Odd Nosdam: “The fear of diving into the darkness of self.” Interview by Paranoid

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US producer Odd Nosdam is in fine form after almost two decades of exploring his own oneiric sound spectrum. His most recent release was last year’s Sisters, on MatthewDavid’s Leaving Records which you can pick up on either vinyl or VHS (!). He first became known as a co founder of the Anticon label and in particular his work in his trio Clouddead alongside Doseone and Why? He has since released a number of solo album with guests including members of Mum, Hood and TV on The Radio, and also remixed and been remixed by Boards of Canada.

Paranoid: Last time we talked was around 2014 and you said that you were about to publish Sisters later that year, why did it end up coming out in 2016?

Odd Nosdam: Sisters, my album for Leaving Records, was delayed for various reasons.. While the music was ready to go in 2014, Leaving was determined to get a remix from Boards of Canada, so we gently harassed them for about 2 years. Also in 2014, Big Pauper began creating videos for most of the tunes. So the delay was to allow for all these extra goods to get dialed in.

Paranoid: Sisters seems to be quite special, and it’s also the first one coming from Burnco. I think it aims for greatness and seems to have more light on it. How was the process behind it?

Odd Nosdam: Sisters, as a whole, came about after years of both performing live and Djing, in particular at Low End Theory’s in Los Angeles and San Francisco. And also after producing multiple rap albums for Serengeti. I challenged myself to create instrumentals that would not only knock on a big sound system, but ultimately reflect an uplifting, spiritual angle that was naturally seeping into my music.

Paranoid: How did the Endless 432 colab with Teebs come up? That’s on a test pressing, right?

Odd Nosdam:On his birthday in 2013, Teebs tossed out a teaser on Soundcloud. I heard it and hit him up about doing a remix of the teaser with the idea that I’d release whatever I came up with on my birthday, which was just a few days after his. Teebs was down and sent over stems but I didn’t get very far with my remix, so instead of just throwing something out there on my birthday, I sat with the tune and allowed it to unfold at it’s own pace. Which took about 2 years. There are multiple versions of Endless out there, at least 4.

I initially presented Sisters to Matthewdavid the way it currently appears on vinyl, as a 6 track EP. MD encouraged me to add more material, so the first vinyl version we pressed included the 3 newly added tunes. But after sitting with the initial pressings, I felt compelled to revert back to the original 6 track version, at least for the vinyl. So yeah, I have a few test presses of Sisters that have all 9 tunes.

Paranoid: The remix of Boards Of Canada is huge, and the fact that their first remixes in 11 years were yours and the one to nevermen is very special. Did you think this was going to be possible after their return in 2013?

Odd Nosdam: In 2012 I sent BoC an early version of the tune Sisters, which first appeared on a Leaving/Stones Throw comp titled ‘Dual Forms’, BoC dug it.. A few years later, when Matthewdavid and I began brainstorming ideas for a Sisters release campaign, he asked if I thought BoC may be down to remix a tune off Sisters. I mentioned that they had already heard the title song, so with Matthew’s encouragement, I contacted BoC for a remix and about 2 years later they delivered.

Paranoid: I’ve read stories from you explaining how the randomness of record digging can affect and actually turn into amazing things, like the story behind the harp on the epic The Kill Tone. I wanted to know about the keyboard on the track Sisters, it’s just haunting.

Odd Nosdam: I’ve been record digging for about 20 years. I used to bring home huge stacks of records, but because I’ve learned so much about records and music in general, nowadays I’m much more selective with what I bring home. I have a knack for pulling rare and unusual records, especially private press albums.

The harps on Kill Tone are lifted from a rare new age harp album. That keyboard on the track Sisters is a chopped up organ piece off a Gregorian chant album, recorded live in a huge cathedral, which is certainly a reason why the keyboards have a haunted quality. With few exceptions, the majority of sounds heard on Sisters were sampled off rare, unusual or private press albums. Definitely not the kind of albums the average person would find at their local Goodwill.

Paranoid: How’s the place where you work on music? Have you made a new studio?

Odd Nosdam: Yeah I converted an old art gallery into a studio which I mostly use for mixing & mastering. It’s great having a second studio with a much better monitoring system than the one I have in my bedroom (Burnco). I also have a UA Apollo 16, which kicks some serious ass.

Paranoid: Which are the 2 or 3 most important pieces of equipment that you’ve come across so far?

Odd Nosdam: My Dr. Sample 202 (which is completely worn out), and definitely my SP1200. I’ve used other samplers/sequencers, but it’s those 2 that I got the most mileage from, and both were key in defining my sound.

Paranoid: What’s the hardest things you had to overcome to dedicate yourself to the arts?

Odd Nosdam: Probably the fear of diving into the darkness of self to allow for knowledge of self. Once one’s artistic path is found and established, it’s really fuckin’ easy to step right off of it, especially with those of us who create music. 20 years into it, while I confidently continue along my path, I still occasionally struggle with this particular fear.

Paranoid: And what do you do then?

Odd Nosdam: I do what I can to continue on my path. I always have something music related in the works. I also rarely talk about what I’m up to because, from my experience, those that talk too much are the ones who aren’t doing the work… Let’s be honest, to be any kind of artist, known or unknown, requires a fairly serious work ethic.

Paranoid: Which is your latest great discovery digging for records?

Odd Nosdam: Latest great discovery would have to be a mint copy of the Alleluia Soundtrack, which I found about a year and a half ago. At the time I couldn’t find any info on the internet regarding it’s existence, but recently someone added it to discogs.

Paranoid: And what’s the latest thing you heard that blew your mind?

Odd Nosdam: That’d probably be the reissue of ‘Day of Judgement’, the first album by Ngozi Family. Madlib flipped a couple tunes off the album on his ‘Medicine Show No. 3: Beat Konducta In Africa’ I recently figured out the source of this one: and immediately bought the vinyl reissue. There’s some absolute mind benders on the album.

Paranoid: How would you explain your music to your grandma?

Odd Nosdam: Personal, emotional, ethereal, heavy…

Paranoid: Plans for 2017?

Odd Nosdam: Yes. One that I’ll mention is a 10 year anniversary reissue of my album Level Live Wires. I recently remastered the album along with a grip of rare and unreleased material. Anticon will be reissuing the material digitally, and also on a limited double cassette.

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  • J. Cawood

    Math check: BOC’s remix of Why?’s “Good Friday” came out in 2007, which would make the 2016 Odd Nosdam / Nevermen mixes their first remixes in 9 years, not 11.

  • Guillermo Cimadevilla

    Damn, good point. My mistake, Only remembered their remixes of 2005. Thanks for that one!