Marmar Tha Midboss of KUCI’s LAG Radio Interviews Nanode
Nanode (Sam Sher) is an electronic music producer from Seattle, WA. She has recently performed live along the West coast, as well as across the world in VR space.
Image: @littlearrowdog on Twitter.
To start, I know you’ve been producing since at least 2015, with your debut “Loopy”. Can you describe how Nanode came to be?
Nanode started in 2015 but I’ve been making music since around 2013. Nanode was more or less just a name change, initially I wanted to make a separate project for my Nanoloop tracks but I ended up resonating with the name more than my previous one (Metatronaut). There wasn’t really any major thought process to coming up with the name either, I think it was a mix of getting into Nanoloop and just messing around with syllables in my head. Nanode was actually the first one I thought of and it happened to be free on all the social platforms and streaming services so I took it!
I see you’ve toyed with Nanoloop, LSDJ, and Famitracker, though recently moved away from those tools. Can you talk about that shift?
Honestly a lot of it was driven by a few different factors. First was a kind of toxic need to make something out of the project financially. I desperately wanted to make a career out of music especially as college was looming on the horizon, but I had it in my head that I either needed to completely pioneer some kind of cultural shift with chiptune to make money off it or switch to more hifi production to have any kind of relevancy. That mindset was probably the most destructive to my creative process and I think it genuinely set back a lot of great creative progress I was making. In the end though, I don’t really regret where I’m at now. I found a lot of value in chiptune but there were just certain things that I couldn’t do that I desperately wanted to. One of the biggest struggles I had with LSDj specifically was hardware bottlenecks. My projects got so complicated that I had to constantly upgrade my Gameboys and modify them to keep up with what I was doing. Half of my songs probably don’t even run on a DMG. It wasn’t entirely based off that though; I was getting super deep into EDM adjacent artists at the time like Isqa, SOPHIE, Moe Shop, Daedelus, and Porter Robinson, and had a lot of personal affiliations with fakebit, rave, and hyperpop artists like Ben Briggs and Water Spirit, with regrettably a lot from the latter scene I’d rather not publicly associate with. Overall, the shift was driven by clout more or less, but I’m happy where I am now and I’m creating art I care deeply about.
I appreciate your candor about the change-up in sound. It’s really too bad that certain scenes can sour an experience, both as a creator and a fan. But I’m glad you’ve found a spot you’re comfortable in while doing what you love. And as a big Moe Shop and Porter Robinson fan (I even have a Porter tattoo), that leads me to my next question: what two or three releases have most inspired you currently? Could be an album, EP, or single.
There’s a lot of people, albums, and tracks that really inspire my direction, and that list is always changing. I’ll try my best to narrow it down to 3 main sources of inspiration that have been speaking to me lately.
It is SO incredibly difficult to narrow down a specific album that has inspired me the most out of Radiohead’s discography. The ones that I have almost consistently on rotation are The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A, Moon Shaped Pool, and In Rainbows. All of those records are so well fleshed out and so in their own world, but all carry a common melancholic stylization, both in its lyricism and its songwriting. It’s really hard to capture the feeling that they execute so well and so thoroughly. They’ve been extremely influential on how I approach emotion, lyricism, and songwriting as of late. A lot of their work kind of found me in the right place and time in my life. If I had to pick an album that encapsulates my relationship with the band, it would probably be The Bends.
2) Skrillex – Quest For Fire
The entirety of this record is a masterclass on theming and vibesetting. The mix across the board is so incredibly warm, mystical, dark-beige, and desolate while still maintaining a high energy level when it needs to. It feels like the album Skrillex has always wanted to make, or at least the one that communicates his current feelings the most effectively. His ability to recontextualize his ideas is second to none, and even if there’s some production choices I don’t agree with, it’s undeniable that he makes them because he feels them. I respect that far more than crazy sound design or pushing an envelope that doesn’t need to be pushed.
3) Oneohtrix Point Never
OPN is another artist I kind of bob and weave between albums a lot, with my main favorites being Age Of, Garden Of Delete, Replica, MOPN, as well as the Soccer Mommy record he recently produced called Sometimes Forever. He’s probably one of my biggest inspirations in music as a whole, especially in the past 4 years. The guy quite literally invented vaporwave, and while there’s certainly a part of me that appreciates his Chuck Person project, It seemed like more or less of a thought exercise in how he engages with conceptualizing music. OPN’s work captures the moments that make up the feelings it wants you to feel, and I don’t see many people engaging with that idea truly at its core. I can’t really give a definitive answer on THE Oneohtrix album, but Age Of and Replica are the ones that I keep coming back to, mainly for their ideas and textures.
A theme between these records is each artists’ ability to recontextualize. Art is an iterative expression. Art is a feeling. The best way we as artists express that feeling is by taking our influences (the things we find cool) and running with them. Artists who directly recontextualize what speaks to them in their own language I feel are the most honest and potent when communicating their feelings through any work. It’s a quality I consistently value and strive to capture.
Less of a question and more of a statement, something I appreciate about your music is how emotionally powerful tracks can feel. Songs like “LAMENT8075“, “Paralysis“, and your newest single, “detachment” stand out as examples. How do you channel emotion so well into your creations?
Intermittent drug use certainly helped lol. Moreso than that though, a lot of the songs I’ve released since Paralysis have either been deep reflections of personal circumstances and traumatic events, or stream of consciousness projects that communicate a concept or feeling. I tend to gravitate towards the latter, and sometimes what starts as the latter ends as the former and vice versa. There’s never really a method to the madness, and every method I’ve tried to develop ends up backfiring or leading to something I really dislike. It’s cliché for me as an artist to sit here and say “I just feel and that’s how the song gets made” but there really isn’t any other way to describe my process. I just do what feels right. My “job” as an artist is to be vulnerable and communicate what I’m feeling, and the best feedback I can get from anyone, whether it’s an artist or a listener, is whether or not they feel what I’m feeling too. If I can show a song to someone and they feel what I feel, or the song is so vivid that I have no choice but to confront that feeling, I know I have something.
Can you give us an idea of how a song usually first takes shape for you? Is it a melody, a sample from somewhere, or something else?
I can’t really give a good answer for this. Music is all feeling to me. I’ve been on a sampling kick for the last couple of years but what can start as a sampled boombap beat can turn into highly produced house within a matter of hours. I think the best way I can describe how I narrow down ideas is like that one SpongeBob episode where he chisels out the David statue like it’s nothing. You start with a whole bunch of content and ideas that look like a massive block of stone, almost too thick to imagine what a song could look like, and you just sift through all the ideas you don’t want to find the ones you do. At that point it’s just polish and finishing touches, and most of those are super clear at that stage to the point where you have a checklist of what you need to do, whether it’s mixing an element correctly or adding a fill.
XND_MOAB is a really interesting release to me in that you coupled a beautiful jungle-y, breakbeats track with some tasteful ambience. What was the story behind this these two tunes? And was that Teemo’s voice I heard towards the end of AMB_MOAB?
I’m honestly not entirely sure who that was, I just looked up “league voice lines” to find a vocal sample that had the kind of naïve power and authority I wanted that element to communicate lol. AMB_MOAB was the original track, and I had made it while passing through Moab, UT. That place has a feeling and a sense of scale that is completely unlike anything I’ve ever felt, and I just needed to capture it. I sat on the bank of the Colorado River for what must’ve been 45 minutes just honing in on the right loop, remembered that guitar from a session I helped record at UArts back in the summer of 2015, and felt it finally had its place. XND_MOAB was more or less just a breakcore version of the track; both versions communicate the excitement and serenity of that place. There’s also a boombap version of MOAB floating somewhere on my hard drive, but I was too lazy to spruce it up for the final release. I might put it out if I feel like it but it’ll probably just stay in my DropBox as a cool fun sketch I’ll reflect on once in a while.
It looks like live DJ sets have become a thing for you recently. Any chance we could see you do shows outside of Washington state?
DJing to me is just another extension of my emotions; I just get to use other people’s work alongside my own to communicate those feelings. It’s probably one of my favorite forms of expression in electronic music. If anyone wants to fly me out, I’m always down to play a show!
Finally, any last words for your fans and followers?
Rainbow Dash is my wife you can’t have her.