Nik Fish is one of Australia’s favourite sons. No spring chicken anymore – don’t say I said that – he has been a stalwart of the industry for something like 20 years. From compilations to tours and headlining events here, there and everywhere, Nik’s name is synonymous with harder edged music – and its many and varied changing faces. And this time, the Wild – Hard Bass Anthems CD is the topic of conversation.
Indeed, I remember talking to the lad a few years ago about the different flavours in music and the evolution of the scene. At the time, he was getting ready to play a New Years event somewhere or other and he described it as an opportunity to reset, as it were. “It’s like the last 20 years don’t matter,” describes Nik. “When you’ve got that many under your belt, you really see how the market has evolved and changed. The fans you had early on have themselves had the chance to have kids who come up and say things like, ‘My dad listened to you!’”
Some honour. So no surprise then that he is adding another compilation CD to his repertoire. And so many years into a career – one that across the industry can be rather short – he is humbled by the experience and is rather modest about his success; like his entry into the revolving door that is the EDM world started, in his own words, “like everyone else’s”.
“Basically, I walked into a room and was completely taken by the sound. It was an experience I’d never had before. You sort of walk out into the light of day and realise the world of nightclubs, festivals and parties is just completely another world altogether. If it’s the sort of thing that tickles your fancy, then you’re going to be hooked. I think more than anything I was attracted by the sounds and vibes that were around in the ‘80s. I went to a lot of house parties around the time of the boom on the Chicago and acid house sort of era. There was this place in Sydney called the Hordern Pavilion and that’s really where I burst my cherry. It took me to another reality.”
Hordern might (or might not) have started as the sentimental home of big room bass music in Sydney, but by the time the ‘90s were rolling nice and heavy, with dance music exploding all over the place, the number of host venues shot up with it – and things really started to fall into place for Nik. Bands like The Prodigy were inspiring youngsters from all over the globe and our friend from Sydney was no exception.
“These weren’t necessarily bands in the beginning. They were one guy in the studio making music and as they grew, they took on new members and took their whole performances to a live show and things evolved for a lot of them like that.
“There was this kind of dominant scene in various parts of the world – everyone was sort of doing their own thing. There wasn’t a lot coming out of the US for a while there outside kind of Chicago, Detroit and New York, and Europe had its own sub-cultures with techno and things like that. It was really the UK that was doing something really different that was appealing. Producers were doing some pretty amazing things; the whole thing was very raw and it allowed a lot of producers to push their own style. It wasn’t necessarily rave or hardcore or trance or whatever – it wasn’t necessarily happy or sad or hard. It wasn’t anything in particular, it was just a freedom of movement.”
But above all else, he remembers the impact the sound had in a big warehouse environment. “I think that’s what gravitated me to a slightly harder edged sound,” he describes. “It’s what I found nice and what I found worked for me – and over the decades it was really what I pushed on with.” Stopping for a moment to reflect on the use of the word ‘decades’, he giggles and admits it is a pretty reasonable length of time.
Which brings up to the actual topic of conversation – his new compilation CD. “I’ve worked with Central Station records on a number of these kinds of projects over the years as well as with other DJs that they’ve hooked us up with. But over say, the last ten years or so, we’ve all worked really well under the same umbrella and it’s been a lot of fun. So it was good to be able to do something that covers the history of the second wave in the harder edged movement, because if I think of the ‘90s as a bit of a rave culture era, then the new millennium was really characterised by hard trance.
“It was really coming from everywhere in the world. And it brought a lot of this kind of music to a mainstream audience in Australia – which is a good thing, because of our smaller population. It was like breaks was around as well, but harder sounds were becoming very popular; so when I was asked to think about a compilation that sort of wrapped up the era, I really had to think about how I was going to do it. It was a pretty exciting process though.”
So the final result is a Central Station compilation that is going back to its roots. Classic tracks and some that are more obscure feature, but it’s all designed to take fans back to past. “I had a lot of ideas about which way go ahead and how to approach it. I ended up doing a lot of edits for a lot of the tracks, and at a minimum, I sort of trimmed a lot of them down and I was really conscious of remaining respectful to the artists that I was featuring on the mix; so when I was editing, I was consciously thinking about keeping the best parts, without compromising or churning the tracks.”
And 19 tracks later, we have a solid release that mixes nostalgia with bounce – a mix of tunes that ought to take the generation from the era, back to the good times. “It was hard too,” chimes Nik, “because I didn’t want it sounding like a mega mix. So the process was very long.” Believe it or not, he claims to have spent dozens and dozens of hours of studio time – more than any other project he’s done – to finalise and polish the mix. “I wanted to get it right so I worked harder. It was an honour that they asked me to do it and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to honour the music and the fans from the past – that era.”
And admitting that getting a 100 per cent strike rate on track clearances is always a challenge for a compilation, he is still rather content with what he could clear. “Of course there are tracks you want that you can’t clear because you can’t locate the original artist or whatever – but I think we really captured the spirit of the period and I’m pretty happy with the result.”
Fish is primed for his set of dates around the country, which are being finalised at the moment. “We’re looking potentially at June and July so the CD will have had a chance to be out for a while. Because it’s an old school CD I’m hoping people add this to their collection and then come out and witness the recreation live! There are a lot of great fans from Brisbane to Melbourne to Hobart so I’m hoping if they’re people that haven’t been out for a while, they’ll come out for one last blast!”
Nik Fish’s [AUS] Wild Hard Bass Anthems three CD compilation is available now through Central Station Records.