This week we caught up with the super talented producer to hear more about his latest EP release that recently dropped.
Good to have you! Please tell us a little about yourself… who are you and where are you currently based?
Hi! My name is Alvin Chen and I live in Los Angeles finishing up my last year at UCLA.
How long have you been making music? What made you first want to write it?
I started making music around middle school, mostly creating covers to upload to YouTube and impress girls. At that time, I was using Cubase 4 to record my voice and guitar. When I got to college, I saw Porter Robinson at Hard Summer 2014 and it changed my life. I knew that I had to make some kind of music that gave me the feeling that show gave me.
What do you enjoy most about producing? What difficulties does it sometimes bring?
For me, producing is like solving a massive puzzle. I love the challenge of finding new methods to make sounds mesh together. Because it’s so limitless, you can put in as much time as you want to create the song envisioned in your head. That’s also the downside to computer-based music; more options often lead to option paralysis.
Do your surroundings inspire your music? How would you sum up the signature nøll sound?
I’m definitely inspired by all the music and art that makes me feel any type of way. Anytime I hear a tiny phrase, fill, or crazy sound in another song, I’m thinking about how I can flip it, fuck it up, or incorporate it into my sound. In that way, the nøll sound is able to stay eclectic: it’s just a compilation of every sound, songwriting element, or rhythm that has ever caught my ear. Some things I’m into right now are layered harmonies, trippy synth glides, and tight, crispy percussion.
Are you pleased with how “the empty set” has turned out?
It feels so insanely good putting out a project that is cohesive but diverse. Quality over quantity is the standard here. I could have put the project out much earlier, but the songs, message, and visual art wouldn’t have been able to complement each other to this extent.
How did the EP’s collaborative tracks come about?
"Anymore" came together around this time last year when I became obsessed with acoustic guitar sounds in songs. I knew Aidan, who does cool looping things with the ukulele, and sent him a beat based around this one guitar riff. We both bonded over that organic mix of percussion and live guitar. After he sent me the vocal, I knew I wanted to build an atmosphere that fit his somber vibe. To achieve that, I played around with different foley and glitch samples to build a sonic landscape. I always wanted to juxtapose an experimental soundscape with layered harmonies. For the vocals, I wanted it to seem very much like an internal mental struggle with oneself, much like listening to a devil and an angel over your shoulders.
Do you have a favourite from the four?
Although the singles are both strong tracks, my favorite is probably the most low-key on the project: Breathe. I love how the harmonies interact with each other in the synth and the vocal - gives me the craziest ASMR.
Where do you see your sound progressing over the coming months/years?
Honestly, I don’t know! The best part about producing is that I just make whatever I want. It’s also the best way to get better at the art. I’m just going to be adding more sounds, textures, and rhythms to my palate. So expect elements that I already use + some new ones that I pick up along the way.
If you could work with any artist (alive or dead) on a track, who would you choose and why?
Irrespective of recent events, I would probably choose Avicii. My primary motivation for making music is to replicate the feeling that listening to music gives me for other people. Because Avicii makes such emotional music, I would probably learn so much.
What can we expect from you next? What are your dreams for the rest of this year?
I’m trying to come out super strong in 2018! Expect more forward thinking sounds presented in a way that appeals to mainstream standards. I’ve always been a songwriter and singer first before making electronic music, and I’m excited to get back to my roots and complete every part of a record by myself.