Talking through his keys
Meditative may be the best way to consider Jason Chung and his glitchy yet melodic electronic compositions. When talking about his debut long-player, Drift (Alpha Pup, 2009), this producer known as Nosaj Thing explains how he took his time while recording at home in L.A. the past two years. More specifically, Chung let the songs develop when he was in need of an emotional release—not to fulfill a contractual deadline.
“When I write music, I think it''s really more therapeutic,” Chung explains. “Whenever I felt like writing a song, I started and then finished it when I could.”
This producer''s casual approach is not a reflection of any nonchalance; like his relationships with friends and family that influenced his debut, his music is complex. What united the material used for Drift was a recurring cinematic feel sparked by everyday life. Whether using soft synths via Ableton Live and Apple Logic Pro or actual keys with his Roland Juno-106, Clavia Nord Modular G2 and Moog Little Phatty, Chung begins crafting songs, trying to convey a feeling.
While Chung doesn''t claim to be a classical music fanatic (he has been influenced by hip-hop and beyond), composers like Bach and Chopin were strong inspirations in his emotive-based framework. “I don''t consider myself a great piano player or anything, but I love what they can express just through piano,” he says of the aforementioned composers. “I feel limited skillwise for piano because I can''t play like that but I feel that I can express the same type of emotions through sounds with electronic music.”
A few songs from his debut in which Chung accomplished getting expressive behind the keys are the first two tracks, “Quest” and “Fog.” The former plays out like the soundtrack to a quirky dream sequence with its music-box-like melodies and ghostly background vocals; the latter number is no less cinematic.
What Chung accomplishes with songs like “IOIO,” though, culminates his therapeutic approach toward composing with an even greater sense of rhythm. As the rolling synths build momentum here so does the sputtering percussion, which makes this cut ideal for live performances. “I arranged the song so each sound really has its own space,” he explains.
Despite his work being so personal, recently Chung has been having fun disassembling his new material to see how he can incorporate it into his increasingly popular lives sets at recurring L.A. producer showcases such as Low End Theory. “I bounce all the parts and stems for each song so I can arrange or remix my songs live,” he explains of his process onstage using a MIDI controller and a PowerBook. “This makes my performance interesting for me because it ends up being different every time. I feel like I'm playing an instrument.”
Seems like a fitting method of performance for a producer who lives in the moment.