Interview with Alan Nimmo

In light of their Five AM Records club night on Friday 17th August 2007, they have commisioned a very special interview with Alan Nimmo of Signalrunners. Conducted by FiveAM's intuitive reporter Jessica Roe, Alan reveals all about his past, present and a little peak into the future... Read on to find out how the interview went.... In 2003 a budding Scottish DJ and producer, Alan Nimmo, logged on to his computer and stumbled onto a forum for dance music fans. There he got chatting to Andrew Bayer, a fellow producer and music fan based all the way out in the USA. From all the millions of online and anonymous meetings that happen through the internet it seems remarkable to think that the two of them managed to team up to form ‘Signalrunners’ and ‘Team SR’ and become one of the most successful production duos in the trance scene today. Alan and Andrew shared a huge passion for experimenting with new sounds and styles and they quickly developed the ability to ‘straight talk’ each other and construct a strong relationship as co-producers. When one looks at their discography of huge releases and inclusion on hundreds of dance compilations, it seems unbelievable to think that the two of them have only been producing together for four years! From their first releases they were instantly snapped up and championed by the likes of Judge Jules, Above and Beyond plus pretty much every major trance label around. Despite an envious stream of hit releases coming at you left right and centre, they are fairly illusive on the DJing front, despite high demand from fans far and wide. If you manage to catch these guys DJing then you are truly in for a treat as their technical abilities live up to their unblemished ear for a hit release. UK fans can experience the Signalrunners’ sounds in the flesh this August as Alan Nimmo makes his debut London appearance at Five AM’s label night at Turnmills on the 17th August! To celebrate his debut, he allowed us to put him in the hot-seat and find out some more about the transatlantic duo who have taken over our airwaves.

Lets start right at the beginning. You began DJing at the tender age of 12 in your home country of Scotland. Who introduced you to the dance music scene and DJing? Back at the start, probably my big sister! She used to bring me tapes recorded at local clubs and had a pretty good vinyl collection at the time - mixtures of all that acid house and high-energy Italian stuff. Some of my first tapes must have sounded pretty interesting ha ha! When I started buying my own records it was pretty much ‘rave’ music you could say. SL2 and The Prodigy were just hitting the scene in a big way and I was right into it!

Do you remember your first public appearance as a DJ? I did quite a lot of the usual birthday party stuff when I was at school and so I kind of eased into it all. Thinking about the first proper time is a bit hazy, because everybody seemed to be a DJ at that point so there was always 20 of us with record boxes trying to do our 15 minutes of fame at these 3 hour birthday gigs. It was a great time though looking back. From then on your path seemed set and you went on to play for many of Scotland’s top venues.

At what stage did you decide to make this your career rather than your hobby? By the time I was 19 or 20 I was spinning house in a lot of pre-clubs and bars locally and had made good friends with a guy called Johnny who then worked in a local record shop and who now actually A&Rs at our record label (Fraction Records) now. He was resident at one of the local clubs and used to give me free club passes. I got my first club gig at his residency covering for him when he had a night off! After that I ended up as a resident there as well which lasted about 3 or 4 years. I was spinning Thursdays through to Sundays across a range of different bars and clubs, often doing a warm up set in a bar and then running along the road into one of the clubs for another gig. Between the 2 of us we seemed to cover a lot of work filling in for each other’s gigs that overlapped.  It got to the point one Sunday night at 2am where I felt like it didn’t really matter if I showed up for my 9-5 the next morning, as I was making decent enough money doing all this DJ'ing, enjoying myself and making people happy. I used to wonder how all these people could be having such a great time knowing they had 4 hours to sleep off intoxication and go to work. Looking back now, we were probably responsible for some serious Monday morning sickies! I didn’t really see it as a career at the time. It was just something I had passion for and made enough money on to get by with while having a great time. I didn’t ever really take it too seriously and wasn’t really pushing myself as far as I probably should have but it freed up my weekdays so I could get in some serious studio time learning the techniques that would go on to be used in Signalrunners!

What inspired you to move into the music production world? I started to get interested in what was going on behind the scenes after leaving school and getting some money together. I was just inspired really by having ideas of how to make the records I was buying better and wanted to have a go myself. This was of course way before things like Abelton Live where you can chop up and rearrange tracks etc pretty easily. Back then it was all midi hardware, cables everywhere, samplers and mixers!

Do you remember your first purchase of production equipment? The first sequencer I used was Cubase v2 on Atari ST. Just a Midi sequencer, no audio like you get now. Rock solid though! I’ve had a lot of gear over the years, far more than I use now actually. Now I’m using an Access Virus TI, Nord Lead 3 and Dave Smith Evolver really. Andrew’s (Andrew Bayer, the other half of Signalrunners) got some extra things but the rest is software!

You are of course best known as half of the duo Signalrunners in which you DJ and produce with Andrew Bayer. How did the two of you meet? We met on a dance web forum for producers, and started out remixing each others tracks before realising that we were better working as a team than separately. I think we both have our own strengths and weaknesses and while it started as fun, we both learned a lot from each other and became great friends. We’re both pretty open-minded and can take each other’s criticism without sulking. You know, when you can walk into the room and say ‘that part you just spent 4 hours on is f**king s**t’, and its not taken to heart that it’s a strong partnership.

Signalrunners has become a much loved name in the trance scene and your productions have been signed by the likes of heavyweight labels Five AM, Anjunabeats, Somatic Sense and Armind. How did it feel the first time one of your releases gained major DJ and label interest? What I remember mostly was the great feeling getting vinyl test pressings back before our very first release. That was really the aim when we started I’d say. We weren’t really thinking of ‘the future’ so much back then. There’s something special about vinyl, even though it isn’t really so much of a seller in trance now.

Perhaps one of your biggest releases to date under the Signalrunners guise is ‘3000 Miles Away’ which was signed to Five AM and helped launch your career. Was the release of this track the point you felt as if you had ‘made it’? I don’t really think ‘made it’ would be the right phrase, but it definitely opened doors with remixes and stuff. It did well on Jules’ show on Radio 1 and was on some good compilations from guys like Ferry Corsten, ATB and of course Jules himself. Even though we had been putting out various records beforehand I think this one helped push the name a bit, even if it was more a case of “Signalrunners? Oh those guys with that African chanting song” than anything else! It was a fun track and one of my favourite productions for various reasons, even if the actual production is a bit rough round the edges. You know that track was made & mixed in about 6 hours from a Mac OSX operating system on an external hard drive after the studio Apple Mac fried a hard drive and we were waiting on a new one! We thought we were just killing time until we heard it on the radio! Funnily enough nothing ever changed on the track we did when the new hard drive was fitted!

You and Andrew have also collaborated under the name Team SR which was the name used on your infamous track ‘Leaving London’ (released on Five AM). Why did you decide to use a new alias? It’s a bit of a strange one really… we were emailing back and forth with Judge Jules about a different track of ours but we had just finished ‘Leaving London’ and decided to give him that too as an exclusive to play as it was still unsigned and literally a few days old. Because we are friendly with him the email was fairly slang, something like ‘Here’s a new one, see what you think – Team SR!’ not really thinking anything of it until the tracklisting appeared for the show and there it was “Artist – Team SR” ha ha. The name stuck and Team SR was born…. Not what you thought I bet!

The track has been an absolute smash gaining global airplay and over 30 plays on BBC Radio 1 alone! How long did it take you to write and master the production and did you know how much of a hit you had on your hands? It didn’t take as long as a lot of our tracks actually to be fair. The vocals were down in one shot when Andrew recorded them as an afterthought to a different track that was being recorded that day. We did a few edits until we were happy with it and then it just sort of snowballed. I realised this was a big one when it went up for daytime rotation on Radio1 and we were asked to do the ‘live sun-set’ at Café Mambo! It didn’t make the daytime playlists in the end but you can’t win them all! It’s very weird looking at a CD compilation that includes artists like Mylo, Basement Jaxx, Fatboy Slim… oh and Team SR?

Judge Jules is a particularly avid supporter of your productions and has helped push your career to new levels by supporting all of your tracks and in fact including several on his own compilations. How did it feel hearing your productions played out across the world in Jules’ BBC radio 1 show for the first time? Yeah, really great. He’s been a huge influence on some of the tracks we have made. Because the show takes in both house-ier and trance-ier vibes you get people who aren’t die hard trancers catching your music, which can only be good for dance music in general. Last year I dropped ‘Leaving London’ at a gig after Jules had started playing it a couple of times on his show. We were the only two people with copies of it and people knew the words to it already. It really shows the size of the shows audience!

Judge Jules has been a hero to many in the trance and indeed whole dance music scene. Who do you most admire in the scene today? Not really too many but obviously I have to say Judge Jules, and Paul van Dyk as the old timers! Also Above & Beyond for what they are doing for the scene right now. Me and Andrew are actually pretty big house heads even though most of our stuff ends up in the trance genre, so I’d have to note people like Carl Cox and Roger Sanchez in the ‘who I admire’ bracket.

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be any why? Honestly, no one. Boring answer but half the reason Signalrunners is still going is because we know each other inside out and know each others ‘control’ settings! I know quite a few producers who have a lot of dominance with there work and don’t really like input. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but I think only certain duos work leaving both producers happy with the result. You might see Andrew do some solo work or collaborations in the future though. His output is unreal and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sleep! Actually, can I choose a singer to collaborate with then? I’ll say Lene Marlin, an awesome Scandanavian poppy/folkish type singer. My Fiancée is going to kill me if she reads this!

You are about to come over to England for your first DJ set here. The set is at FiveAM’s own label night at Turnmills on the 17th August which is a huge night at one of the biggest and best London clubs. That’s a pretty impressive start to your England DJ bookings! What do you have in store for crowd on the night? We have a lot of new productions that I’ll be throwing in. We have been really busy this year remixing for our label Fraction Records including tracks by artists like Judge Jules, Markus Schulz, Lange. I will also be dropping various originals on various other labels. Although what I’ll play will depend on the vibe on the night, there will be plenty new tracks for the crowd! There’s some killer new stuff on FiveAm also so expect a set of upfront energetic trance!

We are all looking forward to your London DJ debut! What else do you have planned for the near future? Thanks! In the next few months we have quite a bit ready to drop. There’s some tracks on AVA Recordings, the first of which being ‘Recoil 2007’ and the first of some new stuff for Anjunabeats also. I’m quite excited about this latest Anjunabeats release after ‘Aria Epica’ doing so well actually. It’s an E.P with ‘One Last Look’ and ‘Don’t Look Back’ and both tracks really seem to be going down well. Aside from that, our label Fraction Records is going from strength to strength with support from everyone that matters which I really couldn’t be more pleased about personally. Long may it continue!

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