Nick Dresti is known throughout the world as “Space Cowboy,” the official DJ of Lady GaGa. He is also the protégé of Norman Cook, the illustrious “Fatboy Slim.”
After spending the bulk of 2009 on the road, Nick Dresti found inspiration from the sights and sounds he encountered as a performer on Lady GaGa’s Fame Ball Tour. The resulting byproduct, Digital Rock Star, is his fourth studio album, which captures the essence of these experiences. “Falling Down” serves as the lead single.
Upon review of Digital Rock Star, DJ Space Cowboy managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry—reflecting on Norman Cook, the origin of his futuristic moniker, and the loyalty of his Japanese fan base.
In previous years, you have used other pseudonyms, like “DJ Supreme” and “Loop da Loop.” At what point did you decide that you wanted to be “Space Cowboy?”
Well, my early works were done when I was in college. At the time, I was trying to enter engineering college – much to my parent's horror. But I went to work in a studio and the senior owner called me Space Cowboy all the time. He was crazy about my work and kept me on. So that's how that name came about. And from that, I was always interested in futuristic stuff, and I always thought that Space Cowboy should make music that sounded like they came off of a spaceship.
Multiple sources cite you as being a protégé of Norman [“Fatboy Slim”] Cook. In fact, your first album, Across the Sky, was released on his label, Southern Fried Records. When you look at the early years, is there a specific influence that he had on your career?
Norman is a special guy. I learned from him that evolution is good and it’s OK for a man to change his style, so he can go underground and go over ground, and go underground and come over ground again. It’s all about coming with a fresh sound. He's a master at that, and I learned that from him. He has been very successful for many years doing that and has had a great number of smash records. And I admire him greatly. He also experienced the darker side of celebrity and fame, which was very good for me because we were able to talk about that. I saw what could happen for me down the line when you experience a great deal of success in a short amount of time, which was a very beautiful thing. Norman has experienced a great deal of success worldwide. So, he explained to me how people change and how people lifestyles change and the way that the people around them change. He really taught me a lot about relationships, and how they change and evolve.
Your father was a guitar collector. How did his love for instruments shape your early musical interests?
When you’re little, you don't usually do what your parents want you to do. He loved guitars. You know, and I love guitars. I like rock music too, obviously. But my main passion is hip-hop. So when you're really young, that's kind of what you’re trying to do. However, opposites shape and interest you later. So it was quite influential on me. For me, you've got to listen to the style of the music, not the words. Now that I’m older, it makes sense — like you re-evaluate. I listened to stuff from the past and present and try to make music for the future. I know those experiences helped me to do that.
Over the years, your music releases have been very popular in Japan. In the early years, how did you go about developing a presence and audience with Japanese music lovers?
I have a label called Tiger Trax in the U.K., and we got distribution for my early work in Japan, and basically the people at the record store put it at the front of the line. And so out of nowhere, people just started getting into the songs and started spinning a few tracks on the radio. Soon enough, we were pretty much playing throughout the entire country and became a part of the music scene. We played at AgeHa, which is a wonderful club in Tokyo with like 5,000 seats. It was one of the first projects for Space Cowboy. I was deejaying at the time – I wasn't even really singing. So I think it's helped me evolve into what I'm doing now. It's one of the pieces of the puzzle. It was quite an experience, and I hope to expand my audience with this new album. This album is really a diary of the past year – not just with Lady GaGa, but a wide range of experiences.
What life events led you to form your label, Tiger Trax? Also, if you don’t mind, tell me the inspiration behind the name.
Tiger Trax — well, I love tigers and I like cats that are vicious [laughing]. The label was basically created so I could sign artists, like Nadia Oh, who I had already been working with on “My Egyptian Lover,” which is the record that got me noticed by Cherrytree Records. It was one of our first releases. And the rest is history. They brought me over to the U.S., introduced to me Lady GaGa, et cetera. So it's been a pretty wonderful experience. Tiger Trax remains, but I've been able to put a little bit less time into finding new artists or doing new projects directly with Tiger Trax. But as I find more time, we'll be doing more releases and stuff like this. But for the moment, we have Digital Rock Star, and I am excited about this new album.
You have a couple of tracks from Digital Rock that also appear on Digital Rock Star. From a creative standpoint, in what ways is Digital Rock Star an extension of Digital Rock?
The album basically shares my experiences of life on the road — nightlife, the truck life, and meeting new people and new experiences. I got to see a lot of places around the world that I thought I would never see. I went to Sweden. I went to Australia. I went to the United States. While I was on the road, I performed a lot of new songs. So it's partly different than Digital Rock, but the essence is the same because the principle behind Digital Rock was that the instruments were virtual – like the guitars. They're not real guitars. They're from the computer. The voices are computerized. And the whole stage is computerized. So it's digital. It's very digitized. I'm very used to that. I like AutoTune. I like things that make it sound like it came off a spaceship. And I’ll continue to like that. I think I always will.
“Talking in Your Sleep” and “My Egyptian Lover” appeared on both albums. What is it about those songs that mean so much to you?
Well, Nadia Oh is good people and her voice is a very beautiful voice. I enjoy working with her very much, and we work very well together. I wanted to try some new things, some new beats, because the project is very experimental. I always admired “My Egyptian Lover,” and it’s one of the earlier cuts from Digital Rock and it was done purely for the love of not doing typical music. So I'll always have a place for that. But “Talking in Your Sleep” – I like the song very much, and the newer version is very fresh. It has a new bridge and new lyrics. The harmony and the melodies remain the same, but the lyrics have changed a bit and are reflective a little bit of more experiences in the past year. “Talking in Your Sleep” is one of the biggest songs in Japan. And it’s one of the first songs that I sang on that I was really pleased with my vocal performance. Before, I used to sample a lot, so I'd only been working for the past three or four years. So this song is very dear to me and made me want to explore more.
One of my favorite tracks on the new albums is, “Imma Be Alright (Rent Money).” What's the craziest thing you've ever spent your rent money on?
Oh, my! [laughing] Well, I spend far too much money on clothes. I spend far too much money to try and entertain people when I don't have the money. I've been guilty of doing that. More times than I care to mention, yes, sometimes I get that carried away. And before you know it, you spend all your money and you're like, “Aarrgh! I can't pay my rent.” I just did one of those little things, and yes, it's unfortunate but true. I'm quite frivolous. I've always been frivolous and I think I'll always be frivolous. But I'm alive and well and making music, so I have no complaints.
Although you were born in Paris, you were raised in England. I noticed that the Union Jack appears on your album cover. There's a lot of hoopla right now about French deejays finally getting a great deal of respect – deejays like David Guetta and Daft Punk. Are you torn between being labeled either British or French?
Yes, that's a constant battle with me, really. The French do not necessarily – historically – like the English [laughing]. But it’s almost 2010, so I think, really and truly, I love French house music. I love Daft Punk. And French pop stars are hugely influential, are considered to be influential, and will be always be influential in extraordinary music. And their music is entirely robotic and computerized. It's underground and being sampled by tons of hip-hop artists, and you don't even know what they look like. They make fresh music, they sell millions of albums, and they have fun. And I admire that greatly. I'm like, “All right, I know what they look like.” England's great. They've got great new bands. You've got The Enemy. You've got amazing clothes. I’m proud to be a part of that as well. Part of English . . . you know, it’s shaped me greatly. There's a pattern to me that thrives and will always be underground. You've got grind. You've got urban. People just making stuff purely — and it's always been that way — like jungle bass, or just made purely for playing the club, just a smash in the car. And I admire that greatly. Where in America, it might be underground, but it’s all about the smash, the hit. And all kids listened to American music when I was a kid, even when I was living in France or U.K. As much as I love French dance music or electronic music – and I love London's Indie music, rock music and other music – I'm always going to think of American music. So it's always about the hit records, towards about that next level, and it remains to be that way. And hip-hop is always evolving and changing. And it will change again. And there are some that are afraid of change, but I’m not. I always like changes, no matter what. So I don’t think I’ll ever abandon hip-hop because it’s always influenced me.
For more information on DJ Space Cowboy, visit his official website.