*You can listen to the recording of this interview below the written piece*
It’s a beautiful thing connecting with creatives out of the blue through social media.
Nathan Fisher is a talented 26 year old producer from Enfield, North London. I connected with him over social media about a month ago, being a fan of his music discovery website (https://nayemusicjournal.com/) and was somewhat aware of the fact that he produced, but didn’t pay too much attention to it at the time. Fast forward to August 3rd, we met at the Stay Cool Altogether Album Launch Party where we talked for a bit and I promised to write up a good review for Rhodes To Success, his new 5-track EP, which is an excellent little project that took me by surprise as I had known him mainly for his writing talents. We organised a time to do a in interview for the following week, and it was done.
Thursday 9th August, the day of the interview. The company I work for during the day, Ansarada (shoutout Tess), allowed me to use their WeWork office opposite ours to record. I met Nathan at Liverpool Street Station and we walked in the rain for about 5 minutes before finding the WeWork building eventually (I had somehow missed it initially) and we arrived and I set everything up. With a few questions in mind to kick things off and a quick shoutout to Sean Grannum and Stay Cool, I nervously started with the first question:
“I always like to know when the first moment was that you fell in love with music, so if you could try and give me a breakdown of growing up and your experiences listening to music and what caught your ear to inspire you in that way.”
He replied by saying: “Probably the earliest memory I can think of is probably just my mum playing music in the house, she used to play a lot of soul, funk, R&B. And obviously growing up in the 90s it was a lot of 90s R&B, so there was that side, and then my dad used to listen to a lot of jazz and hip-hop, so yeah. I’ve got an older brother and he listened to a lot of hip-hop, and UK Garage and Grime, so from those three specifically and any older people that I was around really shaped my musical influences.”
“Being a teen during the emergence of grime was obviously a big influence, and also just being with like the development of the internet, being exposed to music from all around the world, mostly hip-hop from the states.”
After a little awkward, “yeah, sounds good,” I changed the conversation slightly to learn about his background. “So where did you grow up then?” I asked simply. “North London, shoutout Enfield,” he replied, in a semi-enthusiastic tone. “How did growing up in Enfield an that environment shape you… How old are you, sorry to ask?” I tend to just jump between questions sometimes. He quickly said “26… A young 26” he emphasised, and I was like “26 is young in the grand scheme of things.”
Anyway, moving back to the question initially, “how did Enfield shape you musically? Also, do you think that your environment or just environment in general is a very big contributing factor to your influences and your music?” He then went on to say that Enfield didn’t have an influence on him musically as such, more London as a whole. It was the height of UK garage when he was growing up, which later developed into Grime. “Being a teen during the emergence of grime was obviously a big influence, and also just being with like the development of the internet, being exposed to music from all around the world, mostly hip-hop from the states,” he explained. London, being the big melting pot of different cultures, helped shape his identity.
I asked him when the first time was when he started playing and producing music. “Properly, not until about 2013, which is relatively late, but I was always like around people that were making music. Relatives, just some of my friends and what not, so it was always there but I never actually had the chance to get my hands on software until like 2013 and that’s when I started really finding what I can do as a producer myself.” “And who would you say are your biggest inspirations, from a producing standpoint?” At this point I was kind of expecting him to mention names, but he quickly said “there’s too many names to mention, but to be honest, it’s more genres of music that inspires me more, than individual producers.” He mentioned that hip-hop was his main influence musically, but growing up in London he was influenced by a lot of UK Garage, Grime and even pop music to an extent, all of which had an effect on his sound.
I asked if he came from a musical family. “You could say that. My cousin is a producer as well, a producer and a DJ. I don’t know if I should namedrop, but my cousin does some stuff, and back in the day my other cousins used to do some DJing. My dad used to do some stuff back in the day, he used to be part of a little sound as they used to call it and my mum just has a reputation of having the most records, the rarest records, if that counts,” he said.
At this point my mind just completely blanked out, and an awkward interlude proceeded to happen, where I was like “I actually forgot my question” and asked what the last thing was that we mentioned. Apologies for awkwardness you’d hear in the audio, I could have been better prepared with a follow up question, but my mentality with this interview thing is to have a few questions in mind and go with the flow. I finally got myself back together, and moved the conversation to his new EP, Rhodes To Success, and excellent little project which features stellar production featuring Rhodes samples, synth leads and keys, as well as a groove that gets you dancing. It is an excellent project all of you should check out.
“Being a writer I was quite proud of that title [Rhodes To Success] in terms of the play on words, so once I had that title I thought I definitely got to do some music to match, you know what I mean? So yeah, that’s how that came about, and it was just about finding the right pieces to that puzzle and to bring it all together into the project.”
“What was your creative process like and how do you approach making an EP, making an album, making any sort of project?” “In regards to a project, it always starts with a theme,” he stated, something that “can run throughout the whole project, and so before I’ve got the underlining theme I don’t really ever think about a project, so for example, with Rhodes To Success, I was listening to a lot of jazz at the time and a lot of music that contained people playing the Rhodes piano and keys in general. And I don’t play any instruments and was very envious of what I was hearing, like I wish i could play that, and from then I sort of started to build the idea of making a project with every tune having the basis of having Rhodes keys, and building around that and then somewhere down the line, the Rhodes To Success title came to mind. Being a writer I was quite proud of that title in terms of the play on words, so once I had that title I thought I definitely got to do some music to match, you know what I mean? So yeah, that’s how that came about, and it was just about finding the right pieces to that puzzle and to bring it all together into the project. And it was a success.”
“The writing process is a lot longer to execute effectively than the production, because I feel like I can write, re-write and re-write forever. If there’s a quicker gratification when it comes to producing, you can produce a beat and then it’s there, and even if no one else uses it for a project it’s still there and you can still listen to it and still listen to it, and it still can be finished.”
Because Nathan is writer, I was interested to know if he ever considered rapping on the project, or if he has done it before. I has been something I’ve been thinking about for myself, but that’s a different story entirely. “I used to, not too long ago, I retired from such an act, but that’s what came first to be honest.” Again, being influenced by his environment and the people he surrounded himself with is what made him rap in the first place, but the last few years was all about him producing music rather than rapping.
At this point both of us got distracted by dogs outside the room, just a random d-tour from our convo. He continued by saying that “the writing process is a lot longer to execute effectively than the production, because I feel like I can write, re-write and re-write forever. If there’s a quicker gratification when it comes to producing, you can produce a beat and then it’s there, and even if no one else uses it for a project it’s still there and you can still listen to it and still listen to it, and it still can be finished. But if I wrote verses and I had verses there they’ll feel redundant if they are not put to a track or used in any way.” “I understand,” I continued, just thinking about how interesting it is to compare the writing process compared to the producing process. “Yeah, I’d done an EP last year called Blank Pages, the theme that surrounds that project is that I was trying to write and I had writers block. So then instead I was like ‘If I couldn’t write, then what would I do?’ and then that’s how the Blank Pages theme came , and I had about 6 or 7 tracks with heavy vocal samples and they were said to be talking for me within the music, if that makes sense, so that’s how that came about. From then I just went straight to production and yeah.”
It was interesting to me how he mentioned writers block and I was curious to know whether he has felt that writers block existed when producing for him. “Oh yeah, yeah,” he responded, “but the thing with that is that I feel like if you’re producing and getting a certain sound, you can go away for a couple of hours and come back to it or start making something new, I feel like with writing it’s harder to get out of the writers block than it is with producing, but you definitely get those times.”
Another awkward, “yeah, ok, cool” from me, and I asked whether he considers himself to be a perfectionist. “Yeah, yeah, I mean a lot of the producers I have been in sessions with or know personally, they seem to be like that, but it gets to the point where you’ve got to just let go and accept that this is done, because you can sit here all day and try and keep tweaking bits and changing it to try and get to that perfect level that doesn’t really exist, so you need to accept, when you get to a certain stage like alright, this is it. I think it helps playing into other people and getting other producers’ opinions on it, and they will tell you ‘oh yeah, this, that and the other [needs fixing]’ and then you can do little tweaks like that because obviously everyone’s got a different ear and that helps you become more satisfied with the final product.”
“…if you’re producing and getting a certain sound, you can go away for a couple of hours and come back to it or start making something new, I feel like with writing it’s harder to get out of the writers block than it is with producing, but you definitely get those times”
“Yeah, but do you know when a beat is finished, or a piece of music is finished or is that kind of a difficult thing to assess? Because obviously like… I mean I’m not a producer so I don’t know, which is why I’m asking, but when you have opinions of different people sometimes they can contradict one another… like how do you know for sure [when a beat is done]?”
Nathan replied “I don’t think you can ever know because you can always add a little something, but that’s where you have to trust your instinct and your gut and know when to call it a day with certain bits. For example, with the Rhodes To Success project there’s a lot of percussive elements involved and so I can be adding more and more and just cluttering the beat so you need to know when to leave space in certain parts and when to add bit more, and I suppose it’s whenever you feel satisfied with with it or when you’ve given up on trying to find that perfect beat.”
“I like it [the concept] to come to me rather as opposed to me trying to find it, if that makes sense. Because if I’m in a certain head space when I’m making a certain sound or something like that, I feel like the ideas, much like when you’re trying to write an article about certain… like a discussion piece on music, like that idea will come to you.”
As someone who doesn’t make music at all, it’s interesting to hear Nathan talking about this because I can imagine cases where a musician would release something thinking it’s finished, then look back at it and think that it needs more tweaking. That’s the next question I asked Nathan. “All the time,” he responds bluntly. “All the time, like I even go back and change it even once it’s out, even though I know that the changes aren’t gonna be heard by anyone publicly, I would do it just as a form of practise, you know.” “The Kanye West, The Life of Pablo way,” I joked before asking a different question regarding the concepts he comes up with. “Is the time it takes to come up with a concept long compared to the recording and production side of things.” Nathan said that he doesn’t like to think too hard on a concept. “I like it to come to me rather as opposed to me trying to find it, if that makes sense. Because if I’m in a certain head space when I’m making a certain sound or something like that, I feel like the ideas, much like when you’re trying to write an article about certain… like a discussion piece on music, like that idea will come to you. So you’ll just be reading about certain things and then all that will just be in your head and it will all mix in a pot, and then the result will be whatever you’re going to write about, and it’s similar in terms of how I get to my themes for my project, like I explained with the Rhodes To Success story. So it’s just about waiting until you’re doing certain things that would lead you down a path, and at the end of the path there’ll be the title or where you wanna go with the idea.”
“And what are you doing at the moment, any music related stuff?” I ask to move the conversation to the present. “Yeah, I’ve recently started working, pretty much as soon as Rhodes To Success was released, so beginning of this month, in the last week I’ve thought of a new theme and and I’m I’m working on a new EP, hopefully it will be ready by early next year.” “I look forward to that!” was my reaction, with a quick “thank you from Nathan.” I then proceed to ask whether he performs live a lot. “I haven’t done to this day,” he replied to my surprise. “I assume you’d like to though,” I stated, then telling him how I see Rhodes To Success being a Rhodes-heavy album, being performed with a full band. “Yeah, obviously I’ve got some ideas in my head as to what I can do with that and I’ve jotted some things down, but I want to see the response it gets first before I start discussing these ideas with certain people and what not, but I’ve definitely got ideas in the back of my mind, but whether they ever come to fruition is a different story, but just in case they’re there.”
“I’ve seen progression of a lot of artists that I have interviewed before, they have gone on to do really good things, which is nice to see, so I think it’s quite healthy, but obviously it’s all sort of relative to the artists themselves but I feel in general, that people are looking, not just in London but at the UK in general, they’re looking and expecting to be of a certain quality, and they’re not being disappointed because there are some really good artists.”
“And do you DJ?” I ask. “I used to a little bit, but not enough to DJ anymore, I sort of left that behind. I do enjoy it and sometimes do it for myself at home just casually, but I wouldn’t perform and DJ anymore.” “Because you mentioned for the Stay Cool event that Sean did ask you…” “Yeah, yeah he did ask me and I was like nah nah… There were a lot of people in the lineup who are actual DJ’s and who actually do this thing really well, so I didn’t want to cut the line and be a nuisance, that’s not my lane and even though I’ve had some experience in the past it’s not what I do, I’d never call myself a DJ.”
The next question I asked related to what he’s been listening to recently. I diverted the question a bit to add what I felt like the scene is like in London. “For my publication, I try and cover London a lot more, at least I have this year, and I feel like there is this, I suppose you can call it a resurrection of a lot of jazz artists that are coming through, and then the hip-hop scene as well is starting to thrive I think. My favourite album still to this day [this year] is still the Billy Dukes album The Intervention. It’s a very good album. What are your thoughts on the scene, and obviously you having lived in London your whole life, how has the scene progressed over the years?” “Since I started following it more closely from about 2014, I’ve seen progression of a lot of artists that I have interviewed before, they have gone on to do really good things, which is nice to see, so I think it’s quite healthy, but obviously it’s all sort of relative to the artists themselves but I feel in general, that people are looking, not just in London but at the UK in general, they’re looking and expecting to be of a certain quality, and they’re not being disappointed because there are some really good artists. I mean, I don’t wanna start naming names in case I forget people.” I agreed with that statement, just adding “I feel like that sometimes like ‘Oh I forgot to mention this person!'” Nathan had an idea to take his laptop out and give me a list of artists, though I didn’t want to push him too much on this in case he felt uncomfortable to do so. I said that from my perspective it’s always good to give artists shoutouts. He told me that he was listening to the new The Internet album Hive Mind, which he thought was an excellent body of work, though I did disagree. I’m not going to go into details as to why I was disappointing by it, it wasn’t as memorable or captivating to me as their previous album Ego Death.
Moving the conversation along, we both agreed that there is so much music being released nowadays, and with streaming services it’s easier than ever to discover artists, big or small and become a fan of their music. It’s difficult to keep up sometimes, and since both of us are music writers too, I wanted to ask him how he keeps up with all the new releases. “It is difficult to keep up, even if you feel like there’s time to keep up. Like I say there’s so much music and so much going on left, right and centre, but you obviously have to try and.. obviously social media helps because if you follow them you can know what they’re doing, but even so it can be a struggle.” Nathan writes for other publications for work, and I asked him how long he has being writing for. “About 4 years,” he said. “And how did you get into it?” I asked. “Yeah, I came out of uni and I was just like ‘come on man, music is something that I’m really passionate about and writing is something I feel like I can do to a decent level, so I was like ‘let’s combine the two and see what happens.’ Like I said to you earlier, there’s been ups and downs but I’m still here.”
I asked him where he sees the writing side of what he does take him. “I’m trying to take it [https://nayemusicjournal.com/] as far as possible. I’m not one of these people that sort of have like yearly plans or ‘yeah I want to be at this point in a years time or five years time, I’ve realised that plans are quickly altered due to circumstances out of your control, so I’m more into just doing what I can and seeing where that will lead me at the end of the day and just rolling with the punches, and all those other cliches.” I ask “is that the same attitude with the music as well?” To which he responds “yeah, like I’m not like ‘ah I’m trying to do this, trying to do that. I’m just making music because I enjoy doing it first and foremost, and it’s the same with the writing, and if people appreciate it then that’s obviously a bonus. And if I can earn a living from it then that’s even better. But even if no one listened to my music I’d still be making music and just listening to myself, because I just enjoy doing it, like anything anyone enjoys, they’ll just do it for themselves.”
“Yeah, I came out of uni and I was just like ‘come on man, music is something that I’m really passionate about and writing is something I feel like I can do to a decent level, so I was like ‘let’s combine the two and see what happens.'”
After some more awkward yeahs and ums after he finished with the answer, I finally asked him about collaborations with other artists, whether he has done them and what how the creative process changes from doing stuff alone to doing stuff with other people. He said that he has collaborated with a few artists. “The saying is that two heads is better than one, I just feel like you just learn more when you’re working with someone else. Most recently I have been working with a producer from Brixton called Srigala, very talented guy, shoutout to him, but I’ve had sessions with a few producers and all of them have taught me different things that are equally as valuable as each other. And I appreciate any time that I get to learn from producers because like I said I haven’t been doing this long, especially compared to other people of like similar age, whatever. So anytime I can get in the studio with them and just see how they work and just learn from them, I appreciate it. I add, “There’s always that danger of clash of egos and that kind of stuff, I suppose.” “I mean yeah, I suppose there is,” Nathan continues, “but I think that’s more industry politics, like when there’s sessions that are set up by labels or managers, you know what I mean? As opposed to when people connect online or connect through mutual friends and it’s less pressure to work as opposed it is to link up and appreciate each others work, and then if you can make something happen then that’s just a bonus, Worst case scenario you’ve made a new friend who likes similar things to you and that’s it. I would never go in with the intention of ‘we have to make something’ you know what I mean, I just enjoy talking about new music and learning about the intricacies that fellow producers or people involved in music would understand and appreciate.” It’s more of an organic thing with Nathan in terms of going in the studio with someone, as he emphasised before, which is quite refreshing to hear.
It was near the end of the interview, I gave Rhodes To Success another shoutout, and asked him if he ever wanted to release physical copies. “I’m open to everything, I’m just in that stage of gauging the response. From what people have said to me, they’ve enjoyed the project and I feel like they were surprised.. because I present myself as a music writer.” I later joked with him about whether he reviewed his own music on his blog, and he said that he promoted it, but obviously to get people to check it out rather than review it in a selfish, big-headed kind of way.
That basically concluded my interview with Nathan aka Naye Fshr. We spoke more off-tape about creative ideas and just because was cool to talk to him about stuff. You can listen to Rhodes To Success below via Soundcloud, and make sure you support him any way you can! Listen to the interview below as well. Thanks for the conversation man, will see you soon, hopefully!