The music coming from local producer Nackt ripples with rhythm. His latest effort Virex, which was released last month on 100% Silk, bounces, slides, flutters, and flexes. From funky deep house to jacking techno, Nackt is a versatile artist who is particularly notable for his live hardware PA performances. His sets feature an eclectic array of styles, offering anything from left-field bass music to old funk and soul records. Beyond crafting his own forward-thinking sound, Nackt is also one of the co-founders of the Outpost, Rare Form, and Deep East parties, which have ingrained themselves into the local music scene and have brought valuable talent to the Bay Area. We approached the producer/promoter to speak with us about his musical process and latest projects, and he responded with the same sense of generosity he has brought to all his musical endeavors.
The Bay Bridged: How long have you been making music for and how did you first get started?
Nackt: I grew up playing saxophone, through middle school and high school, I played in the school bands, and I was into jazz at that time, so I would play in friend’s ensembles, ska bands, etc. I was a very serious saxophone most of my childhood! Once I was in my early 20’s I realized that the jazz music I was really into was all very old, that there was less and less innovation happening in that realm. From there I got into hip-hop, and that led me to house and techno. So that’s a long answer, basically I’ve been “making music” since the 5th grade, but I’ve been producing electronic music for about 15 years now.
TBB: How would you describe your music to listeners?
Nackt: I’ve never been great at nailing this down; the music I like best usually lives in between genres. The recent output is probably best classified as “Acid House,” but I like to think there are qualities that make it unique. I tried to create limits and rules for this project, so most of the music is all tracked live, at the same time. There’s very little overdubs, so it has a real “live” quality to it; there are sometimes mistakes or odd choices, but if the overall take is good, then it stays as part of the flavor. Stylistically though, my musical output ranges from house and techno to dub, ambient, etc. Most of the music is dance oriented though, so maybe it’s best to just call it “dance music.” The studio and live PA are mostly vintage Roland boxes: 606, 707, 303, Juno-6. There are some other key pieces like the MPC, but the overall tone and sound really comes from 80’s Roland gear.
TBB: Tell us a bit about your newest release, Virex — where did the music originate and what did you try to achieve with the release?
Nackt: Virex came from my desire to play a live hardware PA, without the aide of computers. I had played live electronic music in an old project, mus-ok in the early 2000’s, and it was mostly laptop-based performances. It was a fun project, but I found the live set to be less engaging, for both the audience and the performers. Since then, I had been working towards doing a live set with all hardware, it took me about a decade to acquire the gear I had set my sights on! Once I had most of the gear I had wanted, my partner CM-4 helped me realize the studio and we started tracking songs with the intention of later being able to play them live. It worked out about as good as we could have hoped for, the songs are really fun to play live, and they’re recognizable, but with enough room to improvise and keep things interesting.
TBB: Can you describe your composing process? What’s your sequence from start to finish for writing a song?
Nackt: The beauty of classic gear is that the on-board sequencing or limitations of the hardware help drive the creative process, and songs end up just writing themselves once you get the ball rolling. Really the inspiration comes from just a small kernel of an idea – it could be something as simple as “try a 6-bar pattern” or “bass-line with 3 ascending notes.” I think this comes from Brian Eno, who is a very inspirational figure for me. I love his compositions, his productions, his writing on music, etc. I have his “Oblique Strategies” deck, which is meant to help give artists new perspective or help ignite a creative flame, and little thought concepts go a long way. Once the sequencers are all set, we track a live take, building and breaking down the song on the fly. I record to Pro Tools, and basically just edit for length, similar to how a lot of Krautrock bands worked in the 70’s, recording jams and then chopping out the boring bits to make a more focused song through editing.
TBB: How has living in the Bay Area influenced your music?
Nackt: I’m from the Bay Area originally, and the access to music here is second to none. Both of my parents were music lovers – they took me to a lot of great concerts and shows when I was a kid. In high school, the ROVA saxophone quartet visited and played for our class, it really opened me up to a new world of musical possibilities; their balance between traditional grooves and high-level concepts stands alone. At the time I dug it, but I can only recognize now, thinking back, that having an avant-garde saxophone quartet play a free show at your high school is not something that happens in most of the country. I also used to check out tapes, records, and CDs from the public libraries. The SF and Berkeley public libraries both have great music collections, and I had a regular routine in high school of checking things out, taping them to cassette at home (sorry, RIAA) and bringing them back to get more the next week. I feel really lucky to have grown up here, the access to music is really amazing!
TBB: You have a couple upcoming dates, playing both First Friday and Underground SF later this month. What do you try and emphasize in your live sets?
Nackt: What we emphasize depends on the setting; these gigs are a good example. The November First Friday is at the Waveformless synthesizer shop in Temescal Alley (where I work part-time). This is an early time slot, and it’s a free, outdoor event, so we’ll be playing for a lot of ‘uninitiated’ ears. We’ll probably play a bit slower in tempo and keep the sound lighter in tone – it’s probably not appropriate to go “full rave” at 7pm. At Underground SF on November 20th we’ll be playing at Pulse Generator, which is a regular monthly party that features heavier house and techno. The crowd is more in-tune with the sound, so it allows us to go harder, and we’ll be playing peak-time so we can really get heavy and keep the tempos faster. We also pick the set list of songs according to the time and vibe of the event, so we would save certain songs for a harder gig, and choose certain songs for a more mellow one.
TBB: You are known to work closely with a number of other local artists. Describe your relationships with other musicians and how they influence your own work.
Nackt: I feel really lucky to know so many talented producers, DJs, and musicians — it really makes me proud and keeps me motivated when I see all my friends doing great things with their art! CM-4 is my closest collaborator, we co-founded Outpost together, and he’s on half the songs on the Virex tape. We built the live set playing together, practicing relentlessly until it became second nature. Now we can almost sense what the other person is going to do, and songs crescendo and relax very naturally. Other collaborators on the release include Michael Claus, also part of the Outpost parties, Jason Key of Rotation, and Doc Sleep, who runs Jacktone Records. Collaborating is interesting to me because even with the same pieces of gear, everyone engages with it differently and adds their own flavor, often subconsciously. The instruments provide the paints and the canvas, but the artist brings the sum of their influences to the table. The results are always surprising to me, and I look forward to collaborating a lot more in the future!
TBB: What’s next for Nackt?
Nackt: Just keeping it up! We’re continuing to throw Outpost parties, where we like to showcase local live sets when possible, keep in touch with us at www.outpost-sf.com. I’m tracking new songs as much as I can, so hopefully more releases coming soon. You can find links to my music at www.nacktmusic.com and you can get the new Virex release from 100% Silk here: www.listentosilk.com. Thanks very much!