As a Bristol teen growing up during the burgeoning electronic music scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s, Nathan Pope got an early taste for house and techno—one that’s never left him. His relationship to the music has seen some twists and turns since then, but he’s as passionate about the music as ever. Now, as Antenna Happy, he’s inking his latest chapter in this love affair.
Re-igniting a music career that went dormant more than two decades ago, Pope is producing smart tech-house records for the fledgling Reinhardt Records imprint, and churning out seamless DJ mixes that connect the dots between those early days as a wide-eyed fan and today’s sounds. For a first-hand account of one of these mixes, look no further than the recent Antenna Happy mix featured on our podcast [originally aired 09 july 2015 on WLUW 88.7fm chicago].
As a follow up to the mix, we sent Pope a handful of questions to help give us a deeper glimpse into the producer, his music, what those early days on the British rave scene were like and, most importantly, where he’s headed next. Here’s what he had to say.
While house and techno music is a passion that you discovered in the late ’80s and early ’90s, your musical career went on a 20-year hiatus before the birth of Antenna Happy. What drew you back to making music and playing records?
During all those years I still loved listening to techno, I still went to festivals and parties, and whether I was at home listening, or in the crowd, there would inevitably be a moment where I was longing for it again. It just took a long time for me to connect with that and realise that it was making me pretty unhappy. Eventually I just had to do something about it. What really helped was that the music I was hearing just seemed to be getting better and better. A new generation had pushed it forwards and that really excited me.
The mix you provided for our podcast is a finely tuned and seamless endeavor. Has the deejaying always been going on in the background these past 20 odd years or has it been more like riding a bike for you, coming back naturally?
Over the years I’ve played at mates’ weddings, birthdays, house parties etc, the odd set at SGP, but nothing more than that really. But I’ve always loved it. I asked everyone to bring records to my 40th, but they couldn’t get me off the decks! I tend to use Traktor now so I find the technical side of it easier, but the essence of it remains the same. Its about tune selection, and you have to take your cues from the crowd.
What was it like living it up and throwing parties in Bristol in the early ’90s? That time in that town is obviously a very special one, with Portishead, Massive Attack and Smith & Mighty emerging around then.
It was an amazing time to be in Bristol. In all honesty I was fairly blinkered to stuff that was happening outside the rave / techno scene, but I was lucky enough to meet some great people who became life-long friends, and it was the time of my life.
Today the underground club scene around the UK is special for many reasons. Are there any artists, labels or sounds that you’re particularly fond of currently? Highlights from the current scene that helped inspired you to come out of “retirement”?
A mate had introduced me to Kompakt, and I was blown away by their output, and I was really into Poker Flat, so those labels were pretty key for me at the time I started writing again. Currently there are so many great producers out there, it is really hard to whittle it down, but in the last year or so I’ve been really inspired by Roman Fluegel, David August and Olaf Stuut, to name a few.
Tell us more about the mix itself. How did you go about picking the tracks, deciding what to play and crafting the vibe that you have?
For this one I had a bunch of new records that I wanted to include and while I was listening to them I was drawn to other tracks from the distant and not-so-distant past, finishing with a couple of Carl Craig tunes that I used to play in Bristol week in, week out. To my ears they sound as good as anything produced today, but at around 130bpm, they are a lot faster. I was conscious of not wanting to pitch them down so I gradually built up to that tempo.
Lastly, tell us a bit about what’s on the horizon for Antenna Happy. Any forthcoming singles for Reinhardt or a possible an album in the works?
I’m in the process of moving into a new studio so that’s exciting, but also a little daunting because it will probably take some getting used to. I’m hoping it will really help me develop the sound, having a new perspective on it. I’ve got a new release on Reinhardt in September (Body EP)—I’m really excited about that one and we have some brilliant remixers on board. I’ve also got a digital release of my first white label 12” (Rotor / Late) in the Autumn. I’d love to do an album, and I have some ideas, but it may take a while. I have a daughter and a day job, so as far as music is concerned the focus really is on learning and developing my production. There are a lot of unfinished tracks on the burner, so getting them finished will be the immediate challenge. The bar is pretty high and that’s where I want to be, but there is a fair way to go.