DJ Nature and Nature Boy – 2 for the price of one!
As well as moving house and becoming a father for the first time, this year there’s been something else distracting me from all the After The Garage era house – properly ace new music! A couple of years back, there wasn’t much new stuff that was really exciting me, which made the impact of finding those first great records I’ve written about all the more significant. I don’t know if it’s me that’s changed or if things really are freshening up again, but either way I’m loving it.
Earlier in the week, Detroit don Mike Huckaby posted a link on his Facebook page to a new Rainbow Disco Club mix CD, including his 2006 remix of Deepchord’s dub techno track Electromagnetic Dowsing. What immediately caught my attention was the DJ – cosmic disco and krautrock noodler in chief, Prins Thomas! I had a look at the rest of the tracklist and was even more intrigued to see it’s got a Surgeon remix on it! This I needed to hear… I did a quick search and spotted that they still had a copy at Boomkat, so I ordered it without a second thought and then got on with my day.
Then on Wednesday, while I was having my lunch at work I spotted that Aiden D’Araujo had posted a potential treasure trove on his House Hunting column for The Ran$om Note. As I said, a couple of years ago it was new music I was struggling to get excited about, but more recently, I’ve not been finding quite so many early NY/NJ ) tracks from the period after the Paradise Garage closed that really move me. The picture of the Burrell Brothers’ first album on Virgin from 1988 gave me hope that this might have a nugget or two for me… Once I got to Finn Johannsen’s favourite house find, I was grinning from ear to ear:
One of the finds with the most impact on me has to be “Ruff Disco Volume One” by Nature Boy, which was released on NYC based Black Label in 1992… The record was and is totally visionary, and it preceded what the mid 90’s Chicago trackstyle or Detroit House producers would make of Disco, albeit arguably not this radical and daring.
Yeah, that’ll do it! Straight onto the Discogs wantlist.
Then – and this is where the stars started to really align – on Thursday I got an email back from Boomkat to say that they didn’t have the new Prins Thomas mix CD in after all, they’d have to cancel my order. Disappointed, I searched the usual online record shops to see if I could find it somewhere else – no joy. What I did notice was a link to another mix by him on the Rainbow Disco Club Soundcloud page, alongside some of my other favourite DJs but also one I’ve not come across before – DJ Nature. I had a quick listen to the Prins Thomas one and wasn’t really feeling it, but something was drawing me to DJ Nature that I couldn’t put my finger on.
I had a quick listen and liked what I heard, then I did another quick search and spotted his new album Let The Children Play was on Spotify – lo and behold, it’s utterly brilliant. Half way through I was sending messages to my brother to have a listen – this is my kind of house music.
Again, I got onto Discogs to check his back catalogue and immediately spotted that I already had something by him in my wantlist…. Not under the name DJ Nature, but by Nature Boy…. From 1992…. Hang on, it’s that Ruff Disco album – they’re the same guy!
If you’ve got this far and already know full well that DJ Nature used to be called Nature Boy and you’ve been playing Ruff Disco tracks since back in the day, then 1) hat’s off to you and 2) apologies for the long intro!! Mad coincidences like that just make me smile… For everyone else, it turns out that DJ Nature – Nature Boy – Milo Johnson to his mum – is in fact a British ex-pat who moved to New York in 1989, after having been involved with the legendary Wild Bunch sound system in his native Bristol through the 80s. He immersed himself in the post-Paradise Garage New York clubland and found something very different there to the Acid House scene he’d left behind in the UK. As he recently told the Red Bull Music Academy:
To be honest with you,when I used to go to clubs – and I went to a lot of clubs in the United States, early, from 89 to around 95 – and you just didn’t really hear a lot of Acid House, to be honest with you, in the New York clubs – so it was quite different… It was all – basically… you might get a little bit of Detroit stuff, (but) for the most part it was mostly New York based house and New Jersey based house and disco, you know?
Alongside working as a record buyer for a Japanese record store, Milo set up his own record label to release music he was making himself. As he tells Miles Simpson in this interview (again for the Rans$om Note):
When I first moved to the US my intention was to release stuff on my own label as that was impossible to do at that time in the UK. I knew I could put out a limited amount of stuff whilst doing other things and not go broke. I started putting out stuff on a label I created called Ruff Disco Records, I took them to Charley at Vinylmania and he loved the stuff which meant a lot to me because the man’s a legend. Also got a lot of love from a guy I used to buy stock from called Frank Mendez, who owned Nu-Groove. He introduced me to Felix Ortiz who was running one of the hottest new labels at the time, E-Legal Records, and he put out an album of stuff. All in all, I was very surprised by the interest in my product because it was extremely rough on the production side.
A copy of that album would eventually pop up on the shelves of a record shop in the small city of Kiel on the Southern shore of the Baltic Sea, just waiting for a young Finn Johannsen to come along, so that many years later, Finn could help write an article to make me smile. And hopefully some other people too! Anyway, that’s enough writing – here’s a few more amazing cuts from the album. Now I just need to find a decent copy for a decent price…