DJ Regan talks Nano Records, Psytrance at EDM festivals and relocating to the UK
DJ Regan has spent the better part of 15 years releasing some of the biggest albums and compilations in the psytrance genre, on his label, Nano Records.
He has also played at many of the biggest festivals Europe, and indeed the world, has to offer such as Glastonbury (UK), Boom (Portugal), Ozora (Hungary), Tribe (Brazil), Fusion (Germany), Universo Paralello (Brazil) and of course South Africa’s premier event, Origin Festival which is hosted by Nano Records each year.
This year he will once again perform at Ozora and is also on the lineup for Boomtown in the UK, a festival that features multiple stages and genres.
Regan is a highly respected artist and DJ as well as label owner. His dedication to the underground sounds of psytrance are well known throughout the scene and his recent decision to relocate to the United Kingdom to better pursue his involvement in the global trance scene personifies this commitment.
We caught up with him for a little one-on-one chat to find out more about what the future holds for Nano Records and indeed his DJ and Music production career.
Music was always going to be my career path.”
How long have you been in the psy game?
DJ Regan: Since before there was Goa / Psytrance! I have been a fan of psychedelic music since I was 14 years old, first loving the sounds of Hendrix and then exploring from there. In the mid 1990’s I fell in love with underground dance music, techno and trance. This was a few years before Goa trance launched into the ether. I still have some of the very first Goa Trance releases on vinyl. When I first heard those records I thought “this it!!” this is the sound I’ve been waiting for.” At the time I was collecting the music without even knowing it was a genre yet, it was just the coolest stuff I could find.
Did you ever see this as a career path?
DJ Regan: Music was always going to be my career path. As a teenager my goals were: to become a rock-star playing guitar in a psychedelic rock band, have my own studio & record label, plus support and do some charity fundraising. Well the ‘rock’ changed to ‘underground dance’ changed to ‘Goa trance’, and the rest of the goals were, on a basic level, reached by the time I was 25 years old. I have just focussed on growing those aspects of my life ever since (although the ‘studio’ side of things got scaled down to a ‘home’ studio/music making space)
When you decided to continue NANO Records on your own, do you recall the conversations you had, both with yourself, and your family about this major decision.
DJ Regan: It was just a natural progression. My original partners didn’t want to do it anymore and I did. My brother was one of those partners and he has always remained an advisor and someone to bounce ideas of when needed, besides still remaining an artist on the label to this day. My other partner was my then DJ partner Ans. He is still a very close friend and ever supportive. My family and friends have only ever been supportive of me, I’m very lucky to have them all in my life.
As a musician, DJ and music producer is it frustrating spending more time on label admin than doing the part we all love the most – making (and playing) music?
DJ Regan: Utterly. When we started Nano it was meant to be a way to promote our own music and that of our friends. The problem with being a music addict with a lot of friends is [that] you want to help and support them all, so the label grew and grew and my focus changed to steering the label and the musical collective of friends involved. Having said that, I’m very happy to be back in the studio more these days, and besides having a new compilation on the way, which will feature some fresh tracks I’ve co-written and produced, I’m also working towards a full album. It’s a mad amount of juggling, trying to support others while making time for my own creativity, but it’s imperative.
I have pushed Nano as far as I can from the tip of Africa, to push it more I need to be closer to Europe and have easier and faster access to people and services up this side of the globe.”
You and your family took a major life decision last year to relocate to the UK.
How much did you ponder the decision before it was final?
DJ Regan: It was something we had discussed for a long time. In fact I think we had it in our minds for almost a decade if not longer, but we were never sure exactly when we were going to make the move. The plan was actually to do it in 2008, but with the global financial crash then it all seemed so grim, and things were taking off so massively with our festivals in Cape Town we ended up putting the idea on hold and focussing on our festivals and the growth of the label from Cape Town.
Actually moving; was it harder or easier than imagined?
DJ Regan: We are very lucky to have moved into an area surrounded by friends, which is why we are in the UK, and in this part of the UK (North Dorset/Somerset area – countryside living / surrounded by farms, but still only an easy train ride to airports and London).
That made it easier than expected for sure. As long as you are surrounded by friends life is good. We do miss South Africa a lot for sure, especially our friends and family. Luckily we still get back to Cape Town for our festivals there that we will continue to produce, especially Origin Festival (it’s such a great time of year always -mid-summer), so we get to see our friends and family then too.
Now that you are relatively settled, are your plans starting to happen?
DJ Regan: So fast. We can just keep up with it all, but that’s great. I’ve already been travelling loads more than the past few years to gigs all over the world, and the label and booking agency are blowing up, as is Psytrance blowing up all over the globe right now.
So the timing and our positioning both physically and in the global scene is perfect. It’s all coming together. I’ve traded living in South Africa and travelling to Europe in summer for gigs to living near Europe and travelling to South Africa in summer to produce our festivals there. Kinda flipped my life exactly upside down… and loving it.
What was the key deciding factor for the move?
DJ Regan: So many, but basically in a nutshell to pursue more opportunities on every level. I have pushed Nano as far as I can from the tip of Africa, to push it more I need to be closer to Europe and have easier and faster access to people and services up this side of the globe. For now this is the right place to develop the label and the booking agency more, grow my musical career further and provide my daughter with some different life experience and opportunities.
The Music Business
An experience on a psytrance dancefloor at a big EDM style event will never compare with a proper psytrance party or festival, but it can introduce new people to new music…”
Nano Records has one of the most prolific release schedules in the psytrance scene. It must be amazing to have such a strong team of artists…
DJ Regan: It’s mental. It has all happened very organically, slowly growing from strength to strength, with new artists being added as it feels right. The scene keeps moving and changing as we grow too, which adds other dynamics, but at the end of the day it’s all down to a love of good music and wanting to share that music with others. When I look down the long list of artists we work with on a daily basis, Nano and non-Nano, plus all the acts we have had to turn away (including at times some of my own influences and musical heroes), it doesn’t seem real.
Running any dance music label is a tough business and not an easy one to make money from and it’s pretty admin intensive. What’s the biggest upside you can think of?
DJ Regan: Working with amazing artists and helping them grow as artists. Being there with them as they grow their fan bases and develop their music. I’m always happy to see the success of my friends, that’s super rewarding. Finding happiness in others success will always lead to a happy life. Plus the constant flow of cutting edge music and hearing it develop. What a rush!
What’s the downside?
DJ Regan: Working with artists. [Laughs] Everyone has their own unique approach, and most are so in their own world, which is makes them great as artists, but sometimes the communication can be like tapping blood from a stone. Although I have to say for the most part, the most successful artists that we work with are way better with communicating these days. Of course the obvious answer is the lack of cash flow from music sales, but the drive was always about the music not the money, so it’s keeping things grounded.
From your travels would you say the psy scene is still growing globally or has it plateaued out?
DJ Regan: It varies from place to place, but it’s definitely growing. There are always fresh people checking into the scene. Some stay for life, others just have a brief affair with the music and move on. But overall there are more people coming and staying.
There’s talk of psytrance becoming the new EDM at big events like Ultra and Tomorrowland? Your thoughts?
DJ Regan: It’s already happening in part. Psytrance is being played by some of the most mainstream DJ’s on the planet right now and there are Psytrance stages being added to a few of the biggest EDM events.
There are even a few acts getting onto main stages too. On one hand it’s great for scene in that it might bring more attention to the music and maybe more money that can hopefully support more artists and people who have dedicated their life to Psytrance, which could help bolster the scene overall.
However, the way Psytrance is being presented is purely on its musical merits, which is of course wonderful, but Psytrance is more than that, it’s part of a global culture too, that has existed for over 20 years, and will continue to exist once the dance music industry decides its old news and moves onto the next trend.
An experience on a psytrance dancefloor at a big EDM style event will never compare with a proper psytrance party or festival, but it can introduce new people to new music and maybe a new way of life too in the long run, [and] isn’t that the point?.. to change the world through music? It is for me.
Purists can lock themselves in their little holes and complain that the music is changing, it’s just jealousy and closed mindedness at the end for the day. What we need to appreciate is that as long as there is still quality psytrance being created the pure psytrance events will remain and the culture will be sustained, while the more mainstream sounding tracks that do crossover are made for that mainstream scene and not the core Psytrance scene. It’s the hook at the end of the line used to pull people out of the matrix and into a new reality. Let’s get in there and turn people on!! Or do you want to keep preaching to an exclusive choir of know-it-alls for the rest of your life..? ;P
DJing and Producing music
Don’t think anyone has it easy, especially the guys and girls at the top, they are ones still hustling harder than anyone.”
Now that Europe is on your doorstep you surely plan to notch up as many gigs as you can…
DJ Regan: Yup! There are more and more gigs and offers on the table than ever before. It’s great to see the reactions to all the fresh NANO tunes I have from all our artists, including my own new productions.
What a pleasure.
This summer I’m really looking forward to Ozora in Hungary again, Boomtown and Noisily Festivals in the UK and Modem in Croatia; those will all be a blast for sure, plus amongst others there are gigs in Switzerland, France, Holland all happening soon too.
You also have many of the NANO Records artists within travelling distance, hence you’ve mentioned some collaborations…
DJ Regan: That’s already happening!
I did a track with Burn in Noise recently in Brazil and have spent the last few days with Laughing Buddha working on a seriously rocking track, and this weekend I’m off to London (after a gig in Zurich on Friday night) to spend time with Dickster working on some music.
That’s just for starters. I also have time booked in with Tristan, Avalon, Magik, Mandala, plus others, and am slowly getting my own studio up ‘n running again (I’m still un packing boxes in our new home here in the UK countryside).
I am very happy to say that there is lots of music from me on the way!
Best advice you ever got about DJing?
DJ Regan: It’s all about the right tune at the right time. The most important thing as a DJ is to drop the right track for the moment. So know your music well, and be ready to change your mind at the last minute if you think a different track will be better suited then the one you have cued up. Also; it’s always a hustle. Don’t think anyone has it easy, especially the guys and girls at the top, they are ones still hustling harder than anyone.
Best advice you could give aspiring DJs and producers?
DJ Regan: Music first; avoid distractions, don’t follow trends, surround yourself with positive/creative/hard-working people, concentrate on what it is you want to achieve and don’t ever stop working towards it.. stick to that and you will get to where you wanna be. Also..Whatever you think it takes to ‘make it’ it takes 100 times that and more. There are no short cuts.
WITH DJ REGAN