Sneaker Freaker and Nick Catchdubs go way back – we’re talking Issue 2 when Nick interviewed Scoop Jackson for us - so we can truly say ‘we knew him when’. The ultimate pop culture nerd, Nick’s resume reads like a dream come true. From busting out reviews on Turntable Lab to landing an editorial post at The Fader, it was his gift of the gab that took him to higher duties. Dipping his fingers in a plethora of pies, Catchdubs has since become a world-class DJ, club promoter, promotional machine and more recently, the co-founder of uber-hip record label Fool’s Gold with turntable prodigy A-Trak. We caught up with Nick on the eve of his local tour to see what’s been going down in lucky town!
How did you get the DJ name Catchdubs?
It’s just a random word we would say in high school. I made it my instant messenger screen name and it just ended up sticking. When I started doing projects, I would always use that name. I’m glad it wasn’t something like ‘fartkid85’ or something like that. If I had the chance to go back and do it all again, I’d pick something more catchier.
Ha! Do you remember the moment when you realised you wanted to play records and rock a party?
I have always been into music, since….forever. I was super addicted to any facet of pop culture, whether it was comic books, cartoons or the media in general. As I got older, it got more specific to music. Before I started DJ’ing I was always trying to write music for bands. It wasn’t until later, after I graduated from college the light bulb went off that being a DJ was the way to string together the stuff that I loved, without having to worry about ‘is the drummer going to show up.’ The cool thing to me was that DJ’ing was self-contained, you relied on yourself.
So you were self taught then?
Yeah, pretty much. I was always aware of stuff that other DJs were playing. One summer, after I had graduated, I was like ‘let me just go in super hard on this’ and it worked out. I would check out the people who I liked and watched what they did. The technical side is kinda minor (if you pay attention you can pick it up); it was more about me wanting to put my own spin on it. I was lucky in that I already had an idea of what I wanted to do creatively, so it was just more figuring out how to do that. I still work hard at it and try to get better and closer to that ideal statement.
You’re known for breaking new music – which can be tricky. Has it been hard for you to break through to globally with new tracks?
What’s funny, at this stage of the game, with the Internet and everyone having access to everything, is that it is just as much of a challenge to re-introduce old music into the mix as it is to break totally new stuff. Sometimes I’ll go out and see DJs and they only play the brand newest music of all time. It sounds like they just downloaded it all that afternoon, there is no context to it and there’s no real sense of taking people on a journey. It’s just like ‘here’s a bunch of brand new crap, that I’m going to play for you’. So for me, it’s just as much about introducing new artists and new songs as it is about bringing old songs back into the conversation. The stuff that excites me is something that is new to my ears, be it a new or an old song that I’m hearing for the first time. So I just cherry pick the best and present it to people in a fun way.
What are you feeling right now?
I’m lucky in that I do the Fool's Gold label with A-Trak, because when we find new music that we really fall in love with, we’re able to put it out. The stuff that is on the label, and the artists that we are working with are definitely at the top of the list as far as what I want to play. Which is cool, because people come out and see me and know that I represent the label, so when I play a Kid Sister remix for instance, it’s a family affair – I’m representing for our girl and that’s a cool feeling. I’ve really been catching up on a lot of mid to late ‘90s house era joints – back when Armand Van Helden was doing big remixes for everybody, sort of hip hop-inspired New York house. The new music that we are making is a parallel to that, so I like to be able to connect the dots that way.
I was just talking to Ayres before, and it’s funny because in Australia, that kind of music hit really hard in the ‘90s – so to us, when you guys come out here and play it, it’s a revival of sorts. It may be new to you guys, but it was so massive in Europe and Australia when it first came out it doesn’t have the same effect…..
It’s funny because in the States it was a niche phenomenon but what was interesting about that time was that you had mainstream DJs (DJs on the radio) who didn’t necessarily play a specific genre. It wasn’t ‘oh I’m a hip hop DJ' or 'I’m a pop DJ', it was just ‘I’m a DJ’, so the music that they played was just called ‘music’ period. Through the years, when radio got more consolidated and became more segregated and more genre-divided, that sort of spirit died out. Recently, in the last year or two, people have been able to bring that spirit back, and that’s what I feel we’re doing – dividing it – there’s similarities in all this – it’s just ‘dance’
What was the decision to create your own label, Fool's Gold with A-Trak then?
A-Trak and I became friends through DJ’ing and we got along really well. At the time, I was DJ’ing but my day job was at Fader Magazine, so he would be out on tour with Kanye and have some downtime and hit me up on the computer. We would trade music, and talk shit. We were on the same wavelength in so many ways that once he started working on music with Kid Sister and knew there wasn’t necessarily a perfect home for it, he asked me if I wanted to start the label with him and provide that home for the music that we were working on and our friends were doing. It felt, DJ-wise, we were doing fun music and things that people wanted to be a part of, but in terms of the record label side there wasn’t anyone really putting out real records from this world. So we were like ‘let’s just step in there and provide that’.
Were you surprised at how quickly it blew up?
I knew that it had the potential to be really special and more important than that I knew that I was going to devote as much of my time and energy to make it happen. About three or four months in I knew, ‘yo I have to quit my job and be broke forever just to make this happen’. It was totally the right decision because we’ve been able to accomplish so much and it’s just the tip of the iceberg right now. I wish I had 48 hours in a day to finish the amount of stuff I want to make happen…we’re getting there!
Talk to me about Fader - you have said you pretty much fell into the job with no prior magazine experience....
That's right, I didn’t go to school for it. I was just a guy that was out there in New York, doing some graphic design stuff, DJ’ng at parties. I was writing little record review blurbs for Turntable Lab’s website, so the staff at Fader had their eyes and ears open and knew that I was out doing stuff and they stepped to me and asked if I wanted to try writing some articles for them. So I did, and they threw me right into doing that. I did an interview with Jim Jones, when he was putting out his first record, they liked it and were like ‘we have an editorial position opening, do you want to come and work here and be an editor?’ As far as day jobs go it certainly was better than what I was doing beforehand. I was doing crappy corporate graphic design, so I was like ‘stay doing that? Or interview rappers?'......hhhhhmmmm, you don’t have to ask me twice!
Did the exposure to music and interviewing artists spark the fire?
It wasn’t by design. While it was happening I don’t think I ever sat there and thought ‘hey, sooner or later, this is going to really turn into something I can really use.’ The same way I take it at the label, I took it one day at a time and to be honest with you I wish I still had the time to contribute because I really enjoyed making as good a magazine as we could, the same way I like to make the record label as good as it could be.
So you're a promotional machine then?
I’m always working on a bunch of things and I’m pretty personable and enthusiastic, so it works to be able to have my hand in a couple pots at once.
What's your official job title at Fool's Gold?
I don’t know, ahaha. We said early on we didn’t want to do business cards because nine times out of ten the people you end up giving cards to – you don’t want them to have your information anyway. I mean if you need to get in touch with us, it’s easy enough to get in touch. Because we didn’t do the cards, we never had to sit down and say I’m such and such at Fool’s Gold. A-trak and I just ended up saying we are co-founders, that’s probably the most accurate way to put it.
What can we expect in the coming year?
We have a ton of singles ready to come out – everything from DJ Gant-Man’s Chicago club to Alexander Robotnik’s Italio disco to Bag Raiders’ patented brand of Australian electro party tunes! And along with dropping new singles on the regular, we also are working on our first ever label comp and some individual artist compilations. Also Kid Sister’s debut album will finally drop!
On top of that you’ve just started a new night with DJ Ayres, Flashing Lights – tell us about that?
There’s been so much good new electronic music coming out over the past few years – when we would play out of town that stuff would kill but coming home there wasn’t really a party where we could get down like that to. The parties for it all felt too stuck up or fashion-y or an indie rock tip, not the kind of shit we would invite our friends to or hang out at ourselves. So we started Flashing Lights this past fall and it’s been amazing, because we’ve been able to handcraft everything from the artwork to the programming to the entire vibe. Just rocking a music-first party for everyone to enjoy.
It’s great to see you have a lady on board with UK DJ Jess Jubilee!
Jess is awesome! She’s one of my favourite people and also my neighbour right down the street in Brooklyn. Ayres and I would have brought her on board just for being so much fun, never mind the fact that she’s a great DJ with excellent taste and an approach that’s distinct from Ayres and myself. There’s a very distinct Jubilee flavour in Flashing Lights and I couldn’t see us ever doing the party without her.
With your travelling – just how possible is it for you and Ayres to be at Flashing Lights week in week out – what roster of artists do you bring in to keep it pumping?
Knock on wood; we’ve been able to schedule it for days when everyone is in town. As far as guests, we didn’t want the party to have to hinge on big out-of-town headlining talent so we try to mix stuff up and bring in as many of our local friends as possible – for instance, some of the best sets have been people like DJ Lindsey and Sabo coming in to play flawless sets of techno and acid house and old rave 12”s they never get a chance to rock anymore.
You’ve worked with Ayres before not only at The Rub, and Flashing Lights but also with your amazing dope mixtape Superfriends – but have you guys ever travelled together?
We’ve done a small handful of out of town team-ups. I think the last one was in California. In LA we went to Popeyes and in SF I made Ayres play Yung Wun and DMX’s ‘Tear It Up’ because we were watching Drumline in the hotel and that Jackson 5 ‘Dancing Machine’ sample got me hype.
You’re about to hit down under with your duo show in May courtesy of our good mates, and yours Opulent Magazine and Fuzzy – you’ve been here before doing shows for Opulent – I hope the guys showed you a good time no doubt!
Yes! I was there for a couple days, which was fun. We went karaeoke-ing and somewhere in the YouTube ether there’s footage of me mewling like a cat through No Doubt’s ‘Don’t Speak.’ I’m psyched to come back and hit the PAM store (and Sneaker Freaker's office of course!)
Word! Will you be scoping for new music – are you interested in any acts here?
There’s so much good new music coming out of Australia right now – obviously Bag Raiders plus Shazam and the rest of that whole Bang Gang. I really dig weirder stuff like Canyons too. Plus my friends Levins and Spruce Lee in Sydney always have new tunes to put me up on, so looking forward to raiding their computers.
After Australia, what’s next?
A lot of US shows, more mixes, Fool’s Gold European invasion (maybe that’s not the best turn of phrase for a Euro tour…) and lots of surprises! '
AYRES AND CATCHDUBS PLAY AT ROXANNE PARLOUR MAY 29TH 2009