The Nomad, AKA DJ and producer Daimon Schwalger, a pioneer in Aotearoa’s electronic music scene, recently celebrated 25 years of album and single releases with a special compilation.
Titled The Nomad – Infinite, the carefully curated selection of 16 tracks traced the musical journey of the independent New Zealand artist since his acclaimed 1998 drum’n’bass album Movement.
This double vinyl beauty isn’t your everyday release: it’s a limited edition career retrospective pressed onto smooth 180gm vinyl for true sound aficionados.
The exquisite tracks are also a showcase of Aotearoa’s electronic music scene evolution, illustrating its growth into today’s diverse landscape.
Beyond the music, this album mirrors The Nomad’s life – from early days at infamous The Gathering festivals to embracing roles as a musician, a father, and more recently, a videographer capturing the magic of Aotearoa’s West Coast.
Dubbed the “nomadic traveler working on beats all day,” Schwalger has collaborated with an array of artists, including Barnaby Weir (Black Seeds), MC Antsman (The Nomad / Rhombus), Tehimana Kerr (Fat Freddy’s Drop), and more, creating a vibe in itself.
Reflecting on the release, Schwalger notes, “Putting the compilation together has taken so much time and hard work. No expense was spared, with KOG remastering the audio, the lacquer produced in the USA, the plates made in the UK, and then the pressing made here in NZ. It’s been all hands on deck to support the kaupapa and make this good thing happen.”
Rolling Stone AU/NZ asked Schwalger to dig deeper into the sounds and stories behind five tracks from the collection, which you can check read below. Fans can also catch him in action as The Nomad at several dates around the country over the summer months.
The Nomad’s The Nomad – Infinite is out now. Purchase the 180gm double vinyl LP from all good record stores.
“Breaking Rocks” (2007)
In 2007 I played the legendary – and sadly missed – Parihaka music festival in Taranaki, hosted at a site where shameful injustices against non-violent Māori left a stain on this country’s history, so it’s a really reflective, connecting and uplifting experience. The band and our crew returned home quite shifted by that time and once back in Wellington myself, MC Antsman and Oakley Grenell wanted to mark that experience.
Antsman got on his typically excited buzz, declaring the track needed an old school foundation. Before thinking mode and said let’s start the track by sampling an old record, so he bounced away and back with some classic vinyl, Nina Simone’s “Work Song”.
We grabbed the first two bars to lay down the tune’s foundation. I programmed the beats and added the phat bassline, while Oakley provided the guitar licks and rollicking organs. About every 30 minutes, we’d head outside and talk about the next process. Such as, the double time breakbeat halfway through the track.
So much fun to produce. Intense, but fun. The whole track was done in one evening, we crashed out around 1am. The next day I gave it a mixdown and a few tweaks, then I sent the track to Chris Chetland in Auckland at Kog Studios for mastering.
We were so stoked with the result, the whole thing came tight, fast and smooth. It was all about the energy of collaboration and the vibes from this amazing place Parihaka.
“Movement ft Pearl Runga” (1998)
It’s 1998 in Christchurch, I’d just released my debut album titled Movement, with the title track featuring vocals from Pearl Runga, of the massively talented Runga sisters with Boh and Bic. The album took 12 months to produce, mainly an Ensoniq ASR10 keyboard sampler. The sampler only had one minute on mono record time, so you really had to have a good idea of how you wanted to track to be! The songs were saved onto 4-5 floppy disks, and it was all done with internal sequencing.
Once the tracks were finished, I called my mate Tiki Taane, who was mixing sound for Salmonella dub at the time; he came up to my studio and we brainstormed the best way to mix the album down. We hired a massive rack of EQ’s compressors and FX, I had an outboard expander unit that gave us 8 separate outputs from the sampler, and we then threaded them into a mixing desk. We would record three takes of each song, choose the best take of the three and then record that onto another DAT tape. Rinse and repeat.
Once completed, I took the DAT and the acetate artwork, packaged it up, then posted it to Australia to get the CDs manufactured. It was all so physical back then! It took four weeks for the CD to return. When it did, the first thing I did was listen to the album – proudly, but then I had to assemble the CD parts myself. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life, with so much support from local businesses for the tour and release. It was one of the first drum’n’bass albums to come out of New Zealand.
“141” (ft Fada) (1999)
It was July 15th, 1999, two days before my birthday and I had the support gig of my life! Supporting my heroes, Rockers Hi Fi. By then, I had almost finished my second album, Second Selection, and had planned to play a lot of the new tracks at the gigs in Dunedin and Christchurch.
We all clicked really well on the road trip to Dunedin, so when we returned to Christchurch for the show at the Ministry club, opportunistic me asked the promoter if MC Fada P would visit my studio the next morning and record vocals on a new track. I almost peed my pants with excitement when he said yes.
The next morning before the band flew out I got a knock at the door – I had it all set up so he could just come in and lay down some rhymes. It was the day before my birthday, and I was in a pretty excited mood. Especially as I snagged some photos together in the studio and on the street.
The next day I had the best birthday present I could ever ask for: a track called “141” (my street address) featuring Fada P from Rockers Hi Fi. I then sampled a sound off my old Nokia 3210 phone, providing a main sound, then added the keys in the sampler and played around with some arrangements.
Whilst I was living in Wellington in 2004 I had an urge to return to my old stomping ground of Christchurch to work on new tracks for my fourth album Step 4th – note the numerical progression theme in the earlier albums! I ran in Oakley Grenell, son of the Kiwi country legend John Hore Grenell (most Kiwis will know the tune “Welcome to My World”, mainly used to sell Corollas in the 1990s). Oakley is an amazing music producer, a very talented guitarist and was studying jazz across the road from my studio. Opportunistically, I snapped him up to play on “Destinations”.
The track came together well, flowing seamlessly between beats and baseline. With Oakley in the studio, I sampled the sound of silk being ripped, Oakley then pulled out his guitar and laid down amazing riffs and chords that became the signature of the track.
Once the single had been mixed and mastered a few weeks’ later, I got booked to play at an iconic South Island music festival called Destination, nestled in the Castle Hill village inland from Christchurch. The track really reminded me of the festival, so I called the single “Destinations”. I hit up the festival organisers and arranged for the single to be released at Destinations mid-set. The vibes and energy was incredible, and just like the festival, the 12” single also became an icon of Kiwi electronica.
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“Put on Ya Turban” (2014)
In 2014 I produced my seventh album, and worked with a vocalist in Jamaica called Dexta Malawi. I got introduced to him by my good friend Jakle Savona who produces music all over the world but mainly in Kingston and Havana. I was living on the West Coast of the South Island working on my new album and wanted to collaborate with international artists; I thought that Dexta would be great on a new song I was working on.
The track was made and sent via Dropbox to Jamaica for Dexta to do vocals on. He received the track and worked out his vocal parts. The track also featured the incredible (and sadly missed) Aaron Tokona on guitar, and I produced the beats, bass, and keys. After the track was completed, I went to stay with my Dad who lived in Kingston, at the end of Lake Wakatipu in the high Southern Alps mountains.
Once at the Kingston NZ, I thought how cool it would be to make a video with Dexta, as he’s in Kingston, Jamaica. He agreed to film some footage, then send it back here. We then had the craziest Skype meeting I’ve ever known: four of them in a run-down old shack type studio, with no tops on, smoking endless sinsemilla. It was snowing where I was, they’d never seen snow before and were completely buzzing about it.