“A great experience. This is a highlight to date, and I still can’t quite believe it myself actually. All a dream come true with this, it’s been such a great path for me with my music so far.” This is NASH, an up-and-coming producer hailing from Manchester, in the U.K. He’s featured on the first two tracks of the Gareth Emery & Ashley Wallbridge collaborative album, “Kingdom United.”
While EDM has spread across the U.S. like a weed the past decade and become an inescapable presence, Trance has not become more accessible. This is largely in part because a lot of Trance is not club-friendly. NASH is an example of a longtime artist who has made his way back to producing Trance. As one of the latest up-and-coming artists from Garuda / Armada, he has been working closely with Ashley Wallbridge to try his hand at infusing the genre with some new inspiration. The results so far have been promising. Emerging in 2018 with ‘GODS,’ a collaboration with Wallbridge, NASH has captured the signature Garuda sound and is giving his own twist to club-friendly Trance. I caught up with him over Skype a few days ago to chat about his modus operandi in production and his recent collaboration on ‘Kingdom United.’
“Ash has been a mentor to me the past two to three years now. I was around when they were working on [the album]. They asked me to be involved with [tracks] ‘Kal El’ and ‘Vesper’ later on. All of us are huge fans of Hans Zimmer, so we wanted to do something to incorporate his techniques and sounds into a track. What better way than to make a huge epic intro track to set the bar and introduce the album and make a statement; this is ‘Kingdom United.’ You’re in for a treat!”
NASH might be a relatively recent arrival into the Trance scene, but this isn’t a new genre for him as a listener. “My background with music is a strange one, actually. Originally I grew up playing in bands – Rock and Pop music. Basically, I was huge into bands like Blink-182, so I used to play in cover bands performing vocals, guitars and that kind of stuff. I guess I got older and it kind of evolved a bit.” When NASH went off to school, he started making Drum ‘n’ Bass and, as he put it, ‘trancey stuff.’ “I have always been heavily into writing. It has always been a huge part of what I have done across many different genres. So, when I started working on some early projects for T.V., I got a taste of electronic music that set me on my path making trancey stuff. Then I thought, ‘Why not give this a go?’” We’re glad he did. With only a handful of tracks as NASH in the credits, his career is beginning with vertical trajectory.
One thing that is always curious to me about burgeoning producers is the kind of scene near their roots. NASH gave his thoughts on the local Trance scene and what he’s experienced abroad. “The U.K. scene these days is very much House music. House is big and Tech House is big. Trance doesn’t have that much of a scene unless you look for it. There are some great events about, but they are usually more underground and like you’d never really hear Trance in mainstream radio. You do have people like Ash and Gareth to come out of Manchester over the years, but generally, Trance seems to have moved to be being more popular abroad in places like the U.S. and Asia from what I can tell.”
And, he can. With credit on released and upcoming high profile tracks, NASH has showcased his productions and curated mixes from behind the decks. “When Ash started mentoring me in the studio on production, we also used to have a bit of a mess around on the decks. He sort of taught me to mix as well! I have played some really good shows far. I played Ministry Of Sound in London along-side Ash and Gareth, which was a lot of fun. Just an unreal gig in an iconic place. I played at the Guaba Beach Bar after party too, which was an experience. If you don’t know it, it’s one of those big amazing prestigious summer party places that are in the DJ Mag top 100 clubs and it’s just really a f***ing unreal place.” If you are interested in what a NASH set might sound like, we scored an exclusive mix which includes some crisp ID – IDs.
NASH was kind enough to let me pick his brain on production for a bit during our chat as well. No surprises here, the musical inspiration he pulls from has depth. “Musically, I am inspired by a wide range of stuff. I still listen to Heavy Metal these days. I still go back to early trancey stuff and a lot of EDM and House stuff – classic stuff – the range is always there. I feel inspired to try a lot of different things. One thing I always tell people is don’t expect me to make the same sort of music forever because you’ll be disappointed! I will always endeavor to bring in new elements from any number of different genres.”
But any music fan and producer knows it might not always be music that gives the spark for a great track. “In terms of non-musical inspiration, I am big on summer. I feel inspired in the summer to write Uplifting stuff. The winters are moody and darker in England and it gets really depressing – it’s just snow and rain … pure sh*t basically. That translates to the music but when it’s summer and warm, and people are around having a good time, that translates to the music as well. ‘Vesper’ has got that nice summer kind of vibe. That track and the basic ideas came to fruition last summer. It’s drawing you into that uplifting feeling – a warm place with palm trees – that’s how I envision it playing out.”
NASH has some juicy tips for getting out of a writing rut as well. Every producer has opened their audio workstation only to stare down a blank project and become overwhelmed. “I always go back to my days in a Rock band where I start with a guitar. I get a lot of musical ideas and inspiration when I’m out and about. Maybe I am exercising or in the gym, and I will sing a melody on my phone or make a few notes. I will come back later and I’ll come to the software and throw it in. It doesn’t normally work well to just open a blank project. It feels like I’m forcing it and it doesn’t amount to much usually. I go through stints of feeling really inspired by certain things. I might go through and write a sh*t ton of different ideas in the same project. It’s maybe an hour long in duration with a hundred different things. And then I might go through and take each one into a different project.” Although NASH is a primarily Logic user, this kind of strategy could be applied to any DAW and genre. We dug a little deeper to talk specific processes and plugins as well.
“An obvious one is [Nicky Romero] Kickstart Sidechain. You can’t have a project without that. It doesn’t take up much CPU and it’s a go-to for everything. I use a lot of native instruments and a lot of waves. Over the past two years my go to’s have been Sylenth and Massive, but over the last six months, I have been going to Nexus2. Everything sounds awesome from Nexus. Sylenth and Massive are absolutely great, and I still use them all the time for most things, but they have to be layered a lot more whereas Nexus just sounds fat and huge and you have to do half the amount of work to get a good result. The sounds are beefier and nicer. Another, is Endless Smile by Dada Life. If you can find the right place to use it and get it right, it sounds brilliant. Somewhere like a build up to a drop.” I couldn’t help myself but ask the top production question of any Garuda style producer, and you already know it too. How do they get those amazing vocal chops? Unfortunately, it’s not a simple, secret recipe.
“There is a process of making them. There is so much trial and error. You can lose yourself trying to get them right and still not get them sometimes. There is a certain approach in choosing the samples, but you have to imagine what it sounds like in the track. Most of the time, you’re picking the long phonetics of the sample and leaving the beginning or the end, but it can differ each time. Sometimes you will throw the samples together and move the pitches a bit, and after playing around with it a bit it’s a melody you hadn’t perhaps aimed for in the first place, but it sounds good!” I pressed NASH a bit more on that concept of “losing yourself,” which is pretty a common issue for a lot of producers. Is there a tactic we can use in this mental war to maintain that focus?
“If you spend hours, days, weeks working on a track. You lose that first listen perspective of what it sounds like, and it’s incredibly hard to get that back. Once you have heard that drummed into your head so much, you can’t put yourself in the shoes of someone else who’s hearing it for the first time. And that is what you need to get the best result. So sometimes I will show the track to someone and say this is driving me crazy can you tell me what I can do with is. Is it sh*t? Is it good? Someone like Ash is a perfect person for seeking advice on this stuff. He will tell you like it is and that’s very important. There’s nothing worse than asking for feedback and people saying nothing more than, ‘Yeah, it’s great’. Sometimes you have to step away and leave a track for a while. I’d say if you have been working religiously you need a few weeks stepping aside and coming back with fresh ears. You feel it again, and you can feel how it hits you again for the first time.”
These pearls of wisdom aren’t an accident. NASH has been at the production and writing game for a while. I asked him if getting back into Trance or DJing has changed the way he goes about his process. “Because Dance Music is so oriented around production and effects, it has opened my eyes to how I write. You can have an idea where the writing sounds good but not amazing, but when you get to the production, you can really bring out the awesomeness of it. That sort of sounds a bit like the ‘polishing a turd’ analogy but I mean it in the opposite sort of way. Obviously, nothing beats good writing, but with this sort of music, good production can elevate something to the next level. Something might sound just OK but as you work on it and get the right sounds out, you can bring something out of it that’s really good.”
Our time was coming to a close, so I asked NASH about his thoughts on current Trance trends versus Trance from the past. “Classic Trance and today’s Trance are so different to the extent that I almost consider them different genres. Trance has to be a broad genre – it’s a big umbrella. I love and listen to all of it. The older stuff is more timeless, and the production on it is perhaps more basic, but it has a warmer feel that can be nicer in a lot of ways than today’s stuff. The stuff now is great and very well produced but can sometimes feel a bit synthetic. In the broader picture, music has become so throwaway, and tracks don’t last past a few months. But the tracks back then got us into Trance in the first place. There’s lots of current music that’s really good, but it gets lost because of the sheer volume [of releases]. The standard of music has risen, and the amount of people that can reach that standard has risen. You can spend all your time trying to find the best music and you will never run out of choices.” Speaking of finding new music, give ‘Kingdom United’ a listen if you haven’t yet. It’s chock-full of infectious, trancey, Garuda melodies!
NASH is looking forward to a summer of upcoming releases including, of course, some Garuda label remixes and vocal tracks. Check out his latest mix, an exclusive just for us! You can follow his latest releases below. We’ll be looking out for them from the farm. Cheers!