Regan Tacon has been an important figure in the South African psytrance scene for nearly 2 decades, since starting out as a DJ in the early 1990’s.
His passion and dedication to music extends to various avenues including a touring life, producing music, running Nano Records and organizing festivals like Origin.
Let us start with the beginning of your music career. When did you become involved in the psytrance scene and eventually start performing as a DJ?
That’s 2 different questions to be honest. I got seriously involved in music from the age of 15, playing guitar in Rock and Jazz bands, and studying some classical guitar and percussion too. When I left school the Rave scene was just kicking off in South Africa and I got stuck in immediately.
Within weeks I was buying music, trying to figure out how I could make psychedelic dance music, and then the idea of DJing followed naturally from there. The Goa Trance scene started a year or two after that and when I heard the first Goa Trance I finally found the sound I was looking for. Properly mental psychedelic dance music!
How has the move to the UK affected your duties as label manager, DJ and festival coordinator?
In terms of Nano Records we are upping the game all the time, there is always more to do, and it still feels like we are just starting out in many ways. Being based more in the UK now gives me the chance to push the label even more, things just move faster there, and now I have access to more people and it’s easier to push and develop everything for the label more on a global scale.
The same can be said for me as a DJ. I have access to more Psy Trance loving countries now, so its way more affordable and quicker to fly to those Psy loving countries for gigs, so more gigs are coming in!
In terms of organizing festivals its same-same as I’m still spending a chunk of time in SA prepping here, and I’m very used to organising things over emails, texts, Facebook and WhatsApp from years of travelling and organising at the same time. It must be said though that playing out more regularly again at events worldwide does mean I get more ideas for our events, and I am constantly reminded of the good and the bad decisions event producers make, so it keeps my game sharp.
You have worked on quite a few collaborations recently. What has that been like? Do you feel your production techniques are improving? Can we expect more frequent releases from you?
It’s been great to get back in the studio again. I’m very lucky to be working with artists that are at the top of their game and are all close friends. I’m still happier collaborating as the back-n-forth, sharing of ideas, is so exciting. Some of it has been like riding a bike again and went super-fast, but there is always so much to learn, even masters like Tristan, Dickster, Burn in Noise, and Laughing Buddha who I have been writing with, they are all always pushing it and learning more.
I’m just trying to remember as much as I can of the new tricks they are now using. …and yes, I’m planning on a lot more music of my own this year. Next up is my track with Tristan, which I will play at Origin this year for sure!
You’ve experienced a ton of international festivals. From a South African’s perspective, which ones would you recommend attending to taste the international psychedelic trance culture?
Boom, Ozora, Modem, are real bastions of the international vibes, they are real meeting points of the tribes, as are the parties in Goa, Shiva Valley and Hilltop parties are packed with people from all over the world. Plus, any Eclipse gathering. These are places where you can see the global nature of the culture very clearly.
Nano Records was formed in 2000. What was the intention, and did you expect it to turn into one of the most important psytrance labels today?
We launched the label in October 2000, our first release then followed in 2002. The intention from those early days was always to push it as hard as we could and create the best platform possible for our mates and their music. The harder we work on NANO the more it grows and the more successful we become.
I truly believe in all our artists and their music, and that together, we as a collective, can continue to do our bit to grow the global scene by showcasing the best music we can find/produce and expose it to the scene. There is so much rubbish out there these days, just so much barely adequate music. The best labels find the quality music and help everyone else discover it for themselves. It’s great to be so respected these days, but the best is still to come, so keep watching this space.
As a label, has it been easier or more challenging making the transition to the digital world?
It was a real juggle a few years ago, but I’m loving where we are now. Being so digitally minded means we can get music out quickly, and keep people topped up with quality vibes! Yes, it’s harder to make money from selling music more than ever before, but there are plenty of DJs and real fans who support quality music and keep us ticking along. It’s a labour of love for sure, but life is too short to do something you don’t like doing, so somehow it all works out. Like Astral Projection said: Trust in Trance!
How has Nano services grown beyond just a record label? Who else plays an important role in the running of Nano?
Our core team is 5-8 people really, all working from their home (we all live on Skype), with support from a host of other groovy people and business partners. We used to have an office in Cape Town, but we adjusted how we were working a few years ago, and everything runs way better now over Skype.
On a day to day basis, Dale (DJ Dala) and I are working with the artists getting releases ready. Dala is a freaking legend!! Besides being one of them best DJs on the planet and too humble for his own good, he is as solid a person as you can find, and he plays an integral role with how NANO moves forward. His dedicated passion for the music is equal (and a lot of the time ‘more’) then mine, we make a great team.
Monique, my wife and business partner, runs Nano Bookings, our booking agency. Nano Bookings represents all our NANO artists plus some close friends too, like the Flying Rhino crew, and more. She is a machine! …and all the artists love her. She has become a seriously amazing agent over the years.
The booking agency is the biggest development over the last few years in terms of things we do. Our PR team is super killer too, SA trancers will know them as the DJs Dave Mac and Josh Mac, father and son! Dave and I have known each other for years, and both of them have great taste in music, love the scene and have the right approach to sharing the Nano message. It’s still a very SA orientated crew running the show. Most of our cover art comes from SA too!
What do you look for when signing a new Nano Records artist? Is it only about the music?
Music first, but vibe and personality is very important. We all need to be able to communicate well, or else we won’t move forward together, and that won’t help the artist or the label in the end.
A Taste of South African Psychedelics VA was released for free on the Nano, featuring 18 South African artists. Why did you decide to put together the compilation and release it for free?
Dala and I wanted to give the SA scene and the artists here a push, and this was the best idea we had at the time. We wanted to get the SA music to as many people around the world as possible, so making it Free was the best way to do that. Also, since I was making a move to spend more time overseas I think in the back of my mind I wanted to do something for my ‘home town’.
Any upcoming releases you want to mention?
So much music on the way it’s hard to say. There is new Headroom, Commercial Hippies in 2018! Tongue & Groove and Mandala are all working on debut albums, Earthspace has an EP out the week after Origin that will rip minds apart in the best possible way, and Avalon, Sonic Species, Bumbling Loons, Burn in Noise, have albums in the pipeline too.
We also have a very interesting collaboration for 2018 with Hommega Records, the home of Astrix, Infected Mushroom, Space Cat, Xerox and other big names. Plus, there are two big Loud releases on the way too! And more…
How did Origin Festival come about and what was the initial concept? How does it tie in with Nano?
Origin started with the intention of creating a festival in Cape Town that would rival international events and be a meeting point for people from all over SA and all over the world once a year. Over the last few years I really can feel that this intention has been realised.
Origin is a very special gathering, with people coming from all over SA, and the world now too! When we started Origin there was bigger group of partners (including members of Vortex and The Glade-UK), but from year three it was only Nano left, and we have been pushing it ever since.
In terms of Nano we have always had a very strong Nano Records based lineup, so Origin is also a Nano label party within a bigger festival framework.
For someone who has never been to Origin Festival what can they expect and what makes it an important event on the South African festival calendar?
Everything I said above and more! Good Music (like Avalon, Earthspace, Tongue & Groove!!) and the amazing gathering aside, the venue is second to none, and the vibe is always so great, just next level!
Then there are elements like; the Beats Floor – with the likes of German techno geniuses Extrawelt headlining this year. EXTRAWELT!!! I’m so stoked about these guys, they are one of my favourite live acts ever. I have seen them play a number of times in Europe and to have them play in SA at our event and expose the SA party scene to their live show is a dream come true.
The Forest Chill space with the combined Visionary Art gallery, chill DJs, workshops yoga and healings is growing more and more each year and really getting strong. We have some secret installations too, plus of course the visual explosion from the astounding decor and VJ teams, quality food and clothing stalls, a cinema, and and… you’ll have to come exploring to find the rest.
Has it become more difficult hosting an event in South Africa? What are the biggest challenges?
It has always been tricky, but as hard as it is there is always beauty surrounding us and support from amazing people. The biggest challenges vary each year. Of course, trying not to upset neighbouring farms and communities with the influx of people and the doof-doof of the beats can be tricky, we are always trying to lessen the impact while bettering the experience.
There is still a lack of understanding by some people that these events are actually a positive thing… people fear things they don’t understand. We work very closely with the local Municipality, Emergency Services, Police etc, and they are all very supportive, I really enjoy working with a lot of them. It’s a funny place to be, in the middle of all these crazy festival people, organisations, government.
It’s such a huge responsibility, but so great to see how bringing people together can change people’s lives for the better. We have really seen amazing changes across Cape Town alone due to these events.
In terms of the scene I think a lot of people could be more committal/supportive by buying tickets earlier and committing to the event. If promoters knew exactly how many people were arriving weeks in advance they could really tailor the event for the exact amount of people and make it all extra special.
Our sales have been excellent this year so far (stoked), but I know we will still have a mad rush like always right in the last few days. It’s madness! People know they are coming, but they still wait till the last minute to get tickets… It’s been like this in SA forever, but it’s time to step it up I feel.
We are looking at ways to help this along next year and make it easier for people to commit early and afford tickets. Hopefully we can help foster this more.
Thanks for the interview see you at Origin! Anything to add before we finish off?
Thanks. Yes: See you at Origin, leave no trace, keep it tidy (that means you and your space), respect yourself and those around you, good vibes only!