First, I want to talk about Nomadic Kids Republic. What brought on the birth of this new imprint into your family? Where does the name come from?
When I first thought about actually forming a label, I came up with the name ‘Noakk’. I liked the idea of having an autumnal, large old dead trees sort of feel (hence ‘oak’) and wanted something which I felt reflected not only what I saw myself as personally, but something which is representative of music which crosses boundaries both stylistically and geographically (the ‘nomadic’ element). However, after a lot of thought into the name and concept with a close friend of mine, we decided that the seasonal element was too limiting. We agreed that the music we wanted to release had a sort of innocence and freshness about it (hence the ‘kids’) but we also wanted to create a family with the label, but ‘republic’ suited the idea of togetherness better than ‘family’ for some reason.
NKR is actually the label before Home Normal and Tokyo Droning, it just took me a few years to get the label exactly as I saw it. It needed space and time to grow organically from conception to birth. Home Normal came out of the concept of organic minimalism which I regarded as very important. Tokyo Droning came out of my original idea of having ‘Noakk’ be a handmade label using local goods – which again I had to put on the backburner due to the fact that I was never happy with the local products (its taken time to find the right paperstock etc). So yes, Noakk (or NKR) is actually the daddy of the other two funnily enough. It continued as a label which could cross boundaries more easily than Home Normal, which has been tied down a little by public expectation. It gave me the freedom to release anything and in a very very minimal, sort of faded polaroid style design which I had wanted to do for a long time.
NKR has a very minimal aesthetic. I really love the design of the album covers as well as the web site itself. What was the inspiration behind this move?
I’m an avid collector of slides and old polaroid photography, plus I collect and use old cameras as well. I wanted something very pure, stripped down (even more so than Home Normal) which spoke in the most subtle of ways. I also liked the idea of having a series of piano pieces on one release, with a harsh noise release for example, but both packaged very similarly. It takes away the self in many ways, and makes the release more open to the whole of the series, label and other artists. It is a design driven by a very pure vision I feel, and it was important that Christian Roth helped with this otherwise it would all feel a little too selfish. It takes a lot of faith from the artists to allow this and I am really proud that artists like Maps and Diagrams, offthesky and The Green Kingdom are so open to such work.
Seriously, though, when do you find the time to run Home Normal, Tokyo Droning, Nomadic Kids Republic and even manage to produce music?
Ha, good question! Shoot, um, I genuinely don’t sleep much. I have a long commute to work (4 hours a day) where I work as much as Japan train space will allow! I cannot physically sleep before 2am and get up at 5am for work, so I manage to find the time. I do need more time for my own work though and from mid-2012 am slowing right down with the labels. I have been able to work on music through sheer exhaustion though, and this has been beneficial actually. My recent work with a handful of close friends is far and away the best work I have ever done, and I do put that down to exhaustion. Exhaustion can lead to controlled depression, which is an amazing tool when it comes to creating something true and honest. But back to your question! I just don’t give myself any freetime right now, which is ok as I love what I do. I have tried, my wife has insisted I take time off… but the truth is I get bored very quickly if I don’t do anything music related.
Brock Van Wey has made many appearances on your labels, yet this is the fist collaboration between the two of you. How did it all finally come about?
We have a mutual close friend – Mike (Smallfish records). He basically used to bang on to each of us how cool the other was, so we eventually got in touch on a personal level. Mike was also an enormous fan of both our work and has been integral to everything that has come out from Brock through the labels and the work with myself. In our regular chats / emails, I just suddenly had a feeling that Brock and I should work together on something. It is quite odd how long it took but was just a matter of being at the right time in regards to how open we coud be with each other personally, and I felt we had hit that point. Brock felt the same way, and that was that really.
What is the central theme behind your album, and why does the truth hurt?
Somewhat unintentionally its obviously about isolation, depression and the stillness and bubble that one can reside in when stuck in that cycle. The truth hurts because those who suffer from depression, isolation (self-imposed or not) and from a feeling of being ostricised, are their own fiercest critics. There is no hope when stuck in that bubble, and the concept of hope is not a realistic concept when dealing with depression in its purest and most violent (but blissful) state.
Talk a little about your recording process. What new pieces did you record and how were they exchanged between you and Brock?
A lot of the source material from Brock and myself consisted of old recordings, and some newer work as well. Lie In Lone was written when I was at university and we seemed to pour over work which very directly expressed this emotion (loneliness). I worked on some processing, as well as getting organic recordings together. We are both pretty obsessive once we want to record so it had to be a one way transfer only really. We collated tracks I had made which were written in extreme periods of my life, and I adjusted all of them (except Lie In Lone which I had been adding to and taking away from for years) before Brock got them. Brock then worked on these obsessively for about a month I think, editing, mixing in his own recordings and tieing it all together. He is just such an amazing artist, so driven and pure in his vision. Once it was at his end, well I’ve never seen anything like it before frankly… he would be sending me emails at all hours about what he was doing and really delving into the work. Anyway, once he was ready, we came up with a track order and then it was ready. We didn’t want it mastered and reworked at all, we wanted to keep it rough and raw so as to retain its purity. It was all very natural and we understood the steps and development perfectly between each other, and we also knew when it was time to let go finally, which is often something people screw up I think.
Tell us about JEARS and your decision to donate all of the proceeds towards this organization.
People were evacuated out of many parts of Fukushima due to the reactor of course. But many were unprepared, and the government were not ready for something so complicated. People would be told to get on buses and that they would be home in a few days, only to then (still) not be allowed in the area. Many dogs are tied up in Japan, and many cats are left inside. So there was this immediate situation where animals were roaming, starving, and had gone wild really in the area. People who were able to sneak back were going home to cats which had been eaten by dogs, many dogs starved to death still tied up or on the street, enitre farms wiped out with starved animals (Fukushima is one of the main agricultural areas in Japan). We even took in a gorgeous dog who was left by the side of a road, under a bridge, almost starved to death bless her. Friends in the area were suffering less from the earthquake but more from depression at the situation, a bit like Chernobyl. My wife was (and still is) working for JEARS who basically went in when others left, to save as many animals as possible and get them reunited with their owners. The effect the reunion has had on those who have lost everything is incredible and I am very proud to have supported them as best we can.
What’s next for you as an artist as well as the label?
Well, the next week or so will see releases by Autistici and David Wenngren with Christopher Bissonnette on Home Normal. On NKR we have some great work just come out by two standout Japanese artists – Naoto Taguchi and Polar M. We also have the final He Can Jog, a double whammy by Maps and Diagrams, and will finish the year with a very special album by The Green Kingdom. Tokyo Droning has just released its first series in Japan and the USA, with the releases to hit stores in Europe and UK in two weeks. These are the last copies as we have basically sold out now sadly. Brock will actually release his follow up to Tribes At The Temple Of Silence, called ‘The First Day’ on January 7th (exactly a year to the day since Tribes was released). This will be followed up with releases by Konntinent, Federico Durand, and the Pan Am Scan crew for starters, with an amazing line-up for 2012 already set. The third NKR series will be out in March, whilst the second Tokyo Droning series will be out around February.
As for myself, I have just released a limited edition 10″ with Gareth Davis called Night Shots. These were outtakes from our album under The Whalers Collective, which also features Miko, Felicia Atkinson and Ryo Nakata. This will be out on Home Normal by mid-2012. Ryo and I finally completed a long overdue work under our Rion guise called ホタル (Hotaru….translated as ‘fireflies’). Its taken years to get right but we are thrilled with it and it will be out on Hibernate next year sometime. There will also be a re-issue of Wolfskin, remastered and with a few reworkings by some incredibly talented friends on Hibernate as well. My debut with Warren Kroll under our Lantscap name will be released on Infraction next year and we are currently working on a rather noisy follow up. The follow-up to the Kinder Scout (w/ Jason Corder and Danny Norbury) release ‘The Writing Life’ on Preco will be out on Home Normal late 2012. I am just doing final mixes for the Tiny Isles (w/ Christopher Hipgrave, Jason Corder, Ben Chatwin, Erik Schoster, Antony Harrison and Miko) debut and will find a home for this soonish.
And finally, Tim Martin (Maps and Diagrams) and I are doing final edits and mixes for four connected albums under Black Elk (with Danny Nobury, Clem Leek and some friends). The base of the work has been on the go for years now so its amazing to be putting the final touches to something so so special. I have also been working on my next solo release since before Snow Roads came out, about four years now. That will be ready by the end of 2012 I think at the rate I work (surprisingly slow). All of the above projects have taken between 2 to 5 years more or less, they’ve just come to the boil at the right time.
Read Headphone Commute review of The Truth Hurts
This interview is part of our Nomadic Kids Republic label special…