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Interview: Nosaj Thing

IDM producer Nosaj Thing tells Tang Wei how being robbed of most of his music might actually set him free

Photo:Timothy Saccenti

In April, a few weeks before his latest album Fated dropped, Jason Chung lost US$20,000 worth of gear and material in a robbery. It incapacitated him. But rather than wallow in misery, the producer better known as Nosaj Thing saw the misfortune as a sign that he needed to evolve his skittering IDM sounds. Perhaps it was destined.

We catch up with Chung to find out more.

'I don’t listen to a lot of music…and that clears my head'

All that stolen gear! How did it affect you?
It’s been difficult. I’m just keeping positive and creating new things and working on a new direction – it’s kind of liberating, actually. I feel like I am going to make better material.

That’s a pretty chill way of looking at things. Your albums, too, have gotten more mellow.
There is just so much going on. We’re getting bombed with media, so when I travel I try to disconnect. I don’t listen to a lot of music these days, and that clears my head.

For this record, I didn’t really overwork myself – I wanted to keep it understated and natural. I’m going to change my approach again. My sound has already changed for my new stuff. I lost all my presets and programming, so I’m starting over.

Is music like therapy for you?
Yeah that’s exactly it. That’s what I like to do when I listen to music. It’s more of an escape and I don’t want to think about anything for a bit.

How did you decide on the title of Fated?
A lot of coincidences and weird things happened to me at the time. The idea of fate calms my nerves, and I think it’s a pretty strong word.

Like magic? That album cover, where you’re holding two utensils that seem to stick together by themselves, maybe?
That happened during New Year’s in 2014. I DJ-ed at this hotel in Hollywood. After the show, we went to a diner and my friend had this film camera. I picked up the utensils and they stuck together. My friends tried it, but it didn’t work, so it’s kind of a question mark. Usually I would never put my photo on the cover.

You grew up with G-funk and now work with lots of rappers. How is that like?
When I first started working on beats, that’s all I wanted to do. In 2006, I put out a record on my own, an EP called Views/Octopus.

A couple of years later, this rapper Kid Cudi contacted me saying he wanted to use one of the beats for his mixtape. It’s something I want to keep doing. I enjoy it the most as I learn a lot from it.