Interview & Première | Nicholas Larsen

Today we’ve been listening to Nicholas Larsen and it’s made us get out our big ‘Limonadier-approved’ stamp of quality and using up all the ink. What makes the long hours of pallid and glassy-eyed internet trawling at Limonadier HQ all worth it is when we find some music that sounds incredible but no-one seems to know yet. Songs that make us dance with our keyboard from the first beats, but for some reason remain unknown for now. Our approach is to cut through the promotion and distribution machines to bring genuine quality to your ears, which is not always the tracks by guys with thousands of followers that get plugged by all the same blogs. Spotlighting Nicholas Larsen‘s work exemplifies this method. He’s a London producer whose work sounds honed and toned like it’s been sweated out of the most professional production studios; every track is catchy and dripping with groove and cool sensuality. We put his track « UND三RWATER » on the Limonadier Cocktail compilation in March, which we first heard via Larsen’s side project, Watuzi

Difficult to categorise, it’s like Larsen has taken the aspects he prefers from various genres to simply make music that sounds good: a talent for beatmaking decorated with an RnB-like play with melody is undercut by his understated vocals which approach a more hiphop style, as if he’s speaking casually in your ear. There’s no overblown flourishes here, no performance,  just smooth and straightforward tracks that make you want to dance.  The beats are clean and energetic, with lots of funk elements that give it just enough of a retro sound to make you feel at home, whilst sounding resolutely current. There are even some lounge vibes which aren’t without humour, reflected by his #lazysex hashtag – there’s a palpable heat that radiates through Larsen’s sound, sort of sleazy in a tongue-and-cheek way that ends up being hot. To heat you all up even more, we’re bringing you this exclusive track, « Vibes« , to get things going… and a quick email brought about the following interview to which Larsen responded with characteristic grace and style :

Hi Nicholas. How did your story with music begin?

My story with music is a long one, but not a particularly complicated one. Both my parents worked in the music industry, and my brother is a Grammy award-winning producer. I’ve been playing instruments since the age of four, and I began producing ten years later during my teens. Now ten years on from then, at 24, I’m starting to really find a sound and a good work process. Plus, professional networking has become easier over the last few years. So, when I find myself in Paris or New York, I have a studio where I can work and friends with whom I can produce and write.

Where are you at with your most recent projects?

So, I’m working on three artist projects at the moment: Nicholas Larsen, Quiet Man, and Watuzi. They’re all different and similar at the same time. I’m fond of all of them, and I like the people I work with. It’s very nice to be able to choose who one works with. In the past two years I’ve been sponsored to work at Phil Manzanera’s studio, had sessions with Rudimental’s sound engineer and spent a fair amount of time in the studio with Stuart Zender. These experiences have all been really educational. I also write music for advertising and films, and will begin producing other acts this year – so watch this space!

In all your tracks and side projects, we can feel your signature. Did it takes you a longtime to find your proper thing ? 

The thing about a signature sound, is that I feel it’s always there; it just takes a while before it gets good! If I listen back to awful stuff I made when I was 15, I can hear the same kind of style – it’s just less well executed than it is today. And if one considers the next 5 years or so – the potential for that sound to get better is big!

Your voice makes me think of a mix between The Streets and Tom Mish who you just mentioned. You’ve never tried your hand at hip hop?

Well funnily enough, that’s possibly the way it’s going! In August, I may be producing a few tracks for a really rad rapper. Essentially, I want to get into producing rap – just because I think it bangs. My vocals have started to take on some weird British Nate Dogg vibe these days, and all my artist projects have hip hop influences – so I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens over the next year or so!

And you were going to make an album, would you go further into different styles and mix up genres?

Yes, I’m pretty sure it would be eclectic; along the lines of SBTRKT’s work – I’m sure there would be a lot of dance music influences thrown in there. This is something I will be working on in some shape or form over the next year. The amount of music I’m sitting on is unreal, but there’s no rush at this point. I would rather spend a long time getting something absolutely right, than just throw a bunch of stuff together and for it to be a bit shit.

Which artists have inspired you the most?

Floating Points, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and N.W.A. to name but a few. So, I feel Floating Points is one of the most sophisticated producers about. For anyone who thinks dance music is just repetitive bullshit, first of all you’re wrong. Secondly, listen to Flo Po! Jobim is just a Bossa legend – I have a fascination with Brazilian music, it’s almost from another planet. N.W.A. pretty much got « gangsta rap » (cringe) up and running – which is like the hip hop equivalent of punk, so yeah basically really badass.

Can you give us your top 3  of the moment ?

Freddie Gibbs,

Tom Misch,

and Stormzy.

Freddie Gibbs is that next generation of N.W.A. and he works with a great producer – Madlib, who was J Dilla’s right hand man. Tom Misch has a really nice, fluid sound. His vocals are on point, but still have a very real quality – I just think he seems like a cool, talented young guy, and I wish him all the best. Stormzy is the one to watch for UK urban music, apart from Skepta who’s now on tour in the US. Stormzy has a really diverse style, and he’s just really ready to kill it!

What kit do you use when you’re writing your music?

I tend to use Logic 9 (retro), with a very simple 2 channel audio interface, a mic, a midi keyboard, and my limited edition Strat! I also like to play on real pianos whenever I get the opportunity.

So what’s your creative process? Kick, bass and the rest? Something organised or do you just go with how you feel?

My production process isn’t that systematic to be honest, because it would probably get boring. I mean that’s not why one pursues a creative career, right?! I don’t start with the same thing every time, but I do often use electric pianos with pitch bends. Milo B, the other half of Watuzi, layers our kick drums with door slams and that gives every kick a slightly different tone – but I probably shouldn’t give away that much more!

To finish, the Limo’s question we like to ask: if you were a drink or a cocktail, what would you be?

I’m a Pickleback [a shot of whisky in a shot of pickle brine! ed.]

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Limonadier is now available in English thanks to my inimitable team of French-reading, English-writing waifs and strays. We translate the articles from French, and write new pieces in English.
I like haze pop (Beach House), lyrical hip hop (Rejjie Snow, French 90s), bass (Thundercat, bassy dance music, and things like Pixies and Jack White) and that mysterious genre of proper music which we don’t discuss much here but is quaintly known as ‘classical’.
Il était une fois, le Limonadier était une publication uniquement francophone. Puis vint l’équipe British, lancé par Miss Joanna avec le précieux soutien des chers fondateurs, et c’était parti, vers l’infini et au delà !
Mon cocktail préféré: tequila, citron vert, sucre de canne.


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