Nathan Thomas has been shining brightly on the Mixmag Asia radar in recent months. The Mumbai-based artist has released a flurry of elegantly crafted singles recorded under his NATE08 moniker since early summer this year, the music arriving via the ever-reliable UK imprint, Needwant.
Producer, DJ and musician Thomas is fast becoming an irresistible force in and around India’s blossoming underground movement. Recording as NATE08, he treads the groove-oriented territories of funk, r&b, and house – his gorgeously spun productions firmly rooted in dance music's glorious heritage while shimmering with a distinctly forward-facing gloss. Singles like 'Sunrise Sunfall', 'Trigger Fool', and 'Want You' made an immediate impact, gracing the set lists of some of the dance community's most distinguished selectors, and his entry into the esteemed Needwant fold has helped shine yet more light on the Subcontinent's ever-growing underground.
His new album 'Furaha' was released earlier this month, an impressive collection of genre-surfing jams featuring collaborations with the likes of Jitwam, Azamaan Hoyvoy and Lojal, among others. With the collection's mesmerising melodies echoing in our minds, we took the opportunity to get to know the man behind the music. Read on to learn more about his influences, entry into music, and the background behind the alluring new album.
Hey Nathan great to talk to you. What are you up to today?
“I’m at home currently recovering from the gigs and travelling over the weekend.”
What can you tell us about your first memories of experiencing music?
“My dad was a musician so I grew up in a pretty music friendly household. A bunch of ‘60s and ‘70s music was always playing around home growing up.”
What were some of the first artists, songs or albums you remember vibing to?
“Apart from the music at home, which was stuff like The Beatles etc, the early music I remember discovering myself would be stuff like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, Blink 182, and Arctic Monkeys.”
Can you share with us the first album or single you remember buying?
“I remember seeing the Californication music video on MTV when I was maybe around 6 or 7 years old and was totally blown. I really got into the band post that.”
So, when did your production journey begin?
“I started playing around with Ableton around 2018.”
What can you tell us about the process of recording 'Furaha'?
“I spent most of 2020 stuck in my house [during] lockdown making the record. I didn’t have any conscious plans to make an album or anything. I’d just wake up every day and make two or three rough sketches through the day. By the end of it, I had a few good tunes to select from which made it to the album. What inspired the album was mainly the idea of being in a club and missing that feeling of experiencing dancefloor-friendly music. So it was just a party for one at home for a few months making this record. All the collaborators on the album are really good friends of mine and I just reached out to them asking if they’d be down to contribute and luckily it all came through eventually.”
How did the collaborations with Azamaan Hoyvoy and Jitwam come about?
“I’ve known Azamaan for a good few years now. We’ve shared the stage a bunch of times and have played in a few bands together and I’ve also played bass in his band as well. He’s one of the most talented individuals I know and I’m really grateful for having him on this record.
I met Jitwam when he came to India for a tour in 2019. He was in Mumbai for a few days post-gig and we hung out and made some music with a few friends. We’ve kept in touch since and I’ve also played a bunch of bass on his records. ‘Sunrise Sunfall’ really needed some vocals and I could only think of Jitwam to do some justice to it and he absolutely smashed it.”
How did you end up signing to Needwant?
“My demos from the album happened to reach them through a friend of a friend of a friend.”
What is your impression of how Indian and Asian underground music is gaining appreciation in the rest of the world?
“There’s so much talent in the underground music scene right now in India and around Asia and with so many festivals and international artists coming down this side. They are being exposed to what's going on here as well and that really helps bridge the gap and to build a network to put music out internationally. Indian and Asian culture is also gaining appreciation around the world with acts like Yung Singh, Jyoty, Ahadadream etc who are repping the culture proudly and it’s something that we haven’t really seen much of in the past and it’s pretty cool to see.”
What can you tell us about the ground-level dance music scene in Mumbai and India — is there a lot of support for the more soulful end of the house spectrum, or are darker/techier sounds more popular? How do you feel the scene has evolved in recent years?
“The music scene in India has definitely come a long way in the last few years. There’s always a good party with good music every other weekend. Music being subjective — there’s always going to be a mixed bag of support for everything. Although the underground scene is really evolving. There’s more room for risk and experimentation for DJs and people are open to hearing new sounds, which is refreshing for artists as well.”
Who are some of the key promoters, DJs and artists in Mumbai, and what are some of your favourite venues that support the music?
'Agencies like Third Culture and krunk are always pushing fresh music and throwing great parties. My go-to spots for a good party would probably be Antisocial and Club Pandora. There are a bunch of really sick DJs and artists around and I’m grateful to be working with and surrounded by the right people.”
What can you tell us about your studio set-up, for exapmple, is it hardware or software-based, are there any gizmos or plug-ins you can't live without?
“My studio set-up is pretty much in-the-box. I don’t have too much hardware gear going on apart from a bunch of effect pedals for my bass. I use Ableton for everything from start to finish. My go-to plug-ins would be the Lounge Lizard electric pianos, RC-20 by XLN audio, Arturia’s synth bundle, and the Slate Digital and Fabfilter bundles for mixing.”
Are there any ‘ones to watch' in Mumbai or India that you feel Mixmag Asia readers should know about?
“Definitely a few to look out for. Dhir Mody — a really good friend of mine and an incredible drummer is seriously pushing the boundaries of the drum kit by reverse engineering electronic sounds on the kit. One of the most talented and hard working individuals I know. Another really special musician who I’ve had the opportunity to work with is Sid Shirodkar (of Paraphoniks and Ape Echoes) who is writing and putting out some incredible music soon and definitely one to keep an eye on. A few of my favourite artists from India right now are Kumail, Adl, Okedo, Ranj & Clifr, to name a few.”
How and where do you access new music and keep in touch with the global dance underground?
“I would say the majority of music discovery for me would be at the club — watching, listening to and studying DJs that I get a chance to experience. Other than that, Spotify radio is a great place to discover new music and keep in touch with what’s going on in the underground scene. Radio shows around the world are also a great way to discover new music.”
Have you performed much internationally, if so, what are some of your most memorable experiences?
“I played at this record store in Dubai called Flipside and it was a really great vibe. Very different from the regular club setting but it was a really memorable experience for me. The guys over there are super friendly and welcoming and I’d definitely love to go back whenever I’m around next. Looking forward to playing a few more international shows next year following the album release later this year.”
What artists inspire you the most?
“My biggest inspirations right now would be Kaytranada, Channel Tres, Disclosure, Dan Kye, D’angelo, Bonobo, Overmono, and Ross from Friends, to name a few.”
How would you spend an ideal day off in Mumbai?
“Probably step out to the local pub with a few friends or just chill at home and play some playstation.”
What's next for NATE08?
“I’m currently working on putting together a live set with music from the album and a few other unreleased tunes. I’m super stoked to debut my live set with a full band at Magnetic Fields this year. Apart from that maybe a live tour after that, along with DJ sets as usual.”
Thanks so much for your insight and best of luck with the wonderful album!