Nervous Records is one of America’s longest standing labels. Founded in 1991 in New York City, the brand has been the outlet for several artists like Louie Vega, Josh Wink, Armand Van Helden, Todd Terry and Masters At Work, helping build the foundation for the city’s underground culture throughout the 90s. Thanks to Nervous’ partner label in Munich Love Harder Records, we were able to meet Andrew during our NYC trip. While having a local cider, we gained insights from Chicago House to the underground warehouse culture in New York City nowadays.
The core and premise of the label is the sound of New York.
-Andrew Salsano, Nervous Records
Andrew, if you would need to introduce the label in 2-3 sentences, how would that sound like?
It’s a label that started with classic New York house. Some of the original first releases were Louie Vega, Josh Wink, Masters At Work which is Louie Vega and Kenny Dope and Kerri Chandler, Armand Van Helden’s first track. So a lot of these guys, when they started out, it was just a combination of talent and local New York nightlife. That’s what the label is really founded on. The core and premise of the label is the sound of New York. The label actually went on to be really huge in England. Europe in general, but England mostly. Michael Weiss started the label and besides the records he was always into merchandise and at that time we were selling like 100,000 t-shirts per year. The logo is unique and it’s an instant visual recognition.
What are the biggest milestones ‚Nervous’ took since 1991?
That was probably before my time at the label, but there was an artist called Byron Stingily. He had a really huge track called ‚Get up everybody’, I think it went number one in UK. That was in the mid 90ies. As a lot of DJ’s are starting their own labels, it’s definitely more difficult to compete but locally we still have the legacy factor and I think Nervous has always remain – I don’t want to use the word cool – but we’ve made a respectable brand in England and NY in general. I would consider us more of a European label than a NY label, at least according to me and the music that I think we sign.
Back in the 80ies Chicago House and House Music were born in the US in clubs like Paradise Garage, etc. Would you say that there is still something from back of those days in New York? Or is it totally different?
I would say yes and no. Chicago was more like that bass Acid Sound with guys like Adonis and stuff like that. New York was really like: Masters At Work were huge then and they are still huge now.
What about the fact that EDM is so big in the US now?
It was a good thing that EDM became so big. Because when that happened, a lot of the house and techno people that liked the essence of underground parties, they embraced that even more. So when that became very popular here, people were doing this for passion and they loved music and they loved parties. They kind of rejected EDM which made the underground stronger again. Everyone basically started their own parties and spaces and that was really good. It brought about all of the warehouse parties in NY again, which are the techno apartments, techno warehouses and that was what NY originally somewhat started on, the music and the nightlife culture.
Which places and people would you name in terms of underground parties?
The places always change, but one of the party promoters that is doing this place called „Unter“, they bring in a lot of good talent and sometimes they actually throw 36 hours parties. They focus on the music really well, which I feel not a lot of people do. Especially the bigger clubs have to bring in talent that people know to make money. But they brought in Bjarki before he got big on Nina Kraviz’ label. They also brought in Marcel Fengler and a couple of other people. There is another cool party I haven’t been to yet, it’s called ‚Groovy, Groovy’ and another one called ‚Spectrum’ but that’s definitely more for the lifestyle crowd, it’s not for everyone.
Did Output or the scene change due to the closing of Pacha in Manhattan?
Pacha in Manhattan closed maybe one year ago and the owner bought a club that was called Verboten and now Schimanski. That’s around the corner from Output. I would probably say Output is the best club in New York. Also I would say the scene didn’t change due to the closing of Pacha, because by the time Pacha closed it was very commercial and at the same time there was a club opened called Sankeys, then they closed and Space took over, which is also now about to close. Now the guys from Space actually bought the old Pacha spot and they are opening a club called FREQ.
We have the feeling that NY is more into deep house and Europe it’s turning now more into Techno, because the sound gets really hard.
Yes, I think that’s because the radio in Europe is much more embracing to the music that we are doing. The radio in America is very pop. Except for college radio stations, stuff like that. But you know, that’s so spread out and so many different markets for college radio. We actually get a lot of support on BBC Radio 1, also Radio 538 in the Netherlands. It’s always been more natural in terms of music acceptance in UK and Europe.
How would you describe the Nervous sound?
We have the main Nervous label and then we have a sub label, which is basically spelled the same, but it’s Nurvous and that’s more – I don’t want to say experimental – but it takes chances on new sounds. Not only new sounds, but new artists. So I don’t care if a guy has five followers on soundcloud. If the music is good, we are going to put it out and we’re going to give him a shot.
What do you think the New York music scene will look like in two years?
Right now it doesn’t look like techno is going away anytime soon.
What are the things you should do when travelling to New York?
It depends on the person you are. If you are a music person and you want to do nothing but music, you can do everything from underground parties to Jazz clubs like Blue Note. If you are more into art, there is a museum like every five blocks. I would definitely go to Output. In the summer Output does the Rooftop parties. It’s very nice. You have the beautiful view of the city. If the weather is great then it’s even better. There’s a very good event organizer called City Fox and they throw really good parties in a space called Brooklyn Garage. They’re supposed to open again this summer. They do like Luciano and more of a European crowd, Dixon, Âme, Lee Burridge, and such. The space is huge, it’s like 4,000 people. It’s really good.
What are your next steps with the label?
We just released a compilation by Hector Romero, he’s from the Def Mix family, which is Frankie Knuckles, David Morales. He has that strong connection to house music and he’s been doing it for a long time. We’ve been around a long time and it just made sense. We feel like music is so disposable now and it didn’t make sense for Hector to just put together a compilation of his favourite tunes. So he reached out to a bunch of people and we reached out to a bunch of people and we made this really exclusive project, also with unreleased tracks and it was a great success. Probably we’re going to do more of that in the future.
Thank you so much Andrew!
Pictures by Nervous Records, Cover Pic by Vice