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Larry Ryan

Larry Ryan joined The Independent's website in November 2007. He writes the "Caught in the Net" music column for the paper's Arts & Books section on Friday. He wears thick glasses and talks slowly, traits which people occasionally mistake for signs of intelligence.

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Nosaj Thing: music that pays the bills

Posted by Larry Ryan
  • Thursday, 3 September 2009 at 12:30 pm
Last week I wrote about Nosaj Thing, the nome de guerre of Jason Chung, a 24 year-old producer/musician making interesting noise in LA at the moment. I dropped him an email and asked him a few questions. Here's what he had to say for himself.

There seem to be a bunch of people in LA seeming to occupy a somewhat similar area in instrumental hip-hop/electro at the moment. Do you feel there is a bit of a new scene developing? Are you friends with others making that sort of music?
Definitely, it's a very exciting time for music here in Los Angeles. Lot's of amazing bands, producers, and emcees. Low End Theory is the place to be! It's a weekly event that started almost 3 years ago by Daddy Kev and Gaslamp Killer. Every Wednesday, there is amazing music with showcases from local and international talent. It's also a place to hang out with other musicians.

What kind of music were you into in your teens?

I was listening to a lot of Stereolab, Radiohead, Stuff from Warp and Ninjatune, House, and Drum and Bass. I also like to listen to local radio stations to keep up with the latest.

Have you always been a big hip hop fan? What do you think of the hip hop scene these days? The more commercial end and the more experimental types...
Yes, I would say that hip hop is the backbone in my music. I started listening to hip hop in the 3rd grade and my first tape was Regulate by Warren G. Honestly, I haven't been following too much indie hip hop these days and a lot of the commercial hip hop I hear lately is just 3 minute hooks for the club. I miss 90's hip hop. That's what I grew up with.

What kind influence have the likes of Dilla and DJ Shadow had on you?
They have both been a big influence in my music. I'm a big a Tribe Called Quest fan and later I found that all my favorite songs by them have been produced by Dilla. After I found that out, I was on the look out all his records. Entroducing was the first instrumental hip hop records I heard. 

Did experimental electro, like releases from Warp in the 80s/90s have a big impact on you?
Yes, the first time I heard Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada... it was all I listened to for months.

Did you ever play in bands or play any instruments? Has it always been about laptops and beat making for you?
I started playing the Saxophone in the 4th grade then moved on to Clarinet all through out grade school. My family had a piano in the house and I would always mess with that. Then in high school, I joined the Drum line. I was also really into scratch music. I used to watch all the Turntable TV's and DMC battles. I went to community college for a while and took every music course that I can.

Do you dj or use turntables much? Or do you consider yourself more of a producer?
I used to DJ and scratch a lot and was obsessed with it in high school. After I started getting into production, I DJ'd less and less.

Do you do many live sets? Does that come out a lot different from how you sound on record?
Yes, I've been touring consistently since last year. The live set is pretty different than the record, it's more upbeat and high energy.

Is there any significance in the name Nosaj Thing?
Nosaj is Jason backwards. When I was in grade school, I was into graffiti and drew my name on a sheet of paper in my notebook then noticed "nosaj" when I turned the page from the ink bleeding through.

What do you think of dubstep and people like Burial and Skream?
Dubstep is live! I don't dig around for it much but when I hear it at clubs, it's dope...you can't ignore it. Burial's Untrue is a beautiful record. I had that in rotation all winter. Honestly, I haven't heard too much of Skreams music but I'm looking forward to it...I'm playing a show with him and Daedelus next month in Portland.

Did you evolve quickly into the style and place you're at now? Was your early work similar to how it is now or was it entirely different?
It took me a while to create the sound I'm doing now. My early work was similar but I don't think it was sonically there. I started messing with production software in 99' and working with a few different tools and experimenting helped me develop my sound.

Does your music pay the bills or do you have other jobs (in music or otherwise) to keep you going?
Music is actually paying for the bills right now and I feel so blessed. I got laid off from my day job doing technical support for an audio company in January. Occasionally, I will pick up small sound design/scoring jobs.

You reference Bach on one track from Drift and "Coat of Arms" has a choral kind of feel. Is classical music and older forms of music something you've always been into or have you just started thinking about them recently?
I'm into classical music and really like Chopin, Satie, and Debussy.

Are you interested in minimalist music/composers?
I am but haven't really dug too much into it.

Where next for you? Have you any grand plans?
I just started getting back in the studio but plan to focus on touring for the rest of the year. I'm most excited about making my visual show happen. It is a collaboration with Julia Tsao and Adam Guzman. We posted a video clip of the test shoot online have been getting amazing responses from fans and design sites/blogs. Red Bull recently reached out to us and are going to help make the ideal show happen this year at Pop Montreal.


Any plans to have more vocals on future records or do you want to steer clear from that?
I've been thinking about that and hope to get in contact with the right vocalists. We'll see!
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