When I was asked to interview Jordan Nocturne it immediately interested me for a number of reasons; I thought it was pretty cool that he had successfully navigated an alias change from Jordan and wondered what the positives and drawbacks of this were, I also (after reading the ‘about’ page on the Nocturne website) seen a lot of similarities in our relationships with our local dance music scene through the throwing of after parties in retaliation to draconian licensing laws - in his case Belfast and in mine Aberdeen. These all piqued my curiosity, but the main thing that made me want to talk to Jordan was the music.
Ever since his AVA set in mid-2017, I’ve been following a lot of what he’s done; from throwing parties around Belfast, to starting his own Label, Nocturne, which has some of the most electric and distinct disco edits I’ve ever heard. It became apparent that Jordan was someone who was deeply connected to the scene that he helped shape in Belfast but was becoming more and more sought after around the globe - I wondered how he dealt with this and how it made him feel. The abundance of interesting things that Jordan had been involved in during his rise to where he is today became clear, and the only way to truly unpack it all would be to get him on the phone…
We met on a choppy Zoom call on a Sunday evening.
How have things been in Belfast with everything just opening back up?
Yeah there's been a lot of goalposts moved over the last few months. It was the end of August when outdoor events were allowed again - but at that time there was still no movement on indoor gigs. Luckily, we were able to run the first “Eastside Electronics” open air gig with The Night Institute which felt very special - but it wasn't really feasible for most parties to be running outdoor events at the time due to licensing and access to spaces.
When the restrictions were due to be lifted last sunday, to bypass halloween, the executive made a last minute change, making it noon on Sunday rather than midnight. A lot of promoters had events planned on the Saturday to coincide with the initial announcement and tickets already on sale.
You were in Aberdeen lately right?
Aberdeen was my first gig back I think, It all happened within about 2 weeks. It was the guys from All Night Passion. They were like ‘I know it's a bit last minute but’... Was that in August?
I was like “Yeah, as long as I can get back to Belfast the next day”... as that was when our outdoor party was... I was also in London around that time as well but I'm pretty sure that Aberdeen was my first club gig back. It was a cracker!
Are you staying in Belfast at the moment?
Yes I’ve been back in Belfast for the last 8 years now.
So when I was reading up about you the thing that came up constantly was The Night Institute, can you tell me about that?
TNI just celebrated our sixth birthday during lockdown. It started out as a weekly party with myself and Timmy Stewart. We dropped in guests throughout the first few years like Octave One, Denis Sulta, DABJ and Kornel Kovacs but we learned after a while that our party was more of a community thing and it made more sense to keep it local. It didn't make sense to be in that world of expensive guests, and the risks associated with that. We get more joy out of downsizing it and just enjoying it really.
When was your big moment that changed everything?
The Boiler Room was one of the first things that definitely raised awareness for sure. I’ve been playing in Belfast since I was 13, but the Boiler room was definitely a bit of a turning point for people outside of here.
That said, I don’t really believe in ‘big moments that change everything’ - I think the main thing is consistency of output - people play and hear your music more regularly and start to piece together the picture of what it is you do as an artist. It has definitely been nice to travel a bit more and see new places. It's been nice, there have been gigs happening more and more on a regular basis, it's been great.
I found it really interesting that all the comments in your AVA boiler room are people from the area trying to promote your party, I don't think you see that a lot: People in the comments are really trying to promote you.
You know, we’ve been really lucky. There's still people that come to our party after 6 years and we know that couples have met at our nights and are still together. There was a group of regulars at one of the birthdays that gave us a professional shot photo of them outside the club with a TNI cake - it was really nice.
There was also a guy in his late thirties that told us that he came out at TNI, that was nice to hear. There's the sad part as well, there's always regulars that move away as it's hard to keep young people in the city. There aren't as many cultural incentives here.
There were a load of afterparties in Aberdeen because of repressive licencing laws which saw clubs shut pretty early. I read that this was pretty similar to the environment that saw Nocturne take off, is this true?
When I came back to Belfast after uni in Leeds, I tried to get involved in the scene again, having been away for four years and the afterhours thing was the start of it. My first Nocturne guest was actually Timmy Stewart, who I run TNI with. One of the parties was in an Asian restaurant and had loads of nibbles to sort of bypass the licensing laws in Belfast, little bits of chicken and stuff which you can imagine wasn’t touched by any of the people there.
Did you throw a party in a museum or something?
It was actually upstairs in an art gallery, it was a great big room, sprung dance floor, big red pillars. I suppose there's always that risk factor as things get more popular that you can't really control the party as much as you would like to. You need to start taking the safety of the people at the party into consideration. You don't want opportunists at the party, stuff we’ve seen happen lately with the spikings in the news. If something like that happens at an illegal afterparty there's always the chance that someone dies, you’re accountable.
I always thought it was cool how easily you transitioned from Jordan to Jordan Nocturne, how did that come about?
I spent quite a while planning that because when you have a back catalogue of music there's a lot of work you need to do. Contacting distributors and people you have dealt with in the past to change certain metadata which pushes it through all the stores. I suppose it was initially a kind of humble thing, I didn't want to take on an alias as I felt it may be quite pretentious, but as things progressed I realised that I was basically unsearchable on Google, Spotify and all these other places you listen to music.
Even if people knew what I did, they couldn't really find me. It was just to make people's lives easier, it just made sense, I already had all the social media handles, I didn't do an announcement or anything. It's made things a lot more seamless and people can find me on all these different platforms. It looks pretty good on all the flyers as well.
I always remember searching for Jordan (UK)
Aw mate, that was always an ongoing issue. I tried UK, then I tried IE, then I tried a full stop. I realised I just needed to bite the bullet as I was making things more complicated.
What's it like running a label?
Because I'm a bit of a control freak, like my parties, I like to know how everything is done. It’s really easy for labels in this digital landscape to put out tracks every week and have tracks lost into the abyss. Running it myself means that I can pay attention to detail on all the different artistic elements. If things don't sell well I only have myself to blame. I’ve enjoyed it, especially during lockdown because I haven't been able to run events. We ran a merch line that had t-shirts and prints that sold really well.
Similar to what you said about TNI comments on the AVA Boiler room video, the community that came to our nights in Belfast may have moved away and they wanted to grab our prints that said: “From Belfast With Love”. That side was cool, it showed a sense of pride in where they were from.
Anything coming up with the label?
To be honest, I had a really busy schedule the past few months. We released two compilations during the summer, a release from a young guy called Cartin and released a Tech Support EP. Because the edits record is releasing this month, I’ve taken a bit of a breather from getting releases ready.
I might do a compilation around Christmas because I really like doing charity compilations around really important times of the year. I’ve been in the studio working on stuff myself, I’m doing a remix for Cormac at the moment, I’ve just dropped a release on Dance Systems label as well, so I’ve been a bit distracted getting my own stuff in order, but there will be a focus again on the label over the course of the next year.
Tech Support is the man.
Yeah, he came to the Mixmag Lab with his girlfriend and we played a big outdoor student thing in Limerick together, a really nice guy.
What gets the most praise out of what you do?
Well, the edits have always been popular, they are like guilty pleasures that aren't too guilty. I’ve seen this especially from DJing all night in Belfast for years. The bars shut around 1, so why would someone stay at a club and not have a drink unless they were having a really good time?
So, edits were always a really good thing for that period of the night, people used to always love staying till the end of the night to see what the last tracks were.
I'm sort of consciously keeping that in mind with my new original stuff as well, I’ve actually just done a piano track and an acid thing with a hip-house type vocal lead. Trying to make stuff that isn't as throwaway, that is the kind of thinking behind it. Things just move so fast, we can go to Bandcamp, buy 20 new tracks to play in our sets, and the next month you feel like you’ve rinsed them.
I feel like it's cool to hate disco edits these days, and I love that you stick by them and have made new and different ones for years.
That's the thing, if you listen to the next and last edit record I'm bringing out, there's a piano house edit that makes sense as I grew up playing big room house and trance gigs, so that’s not out of character for me. There's an Italo thing, there's a Belgian New Beat sounding thing, and there's a traditional disco-house thing.
It's not as though it's a record that's only disco led edits. Some of the past records had slow and chuggy on one side, and a big Italo thing on the other. I do try to have two sides to each record - there is the darker stuff, but because the more uplifting stuff is what people go for the other side can be overlooked. So there might be a few tunes there that could be worth checking out.
Are you looking forward to any gigs coming up?
Well, Junction 2 just got announced and I have Dundee for Le Freak and friends this month as well as in Edinburgh for Hector’s House in January.
We’re also doing a series of free gigs in Belfast to try and encourage people to get back out again. If you think about the past few years, people who would usually go out clubbing might be broke or not in the best frame of mind. We want to encourage these people to come back out into a safe and familiar environment. I’ve felt it myself, if I don't force myself to leave the house I won't go out. Obviously, when I go out I really enjoy myself but we’ve all become a bit institutionalised over the past year. It can be hard to get away from the laptop, so I think that'll be nice.
The Night Institute has also started doing gigs over here at a venue called Banana Block, the venue is an old linen mill. We did a gig there on Saturday with 450 people. It’s really nice that these places are starting to exist and people are supporting them. The crowd had people in their early 20’s through to people in their 50’s so it was really nice, it had a really European feeling. Whereas you can go to a lot of nightclubs, post covid, and if you're over 21 you feel old, you know what I mean?
Yeah, I think there are certain promoters and acts that are really good at having a wide variety of ages at their nights, Optimo for example. They can go from playing like Italo to Slayer in the same set and people love it.
That is the thing, an audience made up of loads of different demographics may have a broader taste and are open to hearing something that’s not strictly 4/4 for 6 hours.
Last question, you're known for being really Belfast centred, after looking at your past I feel as though it goes without saying that you helped shape the modern scene within Belfast, so do you ever find it weird when you started getting booked all around the world? Did you feel as though you were losing a sense of belonging?
Not really, I think people's timelines happen at the right time. I look back and think what if I got more gigs when I was playing trance every weekend at 16 I’d be typecast as that. But you need to remember that your taste is not where it's going to end up and your experience might not have been right.
I’m happy that I've played good parties, played shit parties, played early slots, played late slots so feel that I can take that with me when I play elsewhere.
We ended it there.
After talking to Jordan, it became abundantly clear that he had a number of loves that had shaped his decisions throughout his life. The first, a love of Belfast, and the way that those within his community had always been there for him and his party since its inception. The second: a love for music. The way he speaks about music and how it can make people feel gives you a window into why it worked for him. Although he talks about certain aspects of the Label as a job, it's pretty obvious it's all worth it for him when the final product becomes known to the world. And the final love? A love of the moment. The moment when someone gives him a birthday card for the night he’s been running religiously for 6 years, the moment someone tells him that they came out at his night, or even the moment he completely flips a set on its head with a ‘happy-clappy Italo number’. The moments are what define Jordan and his music.