Nice & Nasty’s Desy Balmer

Posted November 27, 2008 in Clubbing Features

There are many unsung heroes in the Irish dance scene, and Desy Balmer is right up there with the best of them. A dj for nearly two decades and record label mogul for over 15 years now, Balmer is a real supporter of the homegrown scene. In this fickle, chameleon-like industry, Balmer is a true soldier – an ever-present survivor. Ploughing away for many years with his Nice & Nasy record label, undeterred by passing trends or fads, Balmer has created a springboard from the creme of Irish talent, along with more established international acts. It’s high time we paid tribute to this man, and his label.

What made you start a label in the first place?

It’s been that long i don’t remember, but I can remember as a DJ and record collector that Northern Ireland had a rich culture of music makers and DIY labels. I used to buy music in a shop called Good Vibrations, owned and run by a local chap called Terry Hooley who was integral to the explosion of bands like The Undertones and I think Stiff Little Fingers and he was always ranting on about ravers not being as industrious or ballsy as punks and why aren’t we doing it for ourselves. I am pretty sure he was doing the same to Holmes, Mc Cready and Davey Lynch who were running some of the best acid house parties in the city at the time. Homer in fact was starting to do a few things with other producers and labels and i suppose somewhere amidst all of this a spark went off and I said, f*ck it, I’ll have a go at this, how hard can it be? Belfast, like Dublin and Cork and so on has plenty of talent but it was just assimilated into the UK or considered second best and I totally disagree. I still think Ireland has some of the best club DJs in the world – Robbie Nelson, Iain Mc Cready, Glenn Molloy, Billy Scurry, Davey Hales, in their day were shit hot. I suppose time, ambition and youth plus a big gob helped me but mostly a love of music and a belief in local talent.

How has the music and direction of the label changed since its inception?

To me it hasn’t, but it really has. The labels criteria for release is all about if I like it or if I would play it as a DJ and yeah, my styles have evolved over the years from Italo-house and indie-dance to Dutch techno to hardcore to drum and bass to techno to deep house and then back to a combo of techno and deep house. Your talking about musical influences and scenes that include Madchester – Roses, Mondays, New Order to Sheffield and the whole impact of Warp Records, Black Dog and Beaumont Hannant to a brief flirt with breakbeats and drum and bass, then finally settling down with deep house, acid house and techno. Its weird, I think of myself as a house music DJ but would be considered a techno DJ. That’s the contradiction that is Nice & Nasty. Nice & nasty may be an Irish label but we have an international roster and global fan base. On average we only sell about 25% of our online sales in Ireland, so we are touching far corners of the world.

Have you been hit hard by the download phenomenon and the drop in physical sales in recent years?

YES! It has become too cumbersome, costly and risky to release vinyl. We still do but only limited runs, mostly as a marketing tool and mainly because I need to be able to play my own releases out, as I still use records mostly. But then we have maybe 10 times more releases due to the same phenomenon so you have to evolve or die.

You signed Terrence Dixon to the label. That must be quite exciting to have such a big international name on your roster.

It is exciting. Having Terrence introduces us to a new audience, maybe a bigger audience. Terrence is a bona fide member of the Detroit school and a proper pioneer of what he calls ‘Detroit Minimal Techno’. We have released three EPs by him and hope to have another next year with a little vinyl package to boot. We have, however, worked with Matthew Bushwacka, Fabrice Lig and Arne Weinberg who are pretty big names, plus we continue to work with Mark O’Sullivan of DK7 and Marco Bernardi – aka Octogen. You know what though? While I love the music and respect these guys, the music that is exciting me is the new bits from Vakama, T-Polar and Rob Glennon, remixes from The Parallel and Vakama, the likes of our home-grown boys Vakama, Chymera and people from other labels like Sian, Phil Kieran, Paul Hughes and Jamie Behan. Right now Irish music is at the top of the tree. We almost have a scene. We may even develop an Irish sound (without fiddles).

What plans do you have for the label in 2009?

We have approximately 3 online releases per month for the first 6 months. Two more bits of vinyl – one 12 inch from Marco and a sampler of Vakama, O’Sullivan and some others, maybe a Terrence Dixon 12 inch and albums from Marco Bernardi, Katsuhiko, Thoverstam, maybe Tr-One and hopefully Derek Carr – his debut album Science and Soul is still on my playlist. We may establish a sub label to look at less electronic stuff. Well, indie-dance art-rockin’ sort of stuff. Plus, I am working with 3 top blokes – Brian Taaffe, Scott Curtis and Feno – to develop another label – Dublin Xpress. So we are pretty busy.

What is your opinion of the state of the Irish music scene?

Right now is the best time or best state it has ever been in, both at home and abroad.
More clubs, more clubs and pubs owned by former djs/promoters, more labels, more producers, obviously more shite too, but the cream is rising and there are a few people mixing it up with the worlds best – Sian, Donnacha Costello, Phil Kieran, Fergie, Hystereo, John O’Callaghan, Chymera and so on. From underground techno to trance, Ireland is definitely kicking ass right now.

What Irish/International artists are you looking forward to hearing from in 2009?

Vakama (Conor Dalton) and The Parallel (Colin Mc Keown). I hope to hear more from Al and Dion at Mode Music Dublin. Their brand of house and techno is just lovely. I think that Jamie Behan – given the chance via Subject Detroit – could easily blow up into a techno star. As a DJ, Brian Taaffe could be pushing the more established boys for a share of the pie. But there are people I have been enjoying for a while that I hope to help bring to a wider audience, T-Polar, thatboytim, Tr-One (all the T’s) and maybe even myself. As for the international guys, I’d like to hear Daniel Fritschi more. I am sure Tomi Chair is going to be big, and watch out for Nasty Bobby, he has remixes for Vakama and Mark O’Sullivan coming out in January that are amazing. The Prodigy will have a new album so it will be good to see how much they haven’t changed but other than that who knows. New people pop up all the time. I don’t get the fascination with Deadmau5 though; maybe I am too old. I think 2009 should be the beginnings of Produse. They have been working hard and taking their time but they really have their shit together now. More releases and gigs abroad should be their reward. Being in this game for almost 2 decades you see some really talented people come and go and sometimes its lack of support from home. I think people should support Irish artists and labels more, downloads cost a quid. When Irish acts headline gigs check them out. If we are to have a scene we need punters support.

What is your Top 10 for 2008?

1 Detroit vs Sheffield (Robert Hood remix) / Black Dog / Soma
2 My love (Octogen remix) / Chymera / Nice & Nasty
3 Journeyman / Octogen / Soma
4 20 volts of steel (Franz & Shape remix)) / Motor / Novamute
5 Ghosts of acid (Thoverstam remix) / Mark O’Sullivan / Nice & Nasty
6 Azure (Radioslave remix) / Slam / Soma
7 Computer says no (Hystereo remix) / Jhz & Hyper / Kilowatt
8 Drama (Name & Relucto remix) / Fool / Hum & Haw
9 Genevieve (Cocktail mix) / Funk D’VOid & Sian / Soma
10 Benediction (Mark O’Sullivan remix) / Celtec Twinz / Nice & Nasty

Desy has kindly given us 100 free downloads from the Nice & Nasty back catalogue. What a gent?!
You can get busy here –
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