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In Conversation With: Nhan Solo

In Conversation With: Nhan Solo
Oliver Cruttenden

Hailing from the Berlin underground, Nhan Solo is known for his unfailingly positive outlook and charming personality – as well as a penchant for up-front, feel good music. It’s a recipe that’s treated him well over the past few years, as he ascended the ranks of the city’s deep house circuit. Solo’s own imprint Mother Recordings reached its fifth birthday in 2016 and saw more EP’s in the Beatport top ten than ever before, including three number one hits.

Production-wise, besides regular releases on Mother, he’s put out a solid string of playful house grooves on Solomon’s 2DIY4 and Andre Crom’s OFF Recordings, aligning himself with two of Germany’s most potent house imprints. 2013 also saw him grace legendary New York label Nervous Records with an EP of classy, swung-led rhythm tracks.

As a result, Solo’s schedule is busier than ever and he’s done well to attract the attention of Roger Sanchez, for whom he offered up a guest mix on Sanchez’ foundational Release Yourself show. And in one of the stranger collaborations of recent years, Solo enlisted hip hop royalty Kurtis Blow on his 2014 ‘Don’t Stop’ EP. A bold step that spoke of his desire to invoke the bloc-rocking spirit of NYC throughout his music.

Last year saw the release of his latest singles, ‘Show Me Love’ and ‘Magic Land’ as well as two short tours across America and playing host to a weekly residency on Pioneer Radio. We caught up with Solo ahead of a string of shows over the next ten days in Mexico, including a label showcase at BPM Festival.

UE: How are you Nhan?

Nhan Solo: Hello Urban Essence! I’m perfectly fine! I really love Christmas, it’s the time for love, family and a lot of food – I love cooking (my belly doesn’t), haha!

What did you ask for at Christmas? What’s the ideal gift for a music maker or music collector do you think?

Boys love toys. I bet no one says ‘No’ to a classic Minimoog or the “Double Fantasy” EP by John Lennon.

Talk us through your studio, what gear do you use to make your music and do you care about the how? Are you a hardware or software kind of man?

Ableton, a bunch of plugins, a keyboard and a mouse. In the end, dancefloors don´t care about hard- or software. A dope track is simply a dope track.

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You head to the States soon – what do you pack in your bag to last the whole trip? Do you do washing when there or buy new clothes or what?

Actually, I am full blood Vietnamese, but born and raised in Germany. That’s why I learned to be on time and organised – a typical German goodness. I always try to travel fast and light. Cabin trolley rules! And yes, I do laundry. Doesn’t matter if you’re on tour or at home – dirty clothes need to be washed, hahaha… but I love shopping though, I remembered how I bought a Ben & Jerry’s shirt on my last tour in San Francisco. It’s always nice to buy souvenirs because you collect some great memories.

Do you re-pack your DJ record bag or USB stick for each gig, or do any plan for your sets or do you just turn up and play by ear?

I’m very happy not to drag vinyl records for every gig anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love vinyl records and I’m still collecting them, as well as releasing them on my label Mother Recordings, but as I already said, I like light baggage. That’s why I only travel and DJ with USB. It’s probably also better for my back. On top, it is so much easier to try new and exclusive tracks in the club. As a DJ, producer and label owner it´s very important to see the crowd reaction, it helps a lot on releasing questions too. Dancefloor don´t lie!

What is on your rider? What do you like to make yourself feel comfy and relaxed in the DJ booth?

Nothing fancy, but if I see coconut water and vodka in the booth, I’m the happiest DJ on planet earth! My favorite party drink is definitely: Coco Loco :)

Are you critical of your own sets, do you assess your every DJ performance? What makes you pleased with your work?

I always try to give my best. As a DJ we have a certain responsibility, people are paying for the entry, so we try to create a magical and unforgettable night. But every DJ can fuck up a section in his set after some long drinks. But hey, it’s always about the music and the selection. The sound of my set always depends on the vibes I am getting from the crowd.

Tell us about the Showcase you have coming up at BPM? How did that come about?

Our crew is really looking forward to the Mother Showcase at BPM Festival 2017. I can’t wait to hang out with my boys Mat.Joe, David Keno and Superlover in our apartment at Playa del Carmen. I can smell trouble and lots of fun already. Nothing better to cure your hangover with Ceviche and fresh coconut water, right? Actually it’s a joint venture with our dear friends Music Is 4 Lovers from San Diego. They run an amazing music blog and have supported Mother Recordings for a long time! So we proposed the idea to Nitin, booker of The BPM Festival and he was straight up for it, yeeeah. :)

Tell us about the label you run, how do you A&R, what you are looking for…

It has been amazing so far seeing the other side of the industry and of course I learned a lot. I’m very happy that everything has been super smooth so far. For sure it has been a lot of hard work and dedication, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m really thankful to have this amazing team with reliable artists. Those guys always help to keep everything running. We all push the label to the fullest. Mother Recordings is very democratic – we’re always deciding everything as a team. I’m proud of our collective and independent house label.

What are the best and worst things about running a label? What is hard and what is easy about the job?

Mother Recordings is my baby. And it’s so nice to see my baby growing. In the beginning it is always tough to get things rolling, but when it starts working out… it’s a god damn awesome feeling. It’s still tough to run the label with all the deadlines, PR plans, or to pick the right tracks and to say “NO” sometimes. For example, we already said “NO” to four #1 hits. But the most important thing is that it still makes fun and I love it.

Do you like to work with labels for a long time or just for the odd release?

As a label boss, I´m perfectly happy to have a good team around me, which is always happy to work on Mother Recordings. We’re a pretty little label, a small collective of friends and music aficionados from Berlin. A tight artist roster consisting of David Keno, Dilby, Martin Waslewski, Mat.Joe, Superlover and me. We are all trying to release only qualitative releases. We don’t want to put out a flood of music and we don’t try to release only obvious hits or jump from one bandwagon to the next. I guess we have a healthy togetherness growing as a team.

What have you got coming up/are you looking forward to?

Really looking forward to my remix for a Hamburg based colleague, Frey. It’s gonna be out in January on Indiana Tones and my next Mother EP is scheduled for end of March.

What are you most proud of so far in your career, a certain DJ gig, certain tune you made, a certain release on Mother? 

I’m super proud that I received a call to remix one of Lionel Ritchie’s songs, “Easy“. I’m super proud of my track “Tell You“ which went vinyl chart #1; super proud of the invitation to Siberia, fans were dancing in their shoes at -38C freezing temperatures, hahaha…

Nhan’s ‘Show Me Love’ EP is out now on Mother Recordings. Grab it here.