An album's worth of material from an artist carving out his own lane.
Jonny Nash has taken a roundabout journey to the contemporary ambient scene. Back in the '00s, he lived in Japan and made warm, disco-inspired tunes with Discosession, a crew that included preeminent Japanese digger Chee Shimizu. He'd later move to London and start importing records from Shimizu's Organic Music shop long before the Japanese ambient and '80s music craze. Somewhere along the way, Nash's own music became less dance floor-oriented, more inward-looking. He worked with Kyle Martin as Land Of Light and then made a landmark modern ambient album with Gigi Masin and Young Marco as Gaussian Curve. A stint in Bali followed.
Five years ago, Nash launched Melody As Truth, a label mostly releasing his own music and records by close collaborator Suzanne Kraft (AKA Diego Herrera). The label has spurred a remarkable progression in Nash's music, which has slowly drifted from Steve Hiett-style guitar explorations to gamelan-infused soundscapes and then to a considered sound world all his own. His latest LP, Make A Wilderness, is difficult to pin down, beautifully barren and evocative like the Cormac McCarthy landscapes that served as inspiration.
For his RA podcast, Nash has mixed an album's worth of his own music. The mix is full of unreleased material, live excerpts, music Nash and Herrera made for the fledgling MATStudio series and previously unheard collaborations. Though his music encourages contemplative stillness, Jonny Nash refuses to stay in one place.
What have you been up to recently?
So far 2019 has been a mix of finishing up projects, managing the label and playing live shows. I just got back from the USA and as I write this, I am in Japan working on an audiovisual installation with the artist Yoshirotten for the Rainbow Disco Club festival.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded in my studio in Amsterdam over the course of a few days earlier this year. The mix consists entirely of my own productions and collaborative works. I worked on it in Ableton, editing some pre-existing tracks and recording some overdubs. Once I was happy with the selection and edits, I asked my friend Gordon Pohl to master it for me.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
2018 felt like a productive year musically. I wanted the mix to document some of the ideas and collaborations that were developed during that time. In addition to solo works and MAT projects with regular collaborator Diego Herrera, I included some work I made with Kuniyuki Takahashi during a stay in Sapporo, a piece made with Gigi Masin in Venice, and a bunch of things recorded in Amsterdam and London with Kyle Martin. The mix also includes some recorded excerpts from live performances I did during 2018.
We recently caught a live show of yours outdoors, at sunset, in a wooded backyard in Altadena, California. What's the ideal performance setting for the music you're making now?
I think any venue where the audience is able to be immersed in the music works well. My music is not so well-suited to places with a lot of background noise or people talking. I have to say that in the last few years it seems to be much easier to find suitable venues and audiences that understand the music.
You have a hand in all the music on your RA podcast, and over half of the music is collaborative, much of it unreleased. What do you look for in a collaborator, or in yourself when working with other musicians?
Collaborations are a chance to learn something new, to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. All the people I collaborate with are friends first, that comes before music. I need to have that personal connection in order to work with someone.
What are you up to next?
I'm currently developing a live show as a trio, which will incorporate some of the Baschet Brothers instruments that I used on my last album for Music From Memory. I'm also preparing the next few releases on MAT, which include a collaborative project with my friend Kyle Martin and also some new works with Diego Herrera (Suzanne Kraft / SK U Kno).