Interview Series: nohidea.
Stream nohidea’s exclusive minimix for secret shores below <3
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Introducing: nohidea, an artist whose production talents and lofty visions are matched only by his work ethic and ambition. Nohidea makes lo-fi music that stirs emotions through melancholy, nostalgic atmosphere, textured and intricate soundscapes, and sparse, jazzy instrumentation – all of which have created an unmistakable signature sound, one that sounds at once forward-looking and reflective; old and new.
We had the opportunity to chat with him and do a deep dive on the enigmatic artist’s musical background and early life; Spotify presence; upcoming self-funded and self-managed tour to Japan; involvement with art imprint Ploom Labs, and a whole bunch more.
Read on for the full interview below!
Could you tell us about your musical background? What got you into beat-making and what helped you to craft that signature sound for nohidea?
I don’t really have much musical background, classically or anything. My mom introduced me to ‘EDM’ and ‘IDM’ when I was probably like 10 years old, through like The Crystal Method, Pendulum and Aphex Twin CDs and Cassettes that she had in her car hahaha.
Super thankful that my mom even had a car, because we really struggled when I was growing up. Never really had the money or the patience for any kind of music lessons, I was a just a shitty student. I remember I went to a behavioural adjustment school for about 3 years that thankfully the school board and inner city boys & girls youth clubs in my city paid for – I grew up a really rough kid – and they offered guitar lessons in the school but I just kind of passed it off as something I couldn’t do. Being a shitty student meant I also didn’t want to do work. I was just lazy as fuck.
I kind of always actively listened to music for as long as I can remember though, and I’d try to pick it apart, but there was a lot of music that I just didn’t understand how that could possibly sound the way that it does or whatever, or what went into making that stuff because I didn’t play any instruments.
But, I fondly remember listening to Aphex Twins’ “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” and so I started looking for more music similar to that.
I found UKF Dubstep and other youtube channels like Inspector Dubplate way later when I was probably 14, but I really fell in love with the vast styles of Electronic Music, and how cool each individual sound was – how they all seemed to have their own context in the story-telling nature of the songs I’d find there.
It fascinated me, and so I grew more interested in production as time went on. I remember I tried to remake some dubstep sounds on a computer I had built at the time with the money I saved up from this dishwashing job, and I failed so hard at it, so I got upset and stopped trying at it until probably 19 years old.
I used to beatbox and freestyle as a kid, and I’d write raps and stuff, go on youtube and try to spit a verse over a ‘Nas type beat’ lmao. I was never good, it was just something I enjoyed doing. Then, as my love for hip hop continued to cultivate, I found other producers and beat makers like Fly Lo, Doom, DJ Premier, DJ Shadow etc.
But, it wasn’t until I was probably 18 at a friend’s house and he showed me J Dilla’s ‘Donuts’ that I was actually like ‘holy fuck, yep I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna make stuff like this’, so I downloaded a bunch of books online on Music Theory, Composition, Production, Audio Engineering, Psychoacoustics, Synthesis etc and I got to work. I would read them front to back day and night, relentlessly. Nothing in my life prior seemed to be working so I put everything I had into music.
Lost a lot of friendships during that time, one of which was my best friend whose life unfortunately came to an abrupt end. After I gave the eulogy at his funeral, I knew this was something I had to take seriously, after seeing the faces of his parents when I spoke about our promises to create together, because music is what I swore to him I would succeed at when he was still alive.
As for the ‘sound of nohidea’, I actually had a music partner when I first started releasing music with this project. He joined in a few songs into the project, but he taught me a lot about making beats-style music, and some processing techniques that I had overlooked because I was a super ‘by the book’ producer at the time. The style of music I’m creating now had defied so many of the ‘rules’ of production that I had learned (like not putting a filter on the entire master of a song and destroying the fuck out of it) and it grew on me so quickly, because it was like rebelling against myself hahaha. Idk if that sounds weird, but yeah.
Loving what’s going on with Ploom! Tell us a little about its inception, current projects, future plans, etc.
It is an idea that was conceived by my homie Levi. Straight the fuck up, Levi is a genius. Go tweet and shout at him @paralyna. I’d never seen anything like Ploom. He originally created the project under the then-name ‘castphalanx’ (Phalanx is a White Magic spell from Final Fantasy XI, cast is.. well.. you cast the spell), as a way to showcase and curate music that he really enjoyed, while also helping build artists that he truly believed in.
I reached out to him after his first planned release with this dude Emune. I had seen a couple promotional pieces of art, and the design of the physical release, and told him that I thought it was brilliant and I wanted to help him achieve his grander vision, while also playing a big role in the development/planning of the project as a whole. He hadn’t even released anything yet, and he didn’t know who I was, but I believed in it so much from first sight, and knew he had really great plans and vision as to the branding/marketing/concept of everything.
It wasn’t where it is today and it’s not anywhere near where I know it’ll be by this time next year, but we had hopped on a few phone calls together before we got the chance to actually meet in San Francisco while I was on tour, and we just heavily resonated with each others’ ideas and art. It’s still gonna continue to develop more and more over time, and the fact that so many people resonate with the concept and the message really means a lot to me, and I know I speak for him when I say he’s extremely grateful that it’s garnering attention from really cool like-minded artists like you guys, among others. It’s incredibly meaningful and beautiful to us both, and that will only continue to be true.
Ploom is a donation-based digital pharmacy, focused on producing and prescribing healthily-dosed, curated music as our drug of choice.
Ploom continues to focus on supporting small artists, and providing sentimental experiences and content that only it can offer. As for its current projects, I’m trying to help turn it into a legitimate label, aside from the Physical Distribution side of things, but I have no clue what I’m doing so I’m just doing it anyways. We plan on building a promotional Youtube channel with Levi to garner further brand awareness, 1) because his taste in music is incredible and 2) we wanna put on for even more artists and achieve what the project set out to do from the start – spread love. We’re also working on some top-quality merchandise aside from USBs and music. I’d like to use my platform to really just be able to gain more attention for his project(s) and our respective companies, as well as continue to create quality content/art and hit our marks.
I recently put out a physical audio/visual manifesto called ‘Esuna’ over at Ploom. It sold out in the first week, but you can keep up with us at ploomlabs.com and follow us on social media @ploomlabs. It’s super cool. It was a challenge I took to twitter wherein I live-produced, and posted a song per day for 13 days, in tribute to J Dilla and Nujabes. Rest in peace.. I think it’s only a matter of time before the major labels follow suit with Ploom’s model. Truth be told, I had a meeting with Warner Music Group back when I was in NYC about Ploom’s distribution, but nothing came out of it. Don’t really want anything to come out of it except funding.
I like the idea of keeping a major label on their toes by introducing something they’ve never seen before. A lot of people will attempt to mimic what we’re doing, but they’ll never be able to replicate our approach. Because they’ll never have our secret weapon – love. heart. soul..
You don’t even know the half of how beautiful it is, until you’ve seen one of the USB capsules in the flesh. The packaging though… Wow. Don’t even get me started. BOY.. The design choices are immaculate, and that dude truly has an incredibly rare eye for design and aesthetic, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’m just his lackey hahaha.
What’s your relationship like with the folks over at Spotify?
Basically, I’m now working alongside Spotify to help build the nohidea project further.
It came about just from me putting my music up on Spotify, and not thinking anything of it. Then, earlier this year, my homie that runs a really dope hip-hop label had educated me on how Spotify works, and who runs some of the playlists, so I reached out, and as it turns out – they loved my music, so they helped put me on. I’ve had my music on Spotify since my first EP, the 3:33am tape.
Massive shoutout to the incredible team of people at Spotify helping so many artists throughout the world provide for themselves, and helping to give them a voice to speak for themselves and tell their stories.
Talking about Spotify and streaming services more broadly, could you talk a little bit about the opportunities these have created for underground artists? Do you feel Spotify, with Fresh Finds for example, is helping to shift the digital landscape of the music industry?
These platforms are giving artists the ability to quit their jobs, to move wherever they want in the world, to truly provide for themselves, and be financially independent. Their carefully, personally-curated content streamlines a targeted audience for these artists, incomparable to anything else they’d find elsewhere.
They have myriad marketing tools at your disposal to help you recalibrate and define your trajectory and brand, as well as providing you the tools necessary to reach those same audiences and see precise and detailed information as to who they are, what they like, where they live etc.
It’s not only shifted the paradigm of the independent music industry, it’s a necessity for any artist. I see so many artists that have bustling social presence on Soundcloud, but absolutely no music even posted on Spotify. I think that those very same artists are missing out on something truly big, because you could have access to the same tools that huge-name, major-label artists and managers have when they’re doing things such as planning for tours, planning releases, planning for press campaigns and promotional content etc.
Just from something as simple as having your music on Spotify and letting it find its way around to any potential ears, you could plan your own tour.. You can get paid (or not) to go play your music that you created out of love in a different city, maybe even a different country in the world. Anywhere in the world that you want to go, granted you have an audience there. I think that’s so dope…
You’re going on a self-funded, self-managed tour to Japan next month, is that right?
Yea! It’s gonna be super fun. I’ll be playing some shows in Osaka, Yokohama, Tokyo and (hopefully) Kyoto. Thanks to Spotify.. hahaha. It’s really smart to keep track of your metrics across platforms as much as you can, as long as it is conducive to your career and your progression as an artist and businessperson. The reason I say that, is because you can see very specifically where a lot of your traffic is coming from, and can even go further as to delegating content based on those locations, or potential projects involving those locations.
When travelling for instance, just try to travel to places where you know you have some traction! Plus, chances are they’re big cities, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already wanted to go to a lot of these places anyways. Take myself as an example – I’m just going places I’ve always wanted to go, and finding cheap flights to do so, and then while and before I arrive, networking with like-minded, similar artists to see if they’d like to play some music with me. That’s really all it takes, is to just network.
Could you tell us a little about the move to San Fran? Must be a pretty exciting time!
Yeah! Definitely exciting. A lot of new things are happening, new companies are being started, and new approaches [are being] considered. I think distance from our nestled spaces allows us the mental clarity and perspective to see ourselves and our motivations in a different way.
I moved with my girl up to Northern California to be closer to my work, both in fashion and distribution, and so that I can be closer to Ploom HQ and really just allowing myself to take on a lot more responsibility in the business side of things, while trying to establish things in-person. Levi was just an Internet friend for me before, but now we’re on a more personal, face-to-face basis, so I’m just stoked to be working alongside him to build Ploom into something greater.
Plus, my girlfriend is an artist as well and I know I speak for her when I say San Francisco is the most gorgeous city I’ve been to! [laughs] Outrageously expensive, though. I don’t live directly in the city, my wallet wouldn’t be happy if that was the case.
What is the ultimate vision for Ploom and nohidea, either separately or in tandem with one another? Are there goals in particular that you’ve set for yourself?
The ultimate vision for the nohidea project is to continue where I started, and try not to stray too much from the motifs and the message. I try to keep my mind on the big picture, and staying focused on delivering the broader message that I’ve set out to convey since the beginning.
It’s not about I, it’s not about me. It’s about all of us. I think it’s bigger than just one person, it’s bigger than music. It’s love to me, this music stuff is fun to me and I love it.
Even if for a time it becomes about progression of business, that’s how you have to treat your career. If you google the definition of the term ‘hobby’, it means “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” If you google the definition of the term ‘career’, it means “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” I think the distinction here is very significant, because your hobbies can easily become your career, but by definition, as your career, it needs to be taken very seriously, and worked at very methodically, with shrewd planning involved down to the finest details, in regards to your progression as a business. That’s exactly it – turning your hobby into your career just means becoming a business-minded person, and treating your hobby as a profession. Your job.
We are definitely trying to build Ploom in tandem, yes. I think it’s best to segue your success into the success of your friends and their projects, as they will undoubtedly do the same thing for you. It’s a really important message and a very important thing we’re doing, in my opinion, to introduce a more personalized format for digital media consumption, as it’s something I think a lot of artists are looking for, but don’t quite know that they want yet. It’s gone overlooked not only because the platform doesn’t have much recognition as it’s in its infancy right now, but I believe a lot of people are inherently afraid of change. And this is a big change for a lot of people, but an even greater opportunity to progress.
What advice would you give to any young producers? What do you think is important to keep in mind when building one’s artistic brand/career?
My best advice for marketing and your approach in building a brand/career is for personal brand identity, it’s more about the long-term game. I call it ‘the sprint and marathon rule’.
A lot of people seem to be focused on the immediate return and impact of their actions (sprinting) through branding and marketing choices otherwise, as opposed to focusing on a lot of the smaller actions that add up significantly over time (marathoning), such as your distribution, your network, your affiliations, the ideas and metaphors that you try to imbue into your art, and many other things.
I refer to Murphy’s law and Occam’s Razor when I talk about this stuff. These are two very important principles to me. The first insinuates that progress is measured through a slope, of longevity, and time/action (time over action), and the second speaks to how simplicity is more effective than complexity. Be it in reaching your target audience, developing logos, or even going as far as to the production and creation of content in your artistic medium, simplicity is sophisticated, highly effective and also quite attractive, both in the literal and the metaphorical sense.
I wanted to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak my mind, as well as the depth of your questions. I’ve admired secret shores from afar for a while, and I’m really grateful that you’re helping me share my message! Thank you all for standing with me. Peace.
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