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An interview with the mysterious nnin

Last month we stumbled upon a new album on bandcamp by an artist we had never heard before (or at least we think we’ve never heard before) called nnin. On “[re:Cover]” she has reimagined a collection of very well-know songs ranging from “Wicked Games” by Chris Isaac to “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. On each song she takes a really unique approach and genuinely gives each song a new life.

We knew we had to write about the album, but in beginning that process we realized that we knew nothing about nnin. There were no links to social media or websites, no upcoming shows, no past releases, none of the information we typically share with our readers. However, there was the standard link to contact the artist that resides on all bandcamp pages. We clicked that link and below is the resulting interview with the mysterious nnin.

The Deli (TD): Last month you released a collection of covers from sources ranging from Roxy Music to Mike Errico to Miley Cyrus to Bette Midler. How did you select the source music for this project?
nnin: First off, some relevant backstory: I started this project in December 2016, after being diagnosed with what I guess some would call a “career-ending injury” that essentially knocked me off my feet and radically altered my lifestyle. Overnight, I went from being a very active person to being limited to walking just 10 minutes a day. So I figured if I couldn’t dance to music anymore, I could at least make it. Hence the album title and concept, and why I thanked my physical therapist (who is still treating me) in the liner notes.
“With You” was the first track I did. I’d been teaching myself ukulele; “Wicked Game” was one of the earliest songs I learned, and I had already begun messing around with the arrangement. So I started with that, which was a pretty straightforward treatment. “Bad Dream” was when the project suddenly became way more meta—as my friend said, I took a song by arguably the whitest group on the planet and turned it into Barry White. Then a number of friends said I sounded like early Madonna, so my ’80s pop-princess version of “I Put A Spell On You” was my joking response to that… As for Cole Porter, I’m a great fan and bemoan the fact that so many recordings skip over his verses, which I feel are the best parts of his songs. I’ve been putting my own spin on the Great American Songbook, Sondheim, et al. for years…albeit in the privacy of my shower. Roxy Music is one of my all-time favorite bands. So I guess the short answer is: these were all songs I loved and were comforting for me to lose myself in. Except for “Wrecking Ball,” because I have to admit I sort of missed that moment in pop culture. But I learned it for uke practice, and then found it lent itself really well to an ersatz club remix.

TD: Two of the covers are from Mike Errico and you thank him directly in the notes for the album. How do you know Mike Errico and was he directly involved with the album?
nnin: Mike and I grew up in the same town outside NYC, and we attended high school and college together. But we really became good friends several years after that, and we’ve shared a lot of creative output back and forth—mostly his music and my writing/art. I write, design, and produce my own books; make paintings; and do some graphic design for my friends’ projects. Although now Mike’s also writing and I’m also making music, so we seem to have swapped places.
I did my rendition of “You Could Be Anywhere” (“all alone”) and sent it to him out of the blue, merely to amuse him. Then he approached me about remixing his new single “My Sinking Ship”—which was really the most ridiculous offer. He knew I had, by that point, maybe a few months’ experience doing this sort of thing. But I worked up an arrangement and dropped in my scratch vocal as a placeholder for his vocal stem—which he never managed to get to me! So, that project went nowhere. But I really liked my version and asked for his blessing to release it. Other than that, I emailed him for occasional advice, and of course he talked me off the ledge a couple times.

TD: You absolutely put your own sound and style on each cover. The notes say this album was made with just “a computer and a $30 Skype mic”. However, it sounds like so much more. What was the recording process like?
nnin:Um, it was just like that—me at my computer for hours, singing into a 2-inch USB microphone at the desk in my home office and making myself laugh. I had always dreamed of making music but had never really pursued it in any sustained way. I certainly can’t say I play any instrument with anything approaching proficiency, and pretty much no one has heard me sing in the last 25 years. But I was stir-crazy and depressed and facing down all these life changes and thought: Hey, there’s this free GarageBand thingy sitting around on my Mac; I pretty much have no idea what it can do, but nothing else is happening so I may as well see what I can make of it….
So I just started collaging together loops from GB’s sound library, and occasionally using the program’s rudimentary MIDI controller for synth fills. I quickly realized trying to record my uke with my computer’s built-in mic was kind of lame, so I went to the Radio Shack four blocks from my apartment and bought that now-legendary $30 Skype mic—which was a little less lame. Actually it was much better than anyone would have thought. But I had no pretensions of setting up a home studio or anything like that. I was just keeping myself busy, the way creative people do, and I was really much more interested in the whole conceptual and production aspect of it. I was learning my way around the DAW and doing all kinds of wacky things just to test it, like reversing loops or running them through different instrument patches or throwing massive delay on my vocals to generate new sounds. Admittedly I got a bit too heavy-handed with the reverb, which became a problem later. But some things were just happy accidents, and I’m not even sure how I did them. The singing was almost beside the point; I thought of it as just another element in the arrangement. Though I’d be psyched I was finally nailing a vocal and then the radiator would kick in, or the phone would ring, or I’d realize too late I forgot to turn off my email notifications…and much cursing would ensue.
I never intended to publicly release any of it, beyond emailing silly demos to my friends. As the project grew, though, I decided it would be a fun thing to make a CD out of it, as a holiday gift or whatever. So I started mixing it myself…and looking back, I taught myself so much in so short a time. But after three tries I wasn’t getting the results I wanted and asked my great friend Miki Greenberg if he knew anyone who would give me an hour’s worth of tutorial. And that’s how I got introduced to the amazing musician, songwriter, singer, and engineering wizard Christopher Elam (who’s played on some of Miki’s records). After spending 40 minutes at Christopher’s studio, as he ran me through all the additional work I was going to have to do, I decided he should be mixing my record instead of me. And I still can’t believe he took me seriously and agreed to do it.
I guess he saw it as a challenge, and he was right: it took about four more months to weather some technical snags and finish the thing. But the final product owes so much to Christopher—his attention to detail, his patience with a total noob like me, all the tricks he found to make my vocal tracks sound decent, and his willingness to indulge my musical jokes (and add a few of his own). At one point when we were mixing together in the room, it occurred to me that we might be sitting on something special. I’ve never really collaborated with anyone and I was extremely wary and very sensitive about putting my work in someone else’s hands, but he devoted the same degree of care to it as I do. So I got lucky there, and we’ll be working together again.

TD: Where did the name nnin come from and is there a reason why you prefer to remain fairly anonymous?
nnin: Anaïs Nin is one of my favorite authors and is a huge influence on my writing. Someone compared me to her and it became a nickname I liked, and so I was going to be “nin” until my friend confirmed my fears that Nine Inch Nails had already cornered the market on that, visually speaking. So now it’s “nnin”—and the extra “n” stands for “not.” As in: “NOT Nine Inch Nails.” And not Anaïs Nin. (And not Nabokov’s Pnin, for that matter.)
As to my reasons for anonymity: I’m of course thrilled that anyone would take an interest in or get enjoyment from my music, and I’m more than happy to share the story behind this record. But I don’t think my real name matters. Wouldn’t you agree? ;-)

TD: The cover for your album of covers is just as intriguing as your name. Is that cover taken from something else? I ask because in the bottom right hand corner is says “Manufactured By Porter Lane Records, Tokyo Japan 0047”. Where did this cover come from?
nnin: I confess I had a bit of a laugh at your expense over that, because it never occurred to me that anyone would look that closely at the image! Anyway, that’s a selfie I shot on my phone and then tweaked through a couple of editing/filtering apps. So as far as I know, there has never been a Porter Lane Records in Tokyo or anywhere else. Apologies for the red herring; not intentional. J But thank you for adding yet another layer to the project!

TD: Is this a one-time project or can we expect more from nnin?
nnin: Well I seem to have bought into my own hype, and I’m working on an EP of original songs that I hope to have ready for mixing this fall. But alas, the Skype mic and I will no longer be working together. It had a nervous breakdown and left, citing verbal abuse and irreconcilable differences. So I’ve now taken up with an analog mic that’s closer to my own age.

header image: 
sites/upload-files/imagecache/review_image/a3455263987_10 (1).jpg
Jason Behrends
Subtitle (brief and awesome): 
The story behind the new collection of covers from nnin
Excerpt (short interesting quote from the Q&A): 
"these were all songs I loved and were comforting for me to lose myself in"

XRAY.FM Presents: Heatwave

XRAY.FM is throwing a “mini music fest” this Sunday, August 12th at White Owl Social Club. There will be performances by Natasha Kmeto, Just Pretend, Miss Rayon, and Plastic Cactus. Chanti Darling will also be doing a DJ Set. However, this mini fest isn’t limited to live performances, as there will also be a curated record fair, plenty of food, and even an XRAY pop-up photobooth. Doors open at 2pm, the record fair goes until 8pm, and music goes until 11pm. The festival is 21+, and although entry is free a $5-10 donation at the door is suggested. You can check out the full lineup here.

By Nick Hartman


Chanti Darling's New Album

Chanti Darling’s latest album R&B Vol 1 is going to be released via Tender Loving Empire tomorrow. I don’t believe anyone could create a more perfect fusion between the aesthetics of a neon-lit arcade and classic house music. It’s a unique and inventive sound, an ethereal electric noise that sends chills down your spine. This is especially true given the depth and range present in Trü's voice. R&B Vol 1 sounds like what would happen if Crystal Waters and Grace Jones decided to team up in 2018. Even the slower, more emotional songs will get people dancing. “Running” is my personal favorite, as it sounds like a smooth flowing waterfall interspersed with heavier beats. The debut single, “Casual” features The Last Artful, Dodgr whose voice is as beautiful as ever. The song is romantic and sultry, perfect for locking eyes with the beautiful stranger across the dancefloor. You can check out the video for “Casual” below!

So basically, to sum up; the album is just so damn good. The record release show will be next Wednesday, August 8th at the Doug Fir, with Gold Casio and Guayaba

-by Avril Carrillo 



Band name: 
Darling Chuck
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
Venue name: 
Brooklyn Bazaar
Band email: 


Band name: 
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
Venue name: 
Band email: 

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