I met Nikolai, who goes by Calculon on stage, on a flight from Vienna to Berlin last year. It’s always nice to meet a fellow American traveler – even nicer when they’re as well traveled as him. It’s always cool to find out how other people not only got into traveling but how they continue to do it for work. Here’s our next of our vagabonds.
So as a DJ, how much time do you get to spend in one location?
There can be a great deal of variance. I’ve been in places like Moscow for less than 24 hours but recently I spent an entire week in Istanbul. Last April I was in Hong Kong, Dubai, Tel Aviv and Vienna in the same week. Right now I’m spending 2 weeks in China between gigs in Nontang, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Chongqing. Typically Fridays and Saturdays are the big gig days and you have to keep moving to keep working.
Can you make requests for days off? Like which city or country, etc.?
There tends to be downtime during the week between gigs. For example in November I spent 5 days between gigs Bristol and London catching with up with friends and eating peri-peri chicken wings. Ultimately I decide where I go because I am booking my own shows but the general rule is you go where the gigs are and you do as many as possible. It’s definitely more important to do several gigs in a week than to have downtime because downtime equals spending and not making money.
Do you normally have a host helping you out when you land in different places?
Yes since there is a promoter for the shows it’s in their interest to make sure I’m looked after so that I can perform at their event. Let’s just say some promoters are more hospitable than others!
It’s also great to meet artists and musicians wherever you go – regardless of where you are someone wants to show you their city, culture, and offer their hospitality because they appreciate the music and the fact that it takes a lot of effort to come to their city to DJ. It’s something I indirectly reciprocate because I can’t offer hospitality in a place where I don’t speak the language or know my way around, so whenever people come to San Diego I offer as much of my time as I can to show people the best time possible and make sure they are comfortable and being looked after. It can be more than unsettling to be in a strange country and not feel hospitality.
How many languages do you speak fluently – and not so fluently?
I speak German fluently due to my time living in Germany and Switzerland during my college years and I ended up even getting a degree in German. Spanish I speak fairly fluently but it’s not anywhere close to my German. I also speak a bit of Italian, a bit of Russian (it helps to understand Cyrillic), Portuguese, and I try to learn basic things like hello and thank you and cheers in every language. It sounds silly but I try to learn those 3 in particular in every language (maybe 20 or 25 languages so far). Recently when I was in Turkey I realized I should learn what I can and learning things like ok (tamam), yes, no, what’s up, and where’s the lighter, etc. goes miles towards bringing you closer to not only understanding what other people are saying but connects you with people who realize you are making an effort to be respectful.
What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?
That’s one question that people ask me and I never really have an answer. There are so many amazing things about so many amazing places that I really have a hard time picking, but Hawaii is definitely at the top of the list. There’s nothing in the world like swimming in the ocean alongside a sea turtle.
Another thing that’s extremely important to me is the people, because they really make the experience. A city is just a city but what really makes for a memorable experience is connecting with people and being fortunate enough to get a local’s view into their culture and daily life, and in that regard any place in the world has the potential to be a favorite. Dublin for example is a city that for me the people make the place.
What’s one place you definitely have to see in the future?
Since I am going in a few days I won’t say Japan, which is somewhere I have always wanted to go. I want to go to Jamaica probably more than anywhere else in the world but I only go to places where I have gigs and I don’t see that happening there unfortunately. Aside from touring extensively in the States and in Europe and more recently Asia I have never been to Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, or New Zealand.
What’s your number one road trip jam?
The mixtape that I’ve been rocking the hardest lately is by a San Diego reggae crew called Tribe of Kings and they did a mix with J-Boog. It’s really something special and I love hearing them sing “San Diego” because that’s where I’m from. – TRIBE OF KINGS PRESENTS: “YOU GOT TO BE STRONG” HOSTED BY J BOOG MIXED BY DASH EYE.
If you didn’t travel so much for work, do you think you’d still be traveling like this?
If I wasn’t traveling for djing then I wouldn’t be traveling really at all. I have a son who is the most important person in my life and I try to be there and spend as much time with him as possible. Also I could never afford to travel the way I do without being paid from gigs. Traveling can be ridiculously expensive, especially when you don’t know any locals. I’m very fortunate to see as much of the world as I have. I couldn’t do what I do without the generosity of others.
You’ve started a blog about all the different foods to try – what along with the cuisine do you have to try when traveling?
One of my favorite things to do is get haircuts in faraway countries. My top 3 haircuts so far have been in Sharjah just outside of Dubai, Istanbul, and the other day in Shanghai. For me the rule is to do what the locals do, be it food, drink or whatever it is. When you are in a foreign country you have to take the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture because you will never get that experience anywhere else.
Did you or your family travel a lot when you were younger?
As a kid my dad took my brother and I on road trips around California and Nevada. At 15 I did a three week trip to the UK and Ireland. That trip really was the spark that ignited my passion for travel and adventure – my life has never been the same since.
What is your travel inspiration?
It might seem hokey but recently I would say Anthony Bourdain – because he goes places I could never imagine going and does a great job of really embracing whatever culture he is surrounded by. When I have downtime between tours I enjoy watching his shows. It puts things into perspective because even though I went to close to 20 different countries last year that’s nowhere near his travels.
What’s your favorite social media for sharing pic’s or stories from your travels?
For pictures Instagram is spectacular because of their filters and editing but I really enjoy Twitter because I feel like you can be yourself on there. I don’t care for Facebook and I like the in the moment experience that Twitter provides. Stories are generally things I keep for dinner or late night conversations hahaha because some things shouldn’t be so public!
Where to next?
After China is Japan with gigs in Osaka and Tokyo, then I’m off to Oahu before home. I get to catch my breath and do some laundry before heading up north to Portland. Then I can go home to enjoy that amazing San Diego weather I miss so much and be with my family for a couple weeks before the year rolls on.