Nathan Fake is a producer who we here at Inverted Audio are adamant supporters of. Since discovering his debut record ‘Outhouse’ in 2003 and album ‘Drowning In A Sea Of Love’ in 2006 we’ve been hooked on his unique take on techno and shoe-gazed electronica. He’s been responsible for developing not only some of the most original electronic music in the past decade but also our own personal music tastes.
After discussing who to approach for our 50th mix with Radium Audio we arranged an interview with Nathan Fake last December in Shoreditch. We asked questions that we’ve wanted to ask since discovering his music nine years ago. Nathan reveals his relationship with the county of Norfolk, through track titles and near death experiences, as well as his affinity with James Holden’s Border Community imprint. We discuss how he first got into electronic music and the environments in which he writes his music in. We also discuss his developments since his last album ‘Hard Islands’ and how his personal musical taste has developed for his forthcoming album, which is expected some time in 2012.
Nathan’s mix explores a variety of tempos and genres of electronic music featuring a choice selection of tracks from Four Tet, STL, Platikman, Martyn, Kenny Larkin, Lukid, Wesley Matsell, James Holden and Brothomstates.
Can you tell us what you’ve been up to recently?
For the past few months I’ve just been working on my new album, which I’ve been working on for the past couple of years and I’ve been playing a few gigs.
Would you say your style of music and personal taste of music has developed since ‘Hard Islands’?
‘Hard Islands’ was quite short and intense I guess. It’s only six tracks and they’re all quite hard straight up techno-based tracks. The whole feel of that album is quite dark even though it has melodic bits it’s still heavy.
The new album still has heavy bits in it but it’s a lot longer and has a lot more variety in it, more of a trip, ‘Hard Islands’ is flat out in a way.
When you’re creating new music do you source inspiration from any friends and colleagues?
I make all my music completely on my own. I get most of my inspiration and influences from my friends on Border Community, James Holden, Luke Abbott and my mate Wesley Matsell who recently released a 12” called ‘Bernwerk’ on Border Community. We’re always sending each other tunes, it’s a really close circle so we’re always bouncing off ideas with each other. But we all do everything ourselves, sitting at home making tunes on our own.
Do you make music in any other environments?
I’ve never made anything out in the open but when I made my first album I was living up in Norfolk and then I was living down in Reading and then everything since then I’ve been living in London. I’m not really influenced in the whole urban thing. I believe that if you are who you are you’ll make, whatever you do will be the same wherever you live. It depends how impressionable you are. I guess I’m quite stubborn as I just stick to what I do wherever I live.
Playing live has had a massive effect on the way I write music. When I play a live gig it’s all quite improvised and I actually formulate a lot of my arrangements while I’m playing live. I get ideas when I’m playing live. By improvised I mean loops which I take into directions that I feel fit.
Can you please expand on this?
When I play live I use ‘Ableton Live’ and its all in the laptop, I use loops which I can put in depending on the mood, its all free form.
Tell us about your affinity and history with Norfolk?
Well I was born there, grew up there and I feel that I have a big connection with it, despite the fact that I don’t live there any more. My family are from there and so are many generations before.
I reference it quite a lot in my music; quite a lot of my track titles make reference to places in Norfolk, such as ‘Bawsey‘ and ‘Castle Rising‘.
What about ‘The Sky Was Pink’ – Is that a reference to Norfolk and the vast celestial skies that cover the county during Mid-summer?
Not directly no, it’s something to do with when I lived in Norfolk. When I used to go on scout camps we’d go camping when I was little and we slept in these tents that were made of green canvas and it made everything go pink because your eyes got used to the green, so when you open the door it literally blinded you with pink, so that’s where that title comes from.
Castle Rising I thought was just a really cool name for a track, it just sounds really hardcore. Castles rising out of the ground is pretty epic, but in fact it’s some sleepy little village in Norfolk, it’s a nice juxtaposition.
What about Bawsey?
It’s a place I used to go to quite a lot; my grandmother is from near there. There’s a track on my first album called Bawsey, which is about when I nearly drowned once. I went swimming when I was at college in Kings Lynn and we went swimming one day and I just swam out too far and my friend actually swam out and saved me. The track itself is quite dark; it’s just a noisy thing, a minute long or so.
Does that reference to that point when you were actually drowning?
Yeah, ha ha, in some ways it’s actually quite nice because I actually like the sounds in that track, but it’s also quite a dark sound as well.
Did this event influence the title of the album ‘Drowning In A Sea Of Love’?
No it was meant to an ironic name, a sort of joke on a rock album name but I think the irony got lost in every way as it just sounds overly romantic, which isn’t the kind of person I am. Ultimately I think it’s a good name and I don’t regret calling it that.
Who are the artists behind the artwork you’ve used in your previous releases?
We do all of that, James Holden and I. For the first album we just got some old photos from my old photo albums, which we just manipulated a bit by adding the wallpaper to the sky.
‘Hard Islands’ I did with my friend and visual artist Dan Tombs who’s from Norwich. He did the photography with a Lomo camera even thought he Lomo effect didn’t really come out that well it just looks like a standard photo. We went out on the beach in Happisburgh and took some photos of where the cliffs are collapsing into the sea because its made of sand stone and so houses are falling off the cliff.
What about the artwork for the new album?
We’re still going to do it ourselves but it’s going to be quite different, we still haven’t properly decided on it yet, I guess you’ll have to wait and see.
When was it when you first decided that you wanted to become a professional musician?
I’ve always wanted to be a musician. I started making music when I was about 15 but back then I never thought it’d become something that I’d do professionally.
I started to buy bits of gear and I gradually got to know people who knew James Holden and so I sent him a demo and I guess at that time when I had my first record and album out and people started buying it, I thought that I could make a living out of this.
Looking back at the past, did you ever envisage that you’d become this big name in the electronic music community?
It’s an obvious answer and of course I had no idea, none of my family are musical and I didn’t know anyone in the music industry back then, so I had no idea how you made it and how you get in and what it’s like to be in…. ultimately I had no expectations. I just went along with it, making music and was lucky enough to get a career out of it.
Border Community appears to be a close family; you all get along with one another and share ideas. Luke Abbott is also from Norfolk as well, is that pure coincidence or did you know of each other?
I didn’t know Luke before Border Community, he sent a demo to James Holden a few years ago and it just so happens that he’s also from Norfolk. We got along really well and I’m really good mates with Luke through the label.
The label was started off by James in 2003 to release his friend’s music; he had a couple of friends from college and university such as ‘The MFA’ and ‘Avus’ and he also knew me by that point, it’s grown from that point but it’s still a really small scale operation.
What are the core values of Border Community?
The main value for the label is that everyone on it does what he or she wants to do. James Holden, Gemma and Rosana run the label and it’s a mutual agreement that we do our thing and they release it if they like it. It’s all very relaxed as it’s a small-scale label and considering how popular it is now, it’s still small.
Musically yeah they want to keep expanding, on a business level they want to keep it small. I have nothing to do with running the label, despite the fact that I’ve been there since the start so I know James and Gemma really well obviously, but I know they want to keep it small. James DJs a lot, he’s a big name as a DJ, so he keeps the label running from what he makes from that.
As far as I know they’re not working together any more, they’ve always had full time jobs and Rhys now works in Formula 1, traveling to every race around the world and Alastair works in the city although I have no idea what he actually does! I don’t really know much about them apart from their music career and I think it’s fair to say that they aren’t making much music together any more.
When it comes to producing what are you using, analogue or digital?
A bit of both really, I started off just using computers and cheap drum machines, I’m really into using both because as a sound source analogue is the richest you can use, but then digital processing is really powerful as well, so for editing audio it’s really versatile as there are limitless possibilities for sound editing.
I’m also really into using tape and computer recording together, the effects you can get with cassette recording on tape is impossible to emulate digitally. Just the way a cassette works when it records stuff is pretty unique. You can get plugins but you can never really get the same results unless you use real tape. Just as a treatment for sound it’s a nice effect.
Were artist such as Boards of Canada and the Warp back catalogue influential in the development of your personal music taste?
Yeah, anyone who’s in the same generation as me and who likes electronic music must have grown up listening to Warp’s releases it’s sort of inevitable. I grew up with that music but I didn’t get into Boards of Canada until later so I’m not massively influenced by them. I was really influenced by Orbital actually; they were my favorite producers for years, since an early teenager.
I think that as I grew up in a quiet area in the middle of nowhere there wasn’t a lot going, no cool radio stations to listen to or record shops to go to, I just heard stuff on the radio.
I heard some Orbital randomly, one of my brother’s mates leant him an Orbital CD, he liked it but as soon as I heard it I was like Wow this is incredibly!
I got a bit obsessive about Orbital. If I went to HMV I’d buy every Orbital CD I could get my hands on, so that was mainly what I influenced me. I was also into speed garage in the late 90s which has influenced the way I program my drums.
I also liked the Prodigy, it was fun but they never musically inspired me, I had no idea where they got their crazy samples from. I was more interested in playing melodies with the key board and Orbital seemed to have more of an obvious keyboard party which I could play along to. Orbital seemed a bit more in reach to me at that time and that is what ultimately inspired me.
What about current producers, who are really standing out for you?
I really like Lukid at the moment, there’s a track by him on the mix called ‘Blind Spot’, he’s got a really good way with sounds, I don’t know how to explain it but I love what he’s producing. I also really like Actress, both him and Lukid have a really unique style which you can tell when you listen to them, they come together in really refreshingly raw and complex way. Production on both of their stuff is really mind boggling, which I don’t know how they did it, so that’s probably why I rate them so much.
Do you have any words of wisdom?
Do what you want to do, don’t follow trends; don’t worry if people or blogs aren’t talking about it, just stick with it.
Photos by Ben Millar Cole
Video by Digital Natives