19-12-2013 | 18.10
Back in 2007 I visited Lowlands Festival. There I was, in the Bravo area, don’t ask me who were playing. Actually, do ask me. Look up the headliners yourselves, but in between there was this DJ I’d never heard of, but he was overwhelming. I skipped the headliner, didn’t want his sound to wash away that tiny moment of magic (those 15 minutes of fame). Back home I finally got to know whom I was admiring so much, and where he’d be playing next. A couple of weeks later I found myself in the former Club 11 – of which one could say it’s the predecessor of Trouw. And there he was again: Nuno dos Santos.
Something Happening Somewhere
Fast forward to present day, and we’re hooking up for this blog. Nice apartment, dude. “Come, I’ll show you my studio,” he says. Nuno’s attic being his studio, there are only small paths between endless piles of records, and a many years old couch. “I’m still working on my studio, but here” – in a separate room – “is where I make my music. I’ve got the Roland Sh-101 here, a Xoxbox (fake 303), Alpha Juno 1 for strings, MFB drum computer and this old Mac, which is full of years ‘n years of producing.” He seems pleased, smiles, and, if it wasn’t for me, he probably got right back to making more tunes. “One day this’ll be one giant studio.”
His living room is stacked with records as well, on his dining table laying some vinyl from his new own label Something Happening Somewhere. This is a man’s house, for sure. Several books about design, art and culture in the window-frame – Nuno attended Utrecht’s Art Academy (HKU), but never really got into designing. “Constantly working against some deadline, that wasn’t me,” he explains. “I’d still like to create, and yes, maybe designing could be a hobby. But where do I find the time?”
He makes us some tea, and we sit down, he’s got this great armchair. Let’s talk Something Happening Somewhere (SoHaSo).
“I don’t remember it all precisely, but once I saw this photograph together with a good friend and the caption was ‘Something happening somewhere’. It probably meant nothing, but that line triggered me. It sounds David Lynch-ish; Twin Peaks. Design studio DieTwee is responsible for the general style of SoHaSo, though I’m the art director. For every release I appoint a new designer, so that every release becomes a concept by itself. The latest release is the Off The Grid EP by Love Over Entropy.” He shows me the record sleeve. “Here you see a fragment, and here” – Nuno pulls out a little card from the sleeve – “is another fragment. On the website you can see the whole picture. Everywhere there’s something, so one can now say: something is happening somewhere. Especially with this artwork. It’s quite clinical, clean hotel room, made by DieTwee. By the way, for the third release, Christopher Gabriel from Children of the Light (the new Trouw residents of the month) will do the artwork.”
You’re an absolute regular in Trouw, with several concepts. The main difference between HiFi and SoHaSo is…
“HiFi is more of a fun night, with SoHaSo I want to go deeper. I guess HiFi is more band orientated, more lightly, casually. With SoHaSo it’s all about the label sound, there is much more depth. But then again, SoHaSo won’t be restricted to certain genres. If the music’s good, I want to have it, whether it’s an acoustic band or a raw hip hop act. The next release will go more housey on a more vibe tip. Its by a Belgian producers trio Mayaku.”
So you’re saying ‘anything goes’, the post modernistic maxim. And while you’re justly stating genres are of no interest, I think the entire electronic music scene, all the house, is becoming a new sort of music, considering the vast diversity of genres. “Yeah, I agree.”
Many DJ’s claim to tell a story while playing. “That’s true. And now you’re gonna ask me what my story is.” What is your story?
“There is no story, I don’t believe in that. But I do believe a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But not necessarily in that order.” (Is Nuno quoting French filmmaker Godard?) Sometimes I decrease the speed, as the night goes by, as long as it’s surprising. The only thing really important is how you interpret the different styles of music. Then you’ve gotta feel the audience, play with your crowd. That’s not easy. James Holden knows how to, and so does Derrick May and Laurent Garnier. Back in the days I went to see Dimitri, and I recall thinking like, what the f*** is he doing, mixing those completely different tracks? But it all made sense, it was just perfect. That’s what DJing is about. Also this XLR8R podcast by DJ Koze, one of this year’s best.” Nuno presses play and we’re listening to “this weird, but awesome sample.”
He laughs a lot, is the easygoing kinda guy, actually he should be everybody’s friend. We talk more music – naturally – but then he comes up with what I’ve forgotten a long time ago: The K&D Sessions by Kruder & Dorfmeister. Now this is a proper walk down memory lane. Nuno admits: “The first time I heard this, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to… walk away from it, this is… just, so… It’s just so… dubby and druggy.” Holy shit, this I haven’t heard for years man. We shut up, and let Kruder & Dorfmeister do the talking. Damn, it still is an amazing album. Here I am, chilling with this next-door DJ.
What about that guitar, I ask him. You know how to play, or is it just some decoration?
“That’s one of my new year’s resolutions, learning how to play it. I’ve had some lessons, but the teacher was quite annoying. I also wanna sing, I already do most of my own vocals, but I wanna use my voice more often, and without having to deform it. Only to cover the whole musical spectrum. God, there’re so many things I wanna do. I feel this constant urge, you know. Eventually I’ve chosen music, but who knows where I’ll end up.“
How time flies when you’re having a ball. Our conversation doesn’t really have a beginning, a middle, or an end. It even doesn’t have one subject, we just talk and he tells what he feels like. To me, and I’m sure to Nuno self as well, the most important thing will be that anything must always be able to go anywhere – so yes, that something can be happening somewhere. “I’m open-minded, meaning I don’t belong to this or that specifically. Does that make me a loner? Yeah, but in a positive way. Like Benny Rodrigues has his ROD alias and Darko Esser has Tripeo, I’ve considered one for myself. But that’s not me, why should I? I’m Nuno dos Santos, I just wanna do whatever I want.”
To be continued…
Not necessarily in any order. Nuno tells me about his trip to Japan earlier this year, and how he fell in love with that far, far away country: “Japan is maybe the ultimate music minded country, you’ll find eight-floor record stores. And the people, they cheer at different moments than we do.”
There was a beginning to our talk, but I don’t think there’ll be an end. He’s gotta go hit the gym, I’m off. But we’ll meet soon, then skip the tea and quench our thirst with some lovely wine. First, he has some business to do.
Text: Nelis Oomen