If you—the ever persistent pleasure seeker, the attuned musical connoisseur, the discerning appreciator of fine drinks—find yourself without engagement at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, you might make your way to Urban Lounge to catch SLUG’s Localized—sponsored by Uinta Brewing Co., High West Distillery, KRCL 90.9 FM and Spilt Ink SLC. This month’s showcase features the DJ stylings of headliners DJ Nix Beat and DJ Feral Cat, along with opener DJ Eric Jenson.
Nick Kuzmack—easily recognizable as the tall, slim, fashionable figure whom you no doubt have seen in record stores, at shows or onstage—has a presence that commands (and in equal parts demands) attention. Kuzmack has, since his birth, been surrounded by a wealth of culture and passion. “I was raised on the legacy of the original greasers from the ’50s and the mods from the ’60s,” he says. It’s no wonder that Kuzmack prefers the classics like Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis Presley to works of modernity. “I like older music,” he says. “To me it has more meaning, more grit, more soul to it.” Kuzmack’s appreciation for the ideals of substance and the underground—as (dare I say) moral guiding forces—extended into his teenage years and beyond, where he became highly involved in Utah’s local punk scene. “Punk rock was for outcasts, and I felt very much on the fringe back then,” he says. “Still do.”
At the age of 21, Kuzmack began fervently collecting records—throwing aside any well-worn radio-pop garbage and instead leaning toward the choicer deep cuts. This tasteful yet eager form of collecting ’70s punk, ’60s girl groups, glam rock, power-pop, psych rock, reggae, underground/garage rock and mod records seemed to effortlessly evolve into Kuzmack throwing successful “record and wine nights,” where he would expose the initiated and otherwise to his ever-growing collection of 12” records and 45s. A few years later, a friend aware of Kuzmack’s curatorial abilities suggested he buy some turntables and take his passion for records out from the wine cellar and onto the stage, “which [was] a life changing [event],” Kuzmack says. With turntables on deck and vinyl in hand, Kuzmack began teaching himself how to mix records. With long hours spent honing his abilities, he began to feel more comfortable in the role of a DJ. In the following months, Kuzmack began booking shows at clubs, playing parties and similar events. “I was told after [DJing a going-away party] that people had gotten blisters on their feet from dancing, and I was like, ‘Fuck yeah, this is good.’” But it wasn’t until more recently that Kuzmack’s DJing career has really taken off: In January, he opened for Brian Bell’s The Relationship and, in September, for Dirty Fences and ’70s punk gods The Vibrators.
Perhaps as important to Kuzmack as his record collection are his ideological commitments—commitments that can be traced back to his involvement with the punk scene. In his college years, while working on a political science degree, Kuzmack fell in love with the messages and music of The Clash, the Dead Kennedys and The Adverts. The punk-bred love for community and deep-rooted desire for change eventually led Kuzmack to social justice and writing. “I did student government a couple times,” he says, “[with] the idea that we would stop tuition increase.” In some of the more impassioned points in our conversation, Kuzmack related his feelings on the failings of modern society, the irredeemable apathies of the privileged urbanite, and the universal responsibility to generally give a damn—in such a convincing tone that one couldn’t help but become a convert. This desire for community development and social justice led Kuzmack to self-reflect. “You know, it’s great that I have all these records and all this music that I am interested in,” he says, “but what can I do to give back to the community, to the fight?” One solution was teaming up with AFLA (Artists for Local Agriculture) for their August benefit concert.
Kuzmack has a keen understanding of what he, as an artist, brings to a show. “Every gig [I play] has significance, because [at] every gig, people listen to what I’m doing and what I’m adding to the show, and they pick up on it,” he says. This “it” that he adds is not to be confused with self-celebration but instead exists in terms of atmosphere. “The real music comes from people who play in bands. I am [there] to provide the ambiance for the band [and show].” This atmosphere, for the most part, is centered around reviving an appreciation for forgotten sonic gems—such as Gary Walker, The Flys, Slade, The Briefs, Plastic Bertrand and others—getting people up and dancing and embodying the romantic ideals of rock n’ roll through his set. Ultimately, it is this attention both to detail and to the very feel for the music—the mood—that sets Kuzmack apart from fad-riding DJs. “Music has always been something that’s been in my world,” he says, and in learning how music defined his upbringing, developed his present artistic state and shaped his political opinions, one can easily see that music is not simply a passing fit for this unique Utah DJ, but a long-term course leading to greater and greater heights.
Visit nixbeat.com for all things Nick Kuzmack/DJ Nix Beat.