Tugg: The DJ Behind Drums
BY JASON LI
Nathan Curran, a.k.a. Tugg, has been the regular drummer for renowned British electronic music duo Basement Jaxx for a number of years, and has toured with them from Glastonbury to South Africa. However, little do people know that Tugg has also been a DJ for as long as his celebrated drumming career. Inspired by the likes of DJ Harvey, Tugg plays all different styles of eclectic music ranging from disco, boogie, house, soul, afro latin, to party classics. We are very privileged to have Tugg feature on this issue of the Headliner Backstage Blog, where he shares his definition of a 'unique' musician and how he manages to balance his dual music identity.
How did you begin to learn DJ-ing?
I began to learn the art of DJ-ing back in 1993, when I lived with a few friends who owned the Technics 1210 turntables, and gradually got the hang of it after hosting several house parties with them.
Who would you say are your biggest music influences growing up?
There are many, but in terms of pursuing a career in DJ-ing specifically, I would say DJ Harvey, Masters at Work, and Kerri Chandler.
You attended the music college of West London Institute and then dropped out before graduation. Do you regard having proper music education as an important aspect of becoming a successful musician?
Although I think it is necessary to get as much as you can from studying and attending lectures, qualifications like grades and university degrees ultimately do not mean a thing out there in the real world if you want to become a professional musician.
In the music industry, success stems from you putting yourself out there and building your network. Being a nice person and having an open mind whilst working with different people are important as well.
You have been DJ-ing for major clubs and artists like Arthur Baker for the last 20 years. What advice would you give to young artists who are just starting out as DJs for private events?
As DJs, our audience is and always will be our utmost priority, so we should take notice of what they want to hear and want to dance to. Do not expect to win them over if you just play for yourself. In addition, be confident of the music you choose to play.
How do you get your audience engaged throughout the entirety of a show?
Just look like you are having a really good time up there, then naturally your audience will follow suit.
What makes a typical 'Tugg-style' mix special and different from those of other DJs?
I would not say my DJ mixes are any better or unusual than those of other DJs. I mix and play a very wide range of music to keep things interesting. If you want to be unique, just be yourself: play what you think works and have fun with it, drop a few odd surprises every now and then, and do not be scared to do it.
What advice would you give to other musicians on getting the opportunity to work with renowned artists?
Having a good reputation is very important, and like it or not, ‘luck’ plays a huge part as well.
How do you manage your time as being both a session drummer for Basement Jaxx and a profesisonal DJ?
Obviously, drumming is my main profession, as I have been drumming since I was 10 years old. But whenever I am free in between tours for Basement Jaxx in the United Kingdom, I try and fill in gaps by doing some DJ-ing for friends here and there.
We know that you also collect vintage drum machines. Which do you prefer? The drum machine or a good old authentic drum set?
This really depends on what type of music I am making and playing. As a musician, a drummer in particular, I like to encourage myself to explore all territories, so I use both instruments very frequently. Of course, there are things that I cannot do with a drum set. For example, when I could not play live drums for an artist, I would opt to program drum beats for them on the machines instead.