Features

Nsolo (INTERVIEW)

Almost a year ago we talked to San Diego-based producer Nsolo about loss, alienation, and his album Jam Collections, which we loved. His recent single ‘Drown’ was also one of our favourites of 2015.

nsoso1
Photo: Nsolo

You describe Jam Collections as a concept album, and a relentlessly grim one at that. But I feel that despite this, there’s a sense of catharsis at the end. Tell us about the narrative.

Essentially there’s this character, and he’s going through a very difficult time in his life. There was the death of somebody close to him—it’s kind of ambiguous as to who that is—and he feels responsible for it. I alluded to it being his son, and it was in a car crash. Overall it takes a toll on him, and the people around him. By the end he lets go.

One thing I noticed in Jam Collections is just how dense your production is. Given what you just said about the album’s narrative, was that intentional, to reflect the character’s mental state?

He is drowning throughout the entire album. Drowning in this sense of guilt and drowning in the memory of this particular incident, so over the album his emotions are progressively getting more and more pent up, and I wanted to ramp the intensity through the album, so that by the end he just has this incredible array of emotions just shot towards him, over and over and over. And it just keeps continuously punching him in the face, until he just has to let go, or else will just eat him alive. And so he lets go; either in terms of getting rid of the guilt for the death, or he’s, you know, getting rid of his own life because of it.

Regarding the ambiguity of the ending—you seem to invite ambiguity by mixing your vocals low. How much do your lyrics matter?

In the beginning I did not care for lyricism at all. As long as the vocal melody sounded good, it was cool to just run with it. Then as I made ‘Stuck’ and ‘Lone’, I thought up the album’s concept, and by the fourth song I had concrete ideas about the narrative. Now I think lyrics are pretty important as far as what Jam Collections means—not that lyrics will matter for every single project that I make, but for Jam Collections I think they are important.

How much of Jam Collections—if it’s not a personal question—is informed by your own experiences? You have mentioned that your time at university was one of the reasons you wrote it, so how much of it is autobiographical?

I was in a pretty sad place emotionally. At the time I lived with two roommates but I never interacted with them. The only conversations I had with them were in the kitchen, getting food and saying ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ I was pretty lonely during that last year at university, and the album concerns what I was feeling, although not to same depth as what the character was. I was exaggerating how I felt, or how I assumed this character would feel.

Given that you’ve released the album independently online, I thought it was interesting that you are seeking a record label. What do you perceive a record label offering you?

That’s a great question, I don’t entirely know. I was trying to get a little more exposure for it. That was one part. I don’t want to be the type of person who bombards his Facebook feed with, ‘Hey, check out my stuff.’ I think a label could give me a better platform to sit on, and they have more experience with booking shows and getting studio time, and could push me into meeting people that would help me artistically or career-wise. So yeah, there’s a lot of little things that I wouldn’t be able to do alone.

What’s your strategy for getting more exposure at the moment?

Initially, I was thinking a lot about not pushing myself out at all—just releasing an album and just moving on with my life. Then I was thinking I should team up with a record label, and now I’m thinking about combining all of my projects into a makeshift collective and just releasing them on that platform. Think Majestic Casual, but it’s entirely composed of my own music.

Are you interested in playing live? Do you feel confident in recreating the album, or are performances going to be different?

You know what—I’m still of tinkering with my live set, and it’s incredibly rough right now, but like I think that while it wouldn’t necessarily be a recreation, it would be really similar to the recording, at least emotionally. At the same time I would try to mix up ideas from a technical aspect.

What about collaborations? Are you interested in meeting up with different producers and vocalists?

Absolutely. In the beginning I was like “No, I have to do everything myself. I have to produce every song, I have to sing every layer of the song, I have to write everything,” and now I’m realising it’s better to have people who are specialised in certain areas to help you bring a particular vision to life. Looking at the bigger pop artists or even guys like Kanye. They have a mass of people are helping him create this one piece. He’s like the director of whatever sound he’s creating as opposed to being the skill behind the particular sound. It’s like they’re curating this idea.

Is there anyone who you’d be interested in collaborating with? Any artist in particular?

I think I’d really love to do something with FWDSLXSH.

Do you have a day job? Or are you doing music full-time now?

No, I do have a day job. I’d rather not say what I’m doing. But I spend a lot of time doing this project where by Sunday I’ll try to have a song finished every week. So far I’ve done it for about, a year and a half.

Is that how you came to make Jam Collections? Was it a collection of the best songs from that project, or did you work on it separately?

Nsolo was more premeditated. I didn’t count any of the Jam Collections songs as part of my ‘weekly homework.’ I was thinking about Nsolo for quite a while—a couple years. I couldn’t make a songs of that calibre in a week. So I had to put a lot of time into it.

You said you were very alienated during the making of Jam Collections. When it was done, who was the first person you played it to?

I played it to my roommate and my current girlfriend—she’s on the cover.

How was sharing it with people? Was it difficult?

You know what—it was, but I don’t really know why. It was pretty difficult putting yourself out there, mostly because I spent a lot of time on the album. You know when people work on a thesis and get a master’s degree? That’s what I felt like.

You can find Nsolo on SoundcloudBandcamp, and Twitter.

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