NYC's Nickodemus Makes Dance Music About Climate Change
World music producer and DJ Nickodemus has been spreading messages of positivity and global awareness by way of hip-hop, acid jazz, funk, and abstract beats since 1996. From launching one of the first late-night outdoor events in NYC (Turntables on the Hudson) to recording a compilation for Next Aid featuring songs from children in the The Earthchild Project in Capetown, his career has allowed him to experience firsthand the various influences heard in his music. Last year, he released his third original album, Moon People, which continues his exploration of global and downtempo music. Like a journey through the continents, the tracks include Arabic melodies and African Blues, and even touch on some Latin electro. We recently spoke with Nickodemus about growing up in Brooklyn, his newest release, and his favorite pizza in New York. He DJs alongside The Spy From Cairo this Sunday for Dub Mission at Elbo Room.
How did growing up in Brooklyn inspire the music you make?
The radio that used to reflect the various NYC cultures covered all the boroughs I grew up in, including Long Island. So I was always around people I can relate to musically. We all taught and inspired each other, from the Coney Island boardwalk to high school backyard parties and eventually the clubs.
Do you think it pushed you to want to succeed more?
Yes! All the boroughs and Long Island really pushed me, as it was very competitive as a DJ. I never waited for someone to say I was good enough to DJ in their club, so I started throwing my own parties in warehouses at about sixteen.
What attracted you to acid jazz and Giant Step as a teen?
I was already jamming in high school with musicians and turntables, so Giant Step was the actual party I've always envisioned; a mix of hip hop, house, jazz, and funk!
Your own party, Turntables on the Hudson, celebrates 15 years this year. What has kept this party going for so long?
We've been doing the party with a lot of heart and persistence for 15 years! There was always a need for good homegrown vibes in this city, and I think people really relate to that and keep coming back whenever and wherever we get down. At times it feels like it's slowing down and there's a hundred other parties doing the same thing, but then we'll have an event where all the elements are perfectly lined up and it brings it all back together again like the first party. It's really magical when that happens.
Several of your tracks have been featured on multiple commercials, movies, etc. Which was the most exciting for you to be a part of?
The iTunes + iPod commercial was a humble collaboration I did with Quantic and The Candela Allstars in Puerto Rico that reached the world. The advert was done with so much taste and it got me so excited every time I saw it on TV or a billboard.
Tell us a little about your newest release, Moon People. How does the title of album reflect its content?
It was the nighttime counterpart for Sun People. Sun People reflected my live, sunny, organic DJ sets and Moon People is the deeper, darker underground "in the club" life I've also been living for more than 20 years.
What made you want to explore a deeper electronic sound on this one?
It's the complement in sounds that I play and enjoy dancing to in the clubs.
The single "Peaceful Island Life" is about raising awareness for global warming. How important do you think it is for songs to have messages these days?
I just have to do songs like that. I think most people turn off to messages in the music or at parties, but for me music and parties are not only entertainment, they're a means for connecting with people and learning from one another. That song started as a dedication to the President of the Maldives.
For the president? Can you elaborate?
Sure, I've been following his struggle trying to make awareness about the rising tides in the Maldives and worldwide due to global warming when I met the producer of a documentary on the topic. So I thought I'd make a song in light of then President Mohamed Nasheed ... not that I think it'll change anything. We all still seem to be on an accelerated mission to destroy Mother Earth ... oh, wait, that's my first album, Endangered Species!
Besides making music full of messages, we also heard you really like pizza. What's your favorite pizza place in NY?
Ohhhh, there's a few! Gnocco's Pizza is super thin and tasty. Franny's is amazing but expensive to walk into that place. Di Fara's is the best daytime off-the-street spot I know, but super crowded! My Neopolitan fratellos over at Luna Rose in Brooklyn always have a smile and a space for a good pizza!