After having the pleasure of attending his self-curated event in September, GIGsoup sat down Brooklyn-native nothing_neue for a more intimate chat. Omar Jones has been riding high recently on the crest of his In Plain Sight block party and streaming series, and looks to keep up the pace with his upcoming event at Father Knows Best on the 21st of October. Coming from a musical background, nothing_neue paints a thoughtful and measured picture of his career. Both humble and articulate, he was an insightful subject to encounter.
So why don’t you introduce yourself!
So legally I go by Omar, but the name that I choose to go by is nothing_neue.
You’re a producer. How did you start making music?
If we’re going to be really honest the first thing that I really did with music was hear it. Both my parents were in a reggae band. I would hear them practicing in this basement all the time! My Dad wanted me to be a drummer just for the sake of backing him up at home. We didn’t have a live in drummer or anything. So the story goes that I was naturally moving towards drums, and I kind of started from there.
The first official time that I learnt how to play drums was when I was eight. Me and the drums have had our flings- it’s been on and off, but definetly a constant. The first time I started making music for myself was high school actually. More as an act of rebellion really. I’d grown up with so much down-tempo reggae stuff so I was maybe kind of pushing back against that. There is definetly a generational gap between me and my parents. They had me listening to jazz radio and such, so I was a little out of touch with hip hop. I was like, this stuff is all too slow! My mom gave me a Hendrix record and from there I started getting into the rock and roll stuff. Then metal, heavy metal and hardcore.
How did you find yourself in that scene? Was it school? People in the community?
My best friend was making his way into it already. There was all these radio stations that played the entry level stuff, you know, the mom metal stuff. I was also skateboarding allot at the time. Also, a big influence on me was ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’…
Great game, better soundtrack. That series introduced me to allot of different music that I wouldn’t have been introduced to otherwise. Interestingly, I spoke to my mother and found out that she actually had roots in the New York hardcore scene!
Was that a surprise?
I was a HUGE surprise; my Mom’s a Sunday School teacher! So it was a huge surprise to find out. My Dad had a few similar influences. Kinda, sorta but not really. It was funny to hear that both of my parents had this history with these huge bands. On a humble flex I found out that they were cool with Bad Brain a little bit. So there was this whole support system in metal that they tried to keep me away from, but it ended up happening naturally anyway.
Listening to your music now; I would never have sited that hardcore was an influence for you. Do you feel like that part of your life still has an influence on your work or do you feel like you’ve gone off somewhere else?
I would say its the main basis of everything I do now. Everything I know about music theory, everything I know about groove. Even in my live performance you know? It’s all based in the heavy metal stuff. The places where I place tension is all based around that. It’s the tension between the heavier and the lighter stuff. But, the reason I was so drawn to it was because it’s so complicated. Even chord structures. It’s all very prevalent
You said you’re not classically trained. Do you think that it’s helpful to come from that perspective?
I would say so. It’s also a fight. My brother is a classically trained jazz pianist. He’ll hear me playing a chord progression and he’ll just be like: “it’s wrong”. I’ll hear something and I’ll know where I’m going to go with it. It’s more of a feeling for me. It’s been both to my advtange and to my detriment too.
Did you teach yourself a little bit of theory too?
People sleep on the ‘For Dummies’ series. I knew nothing about music, aside from the rhythmic side of things. The person who taught me was a wedding drummer. The theory stuff is something you can read and learn. It helped up my game enough so I could figure out some stuff.
We were speaking earlier about the complexity of your music. Are you consciously striving for complexity?
For me it becomes a game. Allot of this production stuff is kind of like a video game to me now. Where it’s like; ok that was the last thing I did, and how to I top it. I’m playing in one way, I’ll try another. I’m playing in 4/4, I’ll try a different time signature I’m just trying to push myself out of comfort zones.
Lets talk about In Plain Sight; you’ve just wrapped up your second event under that title. Korg was collaborating with you. The last event you had was a block party?
So, actually tomorrow marks a year since I started to get seriously back into making beats and playing them out live. Prior to that I went to a few Beat Haus shows. Playing at those kind of shows is a high mark for people actually wanting to do stuff that resonates with a crowd. I was in the middle of looking for a new job, right before I found Korg and I was trying to figure out how to get a place at one of those events. It’s no easy feat, especially when you’re just starting out. But in January they started doing was these Open Aux segments, so you could play your own music for ten minutes. Prior to that however, my friend Solomon (K Solar), who played at the block party was putting together an event at Rough Trade. In order to get prepared for that I’ll do the open aux as well. It was really the first time I had an opportunity to play music to people live in this way. I got to chatting with people about my music, but never met any promoters. After that I was like: I really want to play a show, but how was I going to make it work? So, I got a bunch of people from the Open Aux together in my living room upstairs. I made a flyer for it and promoted it jut like any other Beats show and we live streamed it. People loved it! They were like: whens the next one? There really wasnt supposed to be a next one! So I was networking and met more people to get onto the next one, and then that was a success also. It just sort of snowballed.
I knew that my block had a block party every year, because my partents played at a bunch of them; since they were the local band on the block. But you know; they got older and didn’t want to be carrying speakers outside the whole time. People had always asked me when my band was going to play, and I was like; never- because it’s heavy metal! We were about to go into our fifth streaming session and we had some momentum anyway so we thought; why not! It picked up speed and the numbers of people interested increased and increased. Right before we were supposed to go through with it ewonee, who was one of the headliners was like: “do you have subwoofers?” I was like “no, we were just going to play with speakers outside”. He was like; that doesn’t make any sense; we’re playing hip hop so we need the bottom. So thats when Korg came in; they had some. So I borrowed it off off them, drove it back to Brooklyn and set them up. We were told we were heard four or five blocks away. The response from the block was positive, so Korg got involved again and there was a real buzz about it. Thats how we got to the second block party. So, we kind of have to do a third event…
It’s become a thing!
Exactly! The next one is going to be in October! But it wont be outside; you wouldn’t catch me outside in October. We have a venue, the next one will be October 21st. The venue is going to be Father Knows Best.
We were talking earlier about block parties and the culture surrounding them. We kind of agreed that they don’t really exist in the same form that they used to. Do you think that the rise of things like social media will maybe make push community events like those into a different sort of area?
Social media is an advantage but also it’s to it’s detrement. Social media has made alot of people turn into hermits. In the guidelines to throwing a block party, the whole neighbourhood needs to agree, so people have to talk to each other, in person. So, it could happen that these kind of events have this form where people from outside of the community fund out about it, but it will still have that essence of not being able to exist without the community all oking it. I feel as though I’m in a position at the moment where everything is lining up. Not to get too into religion or faith or anything…
You can if you want; if it’s important to you.
It’s super important to me. Faith is important to how things are set up in my life. I never want to be preachy but it’s nice when you feel everything is lining up for you. It’s been lining up ever since the first live stream.
That sounds like you’ve got a good flow going on.
It’s definetly what I’m supposed to be doing. Before we were talking about Radicule. When I see how happy and exicted he gets about music; thats what it’s supposed to be about. Thats how it’s supposed to feel. It’s inspiring and it’s the whole mantra of In Plain Sight; it allows people to get in front of a crowd and gives them a platform.
What else you working on at the moment?
Oh man…Right now, I’ve been putting out about a song a month, in an attempt to flood myself on the airways without oversaturating it. But I’ve had a few people asking me for a full length projects. So i’ve been working on trying to get some tracks together for a beat tape. Simultaneously I’ve been working on the album side of things too. I’m trying to make something that has a bit more of a narrative too it. I owe plenty of people some music and theres lots of collaborations on the horizon.
Do you ever have free time?
Absolutely not. I sleep about five hours a day, which is probably not enough for eveything I’m trying to juggle. But, it’s good. In school, I was the kid who had too much energy and was always acting out, so now at least I have somewhere to put it now!
Nothing_neue will be curating his next In Plain Sight event on the 21st of October at Father Knows Best in Brooklyn New York.