Nate: In different times in my life I’ve gone through phases where I’d really get into a specific genre or band. When I was a child my dad introduced me to some great music like Ray Charles, James Brown, Sly Stone, and also a lot of the early New Orleans funk, The Meters, Lee Dorsey etc. He also turned me onto jazz which I pretty much immersed myself in through high school and college. Some of my favorite artists during that time were Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Charlie Haden, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis.
In my mid twenties I started getting into more rock and was drawn a lot to Deerhoof and other contemporary bands that I thought were pushing pop music in a crazy direction. I recently made a podcast of tracks that had the most impact on me while I was making “Dirty Glow,” which includes everything from Kraftwerk to Shuggie Otis to Billie Holiday.
Bowlegs: How has your background with Jazz influenced your approach to producing and editing electronic music?
Nate: With jazz, most of the focus is on improvisation. When I’m producing music that is composed, whether it’s electric or acoustic, I try to get that same spontaneous improvisation feel. Often times that means adding some extra crazy sounds that maybe don’t belong but will continue to surprise the listener. I love the feeling of hearing things in a song for the first time even if you’ve listened to it a million times.
Bowlegs: Would you tell us about the overarching lyrical theme to this record?
Nate: I wish I could! Writing lyrics is always a struggle for me. I hope people can come up with their unique meanings of the songs. Some of my lyrics are meant in almost a self-help, preachy way, like in “Lead the Way”. Others are more for serving a specific type of genre or attitude, like in Baby Don’t Walk Away. I’m not sure if there is an overarching lyrical theme to the record, but it’s possible.
[spotify id=”spotify:track:2GFVok6uXSGebLrwxUDm0W” width=”300″ height=”380″ /]
Bowlegs: You’ve stated that the track In The Summer is a narration of a day in Oakland. Can you describe the record’s connection to the East Bay?
Nate: I wrote and recorded the record in Oakland, CA where I’ve lived for the last 7 years. I guess the best way to summarize the effect of living there and making music is the dissonance between the amazing climate and the intensity of the city. On one hand it’s this sunny, warm, beautiful place that is perfect. On the other side it’s very dangerous and intense. I think a lot of music that comes out of Oakland reflects that.
[spotify id=”spotify:track:4wFtfU8V9yRARkF6UFEsll” width=”300″ height=”380″ /]Bowlegs: How does the experience of recording, editing, and performing a solo record compare to your previous musical projects Beep! and tUnE-yArDs?
Nate: It feels good to work on a solo record because when you’re in bands, you always have to compromise something. I think in a lot of ways compromising can actually make the overall album or song a lot stronger, but it feels good to see all your ideas executed without having to make changes. Solo albums often seem to have a personal feel and definite vision. It was important for me to make something that was 100 percent my own. Maybe just to see what it felt like, and whether I could even do it at all.
Bowlegs: Did Merril Garbus play a role in any aspect of Dirty Glow?
Nate: Merrill would come by my studio, listen to some tracks, and take notes for possible overdub ideas. Sometimes I would just play a track and ask her if she thought it was done yet or needed more work. Sometimes you never know when a song is finished and I’d have the tendency to want to re-do a drum part or a vocal part and Merrill might say, “It sounds great, start working on the next song instead of obsessing over that drum track.”
The way I think she helped the most, though, was with her encouragement and advice. She always has a good way of reminding me that it’s really hard to make good music and there are no secrets or shortcuts, it just takes a lot of work.
Bowlegs: I love the track Baby Don’t Walk Away, and can’t help but feel there is an a cappella influence there, mostly barbershop. Have you ever sung with a barbershop quartet, or a capella group?
Nate: No, I’ve never sung with a barbershop quarter or a cappella group. In the vocal breakdown on that track I was trying to go for a Sly Stone type of vocal break down.
Bowlegs: Your Janet Jackson cover was funky fresh. If you were to cover another 80′s hit, which would it be?
Nate: Ha ha, probably Hall & Oates, I Can’t Go for That!
Bowlegs: What new fall releases have you been loving?
Nate: I just got the new Deerhoof record and think it’s amazing. I’m a little behind on some of the other fall releases, because I’m still listening to albums that came out this summer. Delicate Steve, Sonnymoon, Micachu and the Shapes, are all on heavy rotation for me right now.
-Interview by Rick Marcello-