Nosaj Thing – Interview

Nosaj Thing first came to prominence in 2009 when his album ‘Drift’ reached beyond the L.A. club scene he was akin to, and found favour with a generation of fans that were still acclimatising themselves to producer / performers that used their laptop (or DAW) as an instrument. His melodic beats helped many to make sense of this emerging tendency and his performances exemplified the broadening landscape for audio-visual exploration. Now something we accept as standard, artists like Nosaj (real name Jason Chung) forged forward with abandon from the norm and showed that laptop performances had no end of possibility when it comes to live experiences. Without doubt, this pioneering effect would never have found foothold if his music was appalling. Thankfully, it’s quite the opposite and via ‘Home’ his follow up and ‘Fated’ which arrived earlier this year, Nosaj has cemented his status as an artist that is worthy of regular praise.

Starting out at 12 years old, Jason made beats daily using a cracked copy of Fruity Loops. In this genesis stage, his broad influences ranged fully across Los Angeles’ musical melting pot which in turn helped to shape his young opinions and motivations. Surrounded by this assortment of sound, Nosaj became inveigled by the moods and attitudes of Daddy Kev’s seminal club night, Low End Theory. A hive of creativity, this much feted happening is still running today, advocating local artists such as Diabise, Jon Wayne, Gaslamp Killer, Samiyam and of course Flying Lotus. A place for merging minds, Low End Theory has imperceptibly beamed itself across the world, netting reward as a major influencer in contemporary beat culture globally. As the L.A. scene glides forward, Nosaj Thing remains one of its most noteworthy exponents.

Esteem and respect do not come easy as an artist, but through his releases, remixes and innumerable live shows Nosaj has met the demands beset upon him and more. Although some of these demands have in the past, taken their toll on him personally, he always strives to present his characterful creative approach in all new manners and means. His self-run imprint ‘Timetable’ presses upon the creative boundaries of its artists and fosters the expression of new ideas and interpretations. He himself an artist that loves to experiment and grow has established space for the label’s artists to find freedom in their own expression.

With the merited success of ‘Fated’, Nosaj Thing has further cemented his status as a must see artist. Performing at the upcoming Metropolis festival in Dublin, we had the chance to pick his brain and see where things are at for him right now.

TGP: Your album ‘Fated’ was released earlier this year. Can you describe how life has been for you since it came out?

Nosaj: It’s always tough to really give a clear answer to that. So many are determined to think of what’s next, but with my music I’d really like to see all my ideas come to reality. I’m working on my next solo project with a different approach. I’m taking some ideas from ‘fated’ and creating something more upbeat and hypnotic. I’m also working on some song writing projects with a few singers/rappers.

The response has been resounding, how do you react to the critics and does it ever affect your work?

I’m really not sure how to take critics lately. It takes me a while for to understand an entire record these days. There’s so many distractions and I’m not sure how everyone’s tastes are evolving. Trend waves are massive now and everyone wants to be liked. All of these social platforms are making people feel like they need that instant gratification. It’s not good energy to be creative, I feel like I make my best work when I’m truly disconnected from all the noise, and It’s getting harder to do that.

You have described your first album ‘Drift’ as ‘youthful’ and your follow up ‘Home’ as ‘personal’. What does ‘Fated’ mean to you and how might you attempt to sum it up in one word?

Fated is a collection of work that just came out naturally. I really enjoyed making it and i tried to break some of my own rules with it. I realized that my favorite songs are simple and short, and it was me exploring that. One word? I guess it would just be the album title, fated.

How did your approach to producing ‘Fated’ differ from your previous outings?

With my previous work I would work on the details more and spend a lot of time with automating dynamics and effects. I would also work on the arrangements for a longer period. With fated, i just wanted to simplify the process.

You’re well known for your live performances and visual accompaniments. Which performers have most influenced your own particular style?

I would have to say Cornelius. I saw them play at the disney concert hall in LA mid 2000’s, and they had a synchronized video show with a live band. Everything was on point. The venue, the sound, the visuals, and even the merch.

Much is written about ‘Low End Theory’ and its marked influence upon music in L.A. In your opinion, what is it that makes that night so special and which artists emerging from that scene are exciting you right now?

When the Low End Theory started in 2006 it was a full circle for me. It brought the LA rave scene, dj/scratch, hip hop, and experimental music together all in one place. I was playing DIY venues and I felt like the black sheep playing with punk bands and noise acts, but at the same time it really inspired me and shaped my sound.

Right now I’m into sounds coming from Northern Cali. Whoarei and Sela to name a couple. Whoarei has this unmistakable natural sound, and Sela is pushing footwork and ambient to experimental.

Since the new album dropped you have played quite a number of shows. How do maintain that energy?

I try not to tour that much, and I always have to be making new material so I don’t get tired of my own shit. I think the last time I played live, half of it was unreleased.

Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Timetable’, and your vision for that imprint?

The goal is to keep the crew tight and develop a strong output from each artist. It’s not limited to just music. I want to explore different mediums and different environments. Instead of the label and art director creating everything, I’d like to see the artist find their own interests and output their full vision. It’s a challenge but it’s needed. It’s pure.

What’s next for the label?

We have a Gerry Read single coming out along with a Tee and Flexi-disc. It’s called Limp Biscuit Anthem / Touching Me. Gerry told me he had something cartoon inspired in mind. Coincidentally, I met Kristofferson San Pablo the next day through mutual friends. He’s an artist based in LA and we both ended up DJing my friends party. He did the artwork for it. We also have out first compilation coming out first quarter of 2016.

I’ve read that you make most of your music whilst at home. How does touring affect your creative process?

It’s the energy I get from the crowd. It feels like it’s evolving faster, just like everything else. Meeting new people and feeling their energy really inspires me. I used to be really private and just dip out right after my set.

Your back catalogue includes a host of remixes. People often say there’s an art to it. What is it about working with other people’s music that encourages you to keep doing it?

I always like to ask my favorite producers for remixes. It’s really interesting to hear their take on something that you created. As long as it makes sense and not for temporary hype.

I believe that you’re a lover of classical music. Which composers have had the greatest effect on you?

Debussy, Satie, Chopin.

What was the last album you listened to and recommended to a friend whose opinion really matters to you?

Julianna Barwick – Magic Place. Also the new rabit / scrict face ep that just came out is really nice too.

You were quite young when you started producing music. From both a technical and experiential vantage point, what advice would you give to young producers?

Always experiment, and change your approach.


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