surround sounds | an interview with naw

naw

From an interview conducted in November 2004 for CKUT Radio 90.3 fm in Montreal.

Neil Adam Wiernik, or naw, has been a prolific and active figure in Canada’s electronic music scene for over 10 years, with an impressive list of recorded work and live performances undertaken during that time. His work involves ongoing experimentation with sounds that cross over between genres of techno, dub, house, microsound and ambient.

He has managed to create a distinctive sound, combining these influences in a genre-defying way. Green Nights, Orange Days is naw’s most recent full length album on Noise Factory records, and takes us on a rich and deceptively minimal journey. Stylistically it’s an evolution from his first Noise Factory album, showcasing his diverse musical styles in a more subtle and cohesive manner than ever before.
“The way I approached this record was more in a way of examining the things that happen between the actual beats, so i guess that does make it more subtle. The earlier record was examining more the phrases of each sound whereas with this record I’m examining the textures, and there’s a more even mix in my mind between the actual rhythms and the sounds. So it comes across as much more subtle and there’s much more space between the beats in terms of being able to pick out different sounds.”

The textural layers and seamlessness of genres in naw’s music are reflections of the lived environment, bridging the subtlety of what happens between the beats to the changing of the seasons. Song titles evoke spaces and moods. From ‘camp fire cricket melodies’ to ‘underpass tunnel corridors’, physical and social surroundings play an important role in the construction of his music.

“The seamlessness has alot to do with the fact that alot of my music is influenced by the environments that I live in. When I say environment I mean everything like the way people interact with me and around me to the environment that I work in and reside in. There’s alot of seamlessness in the way things occur in Montreal, the seasons are quite seamless, a slow seamless exchange of patterns.”

Invoking relationships between environment, landscape, nature and music, the interest in reflecting and reconstructing the environment through technological means has been central in naw’s work. His digitally synthesized sounds are uncannily organic, achieving an effect of tangibility not often heard in electronic music.

“In terms of my music being very organic sounding but digitally created, thats an interesting juxtaposition that I’ve always had with my music. My music’s always been about the environment.  I’ve always been interested in sound ecology and I’ve always investigated that end of things in my music, whether it be my completely abstract music done in the early 90′s and late 80′s or the more structured stuff as naw when naw was born in 1995. It’s always interested me to take the concept of something organic and either try to manipulate it digitally or reproduce that organic environment digitally.”

One constant element admist the other layers and sounds in naw’s music is the deep reverberations of dub. We can’t talk about his music without recognizing it’s relationship to the pioneers of dub techno who inspired him, the artists behind Basic Channel and Chain Reaction. But besides the dub techno influence, he also looks back to the fundamental technique of dub as inspiring his own approach to music making in many ways.

“Dub is a very organic type of music, in my opinion it’s one of the first musics that tried to fuse that idea of the organic with the digital. Dub is a studio project where a producer is taking the sounds being produced by these musicians and manipulating them in the studio. And whipping up a digital frenzy with effects and recording techniques. You can hear that idea in my music, to me that’s the beginning of the idea of juxtaposing the organic into the digital and thats where dub has always been a big influence on me.”

Given the diversity of styles represented in naw’s music, pinpointing where his music belongs is a difficult task. Rather than try to define it, maybe it’s better to take a step back and simplify.

“I just say that I make electronic music or not even, its computer generated music. Monolake, an artist who’s had a huge influence on me over the years, never tries to classify his music. Other people try. I’ve assimilated that attitude towards my music. Because my music doesn’t really find a home in a hard techno party or at an ambient event, it has a little too many elements of everything in there. In a way I find I have more in common emotionally with my music with say an IDM artist or even an indie rock artist that is fusing electronics with guitar oriented music only for the fact that there’s a lot of grey in there in terms of where does this music get classified.â”

Regardless of what we want to call it, this is music to get lost in. So get your headphones on, and take that mid winter sailboat ride.

Interviews