Nat Wendell has some serious head-bobbing grooves ready to jam both behind the decks and in the studio. We have an exclusive mix from the London native, now living in Berlin. He launches Depth of My Soul Records on vinyl with his solo debut, the Theoretics EP this month. Nat draws on many musical influences but his heart draws to that deep jacking goodness.
What was it like in London when you first came into things? What were some of the early inspirational experiences?
My mum bought me my first record when it came out in 1990, (trying not to give away my age here!) It was Snap! – World Power. She loves to tell the story of me going crazy when the track “The Power” would come on the TV and radio.
Jungle was introduced to me from an early age by an older cousin. He put me onto one of the pirate stations catering for electronic music. Man I used to sit and listen endlessly… the way the music sounded and the way the DJs played was incredible, seamlessly mixing tracks together. I was too young to experience this in the clubs, but was told stories and managed to get some tape packs which were live recordings from the parties. That made me so curious, I really wish I was able to party at that time! The music contained so many samples from dancehall, reggae & soul which is what I was accustomed to hearing from cars and people’s homes whilst out and about in Harlesden, where I grew up in London. You saw it in the fashion too, the styles then were very reflective of the music people were into… pretty insane (in a good way)!
I was also listening to garage, which is when I decided to start buying my own records and getting closer to the scene. It also helped me to meet other collectors that were DJs in the clubs I wasn’t able to go to. I think all of the above had a huge inspirational impact on me wanting to become a DJ.
Have you always been a DJ first and foremost?
Deejaying was my first entry point into music, besides constantly consuming. Regularly spinning music at my cousin Jason’s was a hobby and one of my favorite pastimes until I acquired my own turntables. I used to also record mixtapes there. I’m pretty sure I still have them somewhere at my parent’s house… though not sure if I’d like to hear them now though, haha! I messed around with making my own music on and off for some years, but only really pursued this as a parallel career to being a DJ a few years ago, delving deeper into the production rabbit hole, so to speak.
I’d love to hear more about Housewife and your residency with them and also some of the other clubs you’ve played at?
The residency was pretty cool actually. I met the lovely ladies from Housewife at a party in Leeds, UK called Back to Basics (the same place I met Brawther, Tristan Da Cunha and some other dope artists). They were telling me about the party which I managed to check out a few months later in London – a female-only line up with great music and energy. They knew I was a DJ also, heard some of my mixes and later asked me to be a part of the crew, as their first male DJ/resident. That was a fun and interesting flip considering the male-dominated lineups we usually see.
As part of the residency my portfolio of clubs I played in London grew, one of my favorite being a warehouse in Shoreditch, East London where I warmed up for Kate Simko. Other memorable gigs were at 93 Feet East, Bar 512 warming for Cinthie. Also Bloody Mary. Those guys know how to program a party and we had some really nice nights.
I like to have fun & dance in the studio. I mean, if you can’t dance, how do you expect someone else to?
Who’s inspired you along the way?
Living in the UK helped me to meet and witness some of my biggest inspirations playing live. I remember seeing Kerri Chandler spinning at warehouse party. He played for hours and was the first time I saw live elements such as a keyboard being played in a club, impromptu. I was hooked on the endless grooves and musical transitions. Musically, he’s someone I always reference, especially his drum programming. My homie Clinton and I often referred to it as “dutty” – a spin-off of something sounding raw & dirty.
Meeting and building a solid connection with Brawther has helped me incredibly. His records are just pure class and he’s one of my biggest inspirations to date. I’ve managed to gain a lot more confidence in my work and further encouragement and insight with the label through our many conversations. It’s really nice to have someone like that around, that believes in you from the perspective of already releasing records and playing music around the world regularly in the way I’d like to. Big respect to him.
His musical partner Tristan has always given me some serious encouragement which is so humbling, he’s a wise chap, comical too. I also met Daniel from Cab Drivers along with DJ Honesty when they played few gigs in the capital, so we had time to hang out and discuss all things music and life. It’s always great hearing things from their perspective. Those guys know their shit and always have time which is something I really appreciate. Time is precious!
Having all of the different musical influences in London to draw from, how did you develop your sound?
I’m still developing my sound. For me, I think as an artist it’s important to constantly explore, experiment & try new techniques. That being said a huge part of it has come from unintentional home-schooling. Growing up Mum used to play lots of gospel, soul and of course soca, being from Barbados. Dad is an old soul head, always having the likes of Percy Sledge, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, to name a few, on rotation. I keep meaning to steal his records when I go to visit. It opened my ears to a variety of musical styles. Its music with spiritual energy, passion and full of emotion, you know. It’s definitely stayed with me in what I listen to today and also with the music I’m making.
And how would you describe your sound to a stranger?
“Deep house with a garage influence” is what I always say when I’m asked what I play & make – stuff to make yo’ booty shake (Tristan would have a good saying for this, I’m sure.) I mean, deep house is already a broad spectrum of sound within itself, right? I think the mix I put together for you guys will help give a clear picture, especially in stuff I play when DJing.
What inspired the move to Berlin and how are you enjoying living there?
The first time I visited Berlin I was drawn in by the character of the city and the diverse openness of the music culture. You could be sitting in a burger joint and their bumping some dope Mobb Deep tracks, or some really nice deep house. I wanted to be surrounded by this, plus my love for travel opened me up to residing somewhere outside of the UK at some part in my life.
I love it here. The energy and the people I have around me – it’s incredible. It’s like being on holiday constantly as there still so much to do and discover and let’s not forget the parties too, haha. I’m always meeting new people that either do music or enjoy it in some way. I love being around such creativity. The approach here is very much more laid back and open than places I’ve visited before.
There’s always some really nice insightful exhibitions happening too. I was completely blown away by Arthur Jafa: A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions. I highly recommended and I’ll be going again with my friends.
You’ve got a new EP – Theoretics – your first full solo EP and the debut for your own label, Depth of My Soul, right? Talk about the work you’ve put in to launch your own vinyl label and how you’re enjoying the fruits of that labor.
I’m really looking forward to the release of Theoretics, although I’m quite shy with my music. Since making the decision to start a label and put this release out, the feedback has been great and has given me yet more confidence and the encouragement to push forward with it all. I mean, it’s one thing when it’s your friends which is always nice but also when it’s people you don’t know reaching out for the first time, it’s quite special. Some of my favorite DJs are supporting the release and it’s been played in places I haven’t even been to yet such as Brazil – big love to Julian on the support there.
It’s amazing, recently I took some of the records into a shop here and whilst the owner was listening on the shop system, one of the customers came to the front asking what record was playing and took a copy back for her friends to listen to. Being there first hand, seeing and experiencing that was a feeling I can’t articulate. I love to see the way music moves people. It’s a very poetic experience. Their reactions & expression of deeper sense of feeling – you know, the release of inhibitions.
The label is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I wanted to build my catalog, further develop and get a better understanding of it all before execution. It’s quite close to me and I want to be able to release music that resonates, feels good and has substance. Also I don’t like to set deadlines with music as to allow things to come together in a more natural, organic fashion. I’m really happy, so far it’s been a nice progression and everything has fallen into place & I believe it’s the right time for me to explore this avenue. Most importantly I’m having fun.
What about your process in putting together the music? You seem like a pretty thoughtful personality in general so is there any personal meaning or message embedded into these 3 tracks?
It’s funny, I don’t have a set way of getting an idea down apart from jamming with my equipment. I like to have fun & dance in the studio (something I picked up from Honesty). I mean, if you can’t dance, how do you expect someone else to? If that’s the intention in which you base what you’re making on, of course, but everyone has their own view and opinion on that. I could start with a drum pattern or with a bassline that’s come to mind, or one which I’ve then recorded into my phone that I don’t forget, especially if I’m out of the studio. Once I’ve recorded a few elements into logic I then continue layering until I’ve got something solid that I can build upon. I just really enjoy manipulating and layering sounds.
The name Theoretics translates to the theoretical part of a science or an art. My EP is a portrayal of this, especially being my first solo EP. It’s my introduction into what’ll be the first of many released on mine and other labels alike. The tracks themselves are named to suit how I felt with the music at the time of creation. I do embed messages into my music, but also like many arts it’s open to interpretation. What it means for me will have a different meaning for someone consuming it on the dancefloor or at home. I like to encourage positivity, mindfulness, and a willingness to express emotions through such a medium.
If you could pass on anything you’ve learned to the next generation what would it be?
Make it happen! Don’t be afraid to express yourself through music – especially if it’s what you consider to be your passion. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals that both encourage and enable you to grow, not just musically but as a person, which in turn has a big influence on what you make.
What does the future hold for Depth of My Soul and Nat Wendell? How are you going to set the house world on fire?
Going to set the place alight one gig at a time, haha. I have a few more releases in the pipeline for this year, both on Depth of My Soul and other labels that I’m really excited about. I can’t wait to share what I’ve been working on. I’m looking forward to playing some of my newly-acquired records too.
With the review of Theoretics, Terry wrote that he’s never heard me play so I wanted to approach this mix as a challenge to that statement, albeit only one hour I think it’s an example of what’s in my record box when playing a show.