I met Brett Naucke at a NWI Destruction Unit show. It's kind of weird looking back on it because I had bought his LP The Seed a few weeks before and really enjoyed it but I didn't put the name and face together until a couple of days after the show. I had seen him with ONO, but again didn't put the name and face together. Let's be honest: time, space, and connections in the human mind are weird and I don't get them really.
Another thing I don't really get is how to play/use/channel a modular synthesizer. It seems difficult to me, but I love watching people use them. In this interview, Brett talks about the ritual-like process of setting up a modular synthesizer specifically for an audience or a recording session. I'm not familiar with the process, but I know that electrical cords link certain inputs and outputs and work together to create a distinct piece of patchwork. I've never done this personally, though I've seen people do it, and Brett does a thorough, impressive job. His shows make use of a modular synth and may reflect the music that he has made at the time, or they may not. A Brett Naucke set could really sound like anything. This malleability is probably why he can involve himself in projects like Panicsville or ONO too.
Also, Brett has given me some great music recommendations like Sun City Girls and it's always a joy for me to talk to him during shows to learn more from him. I highly recommend checking out his music (I mean, I'm interviewing the guy for chrissakes) on his bandcamp page. The Seed is a great place to start listening, but they're all good if you ask me. He's also got a website. You should go to it. Like a lost child. In the rain.
Jordan Reyes: You've been involved in a bunch of different projects from Druids of Huge to Skin/Trade to now ONO. Do your instruments change as you move between projects?
Brett Naucke: Yeah, in the old days with Druids & S/T and even the earliest stuff I released under my own name or Face Worker, or anything before that was a lot junkier equipment. The focus was completely different too. Hadn't really grasped what it was I was trying to do then when looking back on it. Lots of tapes, home built oscillator boxes, things like that. Was using synths like the Korg Ms20 back then but much differently. Gradually started using nothing but synths of various types around 2008 and the modular round 2010 I think. The modular is the mainstay nowadays and Its very rare if i'm not using it. Its the only thing I use in ONO & often the only thing I use in solo performances but the combo of akai mpc & modular is the live set up for now for solo performances. So vast in the two's capabilities. I play in Panicsville also, which are generally electro-acoustic sets where it's pretty rare to play synth. These are super fun as it takes everyone totally outside a comfort level though we have had sets of strictly modular use. In terms of recording its kinda anything goes across the board.
JR: Do you approach each project differently? What affects the tone and aim of the music you make? I can't really picture having the same mindset when you go to record with ONO as you do on a solo release.
BN: Yeah they really aren't comparable or interchangeable mindsets and I enjoy working in them because of that. Solo work takes precedent, and the process certainly changes from project to project. I know my mindset and ritual and focus in these situations well because its just me and I spend most of my time with that. With ONO there are minimally 6 people at any time, so its a lot more about listening and understanding what you contribute and why. Nobody really plays the same instrument or has even similar playing styles. Nothing is arbitrary. It's a lot about not playing. Same goes for performing in Panicsville. It's a collaborative effort that I try to leave any of my own tendencies at the door ya know. The more outside you get, the more your skills develop. Collaborating with people in any facet is important. You learn a lot about yourself
JR: When did you get your first electronic-music-oriented instrument? That's fairly poorly worded, but I think you know what I mean.
BN: I got a Moog Rouge on permanent loan from a friend when I was 17 or 18 maybe. I really didn't know anything about synths, or even a ton of electronic music at the time to be honest. But I'd sit and and figure out what each parameter did and just sit and jam the thing for hours. Really fell in love with just listening to synths play themselves. The other was the Tascam 424 tape machine. Bought this at 14 or 15 to record my high school bands but realized that its capable of completely mangling sound and being a performance tool unto itself. I haven't had either of those pieces of gear for years but they were certainly influential.
JR: Your recent LP Seed, first off, is incredible. I listen to it a lot. When did you begin writing the pieces that would eventually end up on it? What was your creation process like behind the record?
BN: Glad you like it! The liner notes say " Written & recorded using ritual variations of of a singular patch for Modular Synthesizer in Chicago, IL & field recordings made in Miami, FL November 2012-July 2013." Hate to copy from them, but the description is about as direct as I could be. Before that November, I had been working on the modular patch that became the 'seed patch' and eventually decided to just record that over and over in the thousands of ways it can be done. I eventually got really into making it a nightly ritual, spent a ton of time visualizing and understanding what it is I was trying to write and communicate as Seed is about a LOT of things, largely about growth. I've never approached a recording like that before as my previous lp The Visitor (nihilist) while certainly thematic, wasn't recorded with a remotely similar mindset. I then spent a LOT of time amassing all the recordings into a cohesive record that wasn't monotonous, or obviously a single patch. not super easy. My life also changed drastically during that time and the record is the direct result of that. Really opposite spectra. I definitely lost my fucking mind during that time and the recording is the document of that. It's not the easiest thing to listen to for me but I think it came out perfectly from my perspective from the order of the album (both sides mirror each other, not sure if people noticed that) to the art work (check out Nina Hartmann's art, who was super important to that record ) to the label (working with Spectrum Spools/Editions Mego is pretty ideal right now & couldn't be in better hands) to how it was perceived by people I hear back from. It was a long, often hellish process but I couldn't be happier with it.
JR: I've never really tried to create music with a synthesizer or electronics, so I'm a bit oblivious to the creation process. This may be a bit of a neanderthal-ish question, but physically, how do you make your music? And how do you know when a song is complete?
BN: I have pretty specific, and ritual-like focuses about how and why I'm making music. I'm not good at just like, 'sittin down and jammin some songs". I don't want to make a record of 'a few new songs by Brett Naucke". It just isn't interesting to me. I do sit down and improvise and 'jam' but it's more about harvesting ideas from nothing. I need to have a focus, a goal, something to visualize. I'm interested in people making 'new music' and having new processes and expanding vocabulary and I am trying to do the same
JR: I've only seen you in two capacities. Once with ONO and once as a solo artist. I remember seeing intensely thorough patchwork at your solo show. How do you prepare for a live outing?
BN: Depends. I like to be versatile both in where I'm playing and what I'm playing to depending on the audience, venue, etc. will change drastically what I'm playing from night to night. If I'm touring or doing some back to back things, I generally write something that is conducive to doing night to night. I do allow a lot of room for change and extensions of things though in case I want to do something different. I do like to do as much as possible, and as diverse a performance as I can whether audibly or visually in that time span.
JR: Do you ever get to tour?
BN: Not really. I do a LOT of weekends out of town. I'm touring west coast in January 2015, and a lot of Europe after The Mansion (follow up to Seed) comes out. I could have done a lot this year but chose to spend a lot of time traveling and doing shows here and there. I do miss touring but I'm not in a position where I can bail for a month at a time right now. 2015 though...
JR: I know you're a big fan of industrial-oriented music. Do you think there are any particularly good artists making music in this vein today?
BN: Honestly, I don't even know. I don't specifically go out and look for new 'industrial music' per say. At least not right now. Though there seems to be a lot of good dark/synth/industrial/etc (insert any common keywords here), music going on in the west/southwest. While admittedly good/old friends, (hitting name dropping zone again) labels like Nostilevo & Chondritic Sound seem to constantly be pumping out stuff like this that is pretty great. Ascetic House has a lot of that kinda thing too. Maybe I don't think of things in terms of 'industrial' right now. Just liking whatever. I'm pretty ambivalent to what 'scenes' or 'crews' bands/artists operate in or that kinda thing. Guess it just doesn't occur to me. I'm just into what catches my ear.
JR: What would be your dream line-up at a show?
BN: Hmmmm. No idea. Something diverse! I always was bummed on going to most 'rock' or hardcore shows or things because it would almost always be 3-4 bands that sounded the most like the touring band. It ends up being just an onslaught of the same type of thing and it just bored the hell out of me. It's not exclusively those genres either by any means but I found that more common I suppose. Just un-creative booking ya know? Something I do love about weird underground Chicago, and what most Chicagoans probably don't even notice/take for granted, is that the bills are super diverse here for the most part. Could be a noise act, a loud 'rock' band, an acoustic thing, and something else that isn't even related at all. Any combo of anything. It's fun and not homogeneous. I get bored even if its 5 synth acts, or 5 industrial acts, or whatever even if I like the type of music, I just get bored.
JR: What all is in the future for Brett Naucke?
BN: Spent a lot of time traveling this summer. Lot of time in various mountain ranges, lots of time recording, just preparing for the next year so a LOT in the near future. Just finished 'Composition for Common Melodies in Quad", a quadraphonic piece i'll be debuting at Fort Wayne Museum of Art in October. As well as a few dates with Pulse Emitter round that time. Also just finished a new e.p called "Hunting Portraits", which will be out shortly. Just began what will consume my winter, which is The Mansion, which is the follow up LP to Seed. Will be out in the spring assuming I use my next couple of months properly. I'm moving this time next year (at least that's the plan). A lot of shows, weekends on both coasts here and there. Two big tours after the new year.
JR: Anything else you'd like to say?