Nervous Horizon is the label putting a global spin on London’s home-grown club scene
Move to east London. Build a studio. Make music. In many ways the story of Nervous Horizon is a familiar and traditional approach to making music, but their output is anything but. Its three founders have become unlikely torchbearers for London’s mutating club scene, where you can find DJs playing UK funky, grime or even jungle; and it taps into similar shapeshifting scenes from South America to the Middle East.
The London-based trio don’t see themselves as such though. Reading the story as told by founders and curators Tommaso (aka Wallwork) and Guglielmo – otherwise known as TSVI – it’s clear that at the root of the label is a global, cross-pollinating formula and an unerring joy in being submerged in music, all the time. It’s why the three have carved out a space for themselves in the artist and party communities in Hackney Wick. It’s why they choose to platform the originators behind the music that they enjoy. It’s why you can parallels between their label and precursors like Night Slugs and Hyperdub (Scratcha DVA of the latter even had a hand in getting them started).
Dig into the label’s catalogue and you’ll find groundbreaking records by Lithuania’s DJ JM and DJ Plead of Melbourne. If the upcoming tracks contained within their label showcase mix are anything to go by, we’ve no doubt there’s plenty more heat to come. Read on for an interview with the founders about the label’s rise.
Wallwork & TSVI © Aliyah Otchere
How did the label start?
The label started when the three of us met: Federico, Guglielmo and Tommaso through partying in east London and friends in common. Federico saw potential in both of us as producers and was keen for us to collaborate on music. Shortly after, we all moved into an industrial warehouse in Hackney Wick with the idea of organising parties and releasing records.
After one year of many incredible warehouse parties, testing tracks on the dance floor and endless hours of production in the studio we’d freshly built, we were ready to press our first record.
What are the aims of the label?
From the beginning the aim has been to put out the most cutting-edge and diverse music that fits into the DJ sets we are currently playing. Our focus is also to constantly evolve and never to be boxed into a single genre.
Nervous Horizon VA’s Vol. 1, 2 & 3
How would you summarise the label’s sound, and how has it evolved since you started out?
We are often described as club music, but we feel it’s much more than that. We mix our influences a lot and are constantly fluctuating through genres.
At first labels like Hessle Audio, Night Slugs, R&S and Hyperdub were our main influences, [before] we started exploring the rest of the world through gqom, reggaeton, kuduru, dancehall, Middle Eastern music and incorporating all of these sounds into our production. The result is an ever-changing mix of styles that is often hard to define.
Despite Nervous Horizon often being labelled as having a London sound, you’re originally from Italy. What drew you to London in the first place?
We are all from a town in central Italy, Pisa, in Tuscany. What made us all come over to London was a passion for electronic music. The scene was quite stagnant in Italy with a lot of tech house and minimal techno, and we felt the need to move to somewhere with a more exciting and diverse club scene. Also, Wallwork is half-English and already had a lot of family in London. He moved over as soon as he turned 18 to study sound engineering and make music.
There’s something particular about the music you release that feels connected to a global heartbeat of club music. Would you agree?
We are very inspired by regional scenes from around the world, but also we notice people from all over the world being inspired by the London scene too; we see it as a feedback loop. Everyone is inspired by whatever they hear online or in the club. The important thing when taking inspiration from other cultures and genres is to always credit your sources. Promote and try to release music from the people you’re influenced by.
In 2015-16, for example, we were very influenced by gqom, so after a couple of years of research we released an EP by pioneering South African collective Da Soul Boyz as their style had been so influential in our productions. Same thing when we discovered Dutch bubbling producer Miss Devana on Soundcloud. In 2018 we also did a project with LR Groove & Razzler Man: Marcus Nasty Presents Tribal Brothers EP, again another case of us being massively influenced by UK funky and wanting to put out two OG producers from the original scene who we have so much admiration for.
Da Soul Boyz
You’re based in Hackney Wick. How important is Red Gate and this environment to what you do?
Moving to Hackney Wick [and Red Gate] was life changing for us. After a year of intense partying we set up a studio up the road to be a bit more isolated, still living with a lot of people, where the label could be based. It gave us a chance to focus on music 24 hours a day; we had no restrictions on loudness and were able to DJ in front of a big crowd at an early stage of our career, [and] seeing the tracks work well at the warehouse parties gave us the confidence to start sending tracks to radio DJs. The space and environment of the whole neighbourhood definitely had a huge impact. The area is very different to when we moved in, but our courtyard, Blackgates, still survives!
A meeting with Scratcha DVA was a big turning point for the label, and in many ways he’s the perfect example of the precursors in London that paved the way for the music your label and others like it make. How did it feel to be given the nod by someone with that level of respect?
Yes, Scratcha was our main supporter from day one! He was the first person to play our tracks on Rinse FM and tell us that what we were doing was valid. He also told us that our music should definitely be pressed to vinyl and that was definitely a huge confidence boost for some young up-and-coming producers from Italy. Shortly after TSVI did a remix for Scratcha’s EP and we played his Boiler Room, and that was another incredible opportunity that he gave us early on. We’ll always be grateful for his support and his productions are constant inspiration for us.
Ehua. © Alex Lambert
What does the future hold for the label?
We are very excited to finally reveal some of the projects we’ve been working on in the last few months. In this mix you’ll hear some of the releases we have in store for this autumn and a lot of cool dubs we received during quarantine.
First up is a project we will properly announce later next month: object blue & TSVI have made an EP together and it’s sounding like it’s coming from another dimension. There’s also a bass-heavy dancehall EP from Montreal producer SIM, an EP from Ehua who has been part of the crew from day one and [a project that] Happa is currently wrapping up for us. Apart from that, we’re collecting demos from the rest of the NH team and wrapping up our individual releases as Wallwork and TSVI too.