ll nøthing ll joins us for a chat following the release of their lastest EP, higeki. They prove as concise, direct and engaging as their art as we talk across the Pacific Ocean. We begin with big questions, and narrow as things proceed.
Vaporwave is the closest thing we’ve had to a movement post-internet. Why are people drawn to making and consuming it?
I think it’s that nostalgic feel it gives people that draws them in. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about a time that they weren't living in. It could be about a moment that happened like, last week. Vaporwave, to me, is really good reflective music; it gives me that moment to think about the things I’ve done in my life so far, and what’s to come in the future, and I never had any other genre give me that feeling.
Could vaporwave have existed pre-internet?
I believe it could have existed pre-internet — and if it had, it would’ve been a lot more experimental and widely-known as an official musical genre than it is now. I could imagine a really obscure Japanese experimental electronic artist chopping and screwing a sample in the 70s, like how chris††† would. That would be really cool now that I think about it.
Vaporwave has needed to evolve to stick around as long as it has. What’s changed since the days of Eccojams?
Well, a lot of people have certainly been a lot more experimental with the genre, which I think is really awesome. I really enjoy seeing artists do some really unique stuff with their projects. Like how Dan Mason and Eccodroid use original vocals over vaporwave compositions. That shit is really cool, and I hope to see more of that in 2019. There’s also the artists that break the boundaries/norms of vaporwave with really experimental sounds — artists like 아버지, chris†††, death’s dynamic shroud, and many others. Vaporwave is in its teen years. It’s going out there in the world and trying out new things.
Now we’ve reached those teen years, does first gen vaporwave still have value?
Of course it does! I mean, I can’t think of a genre where people don’t see it as a meme, and you can’t really bash ‘em for it. It just sucks that 90% of newcomers view the mockery side of the genre first. But yeah, first gen vapor still has its value. I mean, look how well that new Luxury Elite did. There’s certainly group out there that enjoys it, or it’s just people nostalgic for the old stuff. Either way, it’s all good to me.
Vaporwave’s assimilation by the mainstream is arguably its definitive statement; its punchline. Where do we go from here?
I’d say we ignore it and keep doing our own thing. I’d hate to see projects be influenced or fixed to the mainstream’s liking. Do what makes you happy.
What’s the most vaporwave place you’ve been irl?
There’s this mall in my town that I used to go to as kid. It had this almost pool-like fountain at the entrance, with bunch of plants surrounding it. It was kinda beautiful, but now it’s pretty much on life support. It’s all empty now, neither the fountain or the food court operates anymore. You could faintly hear modern pop music play from the late-90s speakers they had hanging up high. Almost all the stores closed down except for a few cheap and shady vendors. It was almost kinda sad seeing it in the state it was now. It was so bustling back in the day, but not anymore. It’s so empty.
Your sound seems to incorporate broad influences from many genres. What was your musical education growing up?
I didn’t really have any musical education growing up. I mean, I was the first chair flute player in my 7th grade band class, and I was in the drumline in freshman year of high school which totally sucked, but other than that nothing really. I have a friend that goes by Fendi Beta that introduced me into vaporwave back in early 2016, I believe, with his album MegaPort. It was, and still is, the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. So when I got a laptop in junior year of high school in late 2016, I started doing my own thing. I try to do a different sound with every release, I feel that having the same sound over and over again is really boring.
How do you go about assembling a track?
My starting point was a mix of corny 80s music that you would hear in movies, and some obscure late 70s-to-80s tracks. I felt like I butchered the original samples when I first started, and not in a good way. I mean, I was new to the whole making music on your computer thing, so I try not bash myself for it nowadays. All of that can be heard in my first couple releases on my YouTube channel.
How do you select your samples? What leaps out about tracks to make you want to use them?
It’s different every time when it comes to selecting samples. Sometimes I’ll grab a handful of songs and see where it goes from there, and other times I’ll just use songs I used to like back in the day. I’ve yet to discover the thing that leaps out to me that makes me wanna use the track. I just feel like it fits the sound I have in my mind when I work on something.
What software / hardware do you use?
Back when I started I used Audacity with some cheap dollar store earphones, and the laptop my parents bought me for educational use only. Now I mainly use FL Studio, slowly but surely incorporating my MPK Mini. I’ll still use Audacity from time to time for some effects. Mainly I’m just used to it by now. It’s nothing really crazy.
What is your favourite SEGA console?
Never used a SEGA console, I’m a Nintendo child through and through. My favorite Nintendo console though was the GameBoy Color. I have fond memories playing this Rugrats game and Smurfs game at my grandma’s house when I was a kid.
And finally, is there anyone in your scene you’d like to shout out?
Obviously my friend Fendi Beta for introducing me to vaporwave; wouldn’t be where I am without him. Gulf Audio Company for hosting my first label and cassette release Modern Living — love you guys. My man the great Wizard of Loneliness for just being a great guy, and huge supporter in the vapor community for charity livestream events. And all the labels I’ve released for and people I have collaborated with so far!
|| nøthing ||’s higeki is available to stream and purchase here.
Interview by Andrew O’Keefe