Between overseeing a rebrand of both himself as an artist and his label Nocturne and becoming a dad - Jordan Nocturne hasn’t had much time to get contemplative during the pandemic.
Beginning with his work on the two-part ‘From Belfast With Love’ charity compilation initially released in May 2020 - Nocturne has developed his label into an initiator of rising stars, churning out releases from Brighton’s Tech Support and Philadelphia duo Zillas on Acid. Alongside this, his ‘Nocturne Edits’ series - a repress of club cuts that have “been rinsed from Panorama Bar to Love International” counts Midland, Gerd Janson and Erol Alkan as fans.
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The Belfast-based artist is a well-established name in his home city. Nocturne began playing at clubs when he was just 13, going on to play in front of crowds of tens of thousands by 16 - this along with co-running The Night Institute alongside Timmy Stewart and regular sets at AVA has positioned him into something of a local legend.
His own production, the highly anticipated ‘Gemini Boy’ EP features genre-blending, kaleidoscopic sounds all inspired by his personal journey in the last year - the fruits of spending time in the studio with a piano and synths, contemplating memories of dancefloors-past before we were all forced to put our lives on hold.
Lead track ‘Gemini Boy’ is inspired heavily by the pandemic and the birth of his son, with a jungle-Esque remix by Swedish Studio Barnhus’s Kornel Kovacs. While the previously released ‘2BB’ and the 80s synth pop-inspired ‘Primadonna’ - that drops alongside a video created by visual artists Ross McClean and George Barnes - round off a fully-realised, mesmeric release.
We spoke to Nocturne about developing his label, how being a new dad during the pandemic has affected his creative process, and why we should all be keeping a steady eye on the flourishing East Belfast scene.
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He’s also curated an exclusive playlist of down-tempo chuggers that capture the excitement of walking into a club early doors - with trippy tracks from Twins, Essaie Pas, Factory Floor and Nocturne himself.
So you've said 'Gemini Boy' is the product of your 2020 - which includes your son just being born against the backdrop of the pandemic. How did these major life events impact your process? and how do you think it's impacted the feel of 'Gemini Boy'?
Yeah, 2020 was a real whirlwind, wasn't it?! On one hand, I'd been DJ'ing in clubs since I was literally 13, and throwing parties since I was 17 - so this wasn't a case of a hobby being taken away from me, I'd lived in nightclubs since I was a teenager, and you definitely start questioning your identity a little. On the other hand, my son was born in May and there was no time for feeling sorry for myself.
I've had a lot of major life events thrown at me over the years, and I've found that they always end up affecting me pretty positively. I got stuck into creating - the EP was a result of that, and I didn't want it to be throwaway. I worked on a music video for Primadonna with a filmmaker, Ross McClean as well as with an illustrator Andreea Ilisai to create really strong visuals. I guess the breathing space from gigging makes you think about legacy, and with a lot of dance music can be very throwaway and functional, so I really wanted to hone in on the art around what I put out.
Has becoming a father changed your relationship with dance music? is it strange to create music inspired by being a father that's destined for a club setting?
No, it's definitely not strange - for me anyway. All the music I make is club music, whether it be peak time edits or music to set the tone of a long night. I've lived almost 20 years of my life in a club setting and I don't see that changing any time soon.
For me, club culture is about escapism, and I think being able to channel emotions into positive outlets is a good thing - 'Gemini Boy' is an uplifting track, written amidst pretty shit global times. In terms of the wider industry - I'm more conscious of how important time is an asset. I think becoming a father has certainly instilled the importance of longevity as a creative. I want to fill my time with productive and positive things - in dance music, for me that means loads of different projects with substance, good parties and good people. I'm going to say no to things that I don't want to do and strive to work with people who share the same values.
How have things shifted in 2021, are you in a similar headspace as you were creating 'Gemini Boy'?
The studio productivity has slowed down a bit if I'm honest - I was really manic in 2020 and there was a lot of music made, a lot of which has yet to drop - so I have a bit of a breather there. I have a lot of things going on - bookings are trickling in from August - London, Dundee, Birmingham. Conversations are happening locally about the parties we throw here in Belfast. I'm being very tentative but I'm ready for the energy of clubs and gigs again. I'm raring to go. Some great outdoor stuff also on the cards like AVA Festival which is always a great weekend for the city - that's in September.
You've invested a lot of energy in your label Nocturne - raising money for charities such as Trussel Trust and the Disasters Emergency Fund as well as providing a platform for emerging local talent. What is the Nocturne mission? and how important has this become to your overall journey as an artist?
I have a pretty addictive personality and with no gigs happening, the label became my obsession over the last year. Andreea Ilisai, my collaborator on the design front has been the real hero in this. She's really been instrumental in making everything come together and interpreting my ideas. We raised thousands of pounds for good causes during the lockdown and released music by over 20 artists. We also invested a lot of time into creating beautiful prints and tees that were shipped all around the world over the last year - so the attention to detail has been really well received. I guess the mission for me was to try and connect the projects I do locally to the rest of the world. So it's not a strictly 'Belfast' label but the roots are here and I'll do all I can to support others here, but we have artists in America, Berlin and England. In terms of the overall picture, I think it's important to have projects that are your own, with no outside influence - especially in times like we're living in now, it's nice to just crack on and be creative.
You've been described as an essential cog in the East Belfast creative community - what is it that is unique about East Belfast in comparison to the rest of the city, and Ireland as a whole? what's going on in the area that's got you excited?
I moved to East Belfast a few years ago and I have a lot of friends here. There's a lot of creatives over here and some really cool art spaces, but there wasn't anywhere to hear music. Timmy [Stewart] and myself were introduced to this local working man's club and we started running a monthly party [the Night Institute]. It made us realise there's a demand here, and very few places for people to hang out. Another lockdown project was the production of a short film highlighting the creatives in East Belfast - musicians, painters, craft brewers, mushroom growers. There are some great spaces too - The Vaults Artist Studios is in an old school and artists can rent a room for cheap, and it's got a great community around it. It reminds me a little of something you'd find in Berlin. The area has a load of character and we just want to provide parties and places for the community to get together. Eastside Arts were very supportive of what we were doing and this week we announced the first 'Eastside Electronics' gig, which is an open air show in the area, with local musicians and visual artists at the fore.
Tell us about your playlist?
There's something very special for me about music at a slower tempo - it sets the tone of some really special nights. As much as I enjoy playing peak time club music, I generally find myself learning toward these slower tempos for my online mixes, as those slower speeds conjure up the sort of magic tension that I associate with the excitement of nightclubs. I've tried to put together some new and old sounds that I'd imagine stepping into a club to hear, early doors, wondering what's ahead. There's music from Fantastic Twins, Essaie Pas, Factory Floor and a wee one from myself. I hope you enjoy!