Label Showcase – Interview with Velasco & Chavez of “NIL”
Q. In 2013, vinyl sales were up 30% despite a general downturn in the music industry. How has this affected you guys as label owners?
Lou: It’s definitely been good to us. Even with sales going up, we know what it’s like to have to choose between paying bills, eating lunch, or buying a record. We’re very grateful that we have fans that are choosing the record. It just goes to show that if you have something that you believe in, no matter what things look like good or bad, the right people will find a way to gravitate towards it.
Q. As avid vinyl collectors, how has the recent vinyl boom affected your purchasing habits?
Lou: I’m terrible. So is George, although he definitely practices more self-control.
George: Sometimes it’s really bad. I would say that this summer was the worst. I was keeping a close eye on my bank account to make sure I didn’t overdraft.
Q. What is it about collecting vinyl that you love so much?
Lou: Well, some people buy vinyl for the nostalgia. But I’d say we don’t buy records based on hype, or whatever you want to call it. We buy records because we identify with them in a certain way. I’ve gone out of my way to spend close to triple figures on a jazz record just because I wanted it. Right now, collecting vinyl is my only vice.
“I hope things go in the direction that defeats the old format of how many bodies you can fill in, and focuses on how many bodies you can keep dancing.”
Q. Would you guys ever consider releasing anything digitally or partnering with a partner like Spotify?
George: If we were to do it, I don’t think it would be anything from Nil. It would be a completely different project. For now, the reason why we’re so gung ho about no represses and no digital is because it would be a huge injustice to our fans. People that really have gone out their way to shell out a couple of bucks for our releases.
Q. Who have been some of your strongest musical influences?
George: J Dilla, first and foremost. It’s funny too because everybody knows him as a hip-hop producer, but he actually inspired both of us to explore house and techno. Whenever we hear a great deep house record, we always will say, “This is what Dilla would make if he were making house records.” It’s rare to hear somebody with as much soul in their music as he had. You can trace it back to the early 90’s when he was doing stuff with A Tribe Called Quest. Oh, I can’t forget Ricardo Villalobos…that guy is a machine. He has styles for days.
Lou: Ricardo is never settling or playing it safe. He’s the guy that if you were to hand him a record at a gig, he wouldn’t think twice and would probably play it. He takes that risk and that’s a wonderful thing. He definitely sets the bar high when he performs.
George: I’m also a huge fan of Spencer Kinsy aka Gemini. He’s a fantastic producer. God bless him, wherever he is. If he actually reads this interview, we definitely miss him. His presence is definitely missed. He’s just a tremendous influence as far as pushing the envelope and just really getting lost and loving good electronic music.
Q. What are some of your other favorite labels at the moment?
George: Perlon counts, right? Although a lot of people say they had a rough patch in the mid-2000s, I think they’re still doing relevant stuff. I’m curious to see what they’ll do with the Superlongevity series. The 5th one was really good so I think we should get another.
Lou: I would love to hear Perlon release a hip-hop record and come full circle.
“We buy records because we identify with them in a certain way. I’ve gone out of my way to spend close to triple figures on a jazz record just because I wanted it.”
Q. In 2012, the two of you launched the label Nil. When was the idea of Nil conceived and why did you guys start the label?
Lou: Nil was conceived over beers, actually. George and I decided to release a couple of guys from Bucharest, called Marsomatic700, who were making good music and being brushed off by other labels. We felt pretty strongly about their work and their work ethic, so George and I decided over beers that we were going to release them ourselves. Let’s become tastemakers.
Q. How was your label name ‘Nil’ conceived?
George: Believe it or not, while playing FIFA. I’d been brainstorming names with Lou earlier in the day and remember beating a team 3-0. I was at the drawing board and couldn’t think of any names, but kept hearing the game’s announcer repeat the score as “three – “nil”. It immediately clicked.
Q. Do you guys prefer playing as a team or do you ever play solo?
Lou: Let me phrase this the right way. We both play records on our own, but really enjoy playing records together.
George: I would say it really depends on the energy. Sometimes when we practice together, Lou will go in a certain direction and let me play a little, or visa-versa. It’s really about where the energy is at. Come showtime, it’s a completely different story. We both know how to really charge each other up and get ready to go. Musically, we connect with each other.
Q. How did you meet and what made you two decide to team up?
Lou: We met at a Martinez Brothers show at Le Poisson Rouge through a mutual friend. I was new to the New Jersey area and it just so happened that George was close by. We pretty much bonded immediately. We were both into certain types of music….the abstract of the abstract. It made sense to us.
Q. With openings of clubs like Output and Verboten, how do feel about the New York music scene evolving in the near future?
Lou: It’s hard to call even the next few months, but it seems like more people are becoming aware and more people are coming out. I have a sense of optimism. I hope things go in the direction that defeats the old format of how many bodies you can fill in, and focuses on how many bodies you can keep dancing. I hate hearing it but it rings true, it really shouldn’t be about who you know but about the talent. There are a lot of people that are in their basements right now busting their ass just as hard as anybody.
George: We just hope it goes in a good direction.
Q. Tell us about the latest producer in the Nil family – Moratu.
Lou: I had a chance to meet Moratu when I was in Bucharest. Right of the bat his energy was pretty much amazing. George and I are keen on energy, so I called George that same day and told him he definitely had to hear his music. George asked how he is as a person, because we like to establish a family within the label. It’s not just submitting music and you never hear from us again. It’s a constant communication. Moratu’s very humble and very quiet, with a work ethic that’s through the roof. The guy probably makes 2 or 3 records every day… and they’re not even rough drafts. We’re talking full-on records. 7-8 minutes long and well thought out. George finally heard his music and we said let’s definitely move forward. We’re very happy that people have really gravitated to the release.
Q. How soon can we see a release from you two?
Lou: I’m definitely set on having something out soon. That’s the goal I have set out for myself. George has tons of work to be honest. You’ll probably see George’s stuff in the very near future.
George: Just so people know, we are working. Patience is a virtue. Also, not being too hard on yourself also works.
Q. What’s the story behind the little guy on the Nil logo?
Lou: George and I are really into making friends and we met a really good friend from Romania. His name is Tudor and the guy is a graphic design Jedi who also makes great music. Not just techno or house, but all-around. We gave him the first release to listen to and we let him run with it. He had all creative control. He did it in one shot and it was the obvious choice. It was fun and not too serious. We definitely want to be known as the guys that can have fun.
George: It embodies the first part of Nil, which is materializing from nothing. So far people seem to like it.
Lou: If you look at the logo you see the man coming out the hole. It’s like, “What’s next?” George came up with this cool acronym for Nil, which is “Next in Line.” So it made even more sense. It was just awesome the way it all came together.
Q. Is there anything outside of music that inspires you guys?
George: One of the best things about music is silence. Sometimes not listening to anything and going about your day is a sure-fire way for inspiration.
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