We’re all about discovering and telling the stories of those who have taken a passion and made it a life investment. We’re passionate about London, and welcome the challenge to tell the stories of those making waves within our city. New Amsterdam Vodka proudly laments its versatile ability to transform any social scene and encourages those within it to embrace the new spirit of their town. To coincide with this, we’ve met with a couple of influential young people within London who’ve witnessed or played a part in the transformation of its current social scene and sat down for a conversation with them to find out how they embrace their city, and to tell us a little more about their passions and lifestyles. First up was Raymond and his brand Happy Chap Clothing, this time around is DJ and founder of London nightlife brand ‘NANG’, Ralph Hardy.
Ralph is a Londoner through and through. He is a regular DJ at London nights out, a regular on London radio station Radar Radio, and, of course, the founder of his London nightlife movement ‘NANG‘. If you’ve been to one of his events before, you’ll know they’re a blast, not to mention the online platform he is building with the likes of his recent Soundcloud EP ‘Growing Pains’ celebrating some of the best upcoming UK talent in the music scene. We grabbed some time with Ralph recently to find out how London has played a part in all he does, and to get to know the DJ a little better.
What makes London your town?
I’d say it comes down to my approach to it. Night time I go wherever and I always feel comfortable, Brixton, Shoreditch, etc. I feel comfortable, I know the roads, I know how to get around, I know where I should be and when. London becomes yours when you feel comfortable. DJing means I’m very familiar with a lot of London, I know how it works. If I’m in one area I do this, if I’m in another area I do that, but before you can do that comfortably you’ve got to walk around and make sense of it.
So where are your hangout spots?
It would have to be Shoreditch, the Boxpark area, and around Old Street. More recently Dalston, Kingsland Junction, even Stoke Newington. The streets are just alive, even on a day like today when it’s raining there will be people about just being themselves and doing their thing. It’s the people that attract me to these areas. If I’ve got a meeting in High Street Kensington I don’t want to stay there for long, the people there are like drones, I don’t take to it. I try to make sure when I’m running errands that at the end of the day I find myself in Shoreditch.
Is it recent changes to that area that have attracted you to it?
Maybe but even before I started DJing I’d be there, going to places like Deviation at XOYO. Before that it was Stratford, I’m a Plaistow boy and believe it or not Stratford was there before Westfield. Stratford was my hangout, standing outside McDonalds just chilling, bare guys and bare girls. As you grow older you’re obviously going to venture out.
Do you feel the changes taking place are positive or negative?
The people that hang around Stratford now are very different, for me it used to just be the place to be because it’s where I was at the time, for people now they’re their for different reasons. It has its advantages though, for example I don’t have to travel to central to go to Uniqlo anymore.
So when you’re going out, are you going to a place because you like the area or because you know your people, the people you’re familiar with, will be there?
No matter where I go I need to have a good sound system, so no matter who is there, if I don’t like the sound system, I’m not going. You’ll always find me at XOYO because I’m familiar with the sound system. Anywhere I know that has quality sound, it doesn’t matter if it’s music I’m not particularly into, I’ll enjoy it regardless. That said, I’ll often go out by myself, so it’s nice to see people I know.
So how is London an inspiration?
It’s pretty much the people and the community. I’d like to say it’s the physical environment but that’s not the same anymore. Places are getting knocked down and it’s all new, it’s not the place I grew up in. I’m still hanging on to the nostalgia though, so when I throw a rave, I try to bring back as much as I can remember from a certain time and place within London.
So moving on to NANG, tell us how that started?
The story of NANG… There was a hashtag on Twitter one day relating to old school words that we don’t use anymore and I brought up “nang.” Everyone got hyped and I wanted to capitalise on the hype the word created. I did the very first club night on the day the 2012 Olympics began and still got a good turnout. I felt like if people managed to come down on a day like that then I was on to something. I’d never thrown a rave before that night, it had never even been a thought. The second one took place about two months later because the club pushed for it, it had been successful and they liked it.
How do you respond and take to the competition in London, it seems like every brand, blog, Instagram diva is holding some kind of event right now?
I’m pretty confident in my brand to cover X, Y and Z category, and for me to target the niché market that’s interested in those things. It’s frustrating though because while I’m doing it for the love of music, a lot of people are doing it for the cash or to get the timelines attention. I’ve been to a lot of them and they’re marketed well but when I get there, there’s no heart in it, I don’t feel the sweat or get the urge to call my boy on the way home like ‘yoooo!’
So how do you attract the right people to create that ideal atmosphere and build the correct type of hype?
Other than the eclectic music selection, at this stage when you come to a NANG event you know the feeling that’s going to be in the air, you don’t come in your best trainers. I also believe that people see the care and attention that goes into each night but at the same time people see me in there enjoying it like I’m one of them, I’m getting turnt too. So if I’m having a good time and hiding my stress, they’d better be too.
Do you feel that NANG is very London centric?
I think I’m trying to hark back to a London that I remember, to a time when I was going to raves that I was too young to be going to. I want people to be jumping on chairs and throwing their drinks, it should be expected. Just come and enjoy yourself, I go to a lot of nights where people spend too much time watching other people and trying to look pretty.
Moving on from NANG, how did you get into DJing?
I used to go to raves and just think, you lot are shit, that’s pretty much it.
Ha! Fair enough. And what’s next for NANG or what comes after NANG?
I look up to the likes of Zane Lowe and Benji B, who started in one place and made a name for themselves. I want people to appreciate my opinion because I feel like anyone that goes against the grain like myself is looked down on but people like us have valid opinions. Someone like Zane Lowe is the only guy that can get a Jay-Z or Kanye interview when they’re over here, people hold a level of respect for their opinion that means they have the opportunity to do that, I want to be that guy, the Zane Lowe of my generation.
Using your love for your town to fuel your passions and dreams – #ItsYourTown.
“#ItsYourTown is a mini series from New Amsterdam Vodka capturing real-world commentary from some of the UK’s most buzzing party towns – London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Gather your tribe and share your town on your terms at #ItsYourTown.”