• About A Band: Nosaj Thing

    Los Angeles DJ/producer Jason Chung, who also goes by the moniker Nosaj Thing, creates chill-yet-danceable electronic music with hip-hop influences, and has produced tracks for the likes of Kid Cudi and Kendrick Lamar. He made music blog headlines everywhere earlier this month when he dropped the new track "Cold Stares" featuring Chance the Rapper off his upcoming album, Fated—scheduled for a May release. Jason prefers the atmosphere and energy of festival crowds over the smaller club shows, which is a good thing because he is slated for a set at Slingshot Festival in Athens, Georgia at the end of the month. Aside from his relaxed and even-paced music, Jason's demeanor is almost like a mirror to his musical style. Jason is a very cool, calm, and collective person, which pairs perfectly with the fact that he likens creating music to meditation.

    We had a chance to stop into Jason's home studio ahead of his upcoming appearance at Athens' Slingshot Festival to talk to him about his influences, attending raves at the age of 13, and why iced tea is essential for touring.
    Photos by Kristian Punturere

    Can you share more about your background?
    I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and grew up in East LA. I have always been into music since I was a kid. I got into rap pretty early—like 3rd or 4th grade. My first CD was Snoop Dogg's Doggie Style. I think my mom got it for me because there was a cartoon on the cover, not knowing what it was or what it was about. Now she likes Snoop Dogg, but maybe it's not that cool for a seven year old. But yeah, I was just really into the beats. Prior to that I got into Warren G; that was my first tape. I would just mess around with the EQ in my mom’s car and record mixes on my parents’ stereo.

    Do you think growing up in Los Angeles has had any influence on your music?
    I got into the LA rave scene when I was about 13 because I always had older friends. So fast forward, that’s when I got into DJing, and my friend gave me some software that I started making beats with—never really looked back.

    What kind of gear and setup do you have in your home studio?
    When I first started production, it was when software was starting to get better and more accessible. At first it was really difficult to make tracks on a computer and make it sound good, but since I started that way it made things really fast. My whole setup is really streamlined so I can get out ideas as fast as possible. There are tools I use, like the Ableton Push, Maschine, and a synth called Analog Keys. Everything is just integrated into the software as well. Even the plugins I use are in a separate piece of hardware run through an external processor. I don’t want to get too technical, but I wanted to keep my setup as minimal as possible, going through a lot of gear along the way.

    What is your creative process like? Do you have an idea and try to achieve it, or do you kind of play around until you come up with something you like?
    Most of the time I just won’t think about anything. But sometimes I’ll conceptualize an idea first. It’s always different. I always try to change my approach to come up with a different type of song. On this next record there are 15 tracks, all the tempos are varied, and I tried to change my approach for each one. I’ll start with drums for one track, a chord progression for another. This album is more about exploring and taking myself out of everything that’s going on. It’s kind of like an escape—not thinking about anything at all.

    What’s your recording process? Do you do it all entirely on your own?
    Once in a while I’ll collaborate. That’s what I’m trying to do more and more of these days. But yeah, when I start recording I just try to get away from distraction. It’s really hard to do that these days with all the noise; it’s hard to focus sometimes.

    Did you have any major influences from back when you started creating your own music?
    Yeah, of course. When I was young I was into the rave scene stuff, house, and jungle. I really got into early Warp Records stuff like Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. Dntel—if you don’t know Dntel, he used to do all sorts of projects like producing the Postal Service album. But his solo work is awesome, he’s one of my favorite producers. J Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest, and Stereolab are big influences as well.

    What is your current favorite song?
    Currently today? Dang, I don’t know if I have a favorite song right now, but I like “Protoype” by Andre 3000.

    Are there any up and coming artists on your radar?
    Yeah, I started a little label called Timetable, and there’s this guy named Whoarei. He sings and makes beats, and he just has this effortless style and vibe that sounds really sincere and authentic.

    What do you enjoy more: creating music, or playing it live for an audience?
    Creating for sure. That’s my favorite thing to do. These days it’s collaborating and working with other artists. I’m currently working on a mixtape that will feature some rappers and some singers. I’m going to try and put that out soon.

    Do you prefer to play festivals or smaller, more intimate shows?
    I think I like the bigger shows. They just give me more energy. The more people there are—especially at festivals—you can just feel the energy radiating toward you in some way. Even though I don’t usually look at the crowd, you can still feel it. I just feel blessed to be able to do something like that.

    Anything special planned for the upcoming tour?
    I’m working with a few different animators: one based here in LA, one in Tokyo, and one in Sweden. We’re putting together a new show, and I’m pretty much performing the new album before it comes out. So anyone that comes to the shows will be able to hear it first before it drops. Somehow my tour is before the album [laughs].

    What do you always make sure to bring with you on the road?
    Iced tea. I need it. I went to Australia recently, and it doesn’t exist there. The only thing they have is like Nestea Peach. I couldn’t find just black tea anywhere. They were telling me that iced coffee is sort of new there too.

    Can you give us any insider info on how your normal day changes (if at all) when your name starts making headlines on the internet, like with the recent track with Chance the Rapper dropping?
    My day doesn't really change, I’ll just get some texts or e-mails from friends. It’s weird, you’ll see all these things on the internet, but I think everything just seems much bigger than it really is. There’s a lot of 'foolery' on the Internet, if that’s even a word [laughs].

    What do you consider to be the best type of traveling / driving music?
    I like listening to older stuff, or whole rap mixtapes. But I’ll usually get back into The Beatles, or Simon and Garfunkel. When I’m on tour I usually revisit all the stuff I listened to growing up.

    A good nostalgic trip.
    Yeah, that’s what it is [laughs]. You’re just driving with all the scenery, thinking about life and all that stuff, questioning your existence [laughs].

    Do you have anything else planned for 2015?
    Yeah, I’m working on a new live show. This is like THE show, and I’m working with this artist Daito Manabe. I think he’s from the future. He’s like a mathematician/programmer. The show is going to include motion capture cameras, virtual reality, and live generative animations. We’re going to do that late May. So that’s what I’m looking forward to.

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