From his home in Manchester, Lee Norris is busy constructing
atmospheric and abstract music that marks clear pathways to his
synth-pop and left field artists like Black Dog, Autechre,
and Boards Of Canada. Working under names like Nacht Plank,
Norken, and Tone Language, his primary focus is the
Metamatics project, named after synth-pop pioneer John
Foxx's album from 1980. He's had a prolific output for labels
like Hydrogen Dukebox, Skam, Clear, and District
Six as well as launching his own label Neo Ouija that
is quickly drawing interest from around the globe. His latest album
Death To Passwords When You Are A Paper Aeroplane is clearly
the natural and evolving direction for the artist, incorporating
similar elements from previous work like Dope For Robots,
and So Many Ways, yet adding an increased emphasis on the
subtle and lush components of the music adding more melody as well
as natural elements and human emotions to his work.
Justin Hardison: Any special meaning behind the title "Death
To Passwords Where You're a Paper Aeroplane"?
Lee Norris: There is no deep meaning behind the title,
I just happened to stumble across two different conversations once
and the title comes from that really. I just stuck the two together
and liked what I came up with. In the past I have always had titles
that mean something so it was time for a change really.
JH: I certainly hear it, and others seem to think that the
new album marks a different and 'maturing' sound for Metamatics.
Do you feel the same and what you think contributed to this? Did
you fall in love with some new gear?
LN: Yeah, I do think my sound has matured over the years.
It's a logical step forward for me. The work is more balanced and
has an even more organic feel to it. I bought some new gear as I
was getting fed up with the stuff I was using, I guess that has
an effect on the overall sound of aeroplane. Since then I have bought
more so my sound is still in transit at the moment which is refreshing
from my point of view.
JH: Do you work with more hardware or software when you're
writing new material? There seems be some unique synth sounds/tones
in your work.
LN: I still use my Atari for sequencing and samplers and
synths. I have yet to get involved with soft synths and PC driven
music. To be honest it does not excite me. I like the hands on approach
when making music.
JH: The Hydrogen Dukebox label seems very supportive judging
by the large number of excellent releases you've been able to put
out under Metamatics and Norken. You must never leave the studio...
LN: Hydrogen have been very supportive of my work. They
just let me get on with it which is nice because as an artist you
don't want your work to be judged as a non trendy profit making
item. I do leave the studio. I'm not as hard working as it's made
out to be. I seem to be labelled as a workaholic which is kind of
true but I do venture out to the pub most nights.
JH: Could you give me a run down of your aliases and why
you've chosen to work under so many different names?
LN: My main names are Metamatics and Norken. My Norken project
is my own take on music even though its roots are firmly with Detroit
techno. Metamamtics is my electronica guise, giving me the freedom
to do what ever I want.the other two names I use is Nacht Plank
and Tone Language which are beatless and more ambient than the other
JH: What is your musical background like and what would
you say your influences are?
LN: I don't have any musical training. I taught myself everything
that I know. I grew up listening to Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, David
Sylvian, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno. I was always interested in the
synthetic sounds produced by Kraftwerk and Foxx. As a kid I was
listening to music by David Sylvian and Brian Eno which also taught
me the theory of emotion in music, that I knew one day I wanted
to produce. With my Norken project I especially add all the haunting
JH: Tell me about your Neo Ouija label and some of the current
LN: I set up Neo Ouija two years ago. We are on release
fifteen at the moment. It's a very exciting label and I'm very proud
of it. At the moment we have just released a new compilation with
tracks from lots of different electronic artists around the world.
We have releases coming up by Funckarma,Bauri and Kettel. It's a
steady flow of excellent electronica.
JH: Do you perform live very much?
LN: Nah, I stopped playing live a few years ago. I felt
a bit foolish pressing go on my computer. I much prefer to play
records now instead.
JH: Are you working on any other projects or remixes for
LN: At the moment I'm starting work on a new Norken project.
I'm also working on three different collabarations. The first project
is with Clatterbox as we are doing Project Unison 2. The second
is a collabaration with Xela who is recording for Neo Ouija and
Funckstorung's label MAS.The third is a project with a Polish guy
called Krystian Lubiszewski who is also one half of Ilkae. So in
all I'm going to very busy this year writing new material. I have
also put together an album of Metamatics remixes called Rewired
in my Manor. It features mixes of my tracks by the cream of electronica
artists. This will be out on neo ouija later on in the year.