047. Nick Boyd
October 2022 | Nick Boyd is a dancefloor staple in NYC, and there's good reason for his omnipresence: everything he does, he explains, is centered around the dancefloor and the dancers who spend time there. Whether he's running Sorry Records, DJing at beloved local haunts like The Lot Radio, Bossa Nova Civic Club, and Nowadays (where this mix was recorded), or giving advice to friends, his ethos always comes back to the dancefloor. Grounded by an encyclopedic knowledge of dance music history and generous sharing of that knowledge, Nick and Sorry Records are beacons of integrity and openness in today's dance music community. This interview was recorded over Zoom on October 3, 2022. This is part 1 of a 2 part mini-series with Sorry Records.
About the mix:
This mix is a recording of my first time playing at Nowadays, a club that has been incredibly influential and important to my life and my friends' lives. When I first started deejaying, my only goals really were to play on The Lot Radio and play Nowadays.
When they asked me, I was very surprised, legit like fall on my bathroom floor crying type situation 😂 😭. I’m a sappy nerd and had loads of nerves but I was lucky to be able to do it for the first time alongside my friend and collaborator Khadijah/DJ Delish and also have the time to just completely over-prepare for like three months ahead of time.
I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do with the space, both extensively over the years keeping a running “Nowadays Wishlist” playlist and in the three months leading up to the party. I eventually came to the conclusion that I wanted to tell a story with what I played, in the tradition dictated by the New York dancefloor. A story about myself and my friends and the scene here as I’ve seen it both good and bad. A story about the Nowadays dancefloor itself and what that space means to me, but in turn also what dance music spaces and community mean period; how they function and the double-edged sword of trying to be good when it comes to those things.
I also wanted to play tracks by my friends that I knew were going to be there. The people I love who I dance alongside there frequently. I wanted to play tracks that were silly too! Tried to give a sense of levity to a pretty emotional thing. I mean, I got into dance music in large part because of the work that Justin (Carter) and Eamon (Harkin) had done through Mister Sunday into Nowadays, and I'd been going to the space since before it was open indoors. I’m there most every week and have put a lot on that floor…
I had planned to go to Return to the Source and Club Toilet and stuff surrounding Movement in Detroit this year for the first time and I almost canceled my plans because it was the week before and I knew I'd be exhausted. I realized though that the only problem I was probably going to have leading up to it was just nerves and anxiety, so I decided to go to Detroit anyways. Luckily I was thrust into this huge wonderful community of people there from all over dance music, an endless array of beautiful people both new and familiar to me. So I was definitely thinking intensely about community and what that means to me when I was approaching this set.
I had some sound issues (of course), found out shortly in that I had to lean against the cue to hear my low end. The AC also broke 10 minutes into the night and I was just pouring sweat. When it ended, I felt like I did just terribly but I smiled and said thank you to everyone.
In the weeks following, I finally got myself to listen to it. At first, I was like, there's so many bits in here where I remember not being able to hear myself or hear the cue. It's my first time playing in a big loud club besides like, Bossa. I considered making all these edits to it…
But then kinda just got to the point where I was like — look at the process of the mix, the ethos behind it… it's more about letting go and natural joy and glee than it is about anything else. So I decided to share it unedited, except for a little audio sample I added at the beginning that I didn't get on the recording. There’s a lot of other very concrete lyrical content included — always with purpose and intention but not always lyrics that I believe in personally.
Where did you grow up and how did that shape your sound or the way you relate with music?
I'm from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is the fifth largest town in North Carolina. I grew up on a bit of an island of like mid-America / southern culture wherein we didn't really have exposure to lots of genres that I feel exist more physically in the rest of America.
As far as anything dance music related, I barely interacted with it at all until I was 18 and leaving North Carolina to move to New York. Today, and back then, there's a good scene in North Carolina with a lot of people doing great work. I was just wholly unaware of it. I spent a lot of my high school years massively into music, but just beating around the bush of finally landing in the dance spectrum. Me and my friends just listened to everything, but nothing as thorough as I found myself falling into later in life when it came to dance music.
Are there any particular people you would want to shout out who are doing cool things in North Carolina now?
As far as my vantage point, boxofbox is God. But a bunch of people around DIY in Durham, like Paige (Smut). As far as holding it down forever, PlayPlay and GRRL have been the longest running people, at least in my understanding, working in North Carolina in the kind of music that I like, but I’m most certainly glib on this subject as a whole which is something that saddens me a bit.
Is there any first dance music experience that really sticks out in your memory?
There's so many. I didn't have a go-to-a-party-and-get-turned-on moment. A lot of them were just house party moments, most of them involved my childhood best friend Harrison Daubert. Thinking about me and my best friends in high school dancing to Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down On It” every time we got drunk in my friend Harrison’s parent’s yard.
There was another time in college that I always think of — just me and my friends in <a href="" target="_blank">Tony G's bedroom in Brooklyn when he was out of town, celebrating our discovery of the Silk Road by dancing to Barbara Tucker… Armand Van Helden's "Crazy" Trauma mix of "Stay Together” oh boy — it's just this 13-minute behemoth powerhouse, absolute Sound Factory hands in the air vibe world destroyer.
I just remember looking at my friends Harrison and Jake next to me, we were dancing so hard, just us with the lights on... I remember thinking in my head, we are a sweat factory, we exist to dance, this is it. I hold that moment with me whenever I am feeling propulsion in dance music. It felt like when I got on the train.
The other one was when Harrison played Bobby Orlando’s Maxi mix of "Passion" by The Flirts at the end of a long trip we took. That was a three tab musical monolith moment for me like no other.. It’s just one of the best tracks of all time and the end of it has this deep vocal modified breathing and outro bit where he's interpolating Instant Funk's "I Got My Mind Made Up", the Larry Levan mix that Walter Gibbons abandoned 'cause of Jesus, but it sounds like the devil voice blink-182 used on Mark Tom and Travis show.
I had been a big disco head and it was just that experience of hearing that propulsive nine-minute track and it feeling like a brand new world, then realizing it was from the early '80s, and also that it was directly referencing this disco music that I'd been so obsessed with, was a very transcendent moment.
Have you ever traveled specifically to attend a music event and why do you seek out those experiences?
I didn't feel that I needed to get out of New York until the last couple years with dance music, but frankly, the experience of traveling for Hot Mass for the first time, going to Honcho Campout the last two years, and going round Movement to Detroit this last year felt like some of the more important and influential music experiences that I've had in recent memory. I'm certain I wouldn't have been able to have them if I had just stayed put, so I'm a huge proponent for it.
It's a big world but it's a small scene. As I came out of New York, I realized it's not just New York, it's a sensibility that's shared amongst majority Americans, but a lot of people not from America. I think that the process of meeting people from other cities who I felt were on such a same wavelength, it made me realize how strong the movement for this ideologically sound, morally good, DIY-focused dance music culture that I exist within and hope to perpetuate is.
What's your general read on the state of dance music in New York at the moment?
I think New York City is the best city in the world for dance music, both historically and currently, as a music lover. As an artist, it's America and it's absolutely brutal in comparison to these other scenes and these other locations as far as quality of life and how little support you really get.
I see the lineups that go on over in Berlin and London and the parties and the best ones look like our parties with the people we can't book because we can't afford to. I got into techno because I went to Bossa. I got into techno because I read Love Saves the Day by Tim Lawrence and went searching for parties that had the vibe of that book.
I'm ecstatic about the sound of New York right now. It's not 170 techno edits of "Toxic" even though it is. It’s not just one anything really. I know young people making incredible versions of every possible dance music genre right now and they're all friends and we're all doing stuff together. It's all in line with the reality of what the New York underground has always been about – which is an incredibly diverse group of people, in terms of gender, sexuality, race, everything, making all types of different genres, but all together.
I just wish that we had some extra infrastructural additions as the music's gotten better because I think we're kind of still hanging onto the large infrastructure that's been around. It's just been going in and out and all the new players seem to be fairly exploitive. But luckily the sound is so quick that nobody knows how to catch it to exploit it outside of just pretending to be Berlin, which everyone who actually goes out dancing in the city knows is more of the sound of the NYC scene 10 years ago. We're on to the next one.
What is the origin story of Sorry Records and how did you come into starting a label?
I think I started Sorry as a way to procrastinate on film school. I was living with a handful of people who constitute what I guess I now call Sorry Records Soundsystem—<a href="" target="_blank">Tony G, Figur, Drummy.
I’d always been making music with my friends, but I never made the music. I was always the guy who’d come up with the Bandcamp page and the artwork and stuff, push things down the hill. We had an album from this band called Harmony House that was a post-Animal Collective, Smith Westerns type vibe group - a lot of Olivia Tremor Control, Spiritualized influences. I essentially started Sorry because I had been talking them through the process of putting the record together for a couple months.
From that point on it just became a vehicle for our friends' musical projects. We put out everything: pop-punk from Philly, bedroom DIY from my friends from North Carolina, Miami bass. IDM breaks stuff from old monikers of Figur’,s and NJ “third wave dark scenester” stuff from my friend Cranklin’s labyrinthian web of projects like ART DLR and Lanlord Lance. We threw a handful of super wacky parties on our friends’ rooftops, at dilapidated indie rock venues like Muchmore’s and Pianos, and in this communal apartment laundry room in a basement on Grove St. in Bushwick.
A couple years in, as my personal tastes were evolving a bit, I got to a point where I wanted to take the label a little bit more seriously and zero it in on dance music. It had the same anything goes mentality, but motivated by the dancefloor, because I was going out to raves and feeling bad about how little sonic diversity was going on, how few vocals I was hearing.
I remember looking at all the New York labels at that time and the only label that did what I would consider to be anything close to what we were doing was Sweat Equity. But for those first few years Sorry had never become a serious thing. There were long stretches where it was an afterthought and then I would return to it if a friend had a record. Since Tony G’s first house single “Beside,” it's been a constant thing I’m working on daily though. But yeah, that's how it started.
You spend time as a member of the audience, label owner, DJ. How would you say your different roles in the dance music community interrelate?
I used to be like, I always have approached all of it as a fan, but no – it's always coming from my POV as a dancer, as somebody who goes out dancing a ton, you know? That's where I'm trying to keep my head when I'm doing literally everything. When I’m deejaying especially, there’s always an active voice to remember what I would want as a dancer in that moment and lead with that.
At the end of the day, that means being physically present without any interest but participation and experience within this musical community and landscape. I try to encourage producers I work with, people I know who want to start labels, DJs I know: If you're ever stuck in a rut — dance, just go out dancing a ton.
I know everyone can't go out all the time and it's a privilege. Also, frankly, it's a lifestyle that is not the best. But in general, I think the majority of people could stand to go out more.
When you're looking at potential music to release and the A&R side of things, how do you know when something is a fit?
I follow bliss and excitement for people I've never worked with before, but on the other end, a lot of the stuff we put out is the end result of years of conversation and relationship building and thought.
I wanted to do a record like "Push It" by XHOSA and X-Coast and a record like Chrissy and Maria Amor’s "Community Theater" for years before we put those out. Obsessing over vocal records with remixes that showed a genre span, daydreaming about bringing that sensibility to fruition for years…. Things like that definitely are just recurring things in my head.
Right now looking forward into the immediate future of the label from an A&R perspective, it's been kind of a bummer because I’ve realized that I have to start being more selective and do less releases just for the sake of my own mental health. There’s so many amazing people I would just love to do a release with that we haven’t been able to get to cause the backlog of releases I spent two years chipping away at and refilling until it got too much. I had to stop signing anything for like five months but still was working on a release every month.
My advice for people who are trying to work with labels is to not be as self-conscious about what they send out. Everyone thinks they need to send a record that's done, like their best record, when every A&R wants a Dropbox with as many tracks as possible. That's the fun stuff. But I also love when people have set ideas about what they want to put out.
Do you have any advice for people who might be thinking about starting labels?
My first piece of advice is to start it. Bandcamp is free for the most part and we need good labels. I say this because I'm assuming people reading this are probably decent, good people, you know, because they're on this platform, and I think good people get too in their heads about like, "What can I offer as a label?" They always come down to, "I need money. I need budget."
In reality, having a passionate set of hands and another brain with a Gmail account for an artist as you’re approaching a release; it’s really, really helpful. There's not a lot of people doing it. I encourage people to start record labels instead of becoming DJs. Same with producing. Do it like you would that practice, invest time and money you won’t see back, follow joy and love and be collaborative.
My other piece of advice would be just email me. I would love to help anyone start anything.
In general, I think that there's a really big hole as far as honest DIY labels. Just because you don't have budget, doesn't mean that there's not work to be done. I can definitely help people figure out what that work might look like to figure it out, because every label is different. I encourage people to pursue alternative models like Eat Dis does for example. These collaborative Discord-based labels really interest me. Use your free digital tools and pirate the ones that aren’t free.
What does local mean to you in the dance music world today? What do you think is the role of local scenes?
Geographically, I'd say I'm a homebody. Over the pandemic was the first time where I felt like I was stranded again on an island. I started getting in touch with a lot of people online, for the first time making friends online. My life exploded in terms of richness and diversity of experience and the people that I know.
Now, I feel local for me is like, I don't even think about the word because I always think about geographically. It's the underground. There's a general vibe to the people I consider to be close to and they're all over. That's why I've tried to get involved in scenes that are outside of my personal background even, in respectful ways, just through supporting them and following their stuff. It's been really beautiful. Tony G and I were talking the other day and he was like, "You want to just go to some weird parties? Let's just go find different types of parties." That's a mindset that I think everyone should think about. Break the algorithm of your friend group.
We need spaces like Bossa, because you need free spaces for people to see dance music on a consistent basis. The Lot Radio is great for it, too. We need to think about building more spaces like that. Because if people have to choose, when everyone has to spend $15 to $30 to go see two or three artists… There's this incredible Lester Bangs piece he wrote when Elvis died. It's all just essentially him forecasting the death of monoculture and the rise of the internet and the dissemination of information which essentially leads to thousands of micro-pocket scenes, and no universal experiential cultural, like pop cultural whole.
I want the kids I know who've moved in the last year to know what it feels like that these spaces will always be there for you, Monday through Sunday. That's the goal, that's the end goal. We all want the club to always be open and always feel good, always have good vibes.
The only thing I've wanted in my life is a musical home. The fact that it's actually happened to me in New York, alongside literally some of the same DJs and dancers who are from that scene I read about in Love Saves The Day… It’s still a little mindblowing for me how beautiful it’s all able to be. I’m a nerd so I’m always taking little moments to make the connections, like when we did Sorry Records in the Bad Room at The Carry Nation. Will was in a group that was on King Street and played at The Loft. It's all just a lot for me sometimes to take in.
What do you think the dance music world needs right now?
People need to feel more empowered to play and create publicly. And I think that people need to read the history and consider their place in it. That's my wish in general.
I could say a million things… people need a lot. But personally those are the things I keep giving people advice about – stop thinking and just do it. Share it! If you have enough hesitancy about being good enough or taking up space, you're probably a considerate enough person that you're not going to bother anyone, and we need more people like that. Obviously, consider your privilege, consider your place within whatever space.
But I think in general the problem is the douchebags do not care about sending a fucking email. The people who are wasting time and doing bad stuff in our scene are not belabored by the anxiety of "should I?" They just don't feel it.
Read the history. Read Tim Lawrence. Bill Brewster and all those other writers are fine. But everyone tells me like, "Oh, I read Hot Stuff” or Last Night A DJ Saved My Life or Energy Flash and internally I can’t help but to be like, nah, nah, you got to read Tim Lawrence. Get in there. And listen to soul, funk, disco music. You're not allowed to not like disco if you are a techno or house DJ.
- Elite Agent YouTube Channel - Tips for Building an Effective Business Unit: Nick Boyd
- Les Sins & AceMo - Hello?
- Finn - Everything Is Alright
- Jah Wobble , Jaki Liebezeit And Holger Czukay - How Much Are They?
- Remotif - Goodbye Sunshine
- 51 Days - Tracktion
- Fierce Ruling Diva - Keep Moving in Time (One Track Mind Mix)
- DJ Lil' John - After Dark
- Danell Dixon - I Saw The Future (Roy's Last Laugh Mix)
- Eleonor - I Just Need Your Body (Instrumental Version)
- Bored Lord - Armando - Lesbian Luv (Bored Lord Edit)
- DJ Delish, Ranika Kevin JZ Prodigy, Koolaid - Ranika!
- Lyric - Hard 2 B N Love
- Tony G - Cats Dub
- Afrika Bambaataa vs. Carpe Diem - Got To Get Up (Eddie Lock & Dylan Burns Mix)
- DJ Duke - Bass Rapture (Hot Mix)
- Go Mike Gip - Leg In The Air 2k10
- Jaydee - Plastic Dreams (Angel Moraes Dream Mix)
- The Break Boys - My House Is Your House (And Your House Is Mine) [Miami Beach Break Mix]
- Carpainter - Lil K Jam
- Paul Johnson - Aw Shucks (Jack Nation Mix)
- Louie Balo Guzman & Roxy - The Art Of Sampling (feat. Roxy) (Dub)
- Peak Hour Rhythms - Disco Diva
- Jerome Hill - RZ Thing
- The Stickmen - Da Sound
- Colonel Abrams - Never Be Another One (Power House Mix)
- Escaflowne - Piano Ting // unreleased Sorry Records
- Peak Hour Rhythms - Silvana
- Kenny Larkin - We Shall Overcome (Richie's Loonie Mix)
- Fierce Ruling Diva - Atomic Slide (Rise Up & Work NYC)
- Storm & Herman - Digital Moon Dancers
- Johnny Fiasco - Alta Vista
- Grant Nelson - Rhode House
- Ms Monique Renee - Like Any Other Bitch (Brutal Mix)
- Hardhead - New York Express (Toothbrush Country)
- The B-52's - (Meet) The Flintstones [Bedrock Dub] [Junior Vasquez]
- Majorettes - Discotheque (Sister Zo Remix)
- Yello - Do It (Marky P. & Teri B. Dub)
- Stones Taro - Integration
- Armand Van Helden presents Old School Junkies - The Funk Phenomena (X-Mix)
- Razor 'N Guido - Do It Again (Left Mix)
- DJ Device & Devibes - Give It Up
- TSVI - Jam52
- Dino Latino - Caramelo (Ralphi's Dark Caramelo Mix)
- Itty Bitty Boozy Woozy - Tempo Fiesta (Roll Fiesta)
- DJ Dagwood - My Baby Wants To Ride (DJ Dagwood Mix)
- Traxman - Russshhhh
- Interactive - Elevator Up & Down (Gramacy Park Mix)
- Bored Lord - Bomb of Dawn
- Itty-Bitty-Boozy-Woozy - Tempo Fiesta (Organ Fiesta Remix)
- Buzzy Bus - Jump (Hip House)
- Escaflowne - Stronger
- The Eric Andre Show - YES!
- AceMoMa & Friends - We Dont Do This Shit 4 Free
- Angel Alanis - Beat This East Coast
- Max Watts - B0UNCE B4CK
- Psychotropic - Only For The Headstrong (Psychotropic's 95 Mix)
- tiktok rip / man narrates his car being totaled in PA carmageddon highway pile up
- Paul Johnson - Aww Shit
- Devoye - Do It Live (Synthy Dub)
Follow Nick Boyd & Sorry Records:
- Nick Boyd on Soundcloud
- Nick Boyd on Instagram
- Nick Boyd on Twitter
- Sorry Records on Bandcamp
- Sorry Records on Soundcloud
Published October 2022.