Nathan Fake: 'Making music and listening to music is very much escapism for me'
- Kate Walker
- 30 March 2020
With the release of his fifth studio album, the producer and electronic musician talks playing live, spirituality and the magic of music
Instrumental electronic music could easily be thought of as the least 'human' type of music. A celebration of the mechanic, the inorganic, it's music built from meticulously pre-tuned timbres and mathematically precise beats. There is little room for error or spontaneity; the breathy, tactile soundscape of the corporeal seems very far away. Not for Nathan Fake. As the Norfolk-based producer returns with his fifth album – which he describes as some of his most 'epic' music to date – he continues to be an ambassador for the raw, visceral humanity to be found in making music electronically.
'Playing live is a big thing for me, it has a big influence on how I work in the studio, and it always has really,' Fake explains. 'When I started off making music it was kind of jamming on grooveboxes etc, and that's always been something that I've really buzzed off of.' Capturing the unique vibe of playing live is something that Fake actively aims to do as he creates, and his new release, Blizzards, is no exception. 'A lot of the tracks were recorded in a live situation in the studio. Some are pretty raw whereas others have had a bunch of post-editing done to them, but I think the arrangements pretty much reflect the sort of live energy that I only seem to get when I'm recording jams.'
Rather than being built purely with software on a laptop, Fake crafts much of his music with analogue tools. The idiosyncrasies of specific pieces of equipment have provided generative material for Fake's music in the past – 2017's album Providence grew from a seed of inspiration planted by Korg's 'Prophecy' synth, hence the name – and specific gear continues to play an important role in his creation. Composing most of the melodic material for the album as he 'messed around' on keyboards, Fake then recorded his synth parts on a variety of old tape cassette recorders, to heighten the organic edge of the sound. 'Blizzards had a much more fragmented setup than Providence I think... it's a bunch of random hard and soft synths and hardware drum machines. The synths I used the most on Blizzards were the Korg Minilogue, Yamaha AN1x and Yamaha Reface DX. I love mixing those crystalline, kind of digital FM sounds with more fuzzy analogue sounds.'
The result of this process is another slice of Fake's trademark brooding sound. Spiky polyrhythms churn as chord sequences shift almost imperceptibly gradually, like tectonic plates, in music as stormy and intense as the album's title suggests. Talking about one of his new tracks 'Ezekiel', Fake describes how his work dances on the edge of the realm of spirituality. 'I'm not religious, but I was reading about that book in the Bible and how it could be interpreted as psychedelic experiences rather than spiritual, and I think those things are quite closely linked. Spirituality is very ambiguous to me and I think things like religion and spiritual practices are just humans' attempt to make sense of workings of the universe that we have no way of understanding. I think music is definitely a part of that, it's something very primal and magic and mysterious and it's something that kind of binds us together and to nature.'
The stormy energy of Blizzards is undoubtedly fitting for the turbulence of the current global situation, yet Fake is quietly adamant that the album was not intended to be a conscious response to any specific external events. 'Making music and listening to music is very much escapism for me,' he says, and getting lost in the all-encompassing electronic density of Blizzards is maybe what we all need right now.
Blizzards is out Fri 3 Apr on Cambria Instruments.