First meeting in leeds, raver enthusiasts Hamish Cole and Toby Nicholas quickly discovered their love for unearthing dancefloor gems from across the deepest corners of the globe was a mutual obsession, thus leading to countless hazy after hours mixing records together and bugging out over the new finds in each other’s crates.
Fast forward to today and both have continued on their musical paths, with Hamish heading up the classic Leeds party Butter Side Up and booking Dimensions Festival, and Toby becoming Head Booker at The Pickle Factory in London.
Of course, this doesn’t mean their DJ ventures have come to a halt, rather that they now find themselves at the forefront of a new wave of young British DJs, travelling across Europe and beyond with regular stops at spots like Houghton, Dimensions and Concrete to name a few.
We catch up with Hamish and Toby off the back of a busy year, asking how they balance their craft and professions, what exactly makes a good back-to-back session and what the future holds for them.
How are you, you’ve had some high profile gigs recently, including playing for VBX at ADE and a tour of America. How have the last few months of gig been?
H: It’s been a seriously fun and busy few months. We’ve been lucky to travel to lots of amazing places and play some nice gigs. Highlight being our recent trip to America – we got to explore the cities and see the sites, eat lots of great food (philly cheese steaks!), did some record shopping and all of this was topped off by 2 killer gigs in NYC and Philly. Super grateful to all the promoters that made it happen, we couldn’t have asked for a better time.
Toby: Yeah, it’s been great. Getting to go to the states, hang with our mates out there and see Philly for the first time. Two trips in a month to Amsterdam, a city I love deeply. A rampage to end all rampages for Gene’s Limo Dream bday weekender. I mean… all this is still relatively new, so it’s not lost on us how fortunate we are to get to travel around playing tunes. It’s the fucking best.
Hamish, you’ve taken over the bookings at Dimensions festival. How was it in August, its final year at the amazing fort in Pula?
Hamish: It was truly special.. I for one have going to the festival since the very beginning so it was certainly emotional waving goodbye to the fort after 8 years. Saying that I was pretty hectic stressing my head off behind the scenes for most of the week, but finally got to let my hair down to Larry Heard playing live on the last night, which was incredible as expected. It’s certainly not the easiest of places to run a festival, so hats off to the team for everything they’ve done over the years. Onwards and upwards to 2020 and we’re looking forward to running the festival at the Garden in Tisno for a year. Simon and I have been working on next year’s line up and are happy to say we’ve just announced the first wave of artists, with plenty more still to come!
Toby, you’ve been programming The Pickle Factory for the past few years. Pickle just celebrated its 4th birthday with 9 hours all nighter from Nicolas Lutz, how was the party?
Fun thanks! Lutz was in fine fettle.
As a club, Pickle has been on a long and winding journey to become what it is today. Nowadays its this sick, relaxed, intimate little spot with an amazing soundsystem, and a lovely crowd. It’s not perfect, but it is as good as it gets in London in my opinion. I guess the irony is now, we’re busy at weekends, so I’m there less and less. But it feels like a natural progression. And it’s a real treat when I get to go and stay until the end, such as for the birthday last month.
When did you guys first meet? Why did you hit it off?
Toby: We must have originally met in Leeds, at my brother Josh’s old party Louche. Hamish used to sell tickets for Louche back in the day, and I used to bob along for the ride from when I was a pretty clueless 16 year old… Most of our big group of mates met there, under the lights in Mint Club. It’s funny to think that, now that we’ve all dispersed to different cities, and many of us are trying to find our own little niche in the dance music game.
When did first play together? Did you click immediately?
Hamish: I can’t remember the very first time, but I have a feeling it was at BSU in Leeds warming up for Tama Sumo at Wire around 5 or so years ago. We have always bonded over similar taste in records, but we really enjoyed playing together that night, I remember it just feeling very natural. From there, I invited Toby over at least once a year, to play b2b together.
Do you do strict back to back one each or a half hour each?
Toby: Always one on, one off.
Why does your partnership work so well? Why do you have such flow in the booth?
Toby: Because we’re such good friends, first and foremost, and playing records together with a mate is one of life’s greatest pleasures. We work together, hang out together, and share music together, so it makes sense we’d have a close connection playing tunes.
Secondly, while we collect slightly different styles of music, it’s always fitted together well. I’ve got a sweet tooth for proggy, ravey stuff; Hamish always packs better breaky tech house & garage than I ever could. We both play all sorts, of course, but there’s generally a nice midpoint between our bags.
Do you ever plan your sets, discuss before hand what you might play, either for a certain setting or set time etc?
Hamish: We never plan sets before a gig. When we first started playing out together we would discuss what kind of records we’re packing to make sure we’re both on the same page, however now a few years down the line, we’re so comfortable playing together that we don’t need to. We maybe just send each other new digs we’ve found in the week to get excited, but that’s about it. It’s a really nice feeling now as we just turn up to gigs and it just feels right every rime, almost better with no pre discussions at all..
Do you ever try and outdo each other with selections – leave the other one a hard one to mix out of or switch up the vibe randomly or?
Toby: There’s definitely a healthy mix of support and competitiveness between us when it comes to buying records. That’s so important, because it means you keep pushing yourself. There’s a lot of big DJs out there, cruising in the comfort zone, because for whatever reason they’ve lost their passion for finding music, and stringing it together in interesting ways. When Hamish plays a top tune I’ve never heard, I’m buzzing for him, but I’m also a bit pissed off I didn’t find it first. But that’s what its about. It keeps you honest.
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2020?
Hamish: I’m currently working on finalising the 2020 line up for Dimensions and focusing more time on music. Me and my partner Hugh recently launched the BSU label and are really happy with the way it’s developing… the plan is to put out more regular releases next year and keep working with the artists we love.
Gig wise Toby and I have got a lot of exciting trips planned including a trip to Asia in Feb + much more we can’t talk about yet! Oh and we’re working on our first podcast for Francesco Del Garda’s Timeless series, which will be out around Christmas time..
Toby: Yeah biggups Franny for asking us. It’ll actually be our first pre-recorded mix together, we’ve only released live mixes so far. It has taken a while to find the time to get together and do it, and with something so personal as a mix, it’s been an interesting creative process to work collaboratively. But its come together well, and we’re buzzing to get it out there.
Lots of exciting gigs, including our first time playing at my fave festival in the world next summer.. Very exciting stuff. I think we’re both in a place now, where we’re ready to really push our DJing over the next year, and see where it’ll take us. Up4it.
Catch the duo at The Butter Side Up Records Showcase at The Pickle Factory in January 2020.
Words: Rob Chadwick