Interview by Stoney Roads Records producer Piecey (Pat Carroll)
Jason Chung has already had an impressive career with his left-field minimal electronica, spanning over six years. Working with highly acclaimed artists such as Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar and Busdriver, Nosaj Thing has certainly made a name for himself in the hip-hop and beats community. The L.A. native’s sound has developed quite a bit over his time on the scene, combining his early inspirations of hip-hop, ambient, punk and noise music. His live sets are known to be incredibly hands-on and spontaneous, demonstrating his capabilities with his equipment, and his exploratory approach to captivating an audience.
Earlier this month, Nosaj Thing dropped his third album, ‘Fated’ (iTunes), a more stripped-back work than his previous two full-lengths, featuring collaborations with Whoarei and Chance the Rapper. The emotion-packed release sees Chung’s truly innovative mind flourish. It was a pleasure to have a chat with the humble Nosaj Thing about the new album, his approach to composing, and what’s coming up for him.
P: How was your recent tour with Clark?
NT: It was really good man. Yeah it was like… I don’t know what to call it… A journey or something; an experience for sure. It was a pleasure to tour with Clark, because I’ve been a fan of his music for quite some time, so we had a lot of good times and yeah, it was good.
P: Did the stolen gear in Houston cause much of a setback?
NT: Oh man, it caused a setback for everything. Basically everything, all of my projects, my live set, my DJ set from the end of 2013 were in there. And I had it with me because I was working on projects on the road. So I pretty much got wiped out – I lost everything. But just from getting so much support from everyone got me back up and I’ve just been working on new material since I got home.
P: What music were you listening to when you were writing the album?
NT: You know, I wasn’t really listening to too much music at the time while I was writing it. I don’t know why, usually I do but this time I was more just writing music. I was just experimenting a lot, and listening to what I had written. Any time I did listen to music, it was just radio like hip-hop stations, pop stations, whatever, because you know I’m in LA and it’s a driving city. That’s my time to kind of see what’s going on.
P: Were there any new additions to the studio featured on the album?
NT: Yeah, I got a Maschine by Native Instrument. I also got a Kaleidoloop from Critter and Guitari, it’s been really fun to use. And I’ve just been using a lot of apps on my iPad, like a lot of MIDI apps. I’m just really big on new plugins, software and updates and all that stuff, I just try to be on top of that because you know, they’re just like new ideas all the time. The Maschine is now my main controller, and for my live set I used Elektron Rhytm and the iPad with Lemur. I like to change it up; it leaves more room for improvisation.
P: Your live sets are known to be very hands-on and interactive, does performance come into consideration while you compose a track?
NT: It’s always kind of different. I just always try to improve and change upon my set you know? It’s always being tweaked. Sometimes when I play a set I’ll do something, most of the time it’s accidental, but it just becomes part of the set, so it’s just always changing.
P: You’ve mentioned in the past that you wanted to keep it simple and not over-think it with this album. What brought on this idea?
NT: Yeah you know usually, especially for my last two records, I always just get really deep into it and start thinking a lot, and it was getting to a point where it just was not good for me. So I’m just trying to find a balance, so this time around I tried to enjoy it more and have more fun with it and be more light about it. But then because of that I got to make more, you know what I mean? Instead of just thinking about one song. Like what I enjoy the most is working on new ideas rather than finishing them, so it kind of balanced it out.
P: What was your motivation to use more vocals and human textures for Fated?
NT: Oh yeah, that’s always going to be part of my music. A lot of the time it’s just my own voice, and not a lot of people know that. But I like to do that because with electronic music, it can sound really sterile and cold and I always feel like it needs some type of human element to it, and that’s why I started to do that. Like listening to tracks where it’s just a really simple beat and it’s looped for like two minutes, but because there like some type of noise going on in there, it just catches and keeps your attention going because there’s all these little nuances.
P: What was it like working with Whoarei and Chance the Rapper?
NT: Whoarei is an interesting one. It was really easy, he’s all about lofi sounds and stuff so I sent him the idea and he just wanted to record the vocals with his phone. He was like ‘hey can we just use this really crappy recording?’ He didn’t say it that way. He just wanted to stick to lofi and I basically got the vocals and flipped it and it became the song. I’m really excited for him. He’s about to turn in his album that we’re going to put it out and it is sounding really amazing, and I’m really excited about that.
P: For tracks like ‘Don’t Mind Me’ and ‘Cold Stares’ the vocals fit really well into the flow of the album, did you have an idea of how you wanted these tracks to unfold before you approached the featuring artists? Or was it more of a collaborative effort between you and them to come up with the vibe?
NT: Yeah it all just kind of fitted together naturally you know? I don’t really plan ahead that much. I just always write material as if I’m writing in my journal everyday you know?
P: Was there a point while you were putting the album together that you began to have an idea of the trajectory of it? Or did you have an aim before you started?
NT: Pretty much I’ll just write as much as I can and then when an idea… like sometimes I’ll just know right away. I don’t have a plan or anything most of the time, I’ll just start formulating it as I’m going. But that’s just one way of working that I’ve been doing, but I’m going to always try and change my approach. That’s what I really like doing the most, experimenting.
P: What’s coming up?
NT: I’m actually leaving for Asia on Thursday and I’m going to be debuting a new show. I’ve been working on this for a while, but since I lost my sessions, I’ve just been writing new music. But I’m going to be doing this new show with this guy called Daito Manabe for Taico Festival, and it’s going to be like a virtual reality show. Also, I’ll be in Australia in mid-July, I just booked a little tour there too (Hint: Red Bull Music Academy’s Splendour in the Grass Stage).
P: One last thing, how did you get the knife to stick to the fork on your album cover? What’s going on there?
NT: You know what? I still don’t know how that worked. It was on New Years Day, 2014, and coincidentally, my friend Adam Guzman who does all the graphics design for my records, he took that photo. It was on New Years Day after the show, we were at a diner at ‘The Standard’ in Hollywood. I picked up the fork, and it stuck to the knife. Everyone else tried it as well, but it was weird, my one was the only one that stuck that way, and to this day I still don’t know how that happened!