Artist Feature 014: Noah Pred
Dec. 7. 2015
Producing and releasing music for nearly two decades now, Canadian artist Noah Pred is one of our country’s greatest electronic music exports. But forget maple syrup and poutine, Berlin-based Pred has been living on a strict diet of Techno and deep house for quite some time now. Juno nominated, Thoughtless Records label head, and an Ableton certified trainer; it might be an understatement to say the man has been keeping busy. Read on to see what’s happening with Noah in Berlin, his side projects, and his plans for the last bit of 2015.
Having relocated to Berlin a few years ago, take us through your average day in the German capital?
There’s so many clichéd tales of the city, but the truth is it changes a lot by season, and it’s different for everyone. I’ve been away for most of the last year, tied up in Canada taking care of some heavy family stuff, but I’m looking forward to getting back home to the city in a couple months. So let’s imagine it’s Friday, and there’s no snow on the ground. After tea, müesli, and the usual online obligations, I’ll stock up on groceries at the open air Turkish market near my place. I’ve got one or two studio sessions with friends across the city, which I’ll travel to on my bicycle, riding paths that weave through parks and along canals - it’s a much greener city than the greyscale techno its known for suggests. After the studio sessions are wrapped up, if it’s not too late, I might meet some friends for dinner or at a gallery opening, or just head directly to one of my favourite bar haunts. If I’m lucky, I won’t get into too much trouble; otherwise I’m not home ’til Saturday. If it’s nice out I’ll try to recuperate in the park with some friends and get in shape for round two. Monday isn’t regarded as much of a serious work day in Berlin, at least in the nightlife community. It’s best not to make appointments ’til Tuesday.
In your opinion, what is it that draws so many creative and artistic people to this city?
Besides the renowned clubs, forward-thinking tech companies, and legions of like-minded outsiders, there’s some economic factors that are hard to ignore. By now it seems prices are rising and it’s starting to feel closer to being on par with more of Western Europe, but any city where artists can afford to live on their own terms will inevitably invite more artists. Most bigger cities in Western Europe and North America are so expensive that it’s very difficult for artists to be who they are without enormously compromising their time and energy. There’s still enough affordable real estate in Berlin that artists and creators continue flocking there, even if many don’t stick around - but it seems just a few months there can really inspire people, even if the lifestyle doesn’t work for them.
Your time in Germany has been marked by lots of collaborations, talk to us a little bit about these. How do projects like “False Image” and “Concubine” differ from “Noah Pred” music?
What’s so fun for me about collaborations, when they click, is the result is something neither producer could have done on their own. You can still hear their individual personalities, but it’s pulled in a new direction for both. False Image is my project with Berlin legend Tom Clark, and we tend to take a more considered approach to the deeper end of acid house. Concubine, my project with Rick Bull - Australia’s Deepchild - is a little wilder and a bit more techno, with a playful edge. I think you can probably sense my influence in both, but it’s probably quite obvious I couldn’t have done either on my own.
How do you approach collaborations? Live jamming, sending stems back and forth, or actually being in the studio together?
For me, the fun is all about jamming live in the studio, feeding off each others’ ideas and energy in real time. The couple times I’ve tried sending files back and forth it hasn’t worked out very well - being divorced from each others’ reactions, I feel like we went too far in opposite directions; sending the files around they became increasingly unrecognizable from the original impulse. I know it works for a lot of people, but it wasn’t a rewarding process for me - though I’m not opposed to trying it again sometime.
Talk to us about your current studio setup, any bits of gear you can’t live without?
Loving the Push 2, can’t imagine working without it. Also really enjoying the Analog RYTM from Elektron; Overbridge is brilliant, though I’m eagerly awaiting their next update. Had to leave my Microbrute in Berlin but I’m really looking forward to having it back. I should probably mention the UAD sound card I’m using; their DSP-powered plug-ins are spectacular.
It seems that producers these days come from a variety of backgrounds… from computer programmers, to DJs, to acoustic musicians… what angle do you approach making music from?
Well, I came into electronic music from playing bass and guitar and some keyboards, so originally I came at it from more of a traditional musical background than maybe some producers do. But I always thought of a techno artist in the broadest sense as someone who uses technology to make art, which is kind of the path I’ve explored. Music is obviously a big part of that for me, but design, photography, video, producing events, even running a label, were all made possible by the technology I’ve used to do it. I’m always curious about the edges of unexplored possibility latent in technology, and I’m always curious to see where it’s headed. I feel like there’s so much formalism and nostalgia in dance music, and I get it - admittedly, I’m guilty of it too at times - but I’d certainly appreciate more emphasis on new frontiers at the intersection of creativity and technology.
Your 2014 Album “Third Culture” was nominated for a Juno award, a huge honour for any Canadian musician. Give us some background about the album and how it all came together.
Third Culture came out of my adjustment to living in Berlin, and the emotional process I went through following my father’s death in 2012, just six months after I arrived there. I’m so thankful I had that creative outlet at the time - I’m not sure how else I could have gotten through it. I wrote a lot of material, 25 tracks or so, paired a few with some vocalists I’d been wanting to work with - Toronto’s Rosina Kazi of lal, and Marc Deon from NYC - then narrowed it down to the ones that seemed to fit the narrative. In the end, it was about coming to terms with impermanence on a deeply personal level, and as more of a universal concept as well.
Aside from having an extensive discography yourself, some people might not know that you ran the well respected label “Thoughtless Music” to 100 releases as well. Take us through your experience running the label and give us an idea if we can expect any future releases.
It feels like it went by so fast. I started Thoughtless in Toronto back in 2007, and in seven short years we racked up some great accomplishments, epic parties, and quite a few more releases than I imagined when setting out. I got to work with so many amazing people, release such good music, and make some really cool things happen. But eventually it started to seem like I’d hit a bit of a ceiling with it, conceptually and economically. I started to question the validity of the grassroots record label model, and ultimately just needed more time to get back to my roots as a producer and find more time in the studio. 100 seemed like a fitting place to pause, and less than a month after, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and I had to take time off to look after her anyway, so I couldn’t have stopped at a better time. I haven’t had a chance to wrap my head around a potential relaunch, but if it happens, I don’t think it’ll be very soon.
Aside from spending time in Europe, you have also lived across Canada, including Toronto and Montreal. Talk to us about how these cities were important for your creative development?
I love Montreal and Toronto. I was pretty young when I moved to Montreal. I had an internship with a label, Consigned, where I learned a lot of what went into that end of things. I also lined up my first serious vinyl releases when I was living there - on Consigned, Immigrant, Intrinsic Design, and some other labels flirting with the boundaries between techno and house at the time. It was also my first exposure to MUTEK, which was hugely influential. I connected with a lot of people there who I kept in touch with, and eventually found myself neighbours with in Berlin. I learned a lot about DJing in Toronto and a lot about working with a community of likeminded artists. I was offered a residency with the legendary Fukhouse crew, and it was a no-brainer to accept; I basically filled Jeremy Caulfield’s slot with them not long after he decamped for Germany way back then. Toronto’s got such a vibrant underground which is still going strong. The multiculturalism of both cities was inspiring, and the solidarity through those frozen winters helped prepare me for Berlin.
Do you see yourself living in Canada again anytime soon?
I love Canada, and it’s much easier to imagine myself ending up here now that Harper’s gone - but it’s hard to imagine where exactly that might be. Probably out west if I can manage.
What’s in store for the rest of 2015?
Preparing my return to Europe, a new EP on Patrick Zigon’s Biotop label, a few remixes, some new Concubine and False Image stuff lined up, and getting back to work in the studio - I get the feeling another full-length might not be too far off.