Interview: Nitsua

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Nujabes’ passing, we are constantly reminded of his prolific discography. The first Hydeout Productions album after Nujabes’ death was Modal Soul Classics II. You may recognize Zack Austin, a.k.a. Nitsua, from his track No One Like You off that tribute album. While this seems like the extent of Nitsua’s relationship with Jun Seba, their association dates back to 2007 during the hayday of Myspace. Since then, Nitsua has begun his own label, collaborated with multiple artists, and last month, Nitsua performed alongside Shing02, Marcus D, and many more for “A Tribute to Nujabes” at the Lyric Theatre in Los Angeles. Before his show, I had the opportunity to delve deeper into Nitsua’s past, present, and future.

“All Nujabes did was believe in me, and that changed my life forever. I’m forever thankful to be a part of something so great.” – Nitsua

When I first discovered you on Myspace, Zack Austin. Austin. Nitsua. Am I crazy, or is your artist name a homage to Nujabes?

Absolutely, 100%. When I talked to him on Myspace, he noticed it right away too. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be making the music I am today. He made beat making feel really familiar and approachable to me, which inspired me to go for it.

In your first set of unreleased tracks, my favorite track was undoubtedly Stickerbrush Forest, which sampled Donkey Kong Country 2’s Stickerbrush Symphony.  Have you always had a fascination for old school games and that retro sound?

I’m a real Nintendo guy. I played NES for the first time when I was 2. I grew up playing the SNES, so a lot of the games are really special to me. If I don’t remember much from the games, I’ll remember the music: every note in the song and the exact point where the sounds start playing. A lot of my favorite songs, pictures, colors and ideas, for some strange reason, remind me of Donkey Kong Country 2.

For instance, when I was first introduced to Nujabes’ Sanctuary Ship by my friend Guido, it instantly reminded me of DKC2’s Stickerbrush Symphony, which is why I became so attached to it so quickly.

 

Since 2010, you began running your own label, Visioneternal. What inspired you to pursue your own label?

I always liked the idea of having something of my own, that I can use for everything I do. Nujabes, Fat Jon, Peanut Butter Wolf, and Pharrell have always been big influences on my decision to start a label. I also wanted to start releasing vinyl records, and I didn’t want to just throw them out there. I wanted it to be really official, with a logo and everything. Visioneternal is still a record label, but it’s becoming more of a platform for other things I’m doing. I never imagined Visioneternal as a traditional record label. It was more another name for official Nitsua releases, or artists I work with.

Visioneternal’s first release,VISE-001, was with Piana, a female vocalist from Japan whose sound sways between ambient and glitch hop. How did you get in contact with her for the first VISE release?

My first release was an interesting one. My remix was the first song to receive any kind of real attention: Nujabes liked it, a movie called Snow Walk used it as a theme song, and a couple of other things. It’s really important to me, so I decided to have that as my first official release. I just contacted her old label and bought the rights to the song. The song was actually owned by a different label, but the original label was really excited and hoped to see it happen. I actually didn’t talk with Piana much for this release.

Now about Morning Horizon, my favorite Nitsua release. You sampled Pat Metheny and Lyle MaysSeptember Fifteenth, which Nujabes also sampled for A Day By Atmosphere Supreme. Coincidence?

No. I knew about Pat Metheny from my dad, but never really listened to him like I did once I found out Nujabes sampled him. I listened to the entire song quite a lot. I just thought another part of the song sounded just as good as the other sample, so I used that part. That Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays LP [As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls] is now one of my favorites ever. It has the song It’s For You on there, which has to be one of my favorite songs ever. I used to listen to it in the early, early morning and watch the sky get brighter.

Digging a little deeper, the Rockwell vinyl release of Morning Horizon features a flute breakdown that was not present in the original version. What led to this change?

Nice observation. I had a computer crash in 2009 I believe, and I lost a lot of data. Since the original Morning Horizon is so old, I didn’t have some of the samples used in the original beat. So I filled it in with the flute sample.

Almost all your singles are vinyl releases, and you even released a cassette mixtape. Why do you remain persistent with physical releases over digital releases?

I really like tangible releases. I like something that’s not easy to do. I like the idea of a project. It starts with an idea, a layout, a process, and then finally the end result. I was a big Nujabes vinyl collector back when I got my first turntables, and I still am. I just like the idea of having some physical items that I really love. Some art I’ve had to buy because I really felt connected with it – same with my cameras. Having physical releases is the closest I can get to that feeling.

The sleeve artworks for your vinyl releases are beautiful. How do you discover the individuals behind the designs?

I’ve been fascinated with art as long as I can remember. I grew up really liking abstract art, but now I’m more open to a lot of other styles. I really liked how colorful and interesting Hydeout’s singles were. No two singles looked the same. I wanted that concept for Visioneternal.

I actually went to high school with Noel Jimenez, who did the Piana artwork. He graduated from Art Center in Pasadena, but they would have grad nights there. I would usually go with him and check out the upcoming artists who were graduating. As for the wonderful lady who did I Belong To You and {dedication} love theory, I try to stay up-to-date on different record labels I like, to see what they’re doing. One was called totokoko label in Japan. They do a lot of cool music, art, and photo releases, and I found Saori from them. I just emailed her and we worked from there. There are a couple of other people on that label I want to work with, but that’s for the future, one being Yuki Izumi.

Nitsua-Belong-To-You

You spinned at The Elect Clothing Launch in Los Angeles back in November, where you handed out download cards, again reinforcing your passion for tangibles. What inspired this idea?

There’s nothing that special about receiving a normal business card. It’s easy to lose and to forget. A nice, simple download card can also be lost, but there’s some material inside of it that will keep some people from losing it right away, and will make some people want to go out of their way, which is really amazing if you ask me. Just another thing for people to remember, or to collect if they’re into that. 

The Visioneternal motto reads: “An expression of life through music, art and fashion.” The music and art are apparent. However, I recently noticed www.vivre.visioneternal.net, which leads to a shop opening soon. Is this where fashion comes into play?

Yes. A fashion line by myself and Noel Jimenez. It’s really just clothes we want to wear ourselves. In my older DJing picture at the delicious party event, I was wearing a sweater we screen printed the logo on. It was really fun to do. But honestly, anyone could screen print. We want to do something more than that, so we’re working on some stuff coming up.

Outside of your own label Visioneternal, you mentioned on your Reddit AMA that you were signed to Hydeout Productions to release your debut album The Art of Music. But it didn’t happen as Nujabes passed away. Most of that material was released on your Unreleased Material album. Your debut album is now entitled Dayscapes. Can you provide any information as to what we can expect from your album?

I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but Dayscapes sums up my past 7 years. I went through a lot during the process of that album. Some songs are sad, some songs are upbeat. I’m really hoping for it to come out this year. I don’t want to jinx it, because I also said that back in 2009…

So, what else do you have up your sleeve for this year?

I’m going to release a record with Marcus D. Everything is almost done, and we’re moving forward to the actual vinyl pressing soon.  I’m going to Japan to perform at some places, find more inspiration, take more photos, buy more records, maybe skate around, and buy more Super Nintendo/super famicom games. But next to that I’ve got a bunch more releases coming up, including a Neftone compilation fully produced by Mindfield, and possibly a new vinyl release with Reciteall.

More Info // Visioneternal