Where are you from and how did you end up on the central coast?
Central coast native, born and raised! I went to Morro Bay High until I turned 18, at which point I started signing myself out to surf (I don’t know how that is legal). After high school I moved around a lot (college in Santa Barbara, lived in NYC and Denver) but it seems like I can’t stay away from SLO!
Was flute the first instrument you picked up? What inspired you to begin learning music?
When I joined band class in Junior High, I chose the flute because I walked to school, and it was the only instrument that would fit in my backpack. After high school I kinda forgot about it for a while, but picked it back up again a few years ago. I enjoy it so much more now. It’s kind of like how the books you were forced to read in school are sometimes pretty dope, but you don’t appreciate them at the time because they’re part of school and school kind of sucks.
Did High School band play a part in your love for the music community?
Abso-freaking-lutely, band was the best part of high school. It was like a family. Once or twice a year we’d go on these long band trips (to Reno or Tahoe or wherever), and 80 hormonally raging kids would wreak havoc in a hotel for the weekend. There was always tons of drama and impromptu jam sessions and late-night mischief, I didn’t drink or do drugs in high school, but I’m still convinced we had the most insane parties. As the saying goes, “this one time at band camp…”
What other instruments do you play or want to learn to play?
Piano was actually my main instrument for a long time, and I can still play a few things and improv a bit. I’d like to get better at guitar – string instruments in general are so versatile while recording.
When did you begin learning music production?
I started making electronic music when I was maybe 15? I would record my old Yamaha keyboard straight into Audacity, and make these cheesy euro-trance beats that were actually pretty fun. I think I peaked back then haha.
What DAWs have you tried and which one are you using now? What do you like about it and what do you dislike about it?
I use FL Studio mostly but I know Ableton pretty well too and use Ableton 10 for live performance. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. I might switch to Ableton eventually, but for now FL just feels like home!
When did you first get inspired to make electronic music?
Probably the first time I heard Cascada’s “Every Time We Touch”, the best electronic song ever made.
Where did the name “nok nok” come from?
When I showed my Grandpa my music for the first time, he said “I like it, except for that knock knock sound!” He was talking about the kick drum. He was an old jazz head with a refined taste, and wasn’t used to hearing such big beats… Anyways, since highschool I’ve had kind of an annoying habit of saying “knock knock” every time I enter a room, and I never really noticed until people started thinking THAT was how I got my DJ name.
When writing electronic songs, what is your usual process? Do you begin with a beat, melodic idea, or tempo?
It varies so much. I write something every day, sometimes something as simple as a voice-memo in my phone (I have close to 2000 memos in my phone right now). Sometimes, if I sit down at my desk without any prepared ideas, I start with a beat and go from there. I guess it just seems appropriate to start with a beat for dance music? Other times I pick up my flute and just noodle around until something sticks.
How would you define the style of music you like to make?
Mostly electronic dance music. I just make what I want to hear. I try to incorporate non-synthesized sounds. I get tired of bloops and buzzes really quickly, and I’d rather play something with my body than sit around endlessly fiddling with computer automation. Plus if the apocalypse comes and laptop music becomes a way of the past I’ll still have some viable musical skills.
Your new EP has a few different styles on it, was that a pre-thought artistic choice or just how the project came together?
Any pre-thought I put into music releases typically has to do more with message than style. Honestly, I have trouble committing to a single emotion for too long, and that comes out in the music. As far as genre variety goes, “Fun and Games” has some dub, and some house, and a lot of glitchy elements, and even some indie-rock influence. That’s probably the music I was listening to at the time I was writing it. I’m not one of those “screw genres” people… but sometimes I’ll be listening to, say, a bluegrass song that reminds me of a dubstep song I heard recently, and people will look at me like I’m crazy, but those weird connections are what keep music fresh and interesting. I hope that when people listen to this EP start to finish they’ll focus less on the genre or style, and more on the journey.
When working with collaborators do you let the song pick the collaborator or do you craft a song specifically with an artist in mind?
I have literally hundreds of half-finished songs on my hard-drive, so if an artist reaches out for a collab, I usually have an old project I can send them to match their style. Sometimes I’ll be listening to a particular artist for a while and I’ll find myself emulating their style a bit, so I’ll reach out to them and see if we can get a collab going!
How did the collaborations on your new EP come about?
“Absence” with Vince Cimo was made at the beginning of quarantine. We hadn’t hung out in a while, so I randomly sent him a super simple beat one day, and he sent me back basically an entire song with chords and lyrics. I added all the extras and changed things around a bit, and in general did a lot of “producer-y” type stuff.
The song with my sister Lily Grace “My Dance” was actually three separate song ideas combined. It was kind of like making a quilt, patching all these different ideas together.
“The Ridge” with Evan Hatfield is the result of a few different studio sessions, and contains his sitar as well as a lot of his modular synth work. Evan is basically the Michael Jordan of sitar– the amount of time and passion he puts into that instrument is so inspiring. Plus, he’s a freaking wizard when it comes to techno and desert tech production, so I feel honored to have the chance to work and jam with him!
Your new EP is being released on Jumpsuit Records, how did that relationship come about?
Nate Stein (aka Equanimous) reached out to me after seeing my performance at Stoke The World last July, and he asked if I’d like to do a collab EP with him on Jumpsuit (who he had released with previously). After that EP I released another called “Aquabeats”. “Fun and Games” is number 3 on Jumpsuit!
You’ve also had releases with Gravitas Recordings, what is your connection with those guys?
When I first started releasing music as nok nok about 2 years ago, I made a list of all my favorite electronic artists and, after a bit of research, realized almost half of them had releases on Gravitas. They became my light-house, so to speak, and I discovered a bunch of other artists I love through them, including Morillo and Templo. They focus on the transformative nature of music, and try to spread positive vibes, which I respect.
Last December they hosted a songwriting contest, and I submitted my track “Light It Up”, which I had been working on for almost a year. When Jesse Brede, the owner of Gravitas, told me I won the contest I was pretty blown away, it was kind of a dream come true.
Honestly, I used to be really turned off by the idea of record labels at all. I think the concept of co-owning music with an entity is a bit odd. But my relationship with the Gravitas crew since then has started to change my mind. They care about good music, they offer their platform to artists they like, and they spread a positive message. Can’t really complain about that!
Where would you like to see the live music scene go in 2021?
More! Just more! More music everywhere! On every street corner, in every park, every bar, everywhere! All the time! The last year has been absolute garbage, no wonder everyone was so mad at each other all the time. Music brings people together. At a concert, you could be standing next to the most random person on the planet who, on paper, has lived a completely different life from you, holds completely different beliefs, has a different mode of thinking, whatever. But then “that moment” happens, and the music takes you to another place, and everything else just falls away and together you transcend all the material stuff and just blast off together! More of that!
Other than that… I’d like to continue designing and curating the stages I play on with my friends. There’s untapped creative potential for artists to incorporate stage design into their act. My sister Lily is an incredible fire breather, aerial artist, contortionist, singer, and dancer, and when we put our heads together crazy stuff happens. We’ve laid some groundwork for our own production company, but I can’t talk about that quite yet…
There have been a lot of “social injustices” for lack of a better term being exposed in the world of electronic music and the festival scene in recent years. With the chance to begin rebuilding the live music scene where would you like to see efforts being made to make the festival scene more safe and inclusive for music fans?
Oof, this is a hard question. There’s no excuse for anyone to be abusive or manipulative to anyone, ever, and the stakes are especially high when you’re a popular artist and people look to you to be a role model. I think it’s important to set a good example by surrounding ourselves with people that will help keep us accountable and by having the courage to call out sketchy behavior when we see it.
As far the electronic music scene goes… electronic music is all about freedom! Freedom to be weird, freedom to express yourself, freedom to love, freedom to let loose. There’s a phrase I learned in Thailand: “when you’re at the temple, you pray; when you’re at the beach, you swim”. Well, you could potentially add: “when I’m at the rave I lose my fucking mind”. But there’s a line between being free and being sketchy, and that line is called respect. Respect the people around you. Respect their bodies and their freedom of expression. Respect them enough to not seek their approval. Respect yourself enough to make good decisions. With freedom comes responsibility.
I don’t know the answer. We’re mischievous little monkeys pulling on each other’s tails and slingin poop at each other. But I do believe in Karma. And I believe that all systems have a way of balancing themselves out eventually. And I believe that, when people take responsibility for their actions, we all have the opportunity to grow. I just hope people don’t lose faith in music.
The lack of music community during 2021 has weighed down on many of us, how have you coped with quarantine and what has kept you inspired during such a hard time?
My music laptop has been working overtime, I have the cutest little puppy in the whole entire world, and my wife is a smoke show… so I’ve been doing alright! It’s definitely been hard for those of us who have made a lifestyle out of attending concerts on a regular basis. Concerts are like my church. I’m definitely looking forward to playing out a bunch of new music in 2021 one way or another!
Do you have any musical goals for your next project? Do you have any non-musical goals for 2021?
I’d like to be completely booked full for next festival season, and so far things are looking pretty good in that regard (fingers crossed). Non musical, I’d like to… uh… I dunno?? My whole life is music lately haha. Go on vacation with my wife I guess! We spend so much time working, it would be nice to get out and go on an adventure just the two of us soon 🙂
Photos curtesy of Lindsey Ruth @lindsphoto