An Interview with Nate Young
Nate Young is a founding member of the Detroit-based noise-rock band Wolf Eyes. Their music is an unholy mixture of all that is evil, the music you mother warned you about. Experimental hardcore. Scum rock electronica. Stoner death metal. Post-industrial free-jazz. New labels abound in an attempt to classify their sound. This music is not for the meek. And Young’s live performances are known to be as visceral as his recordings. Along with Wolf Eyes, Young has performed with numerous side projects, including Demons and Hatred. All in all, he has released hundreds of recordings in his young career. In 2006, Wolf Eyes performed and recorded with avant-garde jazz pioneer Anthony Braxton.
Compared to a lot of the acts that I have heard you (and your various projects) compared to, there seems to be an emphasis of restraint in your music. Whereas, of course its visceral, it seems to precisely pick the moment to use noise as a means. I occasionally find myself getting lulled into a sense of security before being assaulted by the music. Is it as important to pull back as much as it is to let it fly?
NY: When I first started playing electronic music most of my instruments where homemade. Many of the instruments where composed of modified electronics that would malfunction in an interesting way. I typically found myself observing the behaviors of these malfunctioning machines more than composing them to do a specific task musically. This process of observation makes it paramount to be restrained and patient with the playing of my music. I find that I maintain this practice within playing analog synthesizers and most instruments in general. Finding a function for malfunction requires respect for all sounds and all instruments. Noise is best served with a side of silent contemplation. There is always time to let it rip.
Have Tokyo or Japan influenced you in anyway, before or after coming here? Not going too far out on a limb, it sounds like a lot of Japanese noise artists (Keiji Haino, Merzbow, Bordeoms) could have maybe been an inspiration.
NY: Most of the noise I first heard as a teen was from Japan. I think the biggest influence was not the noise itself but the question of how it was made. The first experimental music I was interested in was guitar driven, and Japanese noise sounded devoid of any conventional instruments, to my 16-year-old ears it sounded impossible for me to make. This made me try very hard and experiment with every type of instrument I could find.
I know a few younger Japanese kids, late teens/early 20s, who say that they got into older pioneering noise-oriented acts through listening to you. A few of them mentioned learning about Swans and Throbbing Gristle because your music lead them back that way. Do you think of yourself as a ladder back to those that came before, or is too early in your career to think of your music in such a context?
NY: This makes me happy to hear that a younger generation is getting inspired to seek out traditional industrial music through us. I have never thought of Wolf Eyes as a gateway band. I hope that this new generation will not stop at Industrial music pioneers and continues on to electronic music pioneers such as Tod Dockstader or Bebe and Louis Barron.
What is it about Detroit and its environs that create such visceral music? So many musicians and movements (Motown, early punk, techno) have come out Michigan and seem lacking in pretension (comparatively).
NY: Detroit has a city motto, "We hope for better things, it will rise from the ashes."
You have such an imposing catalogue, but one album I’d like to ask you about is the Demon’s “Evocation". Somebody gave me a copy two years ago and it really made an impression. Quite frankly, I hadn’t been that terrified by a piece of art since I accidentally watched “The Shining” on Cinemax back when I was eight years old. Can you give me any insights into the making of this disc?
NY: Demons is a band that has always tried to fill the void with more void, making ominous density even denser. Worse than any black hole or dark matter, we aim to create nothing.
How did you first get involved in lathe cutting and why does it fascinate you so?
NY: I started drawing long before I began making sounds. I have always been interested in the relationship between sound and image. My early drawings looked like a flight pattern of angry flies. When I realized that I could cut sounds into my images, I became obsessed with lathe cutting. I like to think of each groove cut on a lathe as a unique sculpture. I think about live performance in the same way. When you play one of my lathe cut records it may skip, skate or play perfect, it has a playing life of its own and performs its entire life, each performance unique. I have yet to see one die.
I read somewhere that you would like to do a lathe of (Detroit’s own) Alice Cooper. If so, which song? I’m pulling for “Ballad of Dwight Fry”.
NY: Alice Cooper has not made it onto one of my lathes yet. I did do one of the Apollo moon landing, this was real, it happened in my basement, not on the moon. For a while I questioned if people listened to lathes or just collected them, so as an experiment I cut Jay-Z on a couple Hive Mind lathes. No one complained, but a couple people complemented my work. Makes you wonder...
Interview by Frank Spignese (February, 2012)
Nate Young performs live with Jim O'Rourke at SuperDeluxe, Friday Feb 17th.
Nate Young's new CD Nate Young Regression Vol.3 Other Days will be released on 18th Feb from rockatansky records. While Nate is in Japan, the CD will only be available at haus gallery, the two Regression Vol.3 concerts and via mail order from rockatansky records. After the tour, you can purchase from your local record shop (maybe).
NATE YOUNG 来日スケジュール
2/17 (FRI) @ SuperDeluxe
Nate Young Regression Vol.3
・Nate Young + Jim O'Rourke ネイト・ヤング ＋ ジム・オルーク
・Takashi Ueno (Tenniscoats) + Muneomi Senju 植野隆司 (テニスコーツ) ＋ 千住宗臣
・Morley Robertson モーリー・ロバートソン
3-1-25 NishiAzabu B1F, Minato-ku, Tokyo
2/18 (SAT) 〜 2/27 (MON) @ haus
NATE YOUNG / AA Records Art Show
Opening Reception 2/18 (Sat) 18:00 free entry
3-50-8 Oshiage, Sumida-ku Tokyo
2/25 (SAT) @ Soup
・Nate Young (Regression Vol.3)
3-9-10 mikasa BLD B1F, Kamiochiai, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo