With a self-confessed penchant for chords and bouncy beats, Gnork‘s first ever full length spans a wide range of sounds. From spacey to frenetic, The Lost Tapes is set to drop on his newly formed Outskirts imprint, showcasing the mysterious Hungarian’s far-reaching breadth of talents as a producer. In a limited run of 200 cassettes, the decision to release on cassette over vinyl is interesting given the dancefloor-friendly nature of a lot of the tracks featured.
‘See Me Rollin’ has Gnork set off on a sonic adventure into the higher BPMS as ethereal tuned vocaloid stabs pave the way for a breakbeat-infected motif. It’s a departure from his usual trippy, lower-tempo grooves while also standing out from its chuggier counterparts on the album. Deep, whirring synths underlay the percussion giving the track an identifiably Gnork sound signature as high pass filters and flange affect the drumbeat for variety.
Picking his brain with a little Q&A, we shed some light on his creative process, studio setup, the tracks he listened to growing up, and what exactly a ‘Gnork’ is.
Tell us how you started?
Ten years ago, a friend of mine came to visit me from Switzerland. He slept at my place and we had a chat in the evening about how I ever dreamed about producing music but never had the courage to start. Next day when I got back from work, there was a DAW installed on my computer. There was no way back.
What’s a Gnork?
It’s me ::)) Some alien creature living on a distant planet, having weird ideas, strange taste in music and ultra weird language.
Who did you typically listen to growing up?
When I was a kid, I usually listened to classical music, mainly Bach. Then I changed to grunge and progressive metal. After that, in my teens I discovered jungle, deep house, detroit techno, future jazz and all kinds of electronic music on Tilos Radio, and in the meantime I listened to lots of jazz, particularly ‘60s Blue Note records, ‘70s jazz fusion and some stuff from Brazil. These influences play the most important role in my musical perspective now.
What are your top 3 favourite records of all time?
Woooh. It’s impossible for me to answer this question. If we narrow it down to, let’s say the albums I have listened to the most in my life, it’s still almost impossible, but one must be Messages from the Hub by Jimpster. Then, there is Light as a Feather by Chick Corea. And Emerald Fantasy Tracks by Lone must be in the top 3 for sure.
But if the question is the 3 pieces of 12″ I’m most happy to have it may be Wax Doctor – The Spectrum / The Step, Sunday Night live at the Laptop Café by the Other people Place and Rogue Soul by Hidden Agenda.
Figuratively or literally speaking, who’s on your record deck right now?
On my actual decks, it’s LNRDCROY’s EP on Mood Hut. On the top of the deck, there is a laptop with a playlist by Douala. Fresh cut electro straight from the Swiss Alps, coming soon on Outskirts.
You span a wide range of sounds across the Lost Tapes EP alone, what’s your process? Do you start a track in anyway in particular?
The tape is a collection of tunes with almost each, a different workflow. For example Conga Jam was the most primitive setup ever, 3 instruments mixed with a DJ mixer, recorded straight to a tape. The other end, there is Intergalaktik Konga which was fully produced on a personal computer device. For the last 1-5 years I’ve been in the process of shifting from software to hardware, and this collection of trax is a direct imprint of this transition.
What pieces of gear get the most use in your studio?
An MPC1000, Korg 05R/W, Korg ES1, a Mininova and an ART DXR effect processor. But I’m totally in the middle of building my studio, so this is quite random.
Was there anything in particular that features prominently in the track?
Given the nature of dance and electronic music often being almost expected to be released on vinyl, it’s interesting to see this release is coming out on cassette. Is there a reason you chose to release in this medium?
The cassette is a very special format. People love it or hate it but no one will deny that it has a strong personality. It ads a significant hiss to the mix plus the recorders and players devices can really change the way the music sounds. Some people say it sounds shitty but I think there is the kind of music which works great on tape.
Besides that, tape as media is emotional for me, because when I was a kid, it was the only source of music for me. It was all about tape albums – listening to all tracks on side A for 24:05 minutes then change to side B and listening to it in full 22:17 minutes and then ffwd to the end. It definitely adds a ritual to the listening experience. You don’t skip, you let in the full 46:22 material. You wait for the best parts. You basically work for them. And that creates a special listening state of mind. All other formats make it so easy to skip the parts that are not so easy to love. I’d risk saying cassette is still the best media type for a longer material (well, if the material is not about ultra-Hi-FI).
Is the title ‘the Lost Tapes’ intended to reference this medium in anyway?
For the above reasons, when this concept was born, it was obvious that I release the album on a cassette. I have a quite a few tapes with 80s underground dance music on it, and they are awesome and lot of them have a lovely DIY sound. Also they have a very warm and human imperfections in them. I wanted to make an album that has this similar sound. I wanted to make an album that sounds like a lost demo tape from an 80’s band or producer.
At first glance it almost sounds like a collection of older works being released – but perhaps it’s a play on you actually losing these tapes? Were any tapes lost in the process?
Some of the trax are older stuff reworked. Tapes weren’t lost but the format was definitely involved in the project.
Do you find that the scene in Budapest has influenced your music?
Yes, quite so much. Until 2012 I was isolated, but after that I came deeply rooted in the scene in a very short time. Meeting all these guys like DJ Crimson and Chrom, who had a great impact on my record collection, Mr Fiel and In:Form with whom we had several inspiring talks, projects, parties, Route 8 or Galactic Jackson who introduced me to the world of gears, or the festival called Alkotótábor where all these amazing Hungarian talents from different corners of the scene play and hang out.
Not to forget the Rave crew with High C AKA Carl Oh and Renny Ren AKA DJ Ren with whom we share our extreme love for early UK rave and jungle culture. And off course all the Tilos Radio thing. “Influence” has a really personal meaning here, we not only learn from each other, they are a part of my everyday life and make me find constant inspiration.
There are more and more guys out there who love, play or even make this kind of music and i would say that there is a kind of Budapest sound even started to evolve. Like if you listen to the works of Imre Kiss or Route 8 or Grema or AIWA or me the aesthetics is so different, but still you will find similarities, like weird logic or a certain melancholy i guess. We might have a different story but we share a point of view. But still we live in a small bubble and i think there is so much more possibility in this scene, in this city, in this country.
‘See Me Rollin’ strikes me as pretty break beat in comparison to your previous output – was this a conscious decision – to venture into different genres?
I’m always inspired by different genres, styles of music and always have fun in blending them to create something that is very “me”. I made it with deep house, breaks and rave piano in the case of Blorp93, and in a way I’m doing it all the time. Sometimes the juxtaposition of these elements are striking, sometimes it’s less obvious. In this case I played with a classic sounding electro beat with a jungle break on top. Also, played that stupid ’80s melody and I don’t know how, but this works.
I really love the classic electro with those big, round 808 kicks and snares and the brutal yet playful and hugely satisfying rhythm pattern. As for the last 30 years, house rhythm has been standardised to a 4/4 kick -clap-kick-clap stuff. Most of the producers doesn’t even try to play around with this and that can lead to boredom. Only a few can make it lively and create something really interesting with this pattern. I don’t say that using a standard kick-clap-kick-clap is not okay. There are great house tunes with the standard pattern. It can be a great classic tune, moving, with a big fat bass and a big tune on top of it. But only a few times you can hear that the artist went further than this. And this can be boring after years.
In my house productions, it’s the same. Sometimes I can go further and find something that is interesting. Sometimes I feel that the classic solution perfectly fits, with the bass and other percussion form together something that is driving and fresh. But more and more times I feel that I can’t do anything interesting in the standard house constraints and I try to find radically different rhythmic patterns. That’s why I have been experimenting with jungle for the last few years, or more recently, electro.
Is ‘See Me Rollin’ a direct reference to the opening line of Chamillionaire’s ‘Ridin’’?
I’m not a big rap/hiphop head. I first met this line “they see me rollin, they hatin'” as a tumblr meme. It’s a simple and catchy phrase that has a certain deepness to it. In a period of being lost and questioning everything, it was one of few mantras that inspired me in terms of giving zero fucks to what others think about how I’m doing or not doing things.
But in the context of the song, “rollin” can refer to the rolling drum break, or also giving zero fucks to how a song should or should not sound.
Were there any other references and inspirations behind this release?
I’m always attracted to music that most people would title obsolete or old school. Even now that different influences from old school jungle, deep house or electro are kind of hip, people usually refer to it as “old school revivalism” or “nostalgia loop”, whatever. I’m not liking these styles because they are hip, neither because I have a nostalgic feeling. I love them because they move me deep inside and it has not changed the same from the first time I met them.
In the mid- and late nineties, I had the habit of recording everything I liked from Tilos Radio. Whenever the station was playing a great tune I needed to find a cassette urgently. Any cassette that came first in my hands, let it be an original Guns’n’Roses tape or whatever. I still have most of these recordings and i’m still fascinated by those tunes, like Secret Liaisons by Source Direct, I:Cube’s remix of Cheek – Venus or
I find it quite stupid to listen to a kind of music just because it’s zeitgeist and abandon a tune or a style or certain pattern just because it’s 3 weeks old and not hip anymore. For me music is about finding stuff that’s deeply moving me, and that stay with me across ages.
But then again it’s perfectly okay to create music that’s fashionable, if you are into it. Like it’s perfectly okay to recreate a certain obsolete style if you are into it. And if it’s great, if it moves me deep inside, if i’m hooked on it, I won’t really be interested about the circumstances or intentions of the creation. I will just love it to death.
I had loads of these “obsolete” or old school influences when putting this material together, like early electro, 80s funk, future jazz.
Who would be your dream to collaborate with?
Making a tricky future jazz album with Jaco Pastorius on bass. Or producing a house anthem with Robert Owens on vocals. A bit more realistic dream: spending a studio week with some of the Mood Hut collective, with all that gear and musical talent. Anyways, I’m lucky enough to meet great musical talents and good people all the time so dream collaborations are no longer just dreams.
You’re being suddenly sent to the moon for some reason for years, you’re not sure why and you can only take one piece of gear onto the spaceship. What is it?
MPC1000. That was easy!
What’s next for you?
I have big plans for both of my labels, Blorp and Outskirts. Early summer, blorp005 comes out with huge tunes from various artists, after that, blorp006 with an amazingly talented girl from Paris. Also plan a batch of tape albums on Outskirts, starting with Parisian future jazz maestro S. Channel, the obscure Hungarian junglist duo Pepa & Zsoli, or the swiss wunderkind Douala. And I’m planning to release vinyl on Outskirts too. I have a few dreams and plans, But let’s see how The Lost Tapes work, it’s out 1st April ::))) As for production, some remixes are due.
Also, I’m playing in Warsaw 8th April, see you there!
The Lost Tapes is out soon on Outskirts – pre-order direct from the label.