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Breaking Waves: On Finding My ‘True North’ – I Didn’t Need a Compass, Just Nick Neutronz & his New Track, “North Node!” [Interview]

“I describe wave to people who are new to it by explaining that wave music all exists in the same science fiction / fantasy universe, and isn’t married to a tempo or drum pattern […]”

– Nick Neutronz

Sometimes we come across a track that hits us and it sticks with us for well over a week. One that keeps you up at night. Recently, for me, that was “North Node” by Nick Neutronz.

Check it out on SoundCloud, below:

I kept finding myself drawn to long walks, to meditating in the woods, to these massive, lingering moments of pondering… all because of this track. Sometimes even instead of writing, I had to pop in my headphones, head outside, and just… think on this song instead.

I needed to figure this one out.

Every night, the meditations got deeper–-it was as if the song itself was encouraging me to chase after something. But at first, I wasn’t entirely sure what that was. 

To be honest with you, I’m still not entirely sure what the hell happened to me last week.

But I don’t regret a single “wasted” second– because this song encourages transformations.

So, What’s the Deal with Nick Neutronz & “North Node”?

The thing about Nick Neutronz’s “North Node” is that it’s something that everyone needs to spend some time with. If you do, you will leave with a new sense of self-awareness, to whatever degree, by the end of your journey with it.

The other thing about “North Node” is that you don’t see it coming–

It’s this pleasantly melodic, yet haunting track, sure. You might be able to leave it there.

But something about it may very well grab you by the hand and yank you along. Deeper, and deeper into… Something. Something deep inside your head.

Perhaps even on the first spin.

The best way I’ve been able to describe it is that embedded within “North Node” is this feeling of knowing that there’s a seat beside a warm hearth waiting for you after a long night spent lost and wandering out in the cold. But you’ll be a different person by the time you get there, however slightly.

The track beckons you out from hiding and leads you through this “cold” — because at the end of it all, your place by the fire is not only promised, but it will be earned.

“North Node” coaxes you out — and you may not know where you’re going– but you know by the end of the journey, wherever you end up is going to be better than where you’re at.

Safer. Warmer.

Truer to you.

You just need to be able to brave the cold.

Nick Neutronz is an intentional artist; there are so many layers to each of his tracks–especially “North Node”– and he introduces them masterfully.

Before you even realize it, the dude is hitting you with something so intricate and precious that you’re bound to latch onto something different each time you listen… which is part of the reason why I urge you to listen again and again and again.

I can’t tell you what the leading digit of the double-digit plays I have given this track online & off, but –

With each of his releases this year, Nick Neutronz continues to prove that he’s a hidden gem; if you have been sleeping on him, stop.

Wake up, go listen to Nick Neutronz; start with “North Node”.

Read that again: if you have not done a deep-dive into his discography before–or haven’t in a while– do it now.

He’s one of the OGs– he even spent time creating his own form of “proto-wave”, so to speak, before wave was even wave. He called it “Terraform”. To me, that is honestly a sign that he is in this for the long haul–and always has been. He definitely should be widely considered among the foundational wave producers.

If you don’t believe me, go listen to “North Node” and draw your own conclusions. He knows what he’s doing here, and he is absolutely honoring his purpose.

I can only hope for your sake that you’ll continue on–maybe with “Hikikomori” or “Surrender”, or something older–like his Binaura Pill album.

Meet Nick:

(c) Kaleidomedia

“Nick Neutronz is a Producer, Scratch DJ, Audio Engineer and Keyboardist best known for his Electronica, Ambient and Hip Hop music. As a composer, Nick is credited for his contribution to the track “Cinderella Man” on Eminem’s Grammy Award winning album The Recovery. Nick has produced genre-bending top charting music internationally, as well as for “So You Think you can Dance” and Yakfilms. 

Nick works in NYC with DJs and Producers as a team member of “Skratcher NY,” a turntablist collective. Given turntables as a teenager by mentor LX Paterson of The Orb, Neutronz has worked for 20 years as a scratch DJ, who’s style fuses and transcends genre. Nick has performed at famed venues Webster Hall (NYC), Age-ha (Tokyo) and The Algerian National Theatre (Algeirs). Nick’s production style, Terraform, combines ethereal melodies and impactful modern drum programming.”

-the artist’s biography from their website

Below, you will find a brief interview with the artist, in which we dive a bit further into “North Node” by Nick Neutronz and more. Read on.

A Chat with Nick Neutronz About “North Node” & More:

AM: So–Nick– welcome back. And congrats on “North Node”! I was so excited to see this one come out! It’s got a pretty peculiar title though. Would you like to explain to our readers what it may be referring to & what it means to you? 

NNz: Hey Mz. Masen! Thank you for having me back!

I got the title “North Node” from a concept in astrology which has recently changed me.

We all have our sun sign, which says a bit about how we are. Then, the north node points the way to your progress in life. It’s the spirit of the greatest lesson of your life, and so it points the way forward for you.

My north node is in Gemini, and all open-minded, 2-sided, clever and layered approaches tend to be lucky for me.

I was using this track to self soothe while it was unreleased. If I got sad, stuck, or listless, I’d put it on and it would help point the way forward for me. The melody felt so light and yet deep, very comforting, airy, proper “OG” wave vibe! [laughs]

When I started to really understand my south vs north node, and how those creatures (Sag and Gemini respectively) exist in me, I could feel the relief, adventure, and airiness of Gemini in the track.

AM: In our conversation prior to this track coming out, you had mentioned that you started working on it back in 2019. This seems like a trend with you–like with “Hikikomori”. Why is that? Is going back to work on older projects part of your process in some way? Do you care to speak on why you keep going back? Or to speak on any other projects you might have coming up? 

NNz: Y’know, that’s funny; I didn’t even realize that!

Not especially, no. 2019 was a very inspired time for me, though. And “Hikikomori” taught me to be bold and release old tunes if I love them enough still.

But, recently, I dropped “Surrender” and “Time Crisis” a month or two after making those. Alessio really inspired me with his write up of “Hikikomori” and his critique of my art–in that, he saw what I was doing in a way I hadn’t seen it.

NNz: Since then, I’ve tried to think like an art house film company putting out a different movie each season. I’m trying to get at the purest flavor, like a good meal where all the ingredients are flavorful and fresh. I can push this by contrasting releases: some new and just made, some old that I’ve been working on for years… Some fast and light, some slow and dark.

I’m trying to cleanse and refresh the palette with each release.

Sometimes I’ll dig in the archive, sometimes I’ll drop something I just made.

AM: Back to “North Node” – on Twitter, you said “I know it’s a cute lil tune that isn’t necessarily a BANGER, but to me, it is what wave music is really all about.”  in reference to it. Honestly, I agree. I think it’s a perfectly meditative ‘lil tune’. But, it does make me wonder if you might tell me a little bit about what wave means to you? 

NNz: This is a loaded question! [laughs] When I first discovered there was a word for the vast, chill, blue and purple trap / bass / garage in 2015-2016, I was just over the moon with it. Terrorhythm was my gateway. I had homies who’d dropped some future-bass leaning stuff on it; Rafik and Curlup, who I used to work with at Dubspot, a music school we were teaching at.

Anyway, I’d been obsessed by “virtual space” as a concept for years, as something I’d decided was important as an electronic musician. It just means you’re putting the listener in a certain space, based on the way you’re using reverb, delay, and EQ, mostly.

A lot of the spaces are HUGE spaces–literal outer space, or a huge warehouse, or an endless cave.

But so much of this huge space design in electronic music that I’d heard had been accompanied by aggression and overt power [and] wave was a culture inviting you to listen to huge music, which was emotive, not aggressive.

People are still making chill understated wave music, but it’s not really what comes to mind nowadays when the word ‘wave’ appears.

But I like hardwave too; I dabble, and some people have said that [my] “:Time Crisis” is hardwave.

NNZ: I describe wave to people who are new to it by explaining that wave music all exists in the same science fiction / fantasy universe, and isn’t married to a tempo or drum pattern, although much of the sounds and chords are similar since they’re evoking the fictional world of wave.

AM: And how does wave relate to your personal brand, “Terraform”?

NNz: I came up with this concept of Terraform as my sound in 2011, I think.

I was struggling to explain what I did to people. Because again, as a Gemini-ish person (I didn’t know this AT ALL back then), I was constantly shape shifting and I didn’t stick to a sound in the way my heroes did.

Terraform was a way for me to tell people, ‘When you hear Neutronz, you’re going to hear melodies and soundscapes that are emotive, but the drums, bass, and tempo might be anything from any genre.’

Terraform is a sci-fi concept; it means to make other planets habitable for life, usually humans.

I was trying to bring my emotions and thoughts about existence to the sound system. ‘Terraforming soundscapes inspired by space and spirit with the bass and drums of street and club music.’

Cinema has always been one of my biggest influences, and I saw a future where film score, which can be cerebral and spiritual, meshed more with club music.

When wave emerged, it felt like a home I’d been waiting for since childhood.

NNz: I was playing house parties where I’d alternate playing trance and hip hop. I found the trance at a local record store, Love Music, in New Rochelle.

The owners were always asking me “Kid, where are you playing all these imports you’re buying?”

Glacci, who was one of my first friends in this scene, [and] was the first person I ever met who knew some of these trance records I have. Back in my basement in 2002, none of my friends knew any of this music and didn’t really care to learn about it.

It’s funny because ‘Sandstorm’ became so popular outside of my suburban high school bubble, and ‘Ayla’ is popular now because Porter Robinson plays it!

Those records are classics to so many people, but I found those records in a complete vacuum– just digging at the store.

AM: Thank you for sharing all of that. Seriously. So– what sets a ‘BANGER” apart from other songs, in your opinion?

Some people just make some records that just scream.

At the end of Noah B’s tour last year I heard Deadcrow’s “GT1000” about 4x between 2 shows, and lost my MIND and a lot of water weight bouncing around to it each time!

NNz: I make some bangers– “Rosary” and “Martyrdom” for instance, and a few of the wardubs.

Last week, I went to go see Max Parkinson support Flosstradamus, Remk, and Sodope, and that was a lot of bangers back to back. I see the way bangers get support online, what with the shock value and all.

We are being flooded with so much information that the stuff that tends to stick out is the stuff that hits you over the head.

That’s one of the reasons I had a bit of anxiety about putting this record out. I’m sitting on a bunch of music that is much more abrasive and frightening. Having had so much fun during sets by isoxo, deadcrow, Max’s set before floss last week… I get antsy and envious of that level of sonic power and want to reach for that, even if its not exactly my thing, even when I do make bangers.

But it takes some nerve for me to decide to release the track that I’m deeply connected to, not sure if anyone else will connect with it the same way.

I’m very happy to say that in the case of this record. It seems people have enjoyed it in the way I did.

AM: I think there’s definitely a lot of power in releasing what is most important to you–and I, for one, am glad you’re sticking to that. I do have one last question for you–and it’s a bit of a silly one. Back in July, at the rooftop show in Brooklyn, there was a moment of chaos during one of your sets where you simultaneously had to protect the whole DJ set-up and all the gear from a rogue patio umbrella that came flying at you–and continue to do your thing at the same time. And you pulled it off perfectly! So perfectly that it, uh, took us all a beat to even notice. Sorry again about that. But I was wondering– How do you keep your cool so well, even amid such chaos?

NNz: [Laughs] Keeping cool under pressure definitely takes practice, but I’ll tell you, I was so over the moon to be playing that show that day–the umbrella leaning into the collapsing dj table and nearly destroying $12,000 worth of pioneer tech couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

But I nearly lost my joy and cool a few times when my usb wasn’t loaded properly and a song I wanted most to play didn’t load!

In Philly (Noah B’s last stop on his tour) I was going to open with Kaleidokitty x Nick Neutronz – “Ocean Floor” and the cdj said “wrong file” or some dumb shit like that. There was a 10 second lag of sheer defeated disbelief. But Gemini mindset helped me learn to pivot here as well–not getting all “Sag-ey” and single minded about what my vision for my dj set should be.

I’d rather fight umbrellas and hold onto collapsing tables for dear life and have my usb working.

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