SoulTracks reviews 'Glaciers'
The music man behind much of the signature tones that have come to define The Foreign Exchange (+FE) sound continues his alchemist trick of making instrumental electronic music feel organic for laypeople who swear they don’t care for electronic music. Following a tradition initially established in jazz by artists like Miles Davis and in soul by Stevie Wonder’s experimentations in Songs in the Key of Life (peaking in the woefully underrated In A Square Circle), manipulating electronic music to distill the innate robotic coldness of its confines to cultivate something emotional and resonating is a hard row. Most lean into the coldness, creating music that stretches from the industrial and dystopian to the nihilistic and metallic.

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Tha Recipe interviews Nicolay

by +FE on October 20, 2009 at 8:04 AM · Comments
Tha Recipe had a chance to talk with Nicolay, (the Dutch Master and ½ of the Foreign Exchange), on the 1 year anniversary of their ground breaking project "Leave it All Behind". We talked about his new solo album Shibuya, City Lights Vol 2, life on the road, and what's coming up next for him, Foreign Exchange, as well as other artists performing under the Team Foreign Exchange banner.

TR: Congratulations on the one year anniversary of 'Leave It All Behind'. The baby is growing up!

Nic: Thank you, I can't believe it's been a year already. It's cool to see an album reach a milestone like 1 year and still have relevancy.

TR: Listening to Leave it All Behind makes me wish I could play the piano. How old were you when your first started playing the Keys?

Nic: I was around 5 or 6 years old. My grandparents had a small standing piano that was a toy to me at that point. I actually picked up guitar better at first then picked up the keys.

TR: Are there any instruments you haven't learned yet that you would like to learn?

Nic: I've never tried any woodwind instruments like sax or trumpet. It's very specialized and very difficult.

TR: Have you ever thought about what you would be doing if you weren't doing music?

Nic: I would definitely be doing some visual and artistic. I love design, especially industrial and web design. I'd also be interested in doing physical packaging such as cd covers and their contents.

TR: What cities and countries are you anxious to perform in that you haven't already?

Nic: Outside of my home which is Holland, our touring has mostly been in the States and Canada. We've probably gone to more cities than we initially foresaw due to the love we've received for our album. I've been to Japan and absolutely loved it but we haven't performed there yet. I would like to see that happen very much.

TR: What's something you can't live without when you are on the road?

Nic: Snacks. The first thing that goes out of the window when you are on tour is food. And not having any food is a big problem; you can't live on the road without snacks. And it doesn't need to be unhealthy, you can have bars and fruit and things like that but you definitely have to have something. There isn't much time to sit and eat meals. You have to be at the airport, or to sound check, or to a performance and you are expected to be there at that time and you don't have time to eat. But seeing the fans make it all worthwhile in the end.

TR: Speaking of the fans I'm always amazed by the motley crew mixture of fans that are at your shows. It's quite an interesting mixture.

Nic: As a group, we love the diversity of our fans and have always sought to promote the togetherness of the people. At our shows you see a lot of women, but you also see a lot of men. You see a lot of African Americans but you see a lot of other types of people. We love that about our fans.

TR: What are some of your favorite cities or venues to play in?

Nic: I enjoyed the LA show at the Roxy very much. It has such a long rich history of music. So many artists from Prince to Guns & Roses have performed there and it's an honor to play where the legends have left their footsteps. Other places I've enjoyed are Toronto, we get a lot of love there, DC, Baltimore, Chicago, and Atlanta gives a lot of love.

TR: Have any of the fans ever been particularly wild at your shows?

Nic: Not really. Our fans don't really get wild unless we instigate it. Our fans tend to be pretty mature. The wildest thing we've ever seen is a promoter getting robbed but other than that nothing too major. Our fans are there for the music and that's what it's really about. I don't think they particularly care about our wardrobe or anything like that.

TR: Speaking of the fans being instigated, at the Roxy show the "36 C's on the stage" impromptu song killed me.

Nic: Yeah! That's about as wild as it gets at our shows. Darien had that lady throwing her bra on stage.

TR: That boy can sang!

Nic: Yes he can, what's really funny about that story is, afterwards the lady asked for her bra back. I figure, if you are going to throw your bra on stage, make sure it's a nice one or it's one you don't mind parting with so you can save yourself the embarrassment of having to ask for it back later.

TR: I know you have some shows coming up soon in the DMV area, is FE done touring for this year or do you have more dates lined up?

Nic: We have 3 shows coming up, one in Baltimore, One in NYC at BB Kings, and DC at the Black Cat. After that we are done for the rest of year in terms of playing "our" shows. We are appearing at a special engagement with a group called Love Language.

TR: So tell me about Shibuya, it's been released here in the US has it been released in other countries yet, specifically Japan?

Nic: Shibuya was released 2 weeks ago in Japan and the people have been really excited about it. In essence, the album is dedicated to them. I love Japan very much. The songs are named after areas that were very meaningful and I hope they get a sense of enjoyment from listening to it.

TR: Can you speak Japanese?

Nic: Actually I don't, but my wife speaks it fairly well.

TR: The extent of mine is domo arrigato, but I can't remember if that's thank you or what is your name.

Nic: Hey that sounds better than mine.

TR: How are the fans in Shibuya receiving your release? Plans to tour there?

Nic: I would love to. That is actually one of my dream projects and I'm trying to accomplish that now. I would like to play the entire album in setting where people can sit and enjoy it.

TR: I bet Carlitta would love that.

Nic: I'm sure she would be very down to do it too. There are pros and cons, like an 18 hour flight but once it's over it's worth it.

TR: How many arrangements did you compose before deciding on the final set of songs for Shibuya?

Nic: The tracks on the album are all the pieces that were created for the album. The Japanese version of the album has one extra track but everything I created for this album is on there. It's a hybrid of complicated electronic pieces plus the pieces with Carlitta provide the soulful elements to the project.

TR: Our site has provided product links to purchase the album through Amazon.com. I've been reading about the battle of Amazon vs. iTunes and the difference in pricing.

Nic: It's not like we are stock holders in Amazon or anything like that we just knew they were another place to sell our music. I believe the creator of the music should be able to decide how the content is presented. We pride ourselves on fair pricing for our fans, and we felt it was unfair to charge them $6.00 more for an album. We know iTunes does quite well with selling TV shows and things like that online, but music is just as important to their earnings. Also, Amazon files are of better quality than iTunes.

TR: Under your newly formed label, which artists already have green lighted projects? What's coming up next for Nicolay Music? Will there be another Nicolay and Kay album?

Nic: There will definitely be another Nicolay and Kay album. I'm not sure when however. We've worked on a few things but we have to coordinate scheduling. Phonte has a solo album coming out, our first project out will be Zo's project.

TR: It's called "Just Visiting" correct?

Nic: Yes, that is him doing covers, however his "proper album" that's what we call it; his great magnum opus is called "Sunstorm." Carlitta also has an album coming out as well.

TR: Is there a title?

Nic: I don't think there is, or she told me and it's escaping me right now. She is still working on it right now. I did a song with Carlitta and Jesse Boykins that is really excellent. I call her the "major label" voice.

TR: She has a wonderful ethereal quality to her voice

Nic: It's very light and pure and adds the "ching" to the record.

TR: I see my time is running out, I thank you so much for talking with me today. I am a huge fan of yours; please keep putting out good music.

Nic: Thank you for the support, I appreciate it.

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