This week we catch up with our old friend Ivan Nikusev. We interviewed the Macedonian DJ/producer just over two years ago. At the time Ivan was one of the primary artists on Michael & Levan and Stiven Rivic’s Mistique Music and was also releasing on Underground City Music and the now defunct Hyline Music. Then in the last quarter of 2011 Ivan launched his own label imprint OLD SQL Recordings. Always a huge fan of the progressive sound from 1998-2004 Ivan created OLD SQL as an outlet for the great sounds from years past. Fast forward to the present and OLD SQL now has a discography of over 130 releases and a roster of over 100 artists. Ivan’s got a new EP out this week and we had a chance to chat with him just prior to its release, a transcription of the interview is below and we hope you enjoy it.
1. We’ve interviewed you many years ago but give the newer fans of OLD SQL a bit of background information. How did you discover electronic music? Where do your musical roots lie?
Ivan: I discovered the electronic music back in the 90’s, starting maybe officially like many others from my age with the sound of The Prodigy. During the years I got in touch with the sound of Love-Parade which was my base maybe from where I expand my curiosity for this electronic music. But the music on Love-Parade is not a strict genre, it has a variety from house to techno to trance and many styles in between. The sound of Progressive which I follow to this day, is a result of tracks like “For an Angel” from PvD and “Expander” from Sasha, that catch my ears and heart and it’s the sound I am in love since.
2. What were you doing previous to starting OLD SQL Recordings? Were you involved in the industry at all or just a fan of electronic music that decided to start a label? and what was it that made you want to start OLD SQL?
Ivan: Before starting the label I was and I am still a DJ and producer of electronic music. I haven’t been involved in the industry itself except as an artist releasing music for different labels. I got connected most with Mistique Music, and I helped them the best I can with bringing them new artists and sharing some of my ideas for the label, and it was a motivation plus for starting my own label. The main reason is to help the artists not to go through the problems and the lies that me and many others have been through the years with some labels. I am being correct with all artists and paying them their own part even if it’s 2$. The biggest reason for staring a label was to give the artists an opportunity to work with a correct label, professionally and honestly, without any back-plans and lies. And of course the sound of OLD SQL as the name says is motivation to find and publish as much as possible tracks that have influence from the progressive music from the 90’s and the beginning of this millennium.
3. You started OLD SQL almost two years ago now, you’ve got almost 150 releases and a huge roster of artists. You must have had some idea where the label would be in two years when you started, how close are you to what you had hoped for and what does the future hold for OLD SQL?
Ivan: Yes we are reaching the 150th release and we have more than 350 artists for just 2 years of working. The goal is not to raise the quantity of artists, since we always follow quality, but the work of the label proves to us that we have a huge number of interested artists to work with us. My first hopes for the label were very modest, and I am happy for everything that label achieved till now. I am happy that we have a huge base of followers and we hope it will grow even more in future. Many tracks are even re-released by other labels including Armada and Perfecto. I don’t know what future holds for OLD SQL but I can only hope for good days and lots of good music which is the point of the label, releasing music that makes us happy.
4. Since you started OLD SQL your own productions have slowed down quite a bit, is this simply because you’re putting a lot more time into your label manager duties or something else? And when can we expect hear more new stuff from you?
Ivan: Yes I agree with your statement. Because of the label I slowed down my production. The label is a job that works 24/7, it’s not a regular 8 hours day job. I am in communication with artists all day long, uploading releases at 2-3am, and listening promos at 6am … Also my day job tooks me time as well. I must have it since I live from it and now some other duties from my private life are taking me even more time for production. But in the last 2 months I kinda find more time for production and new tracks from me will be heard soon. I have the first release for 2013 on August 12th when is my b-day, and later on I will have more tracks to come, both originals and remixes.
5. OLD SQL is also great at finding new talent and giving them a chance to have their music heard, what new producers are you loving at the moment?
Ivan: Yes as I mentioned earlier the focus on the label is to find new talents and support them. From 350 artists I am sure that around 20-30 of them had their first release in OLD SQL, and I am happy that they made it in other labels as well. It’s just a prove that they have a quality and others support them as well, but I am more happy that OLD SQL was their first, was their base from where they started to grow and they will never forget it, as the label will not forget them as well. It’s a huge number of new beginner-artists that I have in the label, so to say which are the artists I am loving most is kinda unfair, but for sure artists like Esok, Andrew Lang, Anton MAKe, Inner Essence.. are ones to be followed in future.
6. How many demos would you say you get a month, do you reply to every one?
Ivan: Well I don’t have an exact number of demos that I receive every month but it’s a big amount of tracks for sure. Of course not all, or to be honest most of them are not suitable for the label. It’s very hard to find quality music nowadays even that the number of producers is count in millions around the world. And about replying, I replay to all artists that have submitted demos to our label, no matter if that track is accepted or not, except! I stopped replying and even listening demos from must say amateur artists who send demos at the same time to my label and dozens of other labels. It’s so unprofessional and this is a warning again for them not to do that.
7. What advice do you have for producers trying to get their music signed to OLD SQL?
Ivan: To produce quality sound, to produce unique music and to be original. Everyone should have its own signature in his production and it’s what I admire most. The label doors are always open to new sounds, I listen all demos and I always reply. OLD SQL is a place where everyone that has entered is feeling like at home, we are open label and always in communication so just relax and make music 😉
8. What are your thoughts about some OLD SQL label parties in the future? and would Macedonia be a good place for them?
Ivan: Unfortunately Macedonia and Skopje where I live were great places for parties in the years back, especially for the underground sound, but lately this sound and the club sound itself died. But I am in a plan and in a communication with some club owners here to start making OLD SQL parties, in 2 types. First is where I will be a resident DJ with playing music with only OLD SQL Recordings music, like it is the situation with our OLD SQL Sessions radio show, and the second is to start bringing DJs from the label and play their sound. What will happened from this only the future knows, but I am not a quitter and I never give up 😉
9. Thoughts on the DJ Mag top 100 poll?
Ivan: In my eyes, its real meaning died like 10 years ago. RIP
10. What artist or artists would you love to have on OLD SQL that haven’t already appeared on the label?
Ivan: Well most of the artists I want to have in the label I already managed to bring them in the label. With others we are in communication, and it’s just a time when it will be real. Mostly the time is a problem but we have a lot of time, OLD SQL is a long term label 😉 Of course, producers like Cattaneo, Oakenfold, Warren and many others which are practically untouchable or impossible to be brought are my challenge, because they are the pioneers of the OLD SQL sound. I don’t waste time on “nowadays superstars” who only care for money. They first want money and then they produce music. If the music doesn’t come from the heart..it’s not a music!
11. What artist or track would you love to remix?
Ivan: I would love to remix any track that will catch my ears. If I feel emotions in the music, than I am fine to do a remix. I seek for the sound not for the artists, it’s irrelevant. As you can see in my newest EP I have collaboration with newcomers and not “famous” artists, but they are all great talents and I am happy I worked with them.
12. Where do you get studio inspiration from? What producers consistently inspire you? Who are some of your favourites?
Ivan: Its everywhere I think. Small moments and small things can make me productive. Many producers are inspiring me all the time, but beside some producers which are doing it for years like my partner Aggressor, or Michael & Levan and Stiven Rivic, for sure in the last period I am completely obsessed with the sound of Silinder, Biologik, Ewan Rill, Cosmithex and of course my favourite for the past year Monojoke.
13. What do you like to do for fun outside of the music? and do you have a regular job? What is a typical day like for Ivan Nikusev?
Ivan: Yes I have a regular job, I am a mechanical engineer by education title. Like everyone I have to eat and pay bills, so I need money. And I am getting married soon 🙂 so it takes me even more time for everything, but I will organize it well ;). I love sports, especially basketball and football, and when I have time I always try to play with my friends and going on games. I run and ride bike in the past months, going out, hanging out with friends.. just like every normal person.
14. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? How big of an influence are other styles of music when it comes to composing your own tracks or signing music to OLD SQL? Could you give any examples?
Ivan: My future wife is arguing with me always why I don’t listen other styles of music, but it’s just because I am so into the progressive house music and the whole club music itself. I can listen everything but only one sound makes me happy and we already know which is it. Yes I like different styles as well, I like rock and even a country music. I love Frank Sinatra, U2 and Depeche Mode. But what I listen most is the music from ATB which I love so much and its pure music energy for me.
15. Ivan Nikusev Current Favourites (you can list more than one per category if you like)
TV Show: Suits
Movie: Forrest Gump
Video Game: Call of Duty
Album: All ATB albums
Track / Song: ATB – The Autumn Leaves
Producer / Band: ATB
Record Label: OLD SQL Recordings
Nightclub: Mansion – South Beach Miami
DJ: Hernan Cattaneo
16. If the final DJ set of your career was next week what would be your last record be?
Ivan: Cass & Slide – Perception (Vocal Mix)
Release Promo would like to send a huge thanks to Ivan for taking the time to do this interview!
Ivan’s ‘Friendship’ EP is out now on OLD SQL Recordings, you can purchase the release: here