Underground house producer and admired cult DJ Nail (aka Neil Tolliday) is the latest electronic legend to headline Tusk at Dalston Superstore. From the huge commercial success of Bent (his project with friend and producer Simon Mills) to the establishment of his own label 89:GHOST, Nail’s career has spanned decades and seen a seriously impressive range of projects and releases. We sat down to talk Nottingham parties, collaborations and favourite gigs.
Your love of house music came about in a really roundabout way – it sounds like it certainly wasn’t your first love. Can you tell us how you came from pirate radio and hip-hop to electronic music?
I’ve been intrigued by electronic music since I was small, from when my Dad used to shit me up with the Clockwork Orange soundtrack or watching Watoo Watoo cartoons. I first heard Can U Dance by Kevin Jammin Jason & Fast Eddie Smith on the radio when I was about 12 or 13 and shortly after that Jack Your Body was at number one, so I guess it was the charts and the radio got me there to start with. I didn’t start going to clubs until I was 16, but I’d been buying the records for a few years before that.
How much did your role in DiY collective influence your sound in years to come?
Well I used to go to a lot of their nights here in Nottingham, but in all honesty I don’t really remember much! But obviously I’d hear what they were playing and making for the label, so it must’ve rubbed off on me. They were always armed with such quality tunes.
Your side project with Simon Mills, Bent, has seen great success over the years. How did that project develop? Where did all those bizarre finds come from?
We met in 1998 as he was living next door to my girlfriend and we made each other laugh (well, he makes me laugh anyway) and seemed to be both going in the same direction at that time – as in we wanted to do something different, so we got on fairly quickly. Long story short, we started pissing about and sampling shit records he had bought from charity shops. We thought it was hilarious and kept egging each other on to find the most ridiculous sample, but somehow it worked – I played it to my manager, he played it to some other people and all of a sudden it started taking off.
What led you to start your own label, 89: Ghost?
Basically I saw some people selling my old records from the 90’s (that I could f**king give away at the time) for silly money on Discogs. So I spoke to my friend James at Juno and decided to press up a few old tunes. It’s not done too bad, considering the amount of new labels there are at the moment. But I’ve started putting out new material on there now, so hopefully it’ll keep going for a bit.
You must have played at a huge variety of parties over the years – are there any clear standouts for you?
I think variety is the best word, different places of different sizes.. no real stand outs though, apart from really shit ones, but there’s no point talking about them. In recent time, playing Globus at Tresor a coupla times was pretty special, and I always loved playing at Crucifix Lane for Cartuli’s Day. I like dark, sweaty places, preferably where I’m not on a f**king stage. DJs should be heard and not seen.
If you had access to a time machine and could visit any dance floor anywhere/anywhen, where would want to go dancing?
Probably something really obvious like the early days of Studio 54 or Ku, see what all the fuss was about
Do you have a guilty pleasure record that you can’t help but sneak in every now and then? Perhaps a few weirdo tracks from your days with Bent?
Having dropped a few guilty pleasures into sets in the past, thinking, ‘This will BLOW their minds!!’, only for it to clear the floor, I try to steer clear of gambling too much with that kind of thing.. I don’t play out that much.
What can we expect from your set at Tusk?
Join Nail on Saturday 25 July for TUSK at Dalston Superstore from 9pm – 3am.