The Word “Service” is often used by DJs in the industry as a description of what they give to their audiences when they play. Nick Nicholson (DJ Nick Nonstop) is a DJ, Producer and Sound Engineer who delivers service not only to his audiences but to his community. He is the owner and CEO of WeJam DJ Academy, an organization committed to educating and training youth, particularly in underserved communities about the art of DJing. He is also a managing partner of ACE Chicago Events. Nick has over 30 years of experience as a DJ, producer and sound engineer. Nick has performed for every type of event, plays every genre of music and has catered to various demographic groups locally, nationally and abroad. As a producer, he teamed up with SRO Records to create, produce and distribute the “original” Jack My Body© Co-created and produced the Original House Nation© (never released), and joined Trax Records to produce Fantasy© (#1 on London charts). Aside from being a seasoned DJ and producer, Nick is a former educator and holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Loyola University. Nick is passionate about DJing and is eager to share his knowledge and experiences with aspiring DJs of any age.
I had a chance to talk with DJ Nick Non-Stop about his career, his passion for sharing his knowledge with the youth, his love of the craft and playing the Hyde Park Brew Fest this year.
Black Widow: I’m so happy to be speaking with you today. Tell me a little bit about how you were introduced to house music.
Nick Non-Stop: I started in the early 80s. I attended Mendel High School. That was around 1983 so that was my introduction to house music. I was attending the Bi-Level parties and listening to the Hot Mix five on the radio. I was mesmerized by this continuous flow of music. It was the beat and the rhythms of house music that really drew me in.
Black Widow: What made you want to learn how to DJ?
Nick Non-Stop: Kevin “Kip” Jones introduced me to DJing. He lived around the corner from me. He would play music in his basement. He had two turntables and a mixer and I remember just wanting to learn how to do it. He’s the one who showed me the way and actually let me touch the turntables and play on wax. That was around 1983/1984. My love for it just grew from there.
Black Widow: Now you were a DJ at Mendel and the Bi-Level too right?
Nick Non-stop: Yes! It was four of us. We had a group called M&M and On and On. We were all in the same class. It was myself, DJ Diego, Mark Raspberry, Mark Eldridge, and Del Ireland. Kirk Townsend used to host the Mendel parties and promote it. He was the one who really gave us a chance. We were in the basement but it didn’t matter because we were playing at Mendel! LOL! We eventually made our way to the main floor. I remember it vividly because Chip E was performing one of his songs live. We opened up for him and it was huge. That was our big shot around 1984/1985.
Black Widow: So would you consider that your 1st professional gig?
Nick Non-Stop: I would say yes. I was so nervous!
Black Widow: I heard the place would be jam packed so the pressure was definitely on!!!
Nick Non-Stop: OMG yes! There were no bars, no flat screens on the walls, you just came and danced all night!
Black Widow: So if the music was bad, that was all on you guys!!! [LAUGHTER]
Nick Non-Stop: [LAUGHTER] Yup! That was all on us.
Black Widow: So when did you know that DJing was something more than a hobby?
Nick Non-Stop: When I started to get requests from friends to come and DJ parties it got real. I didn’t plan on it becoming a business but it evolved into a full grown business. Honestly, I just really enjoyed it…30 years later…I still enjoy it. I still do a lot of events, mostly private. I love to see people have fun. Music is one of those things that makes people happy. As a DJ, you are orchestrating that. You control the mood, the emotions and the room. You can make a room or kill a room based on the music you play. I see DJing as a service. You are helping to contribute to an overall experience at an event and I love providing that service.
Black Widow: When did producing and creating music come into play?
Nick Non-Stop: Around 1984/1985, playing around in the basement, we had no idea we would make an impression around the world. We (Steve Simmons, DJ Diego, Ray Thompson and I) created the original version of “House Nation”. We were just playing around with a drum machine and sampler. That was in 1985. It was simple track with a drum beat and bassline. The line “housenation” is my sample voice. My guy, Steve had another sample that we layered on top of it. It was great. We were kids, just 16/17 and we didn’t know copyright laws and stuff like that. We were just having fun. We put the songs on cassette tapes and gave it to a few friends. The next thing you know, I’m sitting in my car listening to the Hot Mix 5 on the radio and I hear a version of my song! I was like WHOA!!! Someone stole my song…that was a gut shot! Then right after that, I heard, “Jack My Body”, which was another song we did. We got burned twice because we didn’t know about copyright laws and the music business. It’s a cutthroat business. People will steal your materials, your brand…
Black Widow:...your concepts, flyers, even your pictures!! Nothing is off limits anymore!!
Nick Non-Stop: Yeah!! Especially, if you don’t protect it. I know you know about it! [LAUGHTER] You know I don’t speak on who it was but they were notorious for stealing music. It is what it is but people know the original from the imitation. 30 plus years later my songs are still moving crowds. We did those in 1985 and people are still rocking to it, so I’m ok with it. I really do believe had my song not been stolen, I don’t think a lot of things that exist in my life right now.
Black Widow: Really? How So?
Nick Non-Stop: Had I just taken this song and went with it, I would have taken an entirely different path. I’m blessed with a beautiful wife and 3 beautiful kids and I don’t think I would have that had the song not been stolen, so it’s all good. Things happen for a reason.
Black Widow: I totally understand. There’s a reason I’m an artist at this stage of my life. It wouldn’t have happened years ago for sure!
Nick Non-Stop: I believe in divine intervention so I’m ok. It was never about the money, it was about making and creating a hot track and moving crowds with it and its still doing that.
Black Widow: Talk about a crash course in the music business at a young age!!! It’s a hard lesson to learn but I bet you know copyright laws now!!! [LAUGHTER]
Nick Non-Stop: Oh man…you betta believe it! [Laughter] I promise you it will never happen again!
Black Widow: You know it’s a constant fight. It’s hard enough to make money nowadays with streaming and such and artists are constantly fighting to create and make money but have to deal with theft and bootlegging that adds another nuisance to it when all you really want to do is create. It’s still happening today, it’s just being done differently and that’s unfortunate. I really wish people would stop supporting it too. Theft isn’t a compliment.
Nick Non-Stop: Yup, so you get it…you understand! I agree too!!! It’s not a compliment, it’s a slap in the face.
Black Widow: So obviously in your 30 year career life happens, you finish college, you get married, etc. How did DJing continue to be a force in your life as you were growing up?
Nick Non-Stop: It was a hobby that evolved into a mobile DJ business. When I went to college, I didn’t have a job. DJing was my job. I did a lot of the campus parties for different organizations. I was the campus DJ. There were a lot of parties and events going on so kept me busy and kept a little money in my pocket. I haven’t stopped. I guess that’s where my name comes from [laughter]. It’s been non-stop for 30 years. I’m constantly working.
Black Widow: What’s been the formula to work consistently these past 30 years?
Nick Non-Stop: I’ve established a lot of repeat customers. I still have people from my NIU college days who contact me. I’ve DJ’d their weddings, kids parties, etc. It’s a good feeling. I just really enjoy it and I’m not going to stop. When people ask me to DJ their event, if I’m free, I do it because I just love it so much. It’s a side business but it’s a legitimate business.
Black Widow: You started your mobile DJ business fairly young as a teenager. What were some of the lessons you had to learn to become a business man?
Nick Non-Stop: I didn’t get my degree in business. I had to maintain my accounting books, lead follow-up, marketing, promoting, engaging with customers; these were all things I had to figure out on my own and I really had to learn how to do it respectfully. As a DJ, you are selling a service. You have to sell yourself, what you are offering to people and give them peace of mind that you are going to do a good job, especially with special events like weddings and corporate events. Those are those high paying gigs and you gotta step up. You have to be a professional, you have to have consultations, draw up contracts, execute the day of. You have to dress a certain way. It’s not something you can just go out and do. It’s a lot behind it. I always say, if I go buy an airplane it doesn’t necessarily make me a pilot. The same applies with DJing. You can’t just go out and buy equipment, some music, and slap DJ in front of your name. You have to work this thing, it’s a business. It’s an art form, a craft. Quite honestly, DJing isn’t work. It’s fun. The work is negotiating deals, carrying equipment, setup and breakdown. DJing is the fun part.
Black Widow: Has the way you brand your business changed over the years, especially with social media?
Nick Non-Stop: Social media is one of the better mediums to use because your reach is farther. I leverage those heavily. I still have my database of clients that consider me their “family” DJ. That’s honestly my best resource. When you have repeat business they also pass the word along and the referral is key!! Word of mouth goes a long way and people don’t refer anything that was bad so if you provide a quality service you will get repeat customers and referrals. It’s no secret to this.
Black Widow: You don’t just DJ in clubs and parties; you do quite a lot of corporate events and private events. Do you consider yourself a “commercial” DJ? There’s always a debate especially in the house scene, that if you do these types of events, if you are on the radio, etc., you are considered commercial. Do you get that at all?
Nick Non-Stop: [LAUGHTER] I’ll be honest. I don’t know and I don’t care. I truly don’t. I’m not here to prove anything to anyone. I’ve already established a brand with “WeJam”. My name, my experience and my rep hasn’t been tainted. I can play at the lounge, the club, someone’s basement or backyard, a wedding, your corporate event or even…the Brew Fest. I’ve put in my work and I’m not here to please other DJs. What I am trying to do is to pave a way. There’s so much work out here, there’s not enough DJs!!!
“ don’t care if people think I’m commercial or corporate. You need to find out what I’m doing and how you can do it too!”
Nick Non-Stop: It’s all about relationships. You can’t just sit around and wait for someone to ask you to DJ. You gotta get out there and hunt it down. You gotta get out there, send some emails, and knock on some doors…show up at the event. If you want to play at a club or event, go to it…patronize it. Introduce yourself to the owner, manager or promoter.
Black Widow: Basic networking 101! [Laughter]
Nick Non-Stop: Yeah! You gotta work this! I’ve worked my ass off over my career doing just that; building relationships, networking, and providing quality service. That’s what it comes down to and I stay versatile.
Black Widow: When did the idea for WeJam Academy come?
Nick Non-Stop: That was about 6 or 7 years ago I had the idea for an academy. I really thought it would be great to teach people, especially kids, the art of DJing. I procrastinated for 5 years until one day, I was playing an event. I was the opening DJ and the DJ who came to play after me didn’t know how to set up his laptop to use his controller. It was then I realized there is an opportunity to train and teach others. Friends of mine would ask me about DJing, and I also had my own kids who wanted to learn. One day I sat down and wrote it all down and said I can do this. The academy officially became a business 2 years ago and it’s been going really good. We’ve trained over 100 students. We have classes for kids and young adults in Homewood and south loop.
Black Widow: The academy does more than teach DJing, what else do you teach?
Nick Non-Stop: We teach Beat matching, the fundamentals, the history of DJing, how to set up your equipment, using digital equipment and the business of DJing, so if they want to set up their own mobile DJ Business, they have the tools to get started.
Black Widow: That’s awesome!
Nick Non-Stop: I have kids right now, 9 year old Air1, and 12 year old, DJ X2 who both have their own businesses. They played the Unity picnic this past weekend and killed it but those are my students and they are out here making money with mobile DJ business. I’m so proud of these young men. That’s our future. I’m getting older and other DJS are getting older.
“I don’t know my shelf life as a DJ. We really need to start training up the next generation”
Black Widow: I love that you add the business component to your training. I help DJs and artists now with marketing and branding and you’d be surprised at how many don’t have professional photos, a media/press kit or A basic website. I tell creatives all the time, your brand cannot be housed on social media. You need subscribers and a mailing list.
Nick Non-Stop: Absolutely!! You hit it right on the head. The kids are starting off with the right blueprint to present themselves in a manner where they do get hired. Even my daughters are out here working; doing birthday and graduation parties. That was my vision. That’s what I always wanted. I wanted a team of young adult DJs that can do those young adult parties!
Black Widow: The vision of bringing young people into this culture and teaching them the art is extraordinary. I think that’s so wonderful for so many reasons. You are giving them a skill and an outlet to express themselves.
Nick Non-Stop: That’s the goal and the vision. I would like to see every household have a household DJ, someone they can call on for events.
Black Widow: That’s how we grew up. You always had someone who knew music, who could work the record player at the family get together or BBQ and so on…
Nick Non-Stop: Exactly! You know? Why not?
Black Widow: So you are playing this weekend at the Hyde Park Brew Fest. How did that come about?
Nick Non-Stop: I’m so excited about it because I was there last year and it was amazing. I live in Hyde Park and the energy was just epic! I was there last year and said to myself, either I’m going to play or one of my girls will be there next year. I claimed it. When I got the call asking me to play, my jaw dropped.
Black Widow: You spoke it into existence!
Nick Non-Stop: I did!!! I play on Sunday at 3pm and that lineup is just crazy!! I’m so honored, humbled and I don’t take it for granted. I’m going to show up and show out! I have one hour and I’m going in!!!
Black Widow: I’ll be there both days covering it. I can’t wait. It’s such a great time! I loved what I saw, it was so dope! It’s just one of those feel good events with great energy and positivity.
Nick Non-Stop: I can’t wait. I’m really looking forward to this. I want to give an experience and take people on a musical journey. I think people are going to like my set. I’m going in hard and I’m going to perform!!!
Black Widow: What are some of your future plans for this year?
Nick Non-Stop: This year, I want to expand the academy. I have a non for profit arm of the academy and this summer we are taking 20 kids and for 8 weeks, they will be part of a DJ apprentice program. We are going to teach them the art of DJing and how to start a mobile DJ business. We are looking for funding now so we can get them equipment now. They will shadow other DJs at events too.
Black Widow: That’s awesome!! I love this idea so much! You are not just teaching but giving them a trade.
Nick Non-Stop: Yup, I even gave those bucket boys my card! I told them; call me if you want to make some real music and real money! [Laughter]
Black Widow: Yes!!! That’s what they need…a trade!
Nick Non-Stop: I want to expand this model and the non for profit side of it. I’m working on finding grant money and get more youth through the program, get them equipment and put them out there to work!
Black Widow: Hopefully get sponsorships from these companies that make the DJ equipment! Whatever I can do to help, let me know. I think it’s a beautiful way to take your gift and give back!
Nick Non-Stop: That’s my hope. It’s all about service. That’s all I want to do is give back. When I see other people enjoy this art, it warms my heart. This job can be very rewarding.
Black Widow: I think about so many DJs who say the art of DJing kept them off the streets. With the times we are in, I think it’s so important to give kids an alternative and it may not be learning the violin and piano, it may be DJing and taking the music they love and spin it and turn it into a skill and business that they can use. It’s a beautiful way of paying it forward.
Nick Non-Stop: Yup...that’s my goal!
Black Widow: Nick, thank you so much for speaking with me. I really enjoyed it.
Nick Non-Stop: I truly appreciate it and enjoyed it.
You can catch Nick Non-Stop at the Hyde Park Brew Fest this weekend!!!
Until Next Time, See ya on a dance floor!
You can find more information on Nick Nonstop at the following websites and on social media: