DJ Nico Interview

Which person(s) in your life first got you Into music and can you remember the artists or songs that you first connected with?

My brother is my biggest influence being four years older and into the cool music of the 80s. Radio was very important to expose us to alternative music that was coming out of England. So we were listening to The Clash, The Smiths, The Cure, Joy Division, New Order, Tears for Fears. Music and fashion were one in the same. Our friends were either mods, preps, punks, skinheads, or just in to the popular new wave looks of the time. I probably first connected to New Order’s Ceremony.

How and when did your passion for music translate into you becoming a DJ and can you tell us about your first live DJ Set?

I started to go to record fairs at 16. The larger one happened a few times a year at a legion hall in the west end of Toronto. I was obsessed with U2. That was the first band I started to collect. By the time I went to University, the Brit Pop and indie scene was in full force. I started a job at HMV to pay for school which fed my taste for collecting even more. I was invited to DJ with a bunch of school friends at a very dodgy cafe. I did spin records for that first gig but spent some years spinning CDs in the 90s. Then back to vinyl in the mid 2000s.

This year you are celebrating 8 years of running With It! Can you tell us about why you started the event, what it promotes, and some of the DJs involved with it.

I was approached by one of the bar owners who knew me from spinning occasionally around the city and as a big supporter of indie music. He wanted to replace a mod soul indie britpop night and knew I would be a good match. It was my first residency so I was really nervous but took it on. I did have a partner for the first six months who complimented my style well and he was involved in the same scene of people. I had a guest in from Ottawa one month and his style was more beat matching and mixing while I was just more of a selector. It was a great hit and balance to what I was doing so he stayed on for nearly 4 years. That’s DJ Magnificent! The night needed a change and my original concept was to have revolving guest DJs so two years ago I made that shift. I’ve had DJs from Montreal (Parka Pat & Ben Shulman), New York (Matt Clark & Jonathan Toubin), Japan (DJ Misty), Winnipeg (Mod Marty), and lots of local friends guest DJ with me. With It is a 60s soul party that’s focused on the mod aesthetic.
You are also celebrating 6 years of the Toronto Soul Club. Who is involved in this club, what does it promote, and how have you dealt with keeping it running in the face of the Covid Pandemic?
Toronto Soul Club is made up of 8 folks, 7 DJs + 1 saxophonist. Dennis P, Parkdale Funk, Misty, Blush, General Eclectic, Splattermonkey, Gramera and myself. At the time we started TSC, we were all running successful soul parties in Toronto. A lot changed over the years with the scene, the bars, and just people moving on to new projects, getting married, having babies. The concept behind it all was to unify the scene and have soul related events that brought all our ideas and parties together along with including others outside our collective. Initially we wanted to do a block party. The logistics behind getting permits and a good space in the city was a challenge so it got dropped. We did always share cool events and content on our social media but it lay dormant for a few years. About two years ago we started to share events and content again, connecting with parties all over the world. We’ve become good friends with people in different cities who run their own soul clubs. Some of us have been live streaming during the pandemic to keep momentum with our parties. We just had an all dayer to celebrate our 6th anniversary and are sharing guest DJ mixes from our soul club pals from various cities.
I have enjoyed seeing photos from your walks around your home city of Toronto. Once we can travel freely again where would you recommend visiting in Toronto, and in particular which music venues and record stores should we check out. 
I hope many of the cool spots survive this pandemic. Toronto has some great places to visit, all depending on your interests. As a music enthusiast and record collector or into vintage culture — the neighbourhood of Kensington Market and Queen Street are a good place to start. Record stores to check out include Kops Records, Sonic Boom, Rotate This. Vintage Shops like Flashback, Mama Loves You, Black Diamond. For music venues, there are varying sizes to check out. Small venues with great sound – Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, The Piston Bar, Lee’s Palace, El Mocambo. The next level up would be Danforth Music Hall, Massey Hall. I’m not a fan of massive shows or venues so won’t suggest any! Cool themed bars to check out – Sweaty Betty’s, Black Dice Cafe, Houndstooth. I could go on and on!