Name: Brett Naucke
Current Release: EMS Hallucinations on American Dreams Records
Recommendations: November, December, January by Gerhard Richter were the first pieces of visual art that were’t photography that changed my life / The Devils Playground by Nan Goldin was the first ‘expensive’ photography book I purchased as a teen. This massive collection spanning many years is still something I am still blown away by both it’s scale and individual photographs.
Website/Contact: Keep up to date with Brett's releases at https://www.bnaucke.com/
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I began playing drums around 3rd or 4th grade, and immediately started writing imaginary parts for other instruments to play along to shortly thereafter. I started bands in middle school and began playing shows around 8th grade. In high school, I was lucky enough to have parents who allowed my punk/hardcore bands to practice in our basements which meant guitars, amplifiers, pedals, and a Mixer/4-track Tascam left to my disposal between practices. I eventually began attempting to figure out how to make sounds on these instruments, largely stemming from finger positions I saw my bandmates and videos of guitar players make. I had ZERO ideas for writing songs though, just imitating the limited scope of music I was aware of, until I became more aware of ‘bedroom producers’ and electronic music, which was remarkably limited still. Around the time I was 18 I started making recordings on a 4 track that were largely ‘sound collages’ that had no real influence, just trying to track down the few ideas I felt were my own. I still have them shockingly and interesting to hear now. I was super into using recording as a medium, changing mixes with tape, running things backwards, egregious use of reverb/delay, all the things a person does when first trying things out. It was fascinating crafting a ‘piece’ out of nothing but feedback and a couple chords, despite not actually owning or being that aware of music I was attempting to emulate.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
A lot of the early music I worked on as a solo musician was attempting to make music I sort of knew existed but had little reference for. I heard bands like Tangerine Dream or someone like Brian Eno, but had no concept that the noises I was making were actually very inspired by them nor did I know anything beyond them. As my knowledge of more electronic and electro acoustic knowledge grew, I think my confidence grew but I don’t remember ever trying to sound like anyone in particular. Seeing ‘noise’ artists live and getting out of the somewhat more ‘controlled’ music I had spent time listening to as a young adult was incredibly important to me as everyone seemed more unique and natural in a lot of senses.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Learning synthesis slowly around 18-22 was incredibly important but a big learning curve. There was not YouTube or the communities there are now nor the references online. It was just learning by listening and attempting to further understand voltage (for analog synthesis) and the various ways to route signals. Early on it was about emulating a sound I liked, then it grew into making sounds I had never heard. Beyond that was attempting to get a deeper learning on the recording process beyond working with simple tape machines in my youth. The first year working on a computer was eye opening as all the things I loved about my earliest experiences making music were there 10-fold. I had infinite effects, but more importantly; infinite ways to arrange sounds and create little worlds out of little things. I love working in the past-tense with music like this.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first real “studio” was a couple synthesizers and a computer in my bedroom. It’s come a long way but ultimately is a computer and synthesizers in a room I don’t sleep in luckily. I don’t fetishize gear, or want a big studio full of ‘inspiration” or endless possibilities of 20 species of hardware. I find endless possibilities in my modular synthesizer and computer and everything else is usually just overkill. My studio now reflects a much more knowledgeable process, streamlined with the things I know work well and sound good. I’m very firm on using the most simple and straightforward methods for production and rarely find myself looking for more.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
It’s easy to laugh at the trope of “existing between art and technology” but ultimately isn’t that’s what modern synthesizers and computers do? I think a difference for me is that while I am happy to work within that existence, I’m certainly not focussed on it or care. You can patch a synthesizer to think and set up problems and outcomes. You can also be played by it as well. Computers do this even more extensively. You can set up a recording template to make your experience easier/familiar while you work, which is a plus. You can also work within a program that is uninspiring and annoying to get your point across. Ultimately these things should work FOR you not the opposite. Anytime these things aren’t a benefit, the artistic process gets very compromised.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Much like I mentioned previously, I want to work with these objects, not for them. I’m interested in synthesis/computation because it makes me feel like I am capable of producing the things I have in my head. I’d work with guitars and vocals or anything for that matter if I felt inspired and empowered by them.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Collaboration has been a massive part of my process, especially in the past few years. This is encouraged greatly by the larger umbrella of Chicago music and I think being here for as long as I have makes collaboration seem implied. Sharing is important, feedback is important. Ultimately, I have to make my own choices, but sometimes others help you see yourself better. ‘Fresh ears’ as they say.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I have a day job and often times daily studio work but I attempt to keep them separated. There are weeks where I’m not recording and maybe going in sporadically and making patches or edits to older material. My mixing and arranging process is usually much longer timewise than the tracking, there are endless times where I want to be in the studio, sometimes inspiration is not quite there. I’ve learned to not force recording, mixing, or anything based on time and now go with the inspirational feelings instead. Everything I have forced or done based on time constraints or what I perceived was ‘expected’ or deadline I have not been pleased with in the long run.