Friday, April 28, 2017

Run On: An Interview With Owen Ni

  An Interview by Adam Harmless 

 “Used to, I would have dreams about meeting a hero or having everything be a cakewalk once you made your “hit”, but as an artist, you grow and mature and learn that music is so much more sacred. It’s such a higher power than to simply want to be famous. I make music for my own self-consumption nowadays… My motivation is to attempt to continue to push my own limits and create something beautiful from it.”
    Growing up, Owen Nye's dad introduced him to the music of KISS and Pink Floyd, while his mom shared a love of Prince and Michael Jackson with her son. Owen credits them with his early taste and interest in music. Today, under the moniker of "Owen Ni", he continues to voraciously search for and consume interesting sound. As soon as one speaks with Owen Ni, it’s becomes abundantly clear how passionate he is about music and his philosophy toward his own music, which he at first describes as “electronic”. He quickly elaborates, “Specifically, I would say Techno. More specifically, Minimal Techno. It goes on and on. So I simply say Electronic Music. I don’t make “EDM” which is what most people try to group in all electronic music under. I just simply make electronic music.” He considers EDM to be “the system’s label”. “Oversaturated Pop music that is disposable at best to me.” Owen takes pride in the honesty of his work. “It’s not all drugs and partying for me. My music is a state of mind. My music, I like to think, can be a statement for someone. An expression. Like having a piece of art speak to you in different ways. I make music that was once/still is a way of life for people.” The music is not without its roots. “I like to think that the respect for my predecessors in the genre leak out in my music. I have influences from Detroit, Berlin, Chicago. etc. and they all show in my work. I’m very inspired by the heroes of the 90’s techno era. Richie Hawtin, Carl Craig, Jeff Mills, and so on. Trying to keep the genre that I work in, and most importantly, the music, true to its original form.”
    Though he's a very prolific musician in his own right, Owen also shares the music of others through his Run On Recordings label, as well as his podcast on Huntsville’s Spice Radio, "Run On Radio". Run On Recordings was started by Owen in 2015 after he’d tried to release his work on other labels. “I noticed a lot of labels had restrictions and exact sounds they were looking for. I wanted a hub where artists could just be artists. Without having to worry about sounding like other people.” Owen Ni is a true believer: "DIY is the way to be anyways. If you can run your own label with your own music and make money from direct fans that comes directly to you, then you’re set.” This independence offers freedom that is simply difficult to find elsewhere. “The music on my label is all over the place, but I like to sum it up as all being creative. We have punk, techno, noise, ambient, leftfield, shoegaze…something for everyone, really. It all works because it’s all made by artists/bands that believe in their work. Something that’s a must for me.” His podcast is still relatively new, but is already showing a lot of potential (I'm honored to have appeared on the first episode). "Run On Radio started while just talking to Ben Jobe over at Spice Radio's HQ, Spice Rack Studios. I was pitched the option to host my own podcast live from the studio and I decided to dedicate it to the label rather than focusing on my own material. Made more sense to me that way."
    Owen keeps plenty busy and it doesn't appear that'll be changing anytime soon. "You never know what the future will bring when it comes down to it. But I do know that I have landed a lot of deals with (other) labels and will have some actual vinyl releases coming later this year. The label is constantly growing, and still looking for more ways to spread the word as well as different ways to distribute the works. I'm still frequently traveling this year but in 2018 I might try to sit down and focus on more full length, conceptual LPs rather than EP releases. Probably the distant future goal of mine would be to spend some time out of Alabama for awhile. I will always call Alabama home, but you're in a desert when trying to grow as an artist here, especially as an independent one. Berlin has been on my bucket list for a long time, but I like the atmosphere in Asheville, NC specifically. Who knows? Time will tell."
    As I'm prone to do with loco locals, I asked Mr. Nye what he thinks of the scene/scenes in Alabama. "The Alabama music scene(s) is an interesting one. I remember talking about this with an artist while in North Carolina. He said something that really put it in perspective for me. He said something along the lines of "In the States it's like a desert". That's very loosely transcribed but basically we both agreed that in the US, it's hard to get respect for your work, but some towns, cities, it's like an oasis. Which brings me back to AL, it's hard to get respect from people here. Especially if it's not country or a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band. However, that makes it much more rewarding when you do find like-minded artists/bands with similar goals. It can be any genre you're working in, but it's all still music. All still art. I have personally met a lot of artists/bands in AL that excite me with their projects. So, the best way to explain the music scene in AL to someone not familiar is that there are a lot of diamonds in the rough."