Billy Nasty has been DJing half his life, and spent ten years on the world circuit as a professional spinner. He has played at some of the biggest dance events on the planet, and consistently stars in the upper regions of DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJs Poll. He has enjoyed a busy recording career, formed a seminal techno label to match his DJing success, and set up his own DJ agency to bring nurtured talent to the world.
Nasty’s passion for music started early, enjoying rare groove, go-go and funk. Billy had already taken up DJing when house music exploded in the UK in the late 1980s.
Nasty was pushed to the cutting-edge of London dance culture when in 1989 he was taken on by well-known record shop Zoom. This position built up his industry contacts whilst providing a well-timed boost to his DJ reputation.
At the beginning of 1990, Nasty won his first residency with Steve Bicknell. Based in Soho’s notorious Brain Club, “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable” ran for two and a half years. "We played nu-groove records, loops, and European stuff”, explains Nasty. “Dance mixes of Happy Mondays, My Bloody Valentine and James also featured heavily”. It’s widely acknowledged that these sounds were the paving stones for the building progressive house scene.
By 1991, Billy had gained such a reputation that he was asked to contribute the first mix for a new CD series entitled 'Journey's by DJ' (JDJ). Bringing together emerging artists like Leftfield and Where Eagles Prey, it showcased Billy's fresh and developing style - even gaining him an entry into the Guinness Book Of Records as the first ever DJ to produce a commercial mix. He also undertook his first studio project when he was invited to remix St Etienne's 'Join Our Club', with whom he toured in Japan in 1992.
Throughout 1992-93, bootleg mix tapes were flooding the UK. Nasty’s name was on the label of most of them – so many, in fact, that they were beginning to act as an agent for him. The bookings began coming thick and fast, with Nasty securing gigs at up-and-coming nights like Venus, Renaissance and Back2Basics. The tough, progressive and tribal sounds that Billy was pushing were more than welcome on the dancefloor.
Progressive house really began to hit home in 1993 – and Nasty was at the crest of the wave. Besides being a regular at The Drum Club, Open All Hours, Final Frontier, and Strutt in London, he began to reach wider audiences, travelling the whole of the UK and most of Europe. Studio adventures came with Zoom proprieter Dave Wesson, under the guise “Shi-Take”. They enjoyed six releases on the shop's own label. Billy also produced with Chemical Brothers engineer Steve Dub as “Vinyl Blair”, and found support at the new Hard Hands label – famed for their lead act, Leftfield.
1995 saw Nasty’s workload multiply further. He left Zoom to concentrate full-time on his DJing, now playing between three and five gigs a week across Europe. Between studio sessions with Aloof and Sabres members Jagz & Gary as “Kamaflarge”, he founded his own DJ agency - to manage his own diary!
Theremin soon began to represent other British DJs like Jim Masters, Mark Williams and Phil Perry, followed by Europeans Adam Beyer, Marco Carola and Joel Mull. After years of development, Theremin has become one of today's premier techno agencies. Nasty explains: “Having spent time nurturing European DJs the UK, I knew I was working with really talented people. At the time, nobody really knew who they were - it was natural to start Theremin."
Whilst the miles clocked up through 1996, Nasty was nominated for Best National DJ, and best Radio One Essential Mix at the UK Muzik Awards. He also played prime slots at Tribal Gathering festivals in the UK and Germany.
Having evolved into playing increasing harder-edged techno, 1997 was an appropriate time to re-establish his presence on the scene. A second mix CD 'Race Data' (Avex) was released, featuring tracks by Planetary Assault Systems, Dirty House Crew and Vegas Soul - a comprehensive summary of Billy's sound at the time.
Nasty, frustrated that the style of music he had been pushing was receiving only minimal support by a few select labels in the UK. Hence, in typical Nasty fashion, he set up his own imprint label called Tortured. "The reason I started a label and created 'Race Data' was so that people could see what sort of music I was now playing”, Nasty comments. He goes on: “My fans were all listening to the old tapes and the first JDJ CD. Even though I've always played music with power and a dirty funk, my style had moved from progressive house into trance and then into techno”.
Alongside co-promoter Jim Masters, Nasty founded Open To Torture, a bi-monthly event at The End in London. Co-existing with his Tortured label and his peculiar surname, all of his events are monickered to shock people into remembering them. Evidently, it works fine. To this day, OTT survives as one of the few quality techno nights in London. It has acted as a showcase for talent both attached to and around the label. Guests have included The Advent, Green Velvet, DJ Slip, Oliver Ho, Holy Ghost, Swag, Laidback Luke, Cherry Bomb and Access 58.
1998 saw Nasty’s first expedition to the States, the Americans quickly warming to his style. He has returned frequently to spin at New York’s legendary Twilo and also in places such as Chicago, Detroit, Washington, San Francisco, LA, Toronto, Seattle and Canada. Back in Europe, he was voted second most popular international DJ of '98 by Dutch dance fans.
Of late, Nasty has been managing the general running and shaping of the Tortured label, recently celebrating it’s twentieth release. The Theremin agency boasts a roster that includes Space DJz, Adam Beyer, Cari Lekebusch, Daz Saund, Marco Carola, Umek, Gaetek, Joel Mull, Steve Rachmad, Nick Rapaccioli, Craig Walsh, Oliver Ho, Keith Fielder, Alex Handley, Christian Smith, Mark Ambrose, Laidback Luke and Mark Wiliams.
Tortured also put out 'The Torture Chamber'; a brand new mix CD by Billy demonstrating the quality and style of Tortured's trademark thumping beats and power cuts. "I wanted to do the mix CD as a label compilation because I think that we've put out some superb music out on the label”, he says. It will be the first in a series of ten, with DJs involved with the label mixing future ones. “I want this to be the best series of techno CD's for the next decade", he says wistfully.
A new label is also in it’s infancy, called Electrix, which will deal in experimental electronica - everything from Maurizio to electro. Open to Torture continues it’s popular residency at the End, while the next Torture Chamber is currently being planned.
Things are looking good – but it’s all about to turn Nasty..