N8NoFace Talks 80’s Synth-Punk Inspirations, Working with H09909, and His New Album, ‘Bound To Let You Down’ (INTERVIEW)

N8NoFace has been creating Synth-Punk music and releasing it into the wild on the internet since the days of MySpace, finding it to be an outlet for his voracious songwriting tendencies. Meanwhile, making like-minded friends and pursuing live performance eventually led to some great opportunities to spread the word about his solo work. In 2018, one of his songs, “Punk-Police” appeared on the band H09909’s EP Cyber-Cop, and he has also been featured on the track “Flesh and Blood” from their 2019 EP, Blurr (Mixtape). Add to that one of his songs being featured as part of a longer track with H09909 on the video game CyberPunk 2077. 

But those aren’t actually the biggest developments in N8NoFace’s musical world right now. Not only has his 20 track album, Bound To Let You Down, been recently released digitally, and also as a t-shirt and cassette bundle, by the groundbreaking label Eyeball Records, but there has been a surge in internet interest in his work, particularly via Youtube, which he attributes to the time everyone has been spending online during the pandemic. Whatever the reason, it’s attention that’s overdue for his carefully crafted work, which often features conflicts and experiences that display his personal commitment to reflect the world that we live in. I spoke with N8NoFace about how his new album was put together, what brought him to work with H09909, and why he continues to find the 80s inspirational in his pursuit of “futuristic LA”. 

Hannah Means-Shannon: This is a big album with 20 songs! I know some of them are short, but still, that’s substantial. How long have you been working on these songs?

N8NoFace: Basically, a buddy of mine, Adam, reached out and said he was doing released with Eyeball, and asked if I’d be interested in doing something. At the time, I didn’t have anything specifically in mind, but I constantly make songs. I do it every single night and every single day of my life. So I said, “I’m always sitting on hundreds of songs. I can give you guys a group of them, and you can curate it and put it together.” And they did that. So, some of the songs are possibly a year or two years old, while others were made a month or two before I gave it to them. I’m really happy with what they did, because they curated it to make it all sound like it had a common bloodline and common themes.

HMS: You also tend to put up music online, don’t you? I heard you started doing that with MySpace.

N8NoFace: Yes, I post my own stuff on Bandcamp, and I’m also posting on Instagram. I’ve been doing it since high school, but I come from a circle of friends where no one is an artist. I’m the weirdo. So I did it for so long, but never showed nobody. My brother was one of the only people who knew, and he’d ask, “You don’t show nobody. What do you even do this for?” But when MySpace came along, I thought this was a cool way to do this without the world knowing who I was. That’s how the name “NoFace” came about, because I started posting things and started to get attention. I had friends who were digging it and they didn’t even know that it was me.

HMS: That’s so cool.

N8NoFace: I’m such a shy, weirdo person that I love the streaming services because I can put my music up. I’ve gotten better over the years about showing my face, but it was hard. 

HMS: Has it made a psychological difference to you over the years, being able to post the music and knowing that it’s out there online where people can see it, while you work on new music?

N8NoFace: Yes, it has. Exactly. 

HMS: It’s great that you’re putting out a physical option for the album, with a t-shirt and cassette bundle, and that must not be particularly easy during Covid to get those made. What made you decide on that?

N8NoFace: That was something that the label had been doing with other projects, so I’m actually the first artist who they are releasing digitally. Usually, they’ve been doing t-shirts and cassettes to rerelease music that’s already out. Then, when they got me, they said that I was their first release where everything was actually new, so they’d do a t-shirt, cassette, and digital. I was really stoked about that. You’re right, during Covid, I actually find it hard to ask people to spend some money on me, but I love the artwork. It came out really sick, I think.

HMS: You’re making a good case for working with a label, since they helped curate the music for you and they coordinated the artwork and physical release.

N8NoFace: For me, it really is a good thing. I’m all about the song, in the moment. I make one song, and then it’s done. I don’t think about music as creating an album, and I make so many songs. Mainly, that’s how my other albums have come out, with other people curating. I’m totally about the emotion then and there, making the songs. 

HMS: Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to work with the band H09909? I know you worked on the track “Punk Police” off their Cyber Cop EP. 

N8NoFace: Yes, those are my good friends. I had a Gameboy Synth-Punk band, Crime Kills, that was just one guy making beats on a Gameboy and me doing vocals. We were on MySpace, and Eaddy from H09909 wasn’t even doing music at the time. He found us on MySpace and we became buddies. We sent him some records and just had a relationship. Then he moved to LA and he called me one day and said he’d started a band, and asked if we’d like to open for them. We went and opened for them, and it’s been a friendship ever since. Then they took off. I made a song called “Punk Police” that was inspired by something that Eaddy said to someone on Instagram, and I played it for him. It already had two verses done, and he said, “You gotta let us get on that.” We did “Punk Police”, then I did another song for them on their latest release, Flesh and Blood. They were going to take me on my first tour in the USA, and then Covid happened. 

HMS: I hope you all are able to reschedule. I’m a big fan of H09909. I love their aesthetic and how they don’t take themselves too seriously. But that’s great that you’re also able to keep making music during this time. Is that easier because you work alone a lot?

N8NoFace: Yeah. I’ll just do it forever. When Covid hit, and the whole world shut down, that’s kind of what made everyone stop and notice this weird guy on the internet doing Synth-Punk. I’ve gotten my most love at this moment. I think the whole world was just chilling on their phones and found me.

HMS: I think you’re right. Also, when you said earlier that you felt bad about selling things right now, I meant to say that even though people may not have a lot of money right now, being able to buy music and things that relate to music means a lot right now. Especially because we can’t go to shows. 

N8NoFace: I’m so grateful for that. I did notice when I put out a shirt recently, it sold out. People are buying and I’m grateful because I know it’s hard.

HMS: What’s your minimum requirement in terms of equipment to get the sound quality on your songs good enough to release? What are you happy with?

N8NoFace: I hear that term “bedroom producer”, but I feel that what I do is good enough. I have buddies who want to strangle me about that, and who think that I’m doing everything wrong. I’m all about that emotion and that feeling, and whether it has that feeling. I sometimes want better quality, and I have some horrible recordings, but my stuff goes straight from my closet, to somebody mastering it, to being released. I have yet to ever set into a nice studio. It works for me, and I think it works for my sound. 

You know, Cody Chesnutt did the whole album, The Headphone Masterpiece, in his mother’s basement with headphones on. I think it’s one of the greatest things ever. Then, he started getting into studios and doing bigger projects, and I hate to say it, but I think they lost a little something. Some people feel better low-fi and I think I’m one of those people. I don’t know how I’d sound in a big studio. What I have is good enough for me.

HMS: It does seem like once you move beyond that, it’s very hard to get it back.

N8NoFace: Yes, exactly.

HMS: I can tell from your work and also from your Instagram, that you’re really into 80s and 90s visual and musical culture. What do you think are some positive things about the 80s and 90s that we should keep in mind instead of moving away from?

N8NoFace: I don’t know if it’s just because that was my childhood, and I had older uncles and aunts, and that’s what I was listening to, but it sticks with me so much. I think any decade will have some horrible things about it, and there will be some cringe things about it, but there will also be some really, really, cool things about it. The 80s, for me, are when Punk and Rap came out of New York. 

These two genres of music, sonically, are completely different, but they share the same space of people who didn’t necessarily know how to play instruments. They just did it anyway. The Punks were just grabbing instruments and playing, and the Hip-Hop heads were just grabbing two records and looping a beat. It all comes from doing what you can with what you can, and making it cool, and I think the 80s really did that. First with Punk and Rap, then with the New Wave, which I really love. Sonically, I love the 80s. 

HMS: You make a really good point there, because even within the world of video games at that time, amateurs were creating things that ended up being big.

N8NoFace: Right! That’s so cool. There’s just some guy who makes a little game on a computer and the world just grabs onto it. I love it.

HMS: How did this thing with the CyberPunk videogame happen for you?

N8NoFace: It’s always been an aesthetic that I dug, with Synth-Punk, and even with the Gameboys. The idea is that in an apocalyptic world, you can’t lug around big instruments, so there’s this loner carrying a Gameboy around and playing clubs. I love William Gibson’s Neuromancer and all that stuff. H09909 knew that, so when the CyberPunk game was coming out, people were already saying, “They better use your music.” 

How H09909 got in touch with them for them to use it, I don’t know, but H09909 asked if I’d like to submit some of my stuff to them. I actually thought that they were going to get on my music with me, and this is why I love them so much, they actually took my whole song, which was only 40 seconds, and they used it as the intro to their song. It goes from me, to crazy noise, and then their song starts. They didn’t have to do that for me! Their song is amazing without me. But I think they did that because they knew this was my aesthetic. I love Blade Runner worlds. 

HMS: I know that you came to LA from Tuscon. Does LA seem like a futuristic underground to you already? Do you think it’s headed that way?

N8NoFace: I think we’re getting there! There are some parts of LA where you definitely feel like you’re in a post-apocalyptic world. Coming from Tuscon, definitely. I had always been surrounded by a desert as a kid and playing next to the border. Seeing all this in LA definitely gives me that vibe and I think that helps me create. I live in Long Beach, but LA definitely does that for me, especially when I first moved here.

HMS: How long ago did you start doing vocals?

N8NoFace: I think I’ve always been doing that. When I was in that band Crime Kills, we just stopped doing it. My buddy who was making all the music needed a break, and plus we were just destroying ourselves. Then, I was like, “Well, I still want to do this, so I’ll start making beats.” I had always tinkered a little on the side, but I’m a vocalist first. I only make music because no one will make what I hear in my head for me. It’s crazy because I’m seeing Youtube videos popping up being called “N8NoFace-type beat”. This has been around forever, but they are saying that I brought it to the scene. I don’t think they dig far enough back. But that’s what I feel like I am first, a vocalist and a songwriter.

HMS: Does that mean that you record the vocals first for a song?

N8NoFace: No, I’ll write a lot first, but the way I do a song is it’ll definitely be the music first. Then, I’ll see if this thing that I wrote fits the music, speed-wise, or in terms of syllables, and I’ll change things. But I always do the music first. Maybe there’s something already written, but I don’t come up with melodies yet. I vibe to the music.

HMS: I wanted to ask you about your music video for “Kids in Love” from the Just Here To Die album. The song and video are kind of shocking, but at the same time they aren’t really, because it’s so real.

N8NoFace: They are two true stories that I experienced growing up, with two couples that I knew. One was in high school, and one was in my early 20s. I’ve never done a music video for anything solo except on my phone, but on this one, the guy reached out to me and said that he wanted to shoot “Kids in Love”. He told me the whole premise, and I said, “Good ahead and do it.” He shot it on a Super 8. He said he only had three minutes of tape and we had to get it right, then he’d edit it later. He said we could do this because, luckily, my songs are shorter than three minutes! The director, LeMarc, did it all, and I’m really happy with how it came out. I really dug it.

HMS: That really explains why it looks so beautiful in black and white. Super 8 is the way to go.

N8NoFace: I don’t know nothing because I’m all about the music, but my girl is a photographer, and when he offered to shoot in Super 8, she said, “You need to do this. No one else may ever offer to do this.” 

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