With over a decade in the underground music scene, Los Angeles-based producer Nosaj Thing has dabbled in various genres from hip-hop – producing tracks for a wide scope of artists; from Busdriver to Kendrick Lamar – to ethereal electronic music, a style explored on his 2009 debut album, Drift. With his sophomore record Home set to drop January 22, Nosaj sat down for an exclusive interview with us to discuss, among other things, his inspiration behind the album, his work with Tokyo designer Daito Manabe, and why he thinks all the best tracks are coming out of bedrooms right now. Read the interview below and make sure to pick up Home when it is released on January 22. With vocal contributions from the likes of Toro y Moi and Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, Home is sure to be a very worthy follow-up to his debut album.
Let’s talk about early beginnings, how did you get started with music?
I got into DJing through older friends when I was 12, but I started producing freshman year of high school. I was 13 and a friend of mine gave me some production software and I installed it on my dad’s computer and since then I was just kind of hooked.
What was the music like in the beginning?
The guys that I was DJing with, they were doing hip-hop so it started with that. But then my homie that gave me the production software also liked house music. So it was cool that I had friends that were into different types of music at a young age that influenced me to actually try different styles from the start.
Speaking of style, your sound is very unique. Is that something you can put into words?
Ha, I don’t know, man. Well for Nosaj Thing it’s hip-hop, it’s electronic music. It’s experimental.
In regards to this new project, what was the concept behind that? What did you want to do with it?
Yeah, I have a new album that I finished called Home. It’s more of a personal record for me. I think it’s just about myself going through like a Saturn’s return.
Can you explain a little about that? The process?
I’m in my late 20's and shit’s been happening to me. A lot of crazy shit and I guess it’s just a result of that.
Interesting, well you’re starting a new imprint now correct?
Yeah, the imprint is called Time Table. I’ll be starting by putting out some producers, D Tiberio is one. Charles Murdoch is the other one, from Brisbon. I just want to do forward-thinking music and have it become an outlet for all types of media, not just music.
Can you give us some examples?
You know, it doesn’t even have to be media either. It could be print, it could be video. I’m just keeping it open for now.
Do you have any pet peeves regarding the industry and if you could change something, what would that be?
I guess the nature of how music is consumed right now you know? Everything moves really fast and I think there’s these waves of trends. I guess that’s the only thing I’m frustrated with sometimes. I don’t know what’s really going on, but I think it’s good to just tune in and tune out.
You seem to be in your lane, whereas some producers and DJs have somewhat branched out to new genres. Is that something you see yourself doing?
Yeah man, when I started out I always wanted to just produce hip-hop. But I ended up on a different route and got into noise and punk and experimental music. It took me a different direction for a while. I think that helped you know? I’ve been working on new projects and I always want to challenge myself.
Definitely. Aside from your friends coming up putting you onto things, what were some of your personal musical inspirations, people you grew up listening to?
Well of course Shadow. Boards of Canada, StereoLoud, Aphex Twins, Dilla, Tribe. That’s just a few.
And as the years went on, to present day, are there some people you kind of keep an eye on? Feeling what they’re doing, their movement?
I like what Hyperdub, it’s a record label, is doing. I just think it’s interesting that the gap is pretty much… well before there was a gap between like, I don’t even know what you want to call it. Bedroom producers? What I’m trying to say is like right now Hudson Mohawke is working with Kanye. We were all waiting for something like that to happen and it’s finally here. It’s a good time right now and I’m looking forward to hearing what’s going to be next.
You mentioned “bedroom producers,” can you explain to people who don’t know what that means?
I mean, I still record and produce everything at home, so maybe I am, I don’t know. I don’t think it matters you know? I think the dopest producers out right now are making their beats inside their bedroom. That’s just how it is. You don’t really need a full studio to make good beats right now because all the tools are accessible and anybody can do it.
If you were to work with someone right now, present or past, who would that person be?
I’d love to work with Bjork. Would love to work with Andre 3000 as well as Busta Rhymes.
Onto more recent happenings, you have a couple of shows coming up, tours, festivals. Where can people catch you at?
I was doing this kind of short Europe tour at the beginning of November. But I’m laying low right now and developing a new visual show for next year so I’m looking forward to that.
Any inside scoop on the visual show?
Yeah I’m working with this designer from Tokyo, his name is Daito Manabe. I’ve been a fan of his work for several years now. I think he’s the craziest media artist out there right now. The thing is last year, I don’t know if you were there, but we did the visual show at the Creative Project here in New York. And when I was in Korea just a couple weeks ago, they were asking me what I’ve been up to and I told them I’ve working with Daito and they’re also big fans of his. We’re actually in talks right now. Hopefully everything goes through and they’ll fund this next project.
Do you have any final words you’d like to say for the fans and readers?
Thanks for the support and keep an eye out for Time Table.
Interview: Davis Huynh