This week meet DJ Nico, from Toronto, Canada. She hosts a monthly club residency at The Piston Bar called With It, which is in its seventh year! She spins 60s mod, soul, R&B, R&R, northern soul, funk, surf, pop & more! She is also a former show producer / host on CIUT 89.5FM.
DJing is her passion but her “real” job is as a Graphic Designer. In her free time when she’s not rallying for an upcoming gig or planning what records to spin, she is hanging out with her cat Maxine (Brown), walking, cycling, traveling, exploring architecture and nature.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I’ve been collecting records since I was 16, obsessed with U2 at the time but collecting Jam and Smiths too. I was literally the only young female going to record fairs at legion halls. There were a handful of us hanging out in the record shops in the late 80s/early 90s. I was always aware of great music when my dad brought home records from the garage sales he’d frequent, classics like Elvis, Beatles, Roy Orbison, but my older brother was my biggest influence.
As for radio when we were growing up the station CFNY was the window to more obscure and new sounds in Toronto. British bands in the 80s and 90s were the coolest thing, and making mixed tapes was the way to keep that music and listen to it over and over. I started to DJ in my mid 20s along with starting to really develop my own identity and character and everything started to come together.
I just wanted to listen to good music and share it with others. Pretty simple and pure of heart.
What is a day in the life like?
In my DJ life, I take a lot of time to find and share interesting photos, facts, and events that relate to the artists I play at my party leading up to the night. The first Saturday of each month I take time to sort records I’ll play. I try to switch up what I’ve played from the previous month but do have my go to staples. I message friends who plan to attend as a reminder, and get them excited about the guest DJ I’m featuring. Many times the guest has travelled to Toronto from elsewhere.
My focus in the seven years I’ve run my party is to build and maintain a community of music lovers who trust what I’m trying to do — to entertain and excite people, encourage them to look and feel good with music and fashion, and to share in the love of 60s culture.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
Coolest gig: I was one of two opening acts (the only DJ) for 60s garage monsters from Tacoma, Washington, The Sonics at a historical music hall here in Toronto a few years back!
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Consistently building momentum, especially since I do this monthly. Keeping the community engaged between parties and getting them excited for the next event. Making sure the effort is paying off with attendance and people who genuinely like what you do and want to be there.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
With anything in life, it should come from your heart. If collecting records and DJing is something you want to do, start with figuring out why you are doing it. In my 30 years in this community, I have seen the likes of people who choose to get involved for shallow reasons. Hosting regular parties, building relationships with people, creating something unique, challenging yourself and the people you entertain — this all takes time, passion, commitment, respect.
You can’t throw money at it and it all happens instantly, you have to earn your place in an existing community and learn from the people around you, not by taking their ideas and recreating them but seeing how others do what they are doing and find your own voice.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
Amazing to see more and more women collecting and putting themselves out there, forming collaborations and supporting each other. Using technology to hone their skills and for further reach, creating bonds with other women near and far. It’s awesome to hear and see all the creativity behind projects and ideas. The most concerning part is the use of social media. People can manufacture whatever persona they want and unfortunately there are people who chose to tear down what they haven’t taken the time to earn and learn about. Don’t rely on taking selfies holding records before you’ve ever stepped in front of two turntables and a mixer.
Learn the craft, take the time, respect those around you, stay positive, be humble, be patient.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
To keep listening, exploring, learning, challenging, supporting, buying, watching, and sharing. Having multiple perspectives and voices out there is so good for creativity and keeping culture alive in your respective cities. People gathering is where so much magic happens but right now that is not fully possible. Those who’s living is DJing are having to find ways to survive. The bars and clubs they work at may not exist by the time life can shift back to “normal”. Listening to music is one refuge to all this isolation some of us are experiencing — it’s therapy, solace, transformative, joyous, and it connects us to others and within ourselves. Buy music if you can, share music if you will. We need it. Stirs the soul.
Tell me what you’re listening to right now.
Find DJ Nico: