be honest - this was in 1996-1997 at the height of Trainspotting fever. My very first impression of the city was the motorway in from the airport - you know the raised one that curves into Waterloo St - and I thought it looked horrible! Grey and dreary with an undercurrent of fear. However, when I moved there, on the very first day I found the people to be very personable and friendly and really quite similar to the Irish, so I felt much more at home.
Q: That's cheering. And the last impression of your time in Glasgow...?
A: That's kind of a hard one because I don't really feel like I have fully left Glasgow, I am up and down so much with Menergy. I never had a going away party or anything official, and I was back up a few weeks after I moved anyway. Even though I am glad to get away from the awful weather and some of the other massive flaws, I feel like Glasgow is my spiritual home in a way. Glasgow exists in its own bubble quite removed from other cities in the UK, and even though socially that can make it quite uniform it also means it's less susceptible to bullshit you find in other cities.
Q: You win £1000 on the lotto, how do you spend it?
A: Well, it wouldn't go very far on the kind of dream-holiday I'd wish for, so I guess I would invest it in some music equipment. Or pay off some debts.
Q: One thing we have in common is our love of MEN - you got to support them in Manchester, how was that for you?A: It was amazing - it was really cool to be asked to be on that bill as I am a huge fan of the band and of JD Samson's other work like Le Tigre. We got to meet her before hand (we actually interviewed her for about half an hour, myself and Joyce D. Vision, which you can see HERE). JD is really cool, and a real inspiration for just doing what she does and looking like she does without caring what anyone else thinks. I'd definitely like to work with her on some music sometime, and the gig itself was awesome.
Q: I've been listening to your new album AKA - it's great! I can totally get that you're a TIGA fan. Me too.A: Thanks, I am glad you like it! Yeah, I love that guy. One of my mates says we are brothers from another mother, and actually some of the labels and producers I have been in touch with have mentioned the similarity between his version of Hot In Here and my version of Work It, which is nice. I like his old school house vibe, but I also love that he has a personality and sings about weird shit! There's so much anonymity and conformity in dance music, which is why I love more out-there artists like him and Peaches and Green Velvet.Q: An impressive roster of big names are featured on this album, how did that come about?A: It started with me having a bunch of tracks which were collaborations with guests on them, and some remixes too that were just kind of lying around. As the album progressed and some of those tracks went onto it thought it would be quite a neat idea to try and get a guest on each track. There are some very different artists from different scenes, and the fact that some of these folks were actually up for collaborations was pretty mind blowing. My music is still quite unpolished I feel so to have some of these folk liking it and wanting to work with me was very gratifying. I have also deliberately stayed away from using the word "featuring" because these tracks are just as much the guests' as they are mine. Instead I've used an abbreviation of "with" which is more fair and doesn't need an explanation of "this person is a vocalist, this person is a producer, etc", because I collaborate in different roles myself too. Like I sung on Ben Butler and Mousepad's last album, and then it made sense to ask him to put some synths on my album in return.Q: As you worked on each track were you conscious of how they'd all hang together as an album?A: After a point I did yeah, but to be honest when I was planning out this album a few years ago the tracklisting was very different. I wanted to make something that was very eclectic, that incorporated a lot of different genres like rock and techno and disco. But as time went on I was less happy with that, and started to think of putting older tracks like "Like Em Fat" and "If U Want It" on there, and then the album became much more coherent. It also sprang from me wanting to work with openly gay rappers, so the album has a hip-hop feel, but more old school so I could still use my drum machines and stuff on it. Once I stuck to that idea it all just came together, and I was able to use some rap classics like "36 Chambers" by the Wu Tang Clan and "Miss E So Addictive" by Missy Elliot as templates.
Q: Ok, let's imagine it's the 80s and you're about to release a single from the album. The Pet Shop Boys are your main chart competition and Little Rock Records have given you carte blanche - which track do you choose…? (I'm playing this game too btw)A: Ooh, that's a hard one, because I think back in the actual 80s this kind of music wasn't considered pop. I guess you had rap acts break through like Run DMC, which some of my album sounds like, but I think they were seen as more novelty, unlike the Pet Shop Boys who make quite "serious" pop music which fit neatly into the electro-pop and house things. Hmm, this is a good question, it's making me think. I guess I might put out the opening track Dance Club (Party Party) but if there was money to do whatever I wanted I might remix it, or get even more guests on it - I might ask the Pet Shop Boys to re-produce it with me! I'd be interested to hear what you would do...
Q: I think 'Needs' would be neat! I love 'I Came' and 'Hellz Yeah!' but with 'Needs' even the title sounds like a Pet Shop Boys single, ha ha. How is the DJ-ing going? Tell us more about your nights in Manchester and Glasgow...
A: It's going very well thanks, it was totally invigorating for me when I started using Ableton a couple of years ago and was suddenly able to play and mix stuff I wasn't able to play using just vinyl, like my own productions and remixes. Before that the DJ-ing was getting very stale for me as I could only play a limited amount of stuff, but now I can mix tracks that before would have been impossible.The two main nights I am involved in are Menergy in Glasgow, and Tranarchy in Manchester, which are both disco and house nights that feature a very strong drag and performance element. We've got our big annual Menergy Fierce Ruling Divas Ball coming up in Glasgow, which is unlike anything the city's ever seen before with lots of drag queens competing to be the most fabulous for a panel of judges. Then the week after it's Zombie Pride! for Tranarchy in Manchester, our big annual Halloween bash that this year will feature a zombie vogue off! Apart from that I have also been DJ-ing at the gay indie/electro/pop night Bollox in Manchester, which is great fun as I get to play a lot of tunes that wouldn't work at the other clubs, and also I don't have to worry about the mixing!
Q: What would you do if you met a bear in the wilderness?
A: Apparently the thing to do is to show no fear and not run, though to be honest I don't know how you'd do that with an 8ft 30 stone killing machine in front of you.Q: What exactly IS your favourite colour…?
A: My colour scheme at the moment, and for my new album, is black, white, yellow and pink. I find it hard to pick one - for instance I love hot pink and azure, but find they go well with each other or on black. I like neons, but too many of them in a scheme does my head in and ruins the point - they need to be set in a neutral colour or be used wisely to not look cheap and gimmicky. So I wouldn't want a room that was all the one tone, even if it was one I liked in isolation.
Q: Any coincidence that Neil Tennant edited Smash Hits before being a smash hit himself?A: Probably not...
Thank you Niallist.