A chat with Nicole
When it comes to electronic music, Georgia has no shortage of emerging talent – and Patterns of Perception mix series contributor Nicole is no exception. A famed Boiler Room set following the Bassiani club raids in 2018, as well as a first solo EP on Marco Shuttle’s record label Eerie, have helped put her name on the map. We recently sat down with Nicole to get some insight into both her own path to electronic music and the thriving Georgian scene that supported her rise.
How have the last two years been for you, both personally and in terms of your music career?
Of course, the past two years have been hard for me, especially as an artist. As is the case for many artists, I chose this career for my love of music, and for sharing emotions and vibes with a crowd. When the pandemic hit, I was in complete shock because the clubs were the first to shut down before anything else. I spent a lot of time at home focused on making music, but after some time I realised the clubs were not going to open again soon, and I had to pay the bills. It’s safe to say I had a lot more music equipment before the pandemic started than now.
Personally, the pandemic was good for me in a lot of ways though. I grew in understanding myself and had time to reflect on what I honestly wanted in life. Before I was in clubs every weekend gigging, and sometimes it felt like a loop with no time to stop and have time for myself.
I understand you recently moved to Kyiv. What prompted the move?
Honestly, I felt that I need to develop myself both as a DJ and person and, with all my love to Georgia, I think I took everything that Georgian people and atmosphere could give to me at this point in my life.
For the last few years, I’ve been planning to move to Berlin because I’ve thought that this city would fit me. However, I have a lot of wonderful friends in Kyiv and, looking at the rapidly developing and powerful scene here, I said to myself: “Why not try living here?”. For me, it was weird since I’ve never been here before, but looking at people on the street and feeling the city’s vibe now I’m sure that this decision was more than right. The reason is very simple: I love people here since they’re incredibly open, warm and always ready to help, which is very similar to my own attitude to life.
Tbilisi’s club scene faced a severe crackdown from police in 2018. You yourself played the Boiler Room celebration of the re-opening of Bassiani following the police raids in 2018. How did it feel to be a part of that pivotal moment?
I will never forget this moment in my life, as I was inside Bassiani when the police raid happened. I was 19 years old and had a feeling I had finally found something in my life I understood I wanted to do, but at the same time, I witnessed something wanting to come and take this away. I realized in that moment something I loved might not ever become a reality, which made me extremely nervous. When the protests happened and we danced in front of the Parliament building, I had a sense of unity and the feeling that we were all together fighting for one common thing, which was an amazing realization. When I got the phone call from the promoter asking me if I wanted to play on the Bassiani Boiler Room, I was so shocked and said yes immediately, without actually thinking about what it meant. Then I soon realized how important this was; playing next to DJs I grew up listening to and whose sets I was studying when I was learning to play. I was only a DJ for 6 months at the time when I played this set, and I realise that I was really lucky to play on such an important moment with these people I looked up to.
People often emphasise your age and the fact you released your first record aged 20, but Georgia’s electronic scene is equally young. What do you think it is about the Georgian underground scene that has allowed it to thrive and gain such international recognition in such a short span of time?
I think the Georgian scene grew so quickly because the previous generation did not have such a culture with nightclubs and freedom of expression like this in the Soviet Union times. Of course, Georgian ravers are so emotional and the artists who come to play in these clubs experience an entirely different vibe and feeling from the dancefloor. The party never stops here, and I think this was a big attraction for so many artists coming from countries where clubs closed at 5am to clubs where you could play 20-hour sets. In the beginning, there was KHIDI, Bassiani, Cafe Gallery, and Mtkvarze. These four clubs worked so hard to create a standard, inviting really great artists to play here.
What kind of music were you making and listening to back when you first got started? And how has your taste and sound developed since then?
When I was younger, I was listening to all different sorts of music like Boards of Canada, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Sade, Zemfira, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and Massive Attack. I was also singing opera and listening to classical music too. When I was 17, my ex and I created an electronic music project together; singing and making music on Ableton. This was my first step into electronic music. I think I’m not on the end of my road yet, and every day something is changing with my music style. I always want to add something new into my music and I can’t tell you how my style Is now compared to before. I just love music without any limits on genre. I can play tech house or minimal or hard old school techno, even trance. And maybe even some songs which you remember from childhood for a closing track. I don’t want to make it definitive. I like freedom in music.
How would you describe the sound coming out of Georgia at the moment? What styles of music or sounds are exciting you the most right now?
Definitely techno. This has a lot to do with the fact we have KHIDI and Bassiani here, which is a big influence. Many people here in this society want to be a DJ, so they produce and play only techno. From one perspective you could say it's problematic because you have only a few DJs who can play a really good opening set or closing set. Everyone wants to play on peak time straight into techno. However, there is a very small artist community here who is more into the house sounds.
What inspired you to start producing music yourself?
I wanted to start producing music myself because I want to share only my emotions, not someone else’s. When I started to make my music alone, I feel more like myself.
Your debut EP came out on Marco Shuttle’s label Eerie Records in 2020. How did this record, and the association with Marco, come about? And is there a follow-up on the horizon?
I was working as a promoter in the club Cafe Gallery some time ago, and I booked him for a set there. We had great communication. I played the opening set before him, and after he asked me if I make music. I sent him some of my music and he released it.
At this moment, I’m really working to enhance my sound and quality and I don’t want to release anything because I’m a work in progress.
Tell us a bit about your mix for Patterns of Perception earlier this year: how and where was it recorded? Is there a concept behind it?
I recorded this set in my hometown of Batumi at my friend’s studio. I was thinking about what to record a lot, because I haven't recorded a podcast for more than one year. I really did not know what I wanted to share now with people and my listeners. But when I started, I felt really calm and I was thinking I needed to record something that I would listen to and feel calm with no pressure. I tried to include tracks in the mix that reminded me of the soundtrack for a movie. Some ambient and classic music. I really wanted to make it feel like a fantasy.
Was there a particular movie you were thinking of when making the mix?
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This is one of my favorite films and at that time of recording I had recently watched it again and had this inspiration from it.
Before we wrap up, do you have any suggestions for other artists from the Georgian scene we should keep an eye out for?
For me, I can name a few. One important figure from the Georgian electronic music scene is Bassiani resident and Georgian pioneer, Kancheli. Kancheli is one of my favorite artists, whose sets I grew up on and whose productions I love. Another Bassiani resident I really enjoy is HVL, who is producing just amazing music. HVL’s tracks have been played by Aphex Twin. He also has incredible live sets.
From the tech house and house music sounds, I love Bekuchi. His sets are for intelligent listening and they are always interesting to me. He is also starting his own label, Satz records, with an upcoming VA release to look out for.
There is also a KHIDI resident named Yanamaste, who is a very young and talented artist with a bright future ahead of him. His sets are so energetic. He produces only with modular synths, and he did a live set video recording from KHIDI club which you can check out, it’s so good.
As for non-Georgians based in Tbilisi, I really like McKenzie. She is a talented DJ, with a really different side. She feels the dance floor like me and has very close contact with the crowd, like she is trying to be there with the dance floor. She has big energy and she’s also a very interesting artist for me from the music scene in Georgia.