Feeding the Soul: In Conversation with Nicky Luna

Feeding the Soul: In Conversation with Nicky Luna

Nicky Luna

In this edition of OhMyMalta, we speak to Nicky Scicluna, AKA Nicky Luna, a Maltese DJ and event curator with a penchant for house and disco music.

Nicky has been a key player in Malta’s thriving nightlife scene for the last ten years, and has been the driving force behind several of the country’s most well-known and popular parties including Frisco Disco, Off The Record (OTR) and A Little Crush. As Malta gears up for another event-filled summer, we catch up with Nicky to discuss his experiences in the industry, his various projects and plans for the future.

Nicky, can you start by telling us a little more about your various projects here in Malta?

At the moment, I’m running three projects. The first of these is A Little Crush, a beach-side party that takes place every Wednesday at Surfside Lido. This event encompasses various genres and is primarily focused on hosting local talent — mainly DJs, but we also try to incorporate some live acts as well. This has been happening now for ten consecutive summers, so it’s a great honour that the brand is still alive and kicking and attracting the younger generations. Another project, OTR — Off The Record, is something we started six years ago, which aims to bring international acts from across the electronic music spectrum, mainly house music but sometimes with elements of disco and techno. We organise around seven parties per year in the context of OTR, with the next event in this series taking place on 2nd July featuring Suze Ijó, an upcoming artist from Rotterdam. The third project is Frisco Disco, an event designed to take people back to the late 70s and early 80s, paying homage to such legendary clubs as Paradise Garage and Studio 54. Each Frisco Disco is based around a particular theme, which we then match with the music. So, for example, if the theme of the event is a jungle disco — which was actually the case for our most recent edition — then we focus more on rhythmic disco and incorporating sounds, set design and other elements related to this theme. In terms of venues, we’re always interested to find new places, and, particularly in the summer, we tend to focus more on open air venues including gardens and villas. Most importantly, we try to incorporate live elements into Frisco Disco, including theatre, dance and other live performance — it’s important to us to create a spectacle, and really be able to offer a unique experience.

How did you first enter the industry and, in particular, what led you to start organising your own events?

It all started as a series of passion projects, as I never specifically intended to enter the industry and take it on as a career. I started DJing at the age of eighteen along with a good friend of mine, and later started organising small parties for friends where we would perform. The first of these was called Perpendicular, a party I organised alongside Mathieu Fabre and Carl Lautier at a venue called Amazonia, and, in fact, these events were actually themed and contained an element of dress-up. This brand grew from approximately fifty people to over one thousand within two years, and featured all local acts. Another event — this time happening weekly — followed soon after, called Metro. At that time, I was still working a day job during the week, but very quickly realised that I loved curating events and organising spaces where people can come together and dance, so around the age of 23 I left my job and started putting all my energy into events and DJing. By this time, Mathieu, Carl and I started to take different directions musically, and started to each create our own side projects in addition to Perpendicular. I started to work on some projects with Kurt Borg AKA Squeak!, the first of which was called Friends of Friends. Again, this started out as a small party, but rapidly grew to an audience of over 1,500. Throughout this time, my love for music & bringing people together kept growing stronger and I just felt very honoured and humbled that I was able to make a living from something I loved and enjoyed. The whole process was very organic, and wasn’t something I set out to do in an intentional way.

A Little Crush

You are known for events centred around house and, in particular, disco music. What is it about these genres in particular you find so inspiring?

At the beginning I was very interested in techno music, however, as the years went by, I became more attracted to soulful house, world music, and, of course, disco. I was very attracted to the positivity of these genres, and, in particular, the live elements present. The fact that so many of those amazing tracks were mainly recorded by bands was something I found to be very inspiring, and I was really drawn to the feel-good character of the music, something which has continued to this day.

Through your various brands — OTR in particular — you have brought numerous foreign artists to Malta to perform. How did these collaborations come about, and is this something you believe to be important for the community here in Malta?

These collaborations have come about via various channels really: some of the artists we’ve brought have been a result of meeting them personally or being introduced somehow — this is often the case with emerging artists, while with more established acts we might reach out to them through their representation. In terms of the importance of these collaborations for the community here in Malta, being such a small island it’s nice to provide music-lovers with the opportunity to listen to different acts, including international guests. It’s important not to keep listening to the same things, and for artists here to see the way visiting acts play and be inspired by these different sounds. Having said that, I also feel that it’s also very important to provide a platform for local acts, so I think there needs to be a balance between the two.

OTR — Off The Record

One of your main events, Frisco Disco, is known for often including specialist and unusual artists, with past examples including an aerial silk artist, singers, live musicians and even a tribal percussion group. What was the idea behind these inclusions, and what additional value do these partnerships bring?

I think sometimes there’s a danger that long-running events can become repetitive — for example, often the format for a party will be a line-up of electronic DJs performing throughout the night. Of course, this is great and is something I’ve been doing all my life, but for Frisco Disco we wanted to add elements of different art forms. I think this is something that made us really stick out. There are so many talented local artists across a whole spectrum of performance disciplines here in Malta, so what we’re trying to do is incorporate these into our events as well as adding the element of surprise. Most of the time we don’t include these artists on the publicity for the event, in order to keep people wondering what we’re going to do next. At one of our recent events, we included an aerial dancer as you’ve mentioned, who really brought something unique to the experience. In addition, it’s also nice to be able to give artists a platform like this, and the opportunity to perform to an audience in a context and a setting that they might not have done previously.

I understand you have spent significant time abroad, especially in cultural centres including Ibiza and Barcelona. What did these visits teach you, and how important do you think it is for people in the arts sector to experience different cultures?

I think it’s very important to expose yourself to different cultures and musical environments. When I first moved to Barcelona, I spent a lot of time going to events, meeting people and learning more about the scene there. Frisco Disco, for example, was partly inspired by my experiences in Barcelona and, in particular, my experiences at a party there called Glove — as, at that time, there wasn’t much of a disco scene or costume concept in Malta. I introduced myself to the organiser, we became friends and he later actually ended up performing here at Frisco Disco, as well as me playing at one of his Glove parties. These are things which all stemmed from experiencing that event. It’s so important to get out of your comfort zone, make new connections and find new inspiration. It’s not about copying another concept, it’s about experiencing, finding elements you like then applying them to what you do in your own way. It’s something I would really encourage any artist or event organiser to do. It’s not just about feeding your brain, but also your soul, and making new connections both personally and artistically.

Frisco Disco: Jungle Fever

What are your plans for Malta this summer and in the future?

This summer I’m focusing on the three parties mentioned above and to always keep growing as a DJ. We’ve got great line-ups & venues booked, including some very exciting international and local acts. Essentially, it’s a case of continuing to develop these existing events, while always seeking to keep learning, adapting and sharing our appreciation of music. It’s important to mention that, especially in the case of Frisco Disco, we’re always very happy to hear from performers of various disciplines who are interested in discussing potential collaborations. We’re very open to this and to new ideas, and welcome enquiries through our various channels on social media.

If you had to give one piece of advice to aspiring event organisers, what would it be?

I think it’s very important to try and be unique, firstly for the organiser so they’re able to offer a different experience to audiences, but also in terms of the wider scene, so we all grow creatively together.

A Little Crush takes place every Wednesday night at 6pm at Surfside Lido (free entry). The next OTR event will take place on 2nd July in the garden of Ir-Razzett l-Ahmar, with the July edition of Frisco Disco taking place on 23rd July. For more details about any of these events, visit their official Instagram pages: @alittlecrush.mt @otr.malta @ friscodisco.mt