This eclectic, yet harmonious set has been assembled by new face, Mister Lies— otherwise known as Nick Zanca of Chicago and previously New Canaan, Connecticut. The teenage producer has received support from heavyweight tastemakers Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound for good reason: with an EP (Hidden Neighbors), a collaborative release (Mass via Absent Fever), and a compilation (SVENGALI VOL 2) behind him, he’s successfully established a distinct, innovative presence in the American electronic scene.
Zanca constructs his sound from the bottom up by field recording much of his percussion, on top of which he floats a mellow layer of rich samples (both recorded and sourced) that many have loosely described as “ambient gospel”. At just 19, he draws inspiration from an intelligent musical library and seems only to progress in his ability to keep a vision innately aflame. With a forthcoming EP and talk of an album in the works, there’s an artistic journey before this young man that deserves our attention. Please enjoy Mister Lies’ mix below, and check out our interview with the adept producer after the jump. Find Mister Lies on Facebook for updates and sounds.
Your tunes have an authentic peacefulness to them. It’s that vibe that caught our attention when we first saw you. Where do you go and what do you do to find that peace?
The tranquility in my work that people keep talking about isn’t really something I’m conscious about. I guess my most successful tracks have been the ones where I just work more and think less. It’s meditative in that respect. A majority of the album I’ve been recording this summer has been detailed in isolation in my parent’s lake house in Vermont, which has been interesting considering the majority of the tracks you’ve already heard have been created during the worst part of winter in Chicago. Whatever place I’m in, that’s where the music goes – it almost feels like film scoring, if that makes sense.
We know that while you’re most committed to piano and guitar, you’ve experimented with a variety of instruments. Any peculiar ones you might want to share?
A friend of mine picked up an Appalachian dulcimer at a Goodwill this one time and I immediately went to town on it every time we hung out. There’s honestly no satisfying feeling better than going to some garage sale in the middle of Bumblefuck and finding a hidden gem stowed away like that.
Huge appreciation for your percussion sampling approach. Very “Cage” of you to manipulate a snare out of a plastic cup falling to the floor. Ditching 808’s and sample packs add an extra dimension of character that you’ve clearly acknowledged. In your opinion, which artists are doing this best today?
No doubt, man. I really dig the aesthetic behind field recording and I try to incorporate that in nearly every track I’ve made. I suppose Shlohmo’s Bad Vibes record was really the first album that I heard pencils against desks or clinking glass cups in the drum tracks. The record fuses 808s and natural sounds almost flawlessly. There’s something really special when a percussion hit comes from an organic place. You can say “I made that noise” and truly mean it.
You’re working on a degree in philosophy and dramatic writing. How do these disciplines impact the music you create and listen to?
I work best under pressure. I think that same thing can be said of many artists, producers in particular though. I started out as a music major and I had a huge falling out with it. I knew basic music theory but didn’t like being told “this is how you write” or “this is how you play”. What I’m studying now are entities I am passionate about but not as skilled in. Whenever I get tunnelvision from a track I’m working on, I watch a movie with a crazy good screenplay or read Nietzsche. When I have a paper due and I have writer’s block, I take fifteen minutes to stop what I’m doing and work on music. It’s become an attempt to balance the scales. I just got an email from the school board telling me I made honor roll, so I suppose it’s working. (laughs)
As Mister Lies, you’re making predominantly calm and ambient music. Do you view your conversely flavored experience with punk rock as a necessary precursor for where you are today? Is the inclusion of “Hark The Umpire” some of that past seeping through?
Yes. I’ve said the past to people that “punk” and “serious” are hard to use in the same sentence but I’ve recently rediscovered a lot of those bands I listened to back in the day and they’ve sparked something in me now that the same albums didn’t back then. Hopefully that shows on the next record. And as far as the Deerhoof track goes, I just really like Deerhoof. They’re always on another level
Your tracks on SVENGALI VOL. 2 showcase some freedom in your production as of late. How would you describe these new developments?
I’d actually beg to differ. The vibes might have changed on those tracks then say the two EP’s I had put out in the past but we were going for a sound that was super fluid and cohesive. When you are creating new tracks for a compilation, you have to take a look at other artists (fortunately, in this case, they’re all fam to me) and you should really be asking yourself “how can I complement their individual energy?”. I don’t want to speak on behalf of the other guys but I was constantly doing that throughout the process of making the tape and I’d like to think it’s far more cohesive than Volume One.
We’re very excited for the Mister Lies LP. What will this forthcoming record mean for you both as a musician and as an individual?
For one, it’s the first time that I’m releasing a full-length record in general, which is both daunting and exciting at the same time. Also, it’s going to be a game-changer for me in terms of how I’m trying to present myself as an artist. It’s a little early to be too specific, but hopefully you’ll know what I’m talking about soon.
19 years old and you’ve already honed a distinct sound. The mean age for an upcoming artist keeps dropping by the day. We can only assume that digitalization and the rising accessibility of DAWs are responsible. Seeing as how (at least for the next year) you stand among these teen producers, do you have any input on the topic?
They’re only getting younger man. I’m only turning 20 this fall and even though I’m clearly not I still sometimes feel a little old. When Rafa from Different Sleep and I were working on Mass EP the inside joke was constantly “19 is the 22”. Flash forward a few months later and it’s become “16 is the 19”. Pretty soon the new microgenre that the blogs will talk about with be called “fetuswave” or “ultrasound”. (laughs) As far as the whole system of technology goes, sure, we can agree that it’s vital. I’d be careful by saying it was the one true thing that was responsible. Other young producers in the game like XXYYXX and Beat Culture (both are dudes who are only a little bit younger than me) are thriving not because they’re good with laptops and pressing buttons, but because they have keen ears. That’s what musicianship, in the broader sense of the term, is all about.
You close the mix out with a classic from Aphex Twin. Nicely done. How has the ambient legend influenced the way you approach electronic music?
He hasn’t influenced my sound as much as he’s influenced the way I listen. Whereas most artists barely surprise the listener by album, this guy does it about three times per song. The most chilling part of that entire track for me after the build-up. The melodic lines cut off, the drums take over, and you go from an atmosphere that almost seems like it was recorded in a cathedral to a reverb that is reminiscent of one of those metallic trashcans. Best part: it only lasts for a couple bars and then it goes back to it’s previous state. Fucking genius.
1. On Your Own Again – Scott Walker
2. At Hand – Mar
3. Whea Yo Ghost At, Whea Yo Dead Man – DJ Elmoe
4. Airsick – Laurel Halo
5. The Narcissist (ft. Inga Copeland) – Dean Blunt
6. The Socialites – Dirty Projectors
7. Slow Flight – Beat Culture/Vyxor
8. Hark The Umpire – Deerhoof
9. Thom – Ghibli
10. 88 – Haleek Maul (prod. The-Drum)
11. Where Are You (ft. Phoebe Bridgers) – Eliot.
12. Treten – Teen Daze
13. Alberto Balsalm – Aphex Twin