Earning his stripes among the punk, metal, and hip-hip blurred underground of Los Angeles, the purveyor of synth punk is now armed with the kind of clarity to match his creative output.
It’s a particularly pivotal time for synth punk N8NOFACE. Despite the snail’s pace of the world as a result of 2020, the creative journeyman and longtime aggro-electro noisemaker managed to accomplish a pair of especially monumental feats during a year that has been memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Artistically, N8NOFACE compiled a brilliant collection of caustic catharsis in his 20-track assertion that is Bound To Let You Down. A stylishly grim account of personal tumult paired with the pitfalls of Southern California’s less than glamorous underbelly, the album manages to translate the nefarious dichotomy of the land of palm trees and smog-heavy haze.
Dissecting relationship woes, documenting an ongoing struggle with addiction, and tapping the real-life dangers that exist amid picturesque sunsets, N8NOFACE has long been a fixture for his authenticity among the thriving, evolving aggressive music underground.
Yet while Bound To Let You Down offers continuity in the stylized abrasion and often dark themes that endeared him to such a passionate, though niche base, this LP seems to have ushered in a new era for the synth punk. Reaching a broader audience while retaining his creative integrity, N8NOFACE didn’t need to conform to turn heads, he just needed more people to pay attention.
Coinciding with the acclaim of his Eyeball Records release, N8NOFACE, also reached a turning point in his personal life. At 45 years old, Nathan Hose made the conscious decision to get sober. Spending years working though a rotation of getting high, making music, and repeating, the collateral damage coupled with the drugs proved too much and prompted the Tucson-born punk to confront the true costs.
Though the volatility of the life likely loaned an added degree of danger and authenticity to the resulting art, the fallout meant missed opportunities, compromised relationships, and a running clock that only sped up every time N8 chose getting high over getting to work. Embracing the productive constant in his life in his music, N8 reinvested in himself and the move has paid off in spades.
Arriving at such a formative life moment, N8’s refocus hints at the kind of untapped potential that suggests the ceiling is yet to be reached and even then, eventually shattered. Bound To Let You Down proved to be significant step up despite the strain of struggling with substance abuse. Rejuvenated and armed with the same prolific pace, the road ahead might be long for N8, but the vision of what lies ahead is clearer than it has ever been.
NOFACE shared how he arrived at Bound to Let You Down and where he goes from here.
First and foremost – congrats on your recent sobriety. How has such a big personal transition benefitted you creatively?
Thank you so much. I was actually scared that it would affect my creativity with the dark and painful aspect of my life removed. But, in turn, sobriety has allowed me to clearly focus on those times and express them more creatively and what I believe to be better.
2020 was supposed to be a shitty year for music but it seemed to be a year where your stock really rose. What did you think got people paying more attention?
Before covid, while the way to get noticed was playing shows and networking in person at venues, I was either too fucked up or I just didn’t go out because I’m not really a social person. Now that covid has forced everyone to stop and look at their phone and surf the internet, that’s a place where I thrived, and that forced them to notice me.
I’ve read about how you have cited Suicidal Tendencies as one of those bands that really changed the game of you. What about that punk crossover aesthetic appealed to you and how did that evolve into a synth variation of it?
In Tucson, Arizona where I grew up, and at the time there was no internet, so you just found bands through friends, scenes, or MTV. A Suicidal Tendencies video popped up and me and my friends who didn’t know too much about punk at that time, saw this group of guys who looked like us, and were saying shit we wanted to hear. Being a guy who never hung around musicians, I wanted to make that sound, but didn’t have a band, so the next best thing was to do it with synthesizers and samplers.
There has been a lot written about how your sound really taps into the grittiness of LA – and the real LA, not the glamours Hollywood LA. How much has your background from Tucson to now Southern California has played Into the identity of your music?
Completely. Again, I didn’t come from a group of musicians or artists, all my friends were in the drug trade along the border, but I myself loved music and art. Though I do punk and synth punk music, I always wanted the subject matter to be something you may find in a rap song, an outlaw country song, or a narco corrido, telling my friends’ stories.
There is this emerging class of artists that understand the importance of blurring genre lines. You have a background in hip hop but you make synth punk – what do you think the common denominator has been in finding a fanbase. On paper, that wouldn’t make sense, but it obviously does.
I come from a generation where rockers were over there and rappers were over there, even though if you really look at it closely, in the 1980’s punk and rap first crossed paths in New York’s art scene. But where I’m from, they were definitely deeply separated. As someone who’s always loved everything, there were plenty of times where I was having to listen to a certain band alone because I couldn’t listen to that around my friends. I don’t know what really contributed to it, but I’m so happy these new generations are listening to everything and you are even seeing different genres with distinctively different sounds playing the same stage in the same show. I’m sure the internet has something to do with it.
You’ve talked about this thriving sub culture of punk that meshes with hip hop – do you feel like this sound is resonating with people because there is a real element of danger in it? Like in the 90’s, when gangster rap was changing street politics and spilling over into gang shit.
Yes, totally, people love that shit.
Your foundation is really rooted in punk and hip hop – so what about synth-based music appealed to you enough to make that the vehicle for your sound?
What I loved about punk and rap’s birth was it was poor kids who didn’t really know how to play instruments, so some of these guys picked up guitars and basses and started riffing, and others got two turn-tables and looped a breakbeat. I approach my synth punk the same way, I don’t know how to play instruments so chopping up drum samples and banging on synths was the easiest way to get my sound.
The lyrical content of your music taps into some dark themes. Previously it was Narco shit, police brutality, drugs, violence, etc… Bound to Let Your Down seems like much more personal of a record. How therapeutic was making this for you?
I record songs constantly. So when I was approached by Eyeball to do a record, I didn’t have one that I was working on, so I gave them a bunch of songs and had them curate an album for me. But yeah, at that time a lot of my songs were about what I was going through with my sobriety and still having some relapses. All my songs are really therapeutic like releasing a breath of air I’ve been holding in.
Making a personal effort to come out of those dark places – is there any concern it will have an adverse effect on your music?
I was scared that stopping drinking and drugging would affect how I wrote or created, but it’s always easy to tap into that pain again.
Ho99o9, Ghostmane, City Morgue, clipping., Death Tour, Nascar Aloe – do you take any stock in being part of this community of artists that are changing the dynamic heavy music?
I love those guys, some that you mentioned are good friends. I love what they’re all doing and would love to play shows with all of them, but I never gave it much thought of where I fit in.
Pandemic aside – what is in the forecast for N8NOFACE
Tons of creating, more collabs, I have an EP coming out with the OGM of Ho99o9. After losing my chance to go on my first tour, (with Ho99o9) because of covid, I’m just excited to start doing shows or performing on live streams.
Bound To Let You Down from N8NOFACE is currently available on Eyeball Records. Stream it – HERE