Nathan Fake

We talk to techno whizz kid Nathan Fake as he embarks on a UK tour with Orbital.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 8 Nov 2012
  • min read
He revels in his live improvised club sets as much as he values his time in the studio. Proof of this can be found in his ample UK tour which marks his third studio album Steam Days.

The Border Community stalwart has long proved himself through two previous LPs - 2006's breakthrough Drowning in a Sea of Love and 2010's more dancefloor-orientated Hard Islands.

Numerous EPs, versatile remixes for Warp, Ninja Tune and Domino, as well as an appearance on Radiohead’s The King Of Limbs remix album, have only added to his status.

But, with this latest album, Fake shows off yet another side of his music. Warm melodies work in sync with the record’s beating heart to deliver the Norfolk native’s most rounded record to date.

We caught up with him as he prepares to embark on a tour with his electronic heroes Orbital…

These days you’re considered an old timer in electronic circles. How do you think your music has changed, if at all, since your first release?
It’s changed a lot in some ways and hasn’t changed at all in others. I’ve got a recognisable sound - my production techniques have changed in that time but I’m still making the same stuff. It sounds more mature now. A decade ago I was 21 and the music sounded like it was made by a 20 year old!

An album for me is a snapshot; it’s a body of work within a defined time period or concept. Steam Days took a couple of years to put together. The first one just happened really, while Hard Islands was borne out of playing a lot of live sets in clubs and making music with that aesthetic.

This one seems like a mix of the two…
It is. The first albums were quite considered in terms of style but with this one, I just thought I’d do whatever. Do it completely naturally. I wanted it to be a snapshot of what I’ve been up to.

How has playing live informed the composing process?
When I play live my sets are completely improvised. I have a load of loops playing and I don’t have a lot of the original structure there when I’m playing live. I just jam it and come up with weirder arrangements doing it that way. I’ve been putting tracks together in the studio like that lately. I’ll have a loop of eight bars and jam over that. It throws up stuff I wouldn’t have come out with I I’d been laying it out in Cubase or whatever. It feels more fun and more musical – it’s more human. You’re controlling all the parts and can do stuff in weird time signatures. It sounds quite raw and rough but I like that.

It’s definitely something I’ve always been into - even before I started making music full time. I grew up listening to Orbital and they were my favourite when I was a teenager. Whenever I saw recordings of them playing live I noticed how raw it was – there were always lots of mistakes and bumps. But they were playing those parts live and I was dead excited by that. It’s always been something I really wanted to do. I started making tunes but didn’t play live until two or three years after because I wasn’t sure how to do it! Once I worked it out I put a lot of energy into it. When you see me play live, I think the tracks come alive a bit more.

What’s your set-up like at home? This new album has been compared to Boards of Canada so I’m imagining lots of dusty old synths…
It’s really simple – a computer in the middle and a couple of synths, but not many at all. I’m really into the idea of keeping stuff really simple because then I get to know each little bit of gear really well. The sound of my music comes down to my ideas rather than my machines! I use pretty unimpressive gear really!

Who do you rate at the moment?
Lukid. His stuff is amazing. I like the warmth and it’s quite heavy and intense. When I’m working on an album I tend not to listen to too much stuff at all. I like Actress too, he’s really interesting.

People are really into retro sounds in guitar and soul music – but it seems to be getting more and more like that with electronic music too. What do you think about that?
In its current state, dance music has been around for 20 years or more and we’re at a point where we can look back at the start of electronic music in a nostalgic way. I think that a lot of younger producers are attracted to the early sounds – stuff like early rave or Warp stuff is like oldskool, before their time! A lot of stuff nowadays is based on that.

Do you draw on that yourself?
Not consciously. The thing is, I grew up with Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada and stuff like that, so I guess it creeps in. I’m quite into making forward looking music but I think people can hear that nostalgic vibe because it’s quite warm.

What’s next for you?
I’ve been touring the new album round Europe and will be supporting Orbital on tour in December. I grew up listening to them so it’s pretty amazing they asked me to do it! Insane! That’ll be an honour.

Steam Days is out now on Border Community.

Album opener Paean is released 3 December on limited edition 10-inch vinyl, featuring remixes from Lone, Coda and Lukid.

Upcoming UK tour dates:
9 November: Blind Tiger, Brighton, UK
10 November: Plug, Sheffield, UK
1 December: Warehouse Project, Manchester, UK [supporting Orbital]
2 December: Picturehouse, Edinburgh, UK [supporting Orbital]
3 December: O2 Academy, Bristol, UK [supporting Orbital]
4 December: O2 Academy, Leicester, UK [supporting Orbital]
5 December: O2 Academy, Newcastle, UK [supporting Orbital]
7 December: 53 Degrees, Preston, UK [supporting Orbital]
8 December: O2 Academy, Sheffield, UK [supporting Orbital]
9 December: O2 Academy, Birmingham, UK [supporting Orbital]
11 December: Dome, Brighton, UK [supporting Orbital]
12 December: O2 Academy, Bournemouth, UK [supporting Orbital]
13 December: O2 Academy, Oxford, UK [supporting Orbital]
14 December: O2 Academy, Brixton, London, UK [supporting Orbital]
15 December: O2 Academy, Brixton, London, UK [supporting Orbital]
1 January: The Hydra, London, UK
19 January: Twisted Pepper, Dublin, Ireland