Neana: In Conversation

A long time affiliate of Night Slugs and the previous mastermind behind the now retired Gang Fatale posse, Neana’s freakish club sound has been bubbling underground since he first arrived on the scene back in 2014.

Informed by the more eccentric worlds of grime, UK funky, ballroom and jersey club, he’s never been one afraid to reference past styles, yet the hyperactive frenzy of his upfront riddims ensures his sound is clearly one meant for forward-thinking dancefloors.

With various EPs, bootlegs, remixes and collabs floating round the web, Neana’s latest record Renegade Lakes marks another self-release for the producer. Piled with 8 disjointed rave simulators, it’s arguably his boldest piece of work to date.

Keen to know more about the making of the record, we sat down with Neana for a hot minute to ask the ins and outs. Read in full below!

So what’s been going on with Neana since we last heard from you, how fast are you churning out music these days?

Lightspeed if I put my mind to it. I only release what is worth releasing tho, which is what we are about to discuss.

‘Renegade Lakes’ almost feels like an album. Was the record made in a quick sitting or are these old files that have found their reasoning together?

I wasn’t aiming for an album tbh so i’m just calling it a release, it’s silly that digital music is still defined by what can fit onto some aged tech.

The story goes that there was an attitude developing just as I left Manchester, and fortunately I had the opportunity to foster this in a studio over a few months (s/o Strip Steve). Spending nights locked away solo in a machine space, communicating with wires and wavs it was much easier to reinvent a process. Previously I was chopping found sound into pleasing rhythms, but in the studio I capture the voices of machines and layer them into phrases and formations.

Track 7 ‘Delta Step’ was one of the original templates that instigated the project palette, so I started writing around that and 1 year later I had a long list. It’s a quick and precise project compared to previous releases which were more collections of pre-made music.

You’ve said you think this is the best music you’ve made yet, how often is it that everything clicks and you know the job’s done, and is creation always a positive process?

Creation is always positive. Sometimes we spend whole mornings getting a mood out into audio just to erase any final product. I think artists forget how to create aimlessly, to forget all goals and external pressures as much as possible and chase what tastes good in the moment. Leaving the zone, patterns will emerge upon review, if the patterns feel like something nu then its job done.

One of the biggest changes in my creative mindset over the past few years has been a growing love for raw sound and sonic environments; everything I put in the music has a character; a voice and context. Generally I don’t enjoy perfection in music, but chaos elements make linear music rich and addictive to listen to. Thats the second change; as everything around us chases perfection I react and inject chaos into the mix, the music is
still bound by rhythm and frequency but unexpected glitches rise up to shout something before being shushed by the beat. As a result this music feels so much more real than what I made before. Renegade Lakes is alive; it has texture, insecurities and is unashamedly built on fantasies. The uncertainty is what holds the story together, thats why it’s the best music [yet].

Am I right in thinking you’ve shifted between a few cities over the years? Does your sound ever shift with it?

Aye environments are huge influences on creation, the party spirit of Manchester and the people I met there still populate me. I grew up in the North West as well so everyone felt pretty familiar there, I would describe it as a small city looking outwards. Since 2017 i’ve been in Berlin, which is a big city looking inwards. It’s super inspiring to live abroad and be a little alien but also the clubs are cool here and lots of great artists come thru.

Hearing I was moving here everyone said “have fun making techno”, but i’ve managed to avoid that environment all this time. That being said, the city itself has influenced the music indirectly for sure, RL sounds like moving around this system of streets for the day.

Your music often comes labelled with its intentions designed for the club, is this a fair statement? 

Yeah I’m making rhythm music. If harmony is subjective, rhythms are to be shared, and the easiest place to share rhythms is the club. It’s amazing to make something that not only has potential of bringing people together in a collective release, but also is a meme ready to be interpreted thru DJing or remixing or whatever.

I also hold kinda utopian views of the club as an IRL escape space, and I think this space is going to be increasingly precious as we move more of our lives online. Dancing and interpreting music with your body is beautiful and rewarding practice, I hope I can train my body to match the level of
expression i feel when listening to certain music. I think the world has a lot to learn from communities such as Vogue balls, which foster incredible environments where there are so any ways to channel sound into expression even if you don’t have technical training.

What are some of the some of the conscious or otherwise influences that continually find their way into your production? There’s a lot of shouts to ames like Tekken, Wipeout and Smash bros in the credits of Renegade Lakes…

I always want to credit any samples used, I recorded a lot on this project so there isn’t as many samples as usual, so those that are there are mostly video game sound FX. Video game music and immersive sound design was a big inspiration on this release, I was revisiting a lot of 90-2005 OSTs such as Ghost in the Shell, Tomb Raider, Command&Conquer. other conscious influences were VR, old school grime, UK Funky, turn of the century rave music, and sci-fi cyberpunk like William Gibson and his offspring.

Gotta give extra shouts to the constant inspirations Night Slugs, Qween Beat, Fatima Al Qadiri, Harold Budd, Terror Danjah just to name a few.

Your self-releasing this record in USB format, in an age where there’s such an overload of new music, are out the box methods like these necessary?

I just wanted to have some kind of extra relic so that this release also exists outside of the net. An item to give a tangible body to the music that users can keep intact or reuse. The art by Selam-X is really accurate so I want to do some prints as well to bring it IRL. If there was budget and audience Renegade Lakes would be a film or diorama also.

It’s still pretty early in the year for you to have made noise, how’s the rest of 2019 shaping up?

Well this is noise from 2018 so I’m wrapping that up before starting anything new, I’m hoping it’s possible to finish more than one project a year so we’ll see if I drop something softer before 2019 finishes.

Might see some collaborative works show up this year finally; been writing a lot with Quest?on Marc, Kieran, Leonce, DJ Paypal, Auco, and others recently so would be nice to surface a few of those. Even after closing Gang Fatale, I still feel the urge to develop artists so maybe I will get
into teaching in the future, some. Finally I’m always looking to work with new projects and people so get at me if u tryna build basically.

Renegade Lakes is out now. Buy it here.

Neana will host a live stream of the album via his YouTube page Feb 8th at 6pm.

Featured Image: Denis Laner

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