Whoever you are, wherever you're from, whatever sub-genre you're into...If you listen to Jungle, Drum & Bass or Electronic Dance Music you will have heard of Nicky Blackmarket.
Universally revered for his contribution to drum and bass/Jungle, globally recognised by his nice guy persona (and love of tea) Nicholas Andersson-Gylden AKA Nicky Blackmarket is a true Hall of Famer and one of the hardest working DJ's in the scene.
If you were born in the late 70's/early 80's and were into Jungle/drum and bass, chances are that Nicky was one of the first DJ's you listened to on the likes of Pulse/Eruption/Kool FM, heard play at an event or even met down at Blackmarket Records.
Instantly recognisable by his cheshire cat grin, over-sized bomber jacket, box full of dubs and cup of tea, for over 30 years Nicky has been DJ'ing globally with startling regularity earning him the nickname 'Nicky Nine Jobs' by his friends.
We'd wager that you'd struggle to find many people who don't speak highly of Nicky, but dnbhub wanted to dig a little deeper, find out where it all started, what makes him tick, what p***'s him off and exactly how to make the perfect cuppa....
NBM: Where do you wanna start?
dnbhub: At the beginning Nick, at the beginning...
Born in the former Central Middlesex Hospital at a time where swingers parties, disco's, platform shoes and 8-track tapes were all the rage and the internet, mobile phones and Rekordbox weren't even a thing, Nicky grew up in the then working class districts of Marylebone and Kennington, dividing his time between his beloved Jazz dancing mum, salt of the earth dad and dear old nan.
Whilst most parents would've pressured their kids into 'finding a proper job' Nicky was pushed into music and encouraged to pursue his passion and unquestionable calling from a young age.
At 16 with no qualifications to speak of, Nicky found himself an office job, knuckled down and within 6 months was let go only to find himself a job in a photography lab where he remained for the next 6 years. He loved the work and the art but when an opportunity arose to not only work in, but part own a record shop in the West End of London, Nicky jumped at the chance and the rest as they say is history.
Rites of passage have existed throughout human history, with such rites as the Bar Mitzvah, Rumspringa and Quinceañera being globally recognized and celebrated for millennia.
If you were born in the late 70's/early 80's and found yourself into jungle/drum and bass then the journey to Blackmarket Records was an absolute must, a given and a true junglist rite.
The experience was pretty much constant from my recollection; upstairs was an intimidating place for the uninitiated with a wall of house music records to the right as you walked in, your true destination down to the left via a set of steep metal stairs. Once down in the basement you were invariably greeted with a smile, surrounded by a mixture of Rude Boys, Junglists, Junglettes and more often than not DJ's & producers, many of whom have gone on to become household names.
One thing was for sure, you'd see Nicky behind the decks effortlessly mixing in and out of tracks with a massive smile on his face, always happy to spin a track and offer some advice.
But it wasn't always like this, in fact when Nicky first arrived at the shop he played the 'main-set' upstairs, slotting in at any given opportunity between the house DJ's, slowly speeding up house tracks, blending in a bit of hip hop and naturally gravitating towards what became British Breakbeat Music.
NBM: ‘What you need to understand is that this was 1991/1992, a time when Formation, Reinforced, Production House, Ibiza Records were all starting to create their own sound. The speeding up of the records on the main set wasn't intentional, it was just natural as we all moved towards what became jungle....'
It wasn't long before Nicky moved downstairs, the politics and musical direction naturally gravitating him towards the basement which had long been the domain of hip-hop, jazz and soul.
This was 1992 and if you were a DJ at the time you'd be used to 'doing the rounds' in the West End, going from Blackmarket to Red Records to City Sounds to Mash to Ambient and so on.
Shortly after Nicky made the basement his home he heard that Ray (Keith) had been sacked from City Sounds, a timely departure and one that Nick immediately capitalised on. Ray walked out of City Sounds and straight into a pivotal role at Blackmarket Records, the gauntlet laid down with London's jungle/drum and bass epicenter firmly on the map.
If you frequented the shop back in the day you would have bought records, shared a joke and enjoyed the company of many of the scenes working DJ's. Clarky, Crazy Legs, Profile, Ashatak, Miss Pink....the involvement of these personalities not only made the experience of buying vinyl at Blackmarket Soho fun, it made it memorable and something that in an age of Beatport, Juno and Bandcamp will never be recreated.
NBM: 'I would be lying if I said I didn't miss it....'
NBM: 'I'd work all day in the shop, go and do 3 or 4 gigs that night, get home, have a shower and go straight back to the shop and do it all again....sometimes 3 or 4 nights in a row!'
dnbhub: 'How did you handle it?'
NBM: 'We were just having fun'
What a lot of us take for granted today is the availability of good music. Back then it was very different with boxes of vinyl arriving at the shop, 300 - 400 records all of which needed to be listened to, sorted and then sold. Once a press was sold, it was gone and this led to the likes of Grooverider, Fabio, Frost, Bryan G and others doing the rounds to make sure that they had the big track of the week to play on radio or at the club that weekend.
The labels quickly cottoned on to the promotional power of the shops and started asking for certain releases to be given to certain artists which later led to vinyl being sent from the shops by post and thus the mailing list was invented.
NBM: 'There wasn't anything like this at the time, the shop was soo important for the scene...'
As was pirate radio in an age before the internet, the shop, the station and the club were the only places to hear fresh music.
Blackmarket Records became an institution and one that is sorely missed not only by Nicky but by anyone who ever walked through those doors, down those stairs and into that basement.
But we either evolve or die, so we wanted to find how Nicky has remained relevant, kept going and stayed enthusiastic about a scene that has changed so dramatically.
NBM: 'I don't miss lugging around boxes of dub plates!'
The process of cutting and playing new tunes every weekend as a DJ in the 90's was a way of life. Producers used to have to go to either Heathmans or Music House where tracks were cut onto thin sheets of lacquer covered metal known as the master plate or the dub plate. These cost around £30/40 a pop and were good for about 300 plays. Carrying 30 or 40 of these around all night certainly took its toll and come Monday it often felt like you'd been hit by a bus!
These days it's a lot easier with the biggest problems the modern DJ experiencing being the loss of a memory stick or the decks not being linked.
NBM: 'When I first played on CDJ's I thought I was going mad, I thought, How am I ever going to get to grips with this?!?'
But you've got to adapt, you've got to get to grips and embrace new technology which is exactly what he did and is why he remains one of the most bookable DJ's on the circuit to this day.
But there are certain things Nicky's not willing to use, earplugs and the sync button being two of them!
NBM: 'Tinnitus is something that I've learned to live with, but at first I thought I was going mad!'
dnbhub: 'I guess these days you wear earplugs then?'
NBM: 'Nah I've tried, but then I can't bloody hear anything!'
dnbhub: 'And the Sync button? Where do you stand on that?'
NBM: 'I don't even know where the sync button is!'
NBM: 'I mix the way I mix, always have, always will. What's important is not the equipment you use, but the vibe you create. I like using the monitor to beat match as it keeps me sharp and allows me to go from one set mixing upfront drum and bass on CDJ's, to the next set playing an 89/90 Acid house set on vinyl’
There is absolutely no doubt that for close to 30 years Nicky has lived, breathed and dedicated his life to jungle/drum and bass and what we discussed over dinner was merely an entree to the life and times of a truly unique character.
In part 2 we're going to talk about some of the gigs that have stuck in his memory over the years, some of the people he's worked with, including his unique relationship with the late great Stevie Hyper D and ask the question on the lips of every jungle/drum and bass enthusiast around the world 'What makes the perfect cuppa?'
Make sure you like/follow drumandbass.store on Facebook & Instagram to catch Part 2 and if you enjoyed this blogpost, LIKE AND SHARE.