MXDWN’s Magical Properties Tour Interviews continue today with a Q&A with up-and-comer Nosaj Thing.
Drift was pretty great. Your sound defies tangent genre. From where do you pull your influences to create such music?
Growing up in LA, I would listen to local radio stations. I remember listening to the radio in second grade, like Power or The Beat, that’s when all the beat junkies were on the air. I would record the radio shows on my parents’ cassette recorder. I was always involved in music programs at school. I got into the rave scene in ’98. I was really into drum and bass and house music. Eventually, I started DJing and working on production.
What is the Nosaj Thing production process like? Where do you start? When do you know you’re finished?
Writing music is pretty therapeutic for me. Whenever I have the urge to take things out of my mind-good stress, bad stress, whatever-I like to sit down in front of the computer and get away from normal life things for a bit. I start off with sound design and try to express whatever I’m feeling. I start with the beat first and go from there. I rarely finish a song in one sitting or sometimes even that week. It’s like keeping a diary with a friend.
What sort of equipment do you use for production?
I’m running Ableton Live, Logic, various hardware synthesizers. I usually just mix and match whatever sounds good.
Is that different then what you use for touring equipment?
Yeah. For tours, I just use one midi controller and my laptop. I like to keep it light since I’m traveling. I wanted to make it as easy as possible without checking in a bunch of bags.
What impact do you feel the advent of internet file sharing has on modern music listeners?
There are pluses and minuses. Obviously, with the internet, new music is more accessible and a lot of people probably wouldn’t have heard of me if it weren’t for the internet. But even with file sharing, I’m able to still make a living somehow doing music thanks to licensing and touring. There aren’t quite a few people out there who still buy music digitally or physical hard copies and I’m trying to embrace that. You just have to be smart about it and come up with some new stuff.
How did you get involved in Magical Properties?
Daedelus and I have been talking about touring for a long time. The tour is to promote his new label. I’m not on it, but that’s why we have Jogger with us.
Describe your involvement with your label Alpha Pup.
Alpha Pup is based in LA. Daddy Kev runs that label; he’s the man behind Low End Theory. We’re all good friends and we do what we do.
What are the recent developments with the Low End? When did you first start playing there? How often?
Before Low End Theory started, Daddy Kev had another place called Shock Value in downtown LA. On the flier, it said that whoever shows up first could open up for the night. Me being a crazy scratch DJ nerd, I showed up with my friend’s laptop I borrow and midi controllers and I got to open up for the night. That was when I first met Daddy Kev. I few months later I was following other DJs at the Low End Theory, which was the perfect thing because I was sort of struggling finding a place to play at noise punk venues like The Smell. I just felt a 100% connection with the scene. I went there every week. And when Low End first started out, everyone was on the same page; it was like The Smell but for me. So I shot demo CDs to Daddy Kev and I played there quite a bit and met a lot of like minded producers like Flying lotus and IMA Robot, Gaslamp Killer. It’s this thing we all built together and now it’s packed every week, which is amazing.
Do you still play there?
Not as often. They have a pretty busy line up now. I’m trying to do this visual show I had going there and I didn’t want to take too much away from other people playing or have it get played out.
Do you feel that through your engaging live performances and use of visuals you bring a new concept of art into music?
It all started when I got the idea [for visuals] seeing other indie acts, one of the main ones was Cornelius, and after that I was like “Man I need to do something like that, I’m tired of seeing boring electronic acts, I want to create more of an experience than just a show so people could remember and engage in.” At the time, my girlfriend had an internship job where she went out of town for 4 months and her classmate stayed with me. She had similar visions and goals as well, so we collaborated together and started creating this show. Then when my girlfriend came back into town, we all worked on it together and defined it a bit more. And it is what it is now. We’re still continuing to build on it. The whole idea behind it is creating cohesive story with the music and visuals. A lot of times you see DJs or electronic acts who have visuals that are irrelevant to the music so we created specific videos that went with each song and each part of a song and we go from there.
That sounds intensive, linking your music production to visual production.
Yeah, we’ve done it a couple times so far and we’ve been learning a lot at every show because every venue is different and every space is different and we have to keep that in mind when we do the show because it’s a specific experience.
So do you lug around this visual equipment on tour or modify the house equipment and hook up your applications?
We’re actually not doing a visual show this tour around because if we do it in every major city, we have to do it right. It also requires the visual artist to be there and control that vibe and I can’t do it by myself.
Is it a hassle to get all of that stuff together?
Not really, but the main thing is it just needs to look right. You can’t do it half way. It takes a lot of preparation and there are a lot of logistics involved.
What’s something you want to accomplish in the immediate future?
I’m doing a remix for Fever Ray. I have a release coming out for I Am Sound, another LA label. I have a remix CD coming out in the summer and in the meantime I’ll be working on my next record, which will be out hopefully early next year.
Come back tomorrow for our final Magical Properties interview with Jogger!