Secret Thirteen Interview - Nate Young


"Silence as the paramount to the effectiveness of loud noise" - Nate Young interviewed

Nate Young is one of the busiest artists in nowadays noise/experimental underground. Not only he has founded the legendary Wolf Eyes outfit, but also performed under a wide variety of monikers (Jean Street, Regression etc.) and in a great number of different acts (Stare Case, The Moon Pool & Dead Band, The Mongoloid Men etc). One of his most notable achievements is the renowned "Regression" series - his most refined effort melting the contemporary explorations of silence, intense sonic fear, vintage and horrific analog synth soundscapes, cinematic drones and noisy sound walls. Nate's music is like a complex audio structure filled with unexpected narratives and twists. His live performances capture his artistic intention very well and requires concentrated, attentive listening and participation.

On the 10th of October Nate Young will appear in Latvian experimental music festival Skaņu Mežs, where he will perform his soundtrack for the Latvian movie "Naves Ena" ("In The Shadow of Death"). It is fascinating to see such unexpected collaboration and to hear Nate's soundtrack made for our neighbors. Prior to the performance in Riga Secret Thirteen journal made this exclusive interview with Nate. Here he talked about the challenges of the beforementioned collaboration, the power and importance of silence, nowadays noise scene, analog revolution and, of course, the present and future directions of his own musical path.


Could you tell us more about your project for Latvian movie "Naves Ena" ("In The Shadow of Death"). How did you become involved into it and how it developed?

I was approached by Viestarts Gailitis from Skaņu Mežs to do a live score for "Naves Ena". I have always wanted to do soundtracks for film and this seemed like a great opportunity. The first thing I asked was to see a copy of the film, I could not find a copy in Michigan. When I first watched "Naves Ena" I was overwelmed by how great the original soundtrack and dialogue are. The idea of making a new score for such a perfect film was daunting. The first experiment I did was playing my new record "Blinding Confusion" along to the film. I immediately realized why Viestarts asked me to do this project. My music went very well with the ice landscape and feelings of dread. The scenes in the film seem to add new emotional depth to my music that I had not experimented with before - pride, family and naive innocence lost.

What could we expect from your live show in Skaņu Mežs? And what do you expect from the audience out there?

I had a new edit made of "Naves Ena" with the artist Alivia Zivich. We worked together to make a new cut of the entire film from beginning to end. This was done to be able to experience the entire story with in 32-40mins performance. This film is very emotionally dark and extremely sad, I can not expect anything from the audience, but patience, focus and maybe some water works a.k.a. tears.

You created a soundtrack for the before mentioned movie. What was the biggest challenge in making a soundtrack? What new challenges did you face? How was the process different from making non-soundtrack music?

I think the biggest challenge I had with making the soundtrack was timing. When I compose something for listening only, the duration of musical sequences are quicker and more related to time signatures. This is very different to scoring a soundtrack for a film. The music needs to linger and absorb the mood of the films sequences. I think that synesthesia also helps bind the audio and visual no matter how out of synch the two may be.

Your music is very intense and dynamic with various sonic/noise layers. But how do you understand the concepts of silence and noise? Do they contradict or contribute to each other? Which is more important to you when creating and in general?

Yes, Wolf Eyes is intense and layered with textural dive bombs, but my solo work with the Regression series focuses on the building of tension through silence. Silence is paramount to the effectiveness of loud noise. When I write music for any project, I look for a foundation that can easily contrast the individual players moods and tones. This helps maintain a static exchange that naturally creates dynamics. I try not to force anything, but rather set up scenes that can organically exist and freely change without losing shape. Silence is essential to this process, it adds duration to the static.

What is the usual process of composing a track? Do you more rely on improvisation or careful pre-planning? How do you perform them live?

I usually start composing by choosing rhythmic drum tones. Then I choose a complementary bass tone. After I have a simple bass and drum sequence established I start improvising with random instruments and try replacing the original tones with other unexpected sounds. I rely on both careful planning, total destruction and mutation. The same process is used live, but with more per-conceived improvisational elements.

What emotions do you try to channel in your music? What emotions inspire you to create or is it more spontaneous creations influenced by daily discoveries (arts, books, stories etc.)?

What I have been trying to do lately is make something beautiful sounding, something that you listen to daily, something that stays with you. I have noticed that what is beautiful to me is not so pretty to others. HA! It is hard to describe what influences me to create, I think it can be emotional, but I also get inspired by the mechanics of electronic music and science in general. The signal flow of synthesis and what can be done with science can be just as emotionally engaging as a scary movie, sad book, or a lose.

Apart from your solo work and Wolf Eyes, you have a great number of side projects and monikers. Could you tell us the reason for that and how all this developed? How does it represent your artistic whole? Is it difficult to split your material between so many projects or does it happen organically?

Having other outlets to express new ideas has helped maintain a constant tone or mood in each band of mine. It is only natural to have different ideas and different goals for yourself. The only difficulty has been people wanting me to perform in all my different bands in one night. I am up to the challenge but I need at-least three days to do it best.

You have been involved in experimental/noise scene for more than 15 years. What significant changes occurred during those years?

Popularity of experimental music rises and falls every year, but we saw it get very popular in the mid 2000's. Noise became an umbrella for everyone to stand together under. This was fun, then people started to form new sub-genres, noise became high art and smart music started to not like dumb music and so on. Hahahaha! Nothing has really changed...

Noise/experimental music recently gained some indie/mainstream media attention with such bands as Pharmakon, Fuck Buttons, Black Dice. What is your opinion on that?

No opinion, I like Pharmakon and Black Dice, never heard the Fuck Buttons.

What is your opinion about the new media (internet, social media) and its relation to underground experimental scene? Does it help to develop or maybe just flood the scene with lots of mediocre acts just posting their music online? How did it influence your own relation to the scene?

Show me your nude photos before you show me your mediocre tape. Social media is just high school on a global level. I actually had a blast in high school, but I got kicked out for skateboarding and not going to class, so...

As far as we know, you mostly rely on analog equipment. Nowadays we face the revival of it happening in many scenes. Why do you think it is happening and will it last long? What do you think will be next? How do you imagine yourself in this context?

I love the analog revolution we are going through! I can buy analog synths new and at a reasonable price. I just bought a KORG MINI MS 20. I could never afford an MS-20, even in the 80's they where more than they are now. I use everything I can get my hands on. People seem to believe that analog circuits have small organic beings living inside them. This is not true, the inside of an analog circuit looks almost identical to a digital one. I love having real-time control over my synthesizers, this means I love knobs. Some digital synths have knobs but most do not, that is why I choose analog.

What are your future plans? Some interesting collaborations, releases?

I am going to record two new LP's December-January. One LP will be Regression and the other will be for Wolf Eyes. I will tour the world again starting in March 2014.

More about Nate Young: website - facebook - soundcloud

About Author

Paulius Ilevicius is a Secret Thirteen journalist, editor and occasional DJ focusing on more dreamy and melancholic soundscapes. Born in post-industrial town of Pavevezys, currently he lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania.