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Insights From the Outsider: A Talk With Anthony Naples

The native Floridian opens up about genre misconceptions and his groundbreaking new album 'Body Pill.'
January 15, 2015, 8:29pm

Anthony Naples' brief backstory is well-documented. Bombarded by Miami bass in his native Florida, but later graduating to the more refined sounds of Warp Records, it was when he dropped out of Florida State University and moved to New York that his stellar journey started.

Buying a cheap laptop, he sent the first track that he'd ever finished to NYC institution Mister Saturday Night. The result was his 2012 debut single "Mad Disrespect", a track which launched the party's eponymous label and piqued the attention of Four Tet when he came to play for them.

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Having since also christened Glasgow record shop Rubadud's label and released on The Trilogy Tapes, as well as started his own imprint, Proibito, Naples drops his debut album, Body Pill, on Four Tet's Text label on February 17th. From the reverb and distortion drenched beauty of opener "Ris" to the wistful, hobbling hip hop of "Used to Be", it's a standout work that traverses styles and moods, displaying a maturity seemingly beyond his short recording career.

Naples is also one of many artists labeled with the half-serious, half-joking term "outsider house". Speaking to him ahead of the release of his debut album, I asked him about the definitions of an "outsider" artist and the misconceptions about his persona.

THUMP: The title of your debut album, Body Pill, suggests it's going to be dancefloor focused but it has the beautiful melodic intricacy of a 90s electronica album. Was that something you had in mind given that you grew up listening to Aphex Twin?
Anthony Naples: Obviously RDJ is a huge influence on just about everyone. I think most of what I was influenced by was a little too deep in the subconscious to be obvious. Of course things seep in there, but at the time I was making the record the only things I was listening to were Piñata by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib and World Of Echo by Arthur Russell, and I can't really say if those records made their way in there. I find the bigger influences are experiences, films, things I read, and my relationships with people and myself. Not to get all deep, but I wouldn't feel fulfilled if my sole premise for making music was to sound like other people. I do it because it makes me feel good, then the influences show themselves after I guess.

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Body Pill was just two words I put together that sounded kind of funny. I figured if I saw a record called Body Pill, I might be interested in it just because the name is so ridiculous.

Previously you've said that you like to ask questions when recording a single for someone, that you need a focus for the project. Did Four Tet give you any advice when it came to the album? Were the tracks all actually recorded with the purpose of fitting into a cohesive whole?
It was all done before I sent it to Kieran. I was actually just going to release it as a mixtape sort of thing and I wanted his ears to see if it was all good, then he told me I should just put it out as my first LP, and really quickly sent another email saying he would put it out on Text, and that was that.

THUMP: You've been labeled as an 'outsider house' artist, but have said you don't feel you fit into that bracket. Does that make you an outsider house outsider?
No, it means I'm an insider. I'm not really as naive as I let on originally. I took an audio engineering course at this place called Berklee for a little bit, and I worked as an intern in the studio where Oneohtrix Point Never and a few others recorded their LPs so I definitely got a good feel for how to set up gain staging and all that. I think at first it was more fun to just bang some shit out. Then I decided to try and do something impressionistic within the house music template. Now I'm not so sure what I'm doing, haha. I guess I'm just trying to do all sorts of music and productions and slowly applying what I've learned to the overall process.

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You didn't start going to clubs until around 2008. We imagine that you've visited a fair few now. Has being exposed to the wide range of places your records might get played affected the way that you approach making music?
Well, in 2008 I was 17 or something, no one would have wanted me lurking around the club back then, would they? I guess DJing all these places made me realize I should probably engineer my songs a little better, but otherwise I don't really like to stick to the conventions that most records I have do in terms of arrangement and whatnot. I like that sometimes when I see a DJ play my record, one of the kicks is slightly off and they can't seem to mix it just perfectly. One time, Gerd Janson emailed me to tell me he had a laugh at one of my "DJ traps" as he called it, which is when mid groove I just stopped the recording and faded in another beat I made towards the end of the record. I didn't really expect anyone to play my records out since I really just make them with the very basic idea of house music in mind, but not so much the drum intros, breaks, drops and whatnot.

In the past you've said that you don't have many friends who make music. Was a career as a producer and DJ unplanned for you?
I wouldn't say it was an accident. Since I could think for myself, Isalway wanted to do something in music. Eventually it transpired I was best behind the boards, moving faders, knobs and producing stuff (after a high school talent show where I played in a band as the singer/guitarist), and from a pretty young age I was the guy my friends would call when they wanted to bounce their rap demos to a 1/4" Tascam Reel to Reel or give me the stems and let me mix their tracks or whatever.

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In a way though, DJing was a completely surprising aspect to the whole thing. An agent in the UK just wrote me on Twitter like,'You wanna DJ in Europe?' and I just said 'Sure!' But I'm not mad about that at all, it's all been a lot of fun. Plus, it's nice to play records for people that you've invested time and money into finding, and in a lot of cases had a real deep connection to. Then you go out and see someone else have the same kind of reaction you did - you can't really beat that! I'll never forget seeing this girl going insane to "Go Bang!" the first time I played Panorama Bar. It was just so great, she looked like she couldn't handle how happy she was to hear that song at that time, in that place, and I couldn't agree more. One of those weird things were we can all communicate through emotions and not only with words.

Your music sounds analog, yet is almost all made digitally. You joked once you were upgrading your studio with a mousepad. Has it gone any further than that yet in terms of kit? Do you actually make an effort to have your music sound old and dusty or is that just a by-product of the sampling process?
Naples: Well, I am always sort of lying about these kinds of things. It was never 100% digital. On a few of the records I used some similar elements but for the most part I just buy a few things, make a few songs, then return them to Guitar Center within the 45 day return policy. "Mad Disrespect" was made with an SP-303 and Logic Pro, but then I've done things with just an app on my cell phone called Sunrizer and the Octatrack, or just on the MPC2000XL and a really sweet Tascam mixer. At the end of the day, it's all into the computer to be mixed and whatnot, but overall the process is a mess. I just use what I have at the time. I could really just do it on my computer, but for those who care - the three constants have been: Space Echo, Boss SP-303 and any electric guitar with this program called 'MIDI to Guitar', which allows you to play a guitar like a midi keyboard.

What do you have coming up on Proibito for 2015?
More Huerco S, Hank Jackson, DJ Wey, some stuff from myself and hopefully a few new artists and collaborative records. Hopefully some LPs, too. But that's probably more like 2016.

Follow Anthony Naples on Twitter or check out the Proibito website for more info.

Joe is on Twitter: @joerobots