Blue Spring is an optimistic Japanese-inspired techno mix that stands for freedom and resilience in an era of hopelessness and uncertainty. Nineties-inspired melodies meet manga samples and looping synths. Nathan Micay also details a youth uprising in his enigmatic accompanying comic, following the success of previous music and art release A Capsule’s Pride (Bikes) mix as Bwana. The data wars documented by the comic might not have begun yet, but in this interview, the Gucci model and DJ aims his metaphorical synth-laser-gun at Mark Zuckerberg.
From Toronto to Berlin, has moving cities encouraged you to be more experimental now you are in a city famed for its electronic music and clubbing?
Yes and no. On the one hand, being surrounded by so many talented friends has definitely pushed me to work harder and explore new territory. This album is something I never would’ve dreamed I’d be capable of when I made the move four years ago. However, Berlin also has very divided scenes and, sometimes, I feel a lack of cross-pollination. I follow so many different sounds and crews and take influence from all of them. My music is incredibly varied but at times, this city can push me into feeling like I should be working on one micro-genre only.
Blue Spring has a lot of Japanese influences, what brought this about?
Like a lot of North Americans my age, I was raised on Japanese anime on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block. I suppose a lot of Japanese reference points began to embed themselves in my early viewings. From there, the obsession grew into adulthood. Then, I finally got to play in Tokyo two years ago for the first time and so much felt so incredibly foreign, but also parts very familiar. I decided afterwards that I’d really throw myself into the deep end and learn Japanese. I wrote the bulk of the album during the first year of my studies (2018). A lot of the units in the books I follow are based on Japanese customs and traditions. Familiarizing myself with these concepts on a deeper level was a huge part of my life during this period!
Your debut album’s exclusive manga comic explains your concept. The story outlines a rave in a forest acting out against a data-driven regime, is it a reflection on our current reality?
Yes. It’s my idealized vision of how to try and take something back from our current technocratic and government overlords. Things like the ‘fuck Brexit raves’ in London have been very inspiring to watch.
The characters that embrace in the comic’s illustrations (by Dominic Flannigan), featured on the album cover, are not easily boxed into a stereotype of gender. Was it your intention to leave this open?
The accompanying comic that comes with the album makes this a bit more obvious. However, yes, the beauty of dance music is its base in inclusivity and openness. A rave in the forest would be no different.
Amongst the many influences for Blue Spring is the ‘infamous’ Castlemorton Common rave (May bank holiday 1992). Can you tell us more about this?
The Castlemorton Festival was a day event that pretty much terrified the government. So much so that it led to new legislation being passed in 1994 to fight against ‘anti-social’ behaviour. My fascination with it is in the grassroots nature of the festival and how it was seen as such a threat by the government that along with the aforementioned new laws, they even tried the organizers on criminal charges – all of which were eventually dropped. Studying Castlemorton and its aftermath feels more relevant than ever with the current seemingly global political trends.
Mid-1990s prog house and trance are big influences of yours, what is it about this musical moment that fascinates you?
The freedom. No rules, no pretension and no self-consciousness. It’s such a wild era of experimentation and insane looking parties and event concepts.
He Has the Key features an innocent manga-esque voice repeating, ‘He has the key, we must be careful or we’ll never be free’. Is the track a criticism of patriarchal society?
It’s actually more a criticism of the big players of tech, particularly Mark Zuckerberg. From my own perspective as an artist in underground music, it seems his products increasingly hold the key to success in our scene. He could change the rules at a whim and it’s crazy to me. Then it goes beyond that into federal elections, extremist movements, fake news, etc. He holds the key and so much now is at the whim of how he structures his companies and their code of conduct.
You told Fabric you have featured anime samples on techno tracks including a bassline sampled from Naruto. Can we find any on Blue Spring?
Yes, but I’ll leave that for the heads to point out (laughs).
Gucci has employed you as both a DJ and a model. How did you end up working together? And do you think the music industry is getting more image-based, or vice versa?
They reached out last year. It was fun to try on so many outfits. However, also tough because my body is just not built for such tiny waistlines (laughs). I think it’s probably as image-based as it ever was, the only difference now is that it’s in your face 24/7 on platforms that you can access at any moment.
You’ve mentioned a trip to emergencies in the hospital whilst making the album. Are you okay to talk about what happened?
Sure. Essentially, I just stopped sleeping at all for a bit so I could get this thing done! It caught up to me pretty hard one day. I’ll spare the details but it was a nasty little affair (laughs). Sleep, people.
What is your favourite gig you’ve played so far?
Ortigia Sound System Festival. I will never forget it.
Nathan Micay Metalmagazine 1.jpg