Q&A with Nice Nice of Warp Records
The enigmatic experimental rock duo Nice Nice are one of our favorites here at Sound Colour Vibration. Having signed with Temporary Residence Limited in the turn of the 21st century, their move to Warp Records in recent years has produced the phenomenal full length Extra Wow along with a future for the band that compliments the work they built their name on. We caught up with guitarist Jason Buehler of Nice Nice to dive into many subjects he had not touched on in interviews prior along with discussing their new partnership with the Warp Family and the Extra Wow album. We are really excited to see where Nice Nice take us in the future as every album has been a completely different album from the rest and a joy to experience.
“I think that anything that one puts great value into has the ability to affect them greatly, and the more power that the person gives it, the more powerful the effect on the person. That said, music has been the main focus of my life for a long time and it has gotten me extremely high very many times- like, laughing and crying at the same time high.”
Q&A with Nice Nice of Warp Records
Conducted by Erik Otis
EO: Nice Nice signed with the famous Warp records in recent times, what was the circumstances that brought this move in labels about?
JB: It was completely random. A guy who worked with Warp was in town checking out the Portland music scene and we wound up meeting at the record store that I was working at. He had heard Nice Nice and asked if we had anything new so I gave him a bunch of stuff and, not expecting anything to come of it, promptly forgot about it. Then he emailed me a couple of months later out of the blue and said that Warp might be interested in talking with us about releasing something. We were totally shocked! Warp artists had been a huge influence on the musical direction that we took when we first started the band in 2000, and the opportunity to work with them was just too cool.
EO: How has the transition to Warp records changed your approach to making your albums?
JB: I don’t think that it has- not yet, at least. We were already planning to make a record before we signed to Warp and I think that we pretty much made that same record. But there were some changes to our normal process that did affect the way that the album was produced- most notably changing to a new recording system and having to restart the process after a terrible computer crash basically destroyed an almost finished album. We were able to salvage some of it, but were just left with little bits and pieces of recording strewn about randomly: a piece of a guitar part from one song, a drum part from another, etc… it was a complete mess. But we got a new computer and I learned some new recording software and set out to reconstruct the record as best as I could using the bits that we still had. It was not my normal way of working, but the new approach allowed the songs to start going in new directions and morphing and changing in weird ways that we didn’t expect. It was actually pretty cool to see the evolution and some of the tunes wound up much better as a result, but it took way longer than it would have and was a huge headache. So, yeah, some outside factors did influence the way our first Warp release was made, but the label was not one of them.
EO: Your group Nice Nice released a set of seasonal ep’s on Temporary Residence Records that were very different from the works you have completed around it, what inspired this type of release?
JB: Well I think that most of our releases have been pretty different from one another, really, but I guess the seasonal eps do stand out a bit. The reason that they sound and feel like they do though, as is the case with all of our recordings, is just because that is how we were playing at a time that we happened to also be recording. We play music a lot- usually a few hours a day four or five days a week- and we are constantly exploring different musical ideas and following tangents and digesting influences and experimenting, so our sound is constantly changing and going through phases. Sometimes we will move through a phase very quickly and sometimes we will stay there for a while, but if we happen to record at any point then we wind up documenting whatever phase we are in at the time. So our recorded output is essentially a series of snapshots of us at particular moments in time. Prior to recording the seasonal eps we had released the “Awesome” ep, which was extremely aggressive and violent and physical, and I think the seasonals were sort of the aftermath of that chaos. After the seasonals we recorded “Yesss!”, which was more colorful and rhythmic and electronic sounding- probably a reaction to having just played a bunch of mellower drone stuff. Oh, and the reason that we did the ep’s as a series of four is because we were stuck in that zone for a long time and wound up with tons of material- plus the “seasonal” theme gave us an excuse to do some “autumnal” acoustic stuff for the first time.
EO: The two of you have been creating for over a decade, how did this connection form and when did it become a situation where releasing albums was a direction you both wanted to take?
JB: We actually met in high school and played in the school “Jazz/Rock Ensemble”together, performing questionable renditions of Steely Dan numbers and regrettably arranged jazz standards. It was bad. But we got along and started trading music and stuff and then, a few years later, Mark moved to Olympia, WA, where I was living. We played in some bands up there and, when one of them fell apart in 1999, we started jamming as a duo out of necessity. Neither of us had ever seen live looping at that point and didn’t really think that we could actually be a Band as just a duo, but we both wanted to keep playing music so we just kept doing it for fun. Then we started getting better at it and taking the music in different directions and we realized that being a duo was actually pretty awesome. We no longer had to worry about a lot of the things that can be problems for larger bands- complex interpersonal dynamics, artistic direction conflicts, stupid stuff like scheduling issues, etc. And since we were doing a lot of improvising at the time we didn’t have to run through parts of songs over and over (our previous band had been really tight and academic)- we could just play whatever and however we wanted at the time. I was free to deal all of the harmonic and melodic stuff however I wanted, Mark could do whatever he wanted on his end, and we could take the music in any direction at any given moment because we didn’t have to stop and talk about key signatures or arrangement issues with anybody. It was super liberating. And we started playing more and more and incorporating new sounds and finding new ways to interact and playing all kinds of new music that we had never played before- free music, electronic music, experimental stuff, weird angular no-wave and atonal funk and whatever other crazy new shit we could come up with. And, since we didn’t really take it seriously as a Band or have any ambition or interest in the music business at all, we didn’t worry about songs or setting up shows or anything- we just locked ourselves in our tiny practice space and played like maniacs for about a year. It was just an awesome time for us and it gave us a psychotic passion for music that has sustained us for a long time. But, yeah, eventually we started taking shows and releasing stuff and became, like, a real band.
EO: Your first record Chrome saw a large mix of styles and modes, was that album long in the making or was it a more spontaneous effort?
JB: “Chrome” was very spontaneous- it was entirely improvised and recorded in our practice space over the course of a few months. We would just jam for an hour or so and then go back and find chunks of music that sounded like songs. We were trying to play a little more compositionally at the time because we knew we were making a record, but otherwise it was like a regular practice edited down into digestible portions. And that album is so diverse because we were exploring a lot of different directions at the time and our jams were really diverse. I actually found a cdr recently that was labelled Halloween ’02 (the same night we recorded “Nein” and one other song from the album), and one of the tracks was an insane riffy Metal-sounding tune that sounds like an entirely different band! It cracked me up. But, yeah, that album was a snapshot of what we were up to in late ’02 and early’03. A few months of jams chopped up into songs- the same approach we used for all of our recordings until about 2005, when Mark messed up him arm and we had to start building tracks in the studio (first on Fall and Winter and then again on Yesss!).
EO: How much music does your group have recorded that’s not out?
JB: An insane amount. There are unused tracks from the early albums and tons of unfinished songs or alternate mixes from Extra Wow, but the bulk of what we have is jams. We have taped most of our practices since the beginning and, unless we are working on material for an album or a new song for our live set, our “practices” are just long jams. A ton of unique and original music there. Hopefully we can get some of it out into the world because a lot of it is pretty good and it offers a cool view into our process. I’m working on figuring out how to do that right now.
EO: You performed at the Warp 20 show with Battles, Flying Lotus and Broadcast, what was that experience like?
JB: It was amazing. Of course, getting to play with any of those bands in any context would be great, but to have them all together like that was phenomenal. A really incredible show. The rest of that tour- our first trip to Europe- wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. The flight over wreaked havoc on my gear- to the point that I couldn’t get any sound whatsoever out of my amp until right when we had to be on stage for the first show. Not how you want to start a tour. But things got worked out over the course of the trip and we got to play some amazing shows and meet the wonderful folks at Warp and see Europe and the U.K. via plane, train, automobile, and boat!
EO: Who are some bands under the radar you feel people should know about?
JB: Honestly, I’m going through a phase of listening to a lot of really old music right now, so I’m not sure if I can offer much here. The modern stuff that I have been enjoying is mostly electronic music of various styles, but I only have scattered tracks and haven’t dug too deep into the artists themselves. There are some Portland bands that I like who may not be know well outside of town- Miracles Club, Golden Retriever, Operative, and Purple and Green are all doing good things- but I am really just listening to, like, Albanian vocal music and old Indonesian Kroncong and new age synth stuff and minimal techno. Just enjoying music that is detached from the modern timeline for the moment, I guess.
EO: What are some of the highest states music has taken you physically and or metaphysically?
JB: I think that anything that one puts great value into has the ability to affect them greatly, and the more power that the person gives it, the more powerful the effect on the person. That said, music has been the main focus of my life for a long time and it has gotten me extremely high very many times- like, laughing and crying at the same time high. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to- the time before I was technical enough of a musician to be able to analyze and understand everything that was happening in real time was really the golden time- but I still listen to tons of music and do get off from time to time. I remember listening to some music one day when I was about 16, though- right as I was developing the ability to listen to the various parts of the band and hear how everything fit together to create the whole- and I was trying to process it all but it was coming so fast and the syncopations and harmonies and patterns were so relentless that it overloaded my brain and I just started laughing. That was the first time that I really had a strong visceral reaction to the awesomeness that is music- apart from, like, rocking out to some punk rock or something. I have had some very high moments at concerts and playing music as well, but I think that active listening to recorded music has worked the best on me over the years. Good stuff.
EO: What direction will Nice Nice take for the future and when can we expect another release?
JB: I have no idea- we will see! We are recording right now using the old “Chrome” jam & chop method, and I also have some tracks that I am working on using a more traditional studio approach. Not sure what either of them will turn into at this point but we are looking to get some more music into the world in 2012. And hopefully I can get a bunch of our practice jams out in some capacity, as I am curious to see how people respond to them. Not a lot of bands out there generating that kind of output. Either way, looking forward to the new year and seeing where it takes us!
Nice Nice ‘Everything Falling Apart’ Warp Records / Video by Yoshi Sodeoka.
*All photos courtesy of Jason of Nice Nice