Whether listening to his parents records, watching old skate videos or going to Plastic People, Alex Rogers (Alexander Nut) has been surrounded by music his whole life. By his own admission he “never had the confidence to do things as a youngster”, but that didn’t stop Alex from forging himself a bountiful and illustrious career. Eglo co-founder and Ho Tep head honcho, radio shows on Rinse and now NTS and a DJ calendar that would rival most, you’d think that Alex might have an air of arrogance to him, but rather, he is the epitome of a down to earth music lover. With Eglo going from strength to strength and Fatima’s second album in the making, we took stock of how the Wolverhampton boy grew to be the label owner he is today.
What better place to start than those early experiences that prove so seminal in shaping peoples tastes? As a kid Alex was already fascinated by playing records, “I remember being 6 or 7 and being totally obsessed with records, even just getting them out of the sleeves and looking at them. Although I did used to fuck around scratching on Dad’s hi-fi”. Radio too was something that was prevalent in Alex’s life from the get go. He’d sit with his parents, tuning in to Wolverhampton’s very own Motown Mondays where “they’d call up for a request and we’d wait for our shout out. I used to find it really exciting that someone was saying our name on the radio.” A pre-cursor to starting Rinse? Possibly so, “in a subliminal subversive way, something that was leaving a lasting impression.”
Between his parents, and two brothers, Alex had an array of collections available to him introducing him to the likes of Curtis Mayfield, The Rolling Stones, A Tribe Called Quest, Herbie Hancock and even Metallica. “I definitely remember as a teenager being confused when it came to the social groups, you had the garage heads, the raga heads, the indie and the bass heads. I was like well I like all that stuff, I don’t really know which group I’m meant to be in”. Saying that, skating was evidently a large part of Alex’s younger years. Videos from Girl, Chocolate and 411 essentially providing the mixtapes that would blend hip-hop, soul and funk and help shape his eclectic tastes.
This style is best personified in Alex’s radio career. Nine years at Rinse with a show that was as wide-ranging as it was informative and now the move to NTS, whose founders, Alex used to share an office with. In this sense then, Alex was involved with NTS from the very beginning and to be working with friends is evidently something he values highly.
Let’s not forget Alex grew up in Wolverhampton. Not exactly world renowned for being a music hub, yet what it did have at least gave Alex an introduction into the clubbing environment and an education on how DJs spin. He recounts how he used to go out aged 16 to the one club, Stump Juice, where he felt at home, and that let him in. “They knew who I was, that I was under age but they thought fuck it let him in anyway”. Seeing the likes of Daddy G, Ashley Beedle and Queen Bee work a crowd proved to be the pivotal point in cementing Alex’s desire to become a DJ. Contrast this with the other available option, drum and bass and garage raves where, “you had to wear shiny suits and have money. I remember one time trying to get in and them going ‘no you’re wearing the wrong trainers’, straight away I thought fuck you guys I don’t wana come in anyway”.
The moodiness and snobbery embraced at those raves is something Alex clearly stays away from. His labels are ones built on relationships, be it chance meetings with artists, or friends new and old. After moving to London in his early twenties Alex was building a name for himself at Rinse whilst also working in music PR. Alex happened upon the tracks of a fresh-faced Floating Points via his Myspace and after speaking through MSN, one CDR night at Plastic People they played a track of his spurring Alex to ask to be introduced so they could meet properly.
The rest is history so it seems, forming the basis of a relationship that would blossom into Eglo. For a man as talented and well respected as Sam Shepherd it’s interesting to hear that Alex tried and failed to acquire him a record deal. “I took him to all the major labels, major publishing companies no-one was interested. So we just put our money together and pressed the first record ourselves”. A further choice encounter paved the way to Alex’s friendship with Fatima. After seeing her jump on the mic in clubs he invited her onto his Rinse show. It just so happened he needed a new housemate at the same time that Fatima was getting kicked out of hers. Everything then seemed to fall into place naturally, with Alex admitting, “it was one of the first projects I’d been involved in where it just worked from the beginning.” FunkinEven came on board through knowing Fatima and Shaunise. Similarly for Ho Tep, Alex’s other label, Letherette he knew from his school days and Flako became a good friend once he moved over from Germany.
Alex’s passion is all too evident, recounting that he’s worked on the labels every day for the last six years. And whereas before it was more of a ‘see what happens’ attitude, he now feels the weight of responsibility to each of the artists and what is ultimately weighing on the projects. Having lived in London for 11 years, Alex made the executive decision to move back to Wolverhampton, a culmination of the sheer cost of rent and the closure of his musical church, Plastic People. “I religiously went there, I went for my fix for my spirit and my soul and we saw it slowly come to an end over two years”. The pain is clear to see, the shutting of place where he met some of his closest friends and a venue where he could truly lose himself. Yet Alex is still frequently in London and considering he’s off travelling over the weekends DJing, Wolves allows him a space to knuckle down Monday to Friday. This industriousness has also lead to Alex actively trying to focus his energy to ensure the best possible results on all of his projects. A far cry from his early days when, like most, taking on a million different things at once seems like a brilliant idea.
It’s refreshing to hear how humble someone of Alex’s stature is. Not one to brag, he’s clearly very fortunate of the position he’s in, one built on hard work and determination. When asked what advice he would give to people starting out, the answer is simple, “don’t rush into it”. Observing how smart people are nowadays Alex goes on to mention that it’s become a lot easier to do things, which has the tendency to open the floodgates and lead to a level of saturation. “People tend to monetise everything which can jeopardise peoples’ creativity” a phase, which Alex hopes, and believes, will die down with time.
In these parting words it became clear how Alex has got to the stage he has. It’s a sincerity built on good intentions. A man more than willing to take time out to help those around him, even lecturing and holding workshops where possible, so that maybe he can provide the new generation with the advice that was lacking to him as a youngster. Surrounding himself with friends and working only with those that he has some form of personal connection with, provides a recipe not only for success, but also for happiness.
Words: Ben Croft
Alexander Nut plays at Bristol’s InMotion on Saturday 17th October. More info here.