Interview with Nick Catchdubs (Fool’s Gold Records)

This Saturday, our friend Nick Catchdubs joins me and Chris Nitti at BLISS. Nick is a phenomenal DJ and one of the nicest dudes you’ll ever meet. His Fool’s Gold Records with A-Trak is responsible for some of the biggest dance tunes around these days. I chatted with Nick about his stellar mixtapes and what got him tied up in the DJ biz in the first place. Don’t miss Nick Saturday. It’s gonna be a fun night.

Will: You’re a master behind a mixer. When did you get your start DJing and what got you into it?

Nick: I didn’t really start DJing until 2003, the summer when I graduated college. It was a (relatively) late start, before then I had just been writing music and playing in bands. More on an indie / power pop guitar tip. But the music I liked was always all over the place. I grew up loving Funkmaster Flex and Red Alert on the radio but never really thought “oh, DJing, thats what they’re doing here.” There wasn’t really like, an older dude that was killing it in high school that people looked up to. We had prom guys. And I was never into the underground hip hop scene that was blowing up in the late 90s, I wasn’t watching DMC videos and practicing with battle records and shit. (Ironic when you think about teaming up with A-Trak years later.) But slowly in college I was picking up more on DJ stuff. I remember the day I moved into the dorm I bought a DJ Clue tape that started off with him blending Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In A Bottle” over Nas “Nastradamus” and thinking that was the coolest thing ever. I wasn’t going out to see DJs or to dance nights, but just living in the city you would get put up on mixes, then the Turntable Lab store opened and I would always be in there buying stuff – even then it never really clicked until right before graduation, when I was in charge (or rather, put myself in charge) of making mixes for that last week or two when we just hung out and partied every night. The programming aspect really did it for me: these songs in this order get this reaction. The “oh shit” factor of the unexpected or forgotten jam. All that. Then around the same time, the Hollertronix “Never Scared” mix came out, Mark Ronson made a mix for his first album that I really liked, DFA was happening, there were still like 8 great Neptunes songs at any given moment… I knew that this was what I wanted to be doing. I could put together all the different kinds of music I like, and not have to worry about whether or not I got along with my drummer or whatever.

Will: How did you get into cahoots with A-Trak? In this day and age of diminishing record sales why a record label?

Nick: Roxy Cottontail booked both of us for a party she was doing, and we just kept in touch while working at our respective day jobs (him DJing for Kanye, me editing The Fader magazine) and pushing our own personal DJing on the side. We had complimentary tastes and attitudes. When our friends started making original music of their own, we saw there wasn’t really a label that could be their home and really understand the context of the music and where it fit. So we figured we’d twam up and do it ourselves. As far as the “age of diminishing record sales” that’s definitely true – though if you’re smart about it, there’s still ways to be profitable as a record label. Though for us, the idea was never to be “just” a record label. Of course, we want our records to do well and get as far as possible. But sales are no longer the only metric of success, the brand as a whole is so much bigger and more interesting than that. We just opened up a store in Brooklyn and have a lot of cool product collaborations and other projects in the pipeline. It all starts with the music, and the family of artists we’ve brought together, and then can expand all over the place. At the end of the day we just want to help interesting stuff blow up.

Will: Your mixtapes have a unique voice and they’re always a treat. How do you approach making a mixtape and how do you work with an artist like Wale on one?

Nick: Thanks! I do mixes that are more like party sets, stuff that’s a little more “home listening” vibe, and then the artist collaborations and rap tapes. It’s all different and depends on the aim of the project, but they start the same way though: getting together all the music I want to pull from, listening to it closely and then trying different ways to see how to best connect the dots. These two songs blend really nice together in key, that’s a chunk. This song has an accapella intro so I can just drop it in anywhere, that’s another chunk. I write little notes to myself to keep track of everything. I listen to rough versions in the car and make final tweaks, then BOOM, mix out to the world. With the artist stuff there’s an extra layer of collaboration. In an ideal situation, we actually get up in the studio and try stuff out, or I can send beats over for new songs / freestyles. We record new drops, interludes, etc. But most of the time you just get a bunch of songs in a zip and have to figure out how to craft a concept or narrative for the artist around them.

Will: What projects do you have coming up and what can we expect to hear from you at BLISS?

Nick: I just finished a remix of Mr Vegas and Natalie Storm for Max Glazer, the original track was on his Flatlands riddim. I did a “megamix” of sorts for a band I don’t know if I can announce just yet, its a little different from my usual stuff but cool for that world (I hope). About to put together this club rap tape with Jackie Chain, and start on the 4th volume of the alt rock “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” mixes I do with my friend Mr Ducker for Mishka. I’ve been working on beat sketches and ideas for original releases on Fool’s Gold for the past year or so and now it’s time to just finish the damn thing! I’m excited to play Bliss because it will be my first time doing a full-length set at U Hall (as opposed to the short round-robin style Flashing Lights appearances), so I’m definitely hoping to pull out all the stops.

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