“A lot of these clubs that got built on the waterfront took over everything.”
Anthony Naples is talking me through his reasons for leaving New York, where he spent his final few months writing his debut album Body Pill. “From the day I got to New York to the day that I left I never really had anything,” he says. “Not that I really wanted a lot, but I never really had a lot.” He moved away from the city last summer, spending four months in California and a period at home in Miami before deciding on Berlin as his base for the time being. Speaking over Skype from his temporary accommodation there, he cites the easier cost of living and its superior nightlife as part of its draw, even if he’s unsure about how long he’ll be staying. “Here’s still very healthy. It’s cool to see everything going off live, rather than being 20 years off it or something.”
With a running time of around only 30 minutes, it takes a few listens to really familiarise yourself with the eight tracks that make up Body Pill. It draws on the palette of house and techno, but tweaks and shifts those features to produce something that feels enjoyably jaded. It’s a noticeable change from the clubbier intentions of his previous output, beginning with his debut single in 2012.
Releasing the album on Four Tet’s label Text means that Naples continues to release his music through outputs that he feels a connection with. He was a regular attendee of the Mister Saturday Night parties before they picked up his first productions for their label offshoot. Similarly, prior to his two EPs there, he speaks of being a loyal follower of every blog post and release to come out of The Trilogy Tapes camp. “The same goes with Kieran, too,” he says. “I’ve been listening to his music since I was 13 or something.”
Having his material selected and filtered by the figures who’ve influenced him is a fitting process for someone who’s open about the ways in which other people’s music has informed what he does.
In the press release for Body Pill, you said that you wanted to make an album that “evoked that experience” of being alone in the subway in New York. I wondered if nostalgia played a big part in the way you approached making the album?
I think it’s more subconscious than that, as I’m not just sitting there trying to reference things in my past. But then that’s all you have to base anything off, other than the present. So, yeah, those two things – nostalgia, and what was going on in my life at the time. When I started making it I was leaving New York and I was pretty bummed out about it. I had a bunch of friends there and I generally liked where I was, but I wanted to change things as well. So I guess nostalgia’s a good word for it. I remember feeling really cold, and just feeling pretty dark. I know that doesn’t come across in the record, necessarily.
It does sound quite sad in places, though. In ‘Used To Be’, for example, it starts off as this kind of raw electro track that then becomes very melancholy in the way that it’s framed.
Melancholy’s a good word, but in my mind, at least, I’ve never thought of melancholy as a… I mean, I know the definition, but melancholy to me is a really good feeling. It’s like a weird mix between hopeful optimism and also feeling like, “Yeah, this kinda sucks.” I think that my favourite music has that aspect to it – it can be really sad if you want it to be but also kinda uplifting.
That feeling seems to come through in a lot of the album. It has that contrast in the way that it often sounds like club music which is heard from outside of the club.
Again, when I’m making all this music it’s not like I’m thinking all this through. That said, though, I think of it in the way that you just said it, more than anything. I don’t think I’ll really care, again, to try and make anything that’s too direct. There’s plenty of people that do that really well and I just never really set out to do that.
When you say about being out of the club that sort of makes sense, because for a long time, about six months or so, I wasn’t really going out, so that was my only perception of it. I couldn’t even get into my favourite clubs in New York anymore, as they all started doing membership IDs. Which is kind of part of the reason that I left.
You’ve spoken before about a preference for making music over DJing. It seems that the move away from making that direct kind of music could be down to an interest in individual experiences ahead the communal. Would you agree with that?
Well, I do go out and I participate in going out to clubs. I don’t go out as much as your average person, maybe. I don’t go and spend 30 hours in Panorama Bar. But every weekend, I’m happy to go out and when I play gigs I’m there from start to finish, I’m not sleeping at the hotel or anything. I enjoy doing it, a lot. It can be a communal experience, for sure, there are a billion examples of music that’s great for that.
But I think the records that have struck me the most are the ones that feel very personal, and are not necessarily something that’s for the masses. Like World Of Echo [by Arthur Russell], or Actress’ records, they’re not pieces of music that you put on in front of 40,000 people. But you put them on in a room of five people and everybody’s transfixed on this very intimate sounding thing. And that’s definitely more what I’m into.
So moving away from making less direct music made sense.
Things are always changing. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t made a record in the 12″ format for a while. When I was making those records that I started out with, my mind was just exploding every two seconds by the things I was hearing. Every song I heard, I was like, “I gotta get that record, first of all, and I’ve gotta do my best to do that.” Now, as I’m settling in more to what I’m doing, I’m looking more to albums, as a listener. But obviously it’s short, it’s not even a long album.
Having it that length seems like a deliberate decision.
That’s because nobody really listens to music. I mean, I know they do, there obviously are people that listen to long [collections of] music. But I think, for the average person, 30 minutes is a good enough time to listen to something. Otherwise people tend to skip around.
It also just seemed like a good idea to do something short and to the point, instead of trying to do something too lofty for the first album. Kieran also cut a few songs off from what I originally sent him. I guess that’s a part of him running a label, he helps along with that process.
A lot of the tracks still have the loose, slightly rough sound of your previous releases.
I spend time trying to make things feel looser than they originally do. I try to pull notes off the time a bit, and try to mess with things a bit in that sense, but I never try and mess with it too much beyond that. One of the biggest things I’ve taken from someone like Madlib or Kieran is that the musical idea is all you really need. You just need to make sure that it sounds good, that it has a real feel to it, and that’ll translate.
When it’s electronic music, it’s so out of human hands already. Once it’s on the computer, and it’s all gridded up, you’re already losing so much of what you get from just playing an instrument.
Four Tet has spoken before about his music being almost entirely composed of samples. How reliant on samples are you now compared to before?
Everything up until now was only samples, except for the releases on The Trilogy Tapes. One song on each of those records is played. I had a synthesiser for one of them, but I had to sell it. And for the second one, I had one of those little Korg Volca things and I recorded a drum track with it. But I sold that because it didn’t do what I wanted it to do.
But then with the album, this was all done on four pieces of gear, basically. That was because I felt kinda pigeon-holed. I wanted to prove to myself that, instead of taking someone else’s melody, I could make one, and maybe it would be okay.
It depends on the way you want to use samples as well.
Yeah, sometimes you can do the wrong thing. I took something from a shitty party breaks record, not really having the knowledge of what I was sampling, and it turned out to be something which Kenny Dixon Jr had also sampled. Which is insane to me, because he’s someone who I looked at and was like, “Yeah, I gotta do that. I’ve gotta sample music, loop it, and then make it my own.” And then I ended up doing this. But you’ve got to learn those lessons, I guess. I don’t wanna rip off somebody, so it’s a big mistake, but an honest mistake. I’m not gonna go and apologise for something which was just an accident.
Now, if I sample something, it’s almost gonna be altered in a way that you forget that it’s sampled. That’s my way of thinking about it now – using the shortest sample possible, so that you couldn’t listen to it and say that that’s whoever’s song, looped on repeat. Whereas before, I was really interested in that. Like how Moodymann would loop whatever the track is that ‘Amerika’ samples – obviously it has Gil Scott-Heron in it, but there’s the loop underneath it that I can’t remember the name of. And Theo Parrish had that Mass Production sample that he did on his first record, ‘Lake Shore Drive’.
But it’s different if you’re part of that kind of culture and it’s your culture. It’s a lesson that I feel like I had to learn. Now I feel like I know all these rules that people abide by, and for good reason.
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