The Dying Light is the most recent release from Postcode member Mikie Daugherty, but this time he expresses himself through the soloist project Nanaki. In this back-and-forth, Daugherty explores his influences and discusses instrumental habits.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): What made this release separate from Postcode? Why create Nanaki separately to try this out?
Nanaki: I’d done a couple of tracks as Nanaki for Small Bear Records’ Christmas compilations in 2012 and 2013, which I guess slightly influenced my decision to start recording some new material. When our long-term drummer left in September 2013, I knew we wouldn’t be able to get the new Postcode album recorded and that was really the catalyst for me writing the Afterlight EP around that time. It didn’t feel right to do something Postcode related, as I wanted the other members to be involved with that, but I did feel the need to be creative.
I wasn’t sure if I’d do anything else as Nanaki after that, but by last spring I felt the urge to do it again and eventually that became The Dying Light. Technically most of this material could have been used for Postcode, but it was conceived from the beginning to be instrumental and “Nanaki”, even though historically I’ve written the majority of the music for Postcode anyway.
RMM: What are fans of Postcode generally thinking about The Dying Light?
Nanaki: I’m not entirely sure. There has been a really positive response to The Dying Light in general, but I’m not entirely sure how many of the people that have downloaded it or listened to it are fans of Postcode.
RMM: Your press release said you were exploring the “darker side of man”; what drew you to this subject matter?
Nanaki: I guess it just fit my mood at the time I conceived the idea of making more music as Nanaki. From the outset I knew that I wanted to make a sad and dark record, so that pretty much influenced everything I did from then on.
I’ve always been drawn to somewhat dark music. I like plenty of more upbeat stuff, but my favourites by a band have generally tended to be the more melancholy tracks; they seem to be the ones that I connect with the most. I’m actually an upbeat, positive and happy person the majority of the time, but that’s just not a particularly interesting subject matter for music, to me at least.
The album’s not all about negativity though, in some ways it’s about fighting against that and about refusing to let darkness win.
RMM: What is the band generally about?
Nanaki: I’m not sure it’s “about” anything as such. I guess now it exists as a medium for me to bare my soul through! More seriously, it’s just about making music, beautiful, ugly, atmospheric, intense, emotional. Trying to move people in some way, without the use of words. Sometimes there are specific ideas, concepts or thoughts behind it, but really it’s there for people to take what they want from.
RMM: What track stuck out the most to you?
Nanaki: There are a few; I couldn’t choose just one. I think ‘The Land Surveyor’ and ‘I Have Outlived Myself’ are probably the two I’m most happy with and strangely they’re two of the tracks that came together the most quickly. In each case, from the point of me picking up a guitar and writing them, to them being more or less recorded was a couple of days at most. Possibly I added an overdub or two later but nothing much if I recall correctly.
I really like ‘Unholier Than Thou’ too, but that definitely took more work. It combines the heavier and more atmospheric sides of my writing and I like that it breaks with post-rock convention by starting at full power before dropping down. Also the last half contains drumstick-guitar and I always love that.
RMM: What influenced your style with this release?
Nanaki: For the most part I was pretty much guided by the music and by the overall feel I was aiming for. I usually find that the initial spark of a song comes seemingly from nowhere and from there on it’s a case of following the music; it’s not really a conscious process. When I’m in the midst of creating something it normally flows fairly easily. You can tell when something feels “right” or not.
When I was recording the lead guitars on the heavy section of ‘Sackcloth and Ashes’, the second track to be recorded (though actually the first I wrote for the album), I was playing some much busier lines at first. It was sounding a bit too much like bad metal for my liking, but when I mentally reminded myself of what I was aiming for with the album, sonically and emotionally, I quickly came up with something much simpler, but which gave me what I’d been looking for all along.
I try to be myself rather than copying others, but I think a bit of a Slint influence found its way into ‘Anonymous’, whether anyone else can hear that or not. I actually wasn’t really listening to much post-rock at all, though have been listening to it more recently, especially Mogwai, who I hadn’t played much for years. I’m a big fan of some of Akira Yamaoka’s music on the soundtracks to the Silent Hill games and that may have had a slight influence here and there, but it’s not like I really play like him I don’t think.
‘The Land Surveyor’ was totally influenced by Franz Kafka’s book The Castle. I knew pretty much what I was going to with that song before I even picked up a guitar to write it, down to the abrupt ending which is a reference to the fact that he died before completing it.
RMM: Describe your use of instruments. Why take a break from the guitar?
Nanaki: Guitar is still my main writing instrument and I’d say almost three-quarters of the album began on guitar. ‘False Optimism’ was actually written on bass. I’d picked it up to write the bass parts to ‘Sackcloth and Ashes’ and whilst tuning up and dialling in a nice sound I accidentally wrote one of the chord patterns which prompted the rest of the song to flow out quickly. A similar thing happened with ‘An Absence of Hope’, but with piano. I was intending to add the piano to the end of ‘Unholier Than Thou’ and while setting up and getting the sound I wanted I was playing around and found I’d written a new song. So I quickly recorded that before returning to what I was actually supposed to be doing.
I use different instruments for a couple of reasons. Probably most important is that they provide a different sonic palette and help me to explore different textures and sounds which is something I always like to do. They also force me to play differently. I’ve been playing guitar for a long time now and though there are still an infinite amount of possibilities to explore on that instrument and I did do new things on this record, I kind of know how to play it. I’m totally comfortable with a guitar and there are probably things that I do a lot, because I’ve found a style that suits me. None of that is true of playing keyboard, so it’s always a voyage of discovery and takes me to places I would likely never have gone otherwise.
RMM: What made you want to come back to Nanaki after a long break?
Nanaki: After Nanaki had seemingly come to an end I didn’t really think about it for years, I was entirely focused on Postcode. There was talk way back in 2012 of Small Bear Records releasing a remastered retrospective of all the original material, much of which has never been released, but that never happened. I’d done a couple of festive covers, as I mentioned earlier, but still hadn’t considered doing any new original material. When Martin quit, the rest of us got together to discuss the future of Postcode and one of the things that came up was the idea of doing something with an old Nanaki song, with Marie adding vocals. We did that and it worked brilliantly, but between that and the fact I’d done those Christmas tracks, mixed with the knowledge that Postcode wouldn’t be able to record for a while, I think it was something I felt the need to do again.
Having returned to making this kind of music again, I think I realized that it’s a part of who I am and it’s something that I’m probably going to return to again and again over the years. Postcode is definitely still my main concern and is what I’m proudest of, but Nanaki is another way of expressing myself and something that I can do in almost entirely self-reliant manner, certainly in terms of writing/recording/mixing (though Phil from Small Bear Records, and Marie and Kieran from Postcode were kind enough to lend their ears from time to time).
RMM: Is there a future to Nanaki? If so, what do you have planned?
Nanaki: I was asked this just after the release of Afterlight, at which point I really didn’t know and fairly soon after that I made this record. At this point I certainly think there is a future and I have every intention of making more music as Nanaki. That said though, I can’t say I have any firm plans at all. I haven’t really written anything new at all yet and I have no real idea what it will sound like, or what I’m aiming for, but I think there will be new music. Partially it’s dependent on what’s happening with Postcode, we’re intending to record a new album with the full band, hopefully very soon. So if that all goes to plan, then I should be very busy with that for quite some time. I’d be surprised, not to mention disappointed, if I didn’t begin work on the next record this year though.
As I’m writing this I’ve just been asked to record a session for Dandelion Radio, which is an honour and very exciting. So as of now that’s my plan!